A very quiet Raya hols

This Raya celebrations were unusually quiet. Just before midnight on the eve of Hari Raya, there was a short cackle of firecrackers and a small burst of fireworks. Then all went quiet!

Usually, in the hour before the festive day, you would hear spluttering firecrackers from near and faraway and see balloon bursts of fireworks lighting up the sky here and there. On Hari Raya, there would be a few Kenduris (party) and you could see Muslims in their Baju Melayu waking to their neighbours’ homes.

But not this Raya hols — at least not in my neighborhood, which has a large Muslim population. There were no kenduris; there weren’t even any green, twinkling lights flickering from windows and doorways. My Malay neighbours just disappeared (but many have since got back!)!

But, the next day, as I was driving to visit my brother and his family in Seremban, the roads were chock-a-block with cars. I think nearly the entire Malay community was on the road! Protons lined the roads — with a good number of BMWs, VWs, Audis and Hondas! — and many were having fun overtaking each other. Thank goodness there were no accidents — at least, not during my journey!

I think this year Malays either balik kampung (going home to the village) to celebrate Hari Raya or took a trip elsewhere. On my street, the Malay homes were empty and locked up!

I kinda missed the festivities around me. The noise from happy homes and people milling around, comfortable in their religious practices and cultural outfits and traditions.

It is one of the nicest things about being Malaysian — enjoying each other’s foods (this comes first for Malaysians!), clothes, company, and cultural and religious practices. So much so, when these things are not there at the appointed times, you miss it!

Perhaps, for most people, because of rising costs, it was cheaper to balik kampung. Or, increasingly, those with means, may have a kenduri before Raya and take off to go abroad during the holidays.

I think the latter seems to be the emerging trend these days for all Malaysians — going off somewhere during the festive holidays.

Come to think about it, I recall now that it was just as quiet during the Chinese New Year holidays. Well, a little noisier since the Chinese must herald the new year with loud firecrackers! But, many on my street, too, locked up their homes and were off.

I can understand why people want to go off on a holiday with family. That’s a good thing, too. But, I really hope that we Malaysians never lose our practice of enjoying our festivities with the people around us.

When we stop doing it, we risk isolating ourselves from others and that, I’m sure, will not contribute to the building of a cohesive society.

Political parties hold open houses at the national or state levels, but, I think, we, as neighbours, should do it more often in our neighbouroods to facilitate better integration at the ground level.

When we do this, I hope we will do it with respect for one another’s beliefs and not for the purposes of “converting”. If it is a religious feast, whatever religious practices need to be conducted can be done  I’m sure people understand and will respect it.  But the festivities should not be held for the exclusive purpose of “converting” or used for that purpose. That can be left to the religious organizations. People know where to go to and who to speak with if they are really interested in a religion.

At the neighborhood level, open houses should just be a celebration with family, relatives, friends and neighbors simply to enjoy the occasion with each other.

I hope the Malaysian tradition of holding open houses during our festive holidays will be a continuing practice and one which will become more inclusive and freely celebrated by all, because we believe it’s a Malaysian thing.

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A change of heart

I’ve had a change of heart. When I saw the picture in the papers of the 4 who beat up teenager T Nhaveen with helmets and caused his death, I felt sorry for them.

Then when I read the report that one of them cried when he was in the dock and saw his family, I felt sorrier for these 4. These are kids, victims themselves of the system and now charged in court for murder with the mandatory death sentence by the very system that has marginalized them.

I wonder if they will be treated well in prison and will get a fair chance to start a new life? Or, will they be roughed up as they are herded through the process of remand, charge and imprisonment by the police and everyone else along the way on the grounds that they deserve it?

Undoubtedly, bullies deserve to be punished. But, perhaps, I was too harsh in my last post to wish that they be damned in jail. It was my initial emotional reaction to the heinous crime they and another group of boys committed. The latter group had beaten up university student Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain over a laptop and caused his death.

But, they are kids. I think I need to be more of an adult to them. It is clear they don’t know how to control themselves. Perhaps, they were brought up without learning to respect boundaries, especially, social boundaries.

I pray that some good people will reach out to them.  Or, that the authorities will send them for counseling and rehabilitation.  They are young, only teenagers and, while we strongly condemn their actions, I think as members of a caring society, we need to show them mercy and compassion, and let them see they have a choice to seek forgiveness and change.

If they become better people, society has won, and, hopefully, the death sentence will be commuted and one day they will be released to live honest lives.

If this happens, others of similar bent, may be encouraged to change and fatal bullying may become less of a social problem than it is now.

That’s something good to hope for, isn’t it?

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Bullies deserve to be punished

It never fails to shock me when I hear of the terrible violence human beings inflict on others. Murder, rape — even of babies, torture, beheadings, bombings, and bullying that leads to death.

When it is committed by young persons, it’s even more appalling.

But, after the initial shock, I just realize that I shouldn’t be surprised. We are capable of such horror. Look at our human history; it’s full of the terrible things we do to one another. Our saving grace is that as we civilize, we do it less.

My hope is that as we learn from history, we never repeat it.

Two young men have died at the hands of bullies. T Nhaveen and Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain were beaten up so badly that they died.

I don’t understand the psychology of the boys who did it, but they need to be severely punished.

Yes, I understand that we human beings are capable of terrible terror but we are also capable of great goodness and everything about life must be to bring out the goodness and deprive the badness.

While we understand criminality, and the need for rehabilitation, perpetrators of crime must face the consequences of their actions. These bullies should be found guilty but I hope they won’t be sentenced to death!

Not because I don’t believe in capital punishment. I think death will be too clean a punishment for them!

I prefer that they rot in prison for life!

If they get rehabilitated, that’s fine. But rehabilitation begins when they can admit they did wrong and ask for forgiveness. So far, there has been no report of any sense of remorsefulness from  the bullies.

If they persist in being their macho, violent selves, then it is best they remain in prison and suffer the endless agony of being at the mercy of people like themselves!

Let them know what it’s like being on the receiving end. They may become thugs and gang leaders in prison for their survival, but they’ll know no peace.

Prison will be like a mini-hell and that might be the fitting place for them for showing no mercy on the vulnerable.

And let their miserable lives be publicised for all to know.

Hopefully, just hopefully, this might deter potential bullies from taking it out on future victims.

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Subang Jaya’s LakeView Club is now open to the public

I recently discovered that the LakeView Sports Club in Subang Jaya, tucked away between the Dorsett Hotel and the Holiday Villa is now open to the public.

My membership in LakeView expired last year and couldn’t be renewed because the club’s future was uncertain as it sits on leased land. For a year I was without a place to go swimming, and, I found my midriff slowly but surely expanding!

Had to find a place to swim and checked out a few places. Subang Jaya has one public pool at the 3K premises. It has an Olympic-sized swimming pool and probably the only public indoor pool in the Klang Valley. A few people complained that the water was cold (because it’s an indoor pool), but it was ok with me because I swim non-stop for an hour and so I didn’t feel it.

It is clean and well-kept but has only a few shower cubicles and it doesn’t have a place to keep your things while you are in the shower. The one-time I went there, one user was distraught because she had lost her clothes! The showers, too, don’t have ledges to place your shower things.

I found that inconvenient and didn’t go again although it is very cheap to use, only RM 2 plus GST for a two-hour session. It also has an only-for-women session on Wednesdays from 4-8.

Really missing swimming, I was at a loss for want of a convenient place. Last week, I decided that I would call my old club — LakeView — and see if I could work out some sort of a paid arrangement with them to use the pool. Calling them, I found out that the club was open to the public.

It is open to the public from 1 to 9pm and the facilities can be used for a fee. Other than the swimming pool, it has four tennis courts, several squash courts, a gym, a bar lounge, a TV room and a snooker room. It also has a Kampung Ku restaurant whose food is quite good. And a dive school is also located at its premises.

It is also very clean and well-kept and has more shower stalls than the 3K, and they have ledges to keep your things. The shower rooms also have several benches to keep your clothes. It also has a sauna.

The rates vary for the different facilities. It costs RM6 per entry to use the swimming pool. More expensive that the 3K, but it is not crowded because, I think, not many people know it is open to the public.

When I went swimming, there was only one other person swimming, although one half of the pool was used by the dive school to train its divers.

I enjoyed myself thoroughly!

So, Subang Jaya folks, here’s a place to go to for a good workout!



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Innocent casualties in this political war

So, another desperate act to get the conservative vote. Two top Star editors get suspended. What was their crime? They were held responsible for last Saturday’s Star front page which carried a story to announce the start of the Muslim fasting month with a picture of Muslims bowed in prayer. Above it was another story of a Malaysian terrorist fighting in Marawi, Philippines.

That was deemed offensive to some Muslims, who accused The Star of being insensitive to Muslims especially in this Ramadan month as some people may interpret the juxtaposition of the stories as suggesting that Muslims are also terrorists!

Seriously?! Is this rational thought or irrational fear? Or, plain political chicanery? Aimed at showing — particularly to their currently targeted conservative constituents — how they are quick to defend their religion?

Whatever the political game, it reveals two extremely disturbing trends.

Firstly, a few people, who, apparently, can only see as far as their noses, are holding an entire nation to ransom. They are raising heckles over the slightest — sometimes even non-existent — infraction, and demanding policing in the name of religion.

I wonder if the majority approves? I think any decent, rational person, whatever your beliefs, can see that such political machinations are totally unacceptable in a modern, progressive society.

Maybe, I’m being idealistic, but I like to think that the majority of Malaysians are good, decent, law-abiding people who respect each other’s ways and accommodate legitimate differences.

They may not express their concerns publicly, but, I hope they will — very loudly — at the ballot box.

Secondly, I find it reprehensible — yes, I am choosing a strong word here — that politicians are willing to cross the line for the sake of political survival and don’t bat an eyelid when innocent people are sacrificed. In the Altantuyaa case, the prosecutor-in-cement-drum case, 1MDB, religious vigilantism in the form of kidnappings and all the scandals that have dogged the Najib government, innocent people have been sacrificed to protect the interests of the powerful, in the name of religion and political survival.

The latest casualties are The Star editors. A society that tolerates such blatant disregard of innocent lives is an oppressed society. If the religion we believe in can not enable us to see the oppression in our midst, and act to remove it, we, indeed, are a hopeless people!

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Richie’s King Arthur is worth a watch

Having some extra time on my hands, I caught the movie King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, directed by Guy Ritchie, who was also one of its producers. I don’t know why it got such not so great reviews, but I think it is an entertaining movie and worth the time and money you spend on it.

It has an interesting plot telling how Arthur’s parents are killed as a child and he ends up being raised in a brothel. Grown-up, he is able to pull out his father’s sword from stone and eventually comes to terms with who he is. The plot is a familiar story but with enough twists and turns, to keep you involved in the movie.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is also a reasonably non-sexist movie and non-stereotypic. There are many characters of men and women in significant roles, with none dominating the rest.

You won’t see needless flesh in this movie. While there is a woman with the potential to become Arthur’s love interest, she plays a key role in influencing his ascension to the throne as an independent, gifted woman rather than one who uses guile and charm to achieve her ends.

The movie also features a couple of non-whites with very white names, but they add colour and a multi-culturalism to that era, even if it weren’t historically accurate!

It’s a movie where you can sit back and enjoy the fresh take on a familiar story as the plot unveils at an even pace with quick action-packed scenes and pretty good acting. Charlie Hunnan is a big handsome hunk as Arthur the inexperienced, pitted against his highly trained and power-crazed, cruel uncle, King Vortigen, played by Jude Law.

All in, it is an enjoyable movie and one you can take your whole family to. I don’t know about the critics, but I found it pleasantly entertaining and worth the RM10 I paid for a Wednesday show!

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Hannah’s book controversy

As expected, Selangor assemblywoman Hannah Yeoh’s book, “Becoming Hannah”, is flying off the bookshelves! The book is currently out of stock on MPHOnline.com (but can be ordered) and sold out at all MPH outlets — except two — in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, according to the sales attendant at an MPH outlet I visited yesterday to get the book!

Thanks to the publicity created by Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) lecturer Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, who is the director of UUM’s Malaysian Institute for Political Studies, people are now reading Hannah’s book.

Kamarul, after reading the book, had described her in a post on Facebook as an “example of DAP’s biggest hypocrisy”, and accused DAP of mixing politics with Christian teachings.

Hannah lodged a police report over his allegations, following which Kamarul also made a police report claiming that the stories in her book “can influence readers, including myself, to feel admiration for the greatness of Hannah Yeoh’s God.”

Whatever the controversy, people are reading Hannah’s book and will judge for themselves if the allegations are, indeed, true. That, really, is the right thing to do. Read the book and judge for yourself.

Not having read the book, I don’t know if Hannah clearly stated on the cover that her account is an expression of her faith. The product description on MPHOnline.com, however, carries an introduction by Dato Dr Alex Mathews which clearly states: “Hers (her book) is a story of unwavering faith in and allegiance to a loving God …” That should tell whoever who wants to read her book that this is a faith journey.

Turning the pages of the book, they will realise it is about her Christian faith. So, whoever wants to read the book has the choice not to read or buy it if they don’t want to know anything about the Christian faith. If, however, you do, you can’t claim she is proselytising and accuse her and her political party of a “christianizing’ agenda”.

This “christianization” argument is always thrown at Christians often for no apparent reason, except, I suspect, to gain political mileage or to ventilate through Christian-bashing. “Christianization” is an outdated cliche which holds no currency now, especially since every religion practices “…ization”. There’s Islamization, Hinduization, Buddhistization … .

So, it is extremely hypocritical to accuse the adherents of one religion of doing what every religion unapologetically does. In Malaysia, constitutionally, we can’t proselytize to Muslims. However, that does not mean that we can’t share our faith experiences.

Sharing our experiences does not mean proselytizing even when it influences others because it comes under freedom of expression. Every idea or thought, whether religious, political, social or economical, when expressed, influences. An “…ization” takes place.

Someone expresses himself or herself and another or others will be influenced by it. Just because some will be influenced does not mean that we can’t express ourselves. That is telling us not to talk, which is a deprivation of our right to freedom of expression!

How ridiculous can that be!

“To be influenced” as a result of sharing does not mean proselytizing because the intent is not to manipulate one to believe.

When people communicate and express themselves, it is open-ended. There’s a choice to accept or reject or dismiss the point expressed. Whatever choice we make, it is our decision and we should not put the blame on others.

Kamarul’s simplistic explanation of Hannah’s book is a baseless slip of logic from the premise that the book carries Bible verses and its stories can influence the reader, to the conclusion, it has a hidden agenda to christianize.

That is slippery slide logic and one which I don’t expect from a university lecturer.



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