Monday, January 31, 2011

Helping the poor is smart economics :)

In a recent World Economic Forum in Davos, world leaders suggested the obvious – that economic disparities are a global risk – especially in the next decade.

Making the poor richer is not just a moral obligation, but I see it as a logical solution to world wealth and goodness.

I wrote the following article in 1998 during the economic crisis. At the end of the article I suggested a remedy to economic growth through addressing disparities arguing not from a social-religious-moral angle the benefits of helping the poor, but from an economic one.

As you will quickly be aware of, my writings of a decade ago is rather bookish in nature. No wonder not many are inclined to read them :) I did start this essentially economic paper quoting Nat King Cole, a singer-entertainier instead of an economist. But i do not think it helped..haha!

So this one is for the serious readers; but if you persist, you will find what I wrote more than 10 years ago is still relevant today :)

Does the current economic crisis in East Asia poses a major challenge to the process of globalization?

“ Around the world I search for you,
I travel on, until I found, a rendezvous”
Nat King Cole

The aim of this paper is to discuss the effects of the current economic crisis on globalization. To do that, we must first agree on two things. One, what globalization is, and two, the causes, impact and lessons learnt from the current crisis.

Firstly, what is globalization?

Globalization is a thirteen-letter word but to many, it is a four lettered one. In reality, globalization by itself is a neutral event. It is what we made out of it and how we choose to perceive it that put value to the concept.

Globalization is the growing integration of national economies by which as a result of the internationalization of commodity flow, migratory movement, pollution and information. Globalization adds to the reach and the power of the market. Today, not only business organization and ordinary people must kowtow to worldwide competition, but governments too. As a result of that, national economies are steadily more integrated as cross-border flows of trade, investment and financial capital increase. The ordinary consumer on the other hand are buying more foreign goods, multinational corporation stretching their operations ever widely around the globe and savers are investing more than ever in places far away from home.

Viewed positively, globalization makes market more efficient via better division of labor between countries. This allows low-wage countries to specialize in labor-intensive task while high-wage countries do otherwise. Globalization will also encourage and allow the economy of scale. Furthermore, with globalization, capital will move to wherever the return of investment is best. Thus, making sure capital is used more efficiently and productively.

On the other hand, critics of globalization especially those in advanced countries worry that increased competition in low-waged jobs from other countries will take away job opportunities and push down wages in their economy. In order to avoid this, countries will try to outdo each other by reducing wages, taxes, welfare benefits and environmental control to become more competitive. The burden to compete will also wear away the ability of governments to set their own economic policies. They also worry about the power of financial markets in causing economic havoc as in the European currency crisis of 1992 and 1993, Mexico in 1994-1995 and the topic at hand, the current East Asian crisis.

The Crisis of East Asia

The crisis in East Asia is still unfolding. Yet many have conceded that Asia’s economic problems resulted from two major ingredients, exposure to the global capital market and the inadequate supervision, regulation and the laxity of domestic financial systems.

This is to say that globalization has shown again its double-edged ability to bring both risk and opportunities. It was East Asia’s outward looking measures embracing globalization and global finance that helped them grow remarkably the past two decades. Yet, that very move has also caused them their current fate. Moreover, certain economies and East Asian leaders see the case for interfering with the flow of capital as a valid act to restore their economies. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is but one case.

However, before we deal with the issue of capital flow, let us examine the effect of the crisis to the process of globalization. Does the crisis pose any major challenges to the key issues of globalization? To examine the challenges we must first draw up the extent of globalization’s impact on the key issues like nation-state, capital and trade; before, during and after the crisis. Let us start with the most essential issue, the nation-state.

Globalization, the nation-state and the East Asian crisis

How far has the East Asian crisis tipped the balance of power back to the nation-state? Before we even attempt to answer this we must look at the pre-crisis situation. Even before the crisis, the nation-state is not what it used to be. With the arrival of new forces created by technology especially during the 20th century, things both visible and invisible can be moved from one country to another whether the nation-state likes it or not. These forces take the main forms that to a certain extent diluted the nation-state’s power.

In economics, it is easier today than before to move goods from one place to another thus killing any residue idea, of national self-sufficiency. Almost every country today buys from abroad a larger proportion of what they consume compared to 50 years ago. Furthermore, multinational companies operating freely across natural borders own a far bigger share of world capital.

Electronics technology has also aided the movement of money and as such the markets ability to transfer cash to anywhere in the world at the push of a button has changed the rules of policy making. When a government is perceived to have made a wrong move, the market can rise against it in a dash. Management guru, Peter Drucker summarized it this way “Control of money was at the very center of what can be called ’sovereignty’. But money has slipped the leash. It cannot be controlled and longer by national states, not even by acting together”. (P.Drucker 1993). In fact, seconds after a head of state makes a statement, thousands of screens light up, and traders all over the world give their vote – whether good or bad. With no place to hide, the value of the currency will adjust to the role.

Secondly, in military matters, just over half a century ago, the only way for a country to successfully use force to impose its will on another was to defeat via infantry troops on the ground. Planes and missiles have changed that. The Gulf war was organized and won through command centers organizing war machines via computers like children playing a video game at video arcades. A missile can blow up a specific target like a factory a few thousand kilometers away with precision or if fitted with a nuclear warhead, obliterate an entire city. No country, perhaps not even America can shelter itself from such an attack.

The third challenge to the nation state is in the information revolution. The globalization of information equals the globalization of knowledge. Television, radio, the internet, telecommunications per se has made it possible for people from different country to learn about each other in a matter of seconds. About thirty years ago, an American can possibly con another American that Malaysians still live on trees, but today, with a click of a button his lie will be uncovered.

Between the three forces above, it may seem that the nation state has been stripped naked by globalization. Not really. The nation state still holds two important forces. Firstly, the nation-state is still the basic units of geopolitics and represents its nation in the game of foreign policy e.g. in the World Trade Organization. Secondly, “ a nation-state is a place where people feel a natural connection with each other because they share a language, a religion, or something else strong enough to bind them together and make them feel different from others. “We” not “they”. The nation-state is the politics of the first person plural. Its government can speak for its people because it is part of the “we”. It emerges out of the nation.” (The Economist Dec 95/Jan 96).

Now, how far has the crisis tipped the balance of power back to the nation-state? Has the crisis pose any major challenges to globalization where nation-state is concern?

Answer. Not much. Malaysia may have insulated herself with capital control with the view to deter hot money from coming in and out but is not adverse to foreign direct investment, or any other investment other than hot money. Other than that, other matters would likely not change.

As far as the point of a nation-state play acting politics of the first person plural, we have yet to hear of any transcendental move towards a larger that state identification like Pan-South East Asian – Nusantara, “Asian Values", or a “Chinasia”. On the contrary, we hear less about ‘Asian Values’ today compared to before the crisis. Nor do we hear of a ‘Pan-Islamica’ movement emerging from South-east Asia challenging the Muslim dominated nation-state with perhaps the capitalist west as an external enemy or conspirator.

In short, the current economic crisis in East Asia does not pose any real challenge to the process of globalization in relation to the nation-state.

Globalization, Trade and Capital in the East Asian Crisis

Despite the hype about globalization the last decade, today’s international economic integration is not unprecedented. Falling transport costs during the 19th century through the development of railways and steamships allows large cross borders flows of goods, capital and people. The First World War ended the earlier attempt at globalization. After the war the world moved into a fierce period of trade protectionism and restrictions on capital movement. America sharply raised its tariff and other countries retaliated thus worsening the Great Depression.

As such, international capital flow virtually dried up between the times of the two world wars as governments try to protect their economies from the impact of the slump through capital control. Capital control was maintained after the second world war (notice that even the wars have been globalized) and currencies were fixed through the Bretton Woods system.

Acknowledging that reducing trade barriers was vital to recovery, the General Agreement of Tariff and Trade (GATT) was organized. GATT organized a series of negotiations that gradually reduced import tariffs. The World Trade Organization replaced the GATT in 1995. Trade flourished.

With the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in the early 1970’s, currencies were floated against one another at market rates and this signaled the rebirth of the capital market. Countries after countries freed capital control. Some earlier in the 1970’s, America and Germany, Japan and Malaysia, some later. (France, Italy in 1990).

While in the 19th century globalization was powered by lower transport cost the two forces that drove the increased of goods and money since after WW2 is technology and trade liberalization. With cheaper communication and computing cost the natural barriers of time and space that set national market apart have been falling too.

The second driving force, trade liberalization was the results of the GATT negotiations and unilateral decisions. Almost all countries have lowered barriers to foreign trade. Moreover, prior to the current crisis most countries have welcomed international capital. Over the past decade, trade has increased twice as fast as output, foreign direct investment three times as fast and cross border trade in shares ten times as fast. (The Economist, October 1997)

The question is will the current crisis reverse this trend? Experience shows how quickly faith in market and openness can be reversed by big economic shocks like the experience after the Great Depression of 1930’s. There are concerns amongst many that the move by Malaysia in September 1998 and Hong Kong government’s decision to indulge in the stock market are trends that will reverse the openness to market forces. Furthermore when respected economist also starts singing to the tune of capital control (e.g. Paul Krugman’s Saving Asia, September 1998) many are worried that capitalism is indeed in retreat.

I beg to disagree.

There are some major differences between the situation after the Great Depression and today. These differences will ensure and buffer any real retreat to capitalism. At most, some modification will take place.

1. Mental perception of leaders and nations around the world

Unlike before, majority of leaders and people today has agreed to the basic idea that there is truth in “comparative advantage”. While it is true that voices for protectionism pressures will be louder during these days, it is similarly true that even Pat Buchanan and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is not adverse to the free market. One must only remember that it was during Mahathir’s era that the Malaysian economy by far has embraced free market. It was his liberalization policies that opened up the markets in both FDI and portfolio flow. His psyche is for free markets although it is his major complaint today.

In short the policy significance of capital controls must be viewed from the angle of (1) Malaysia’s long track record of liberalization under Mahathir. Malaysia has long had an open economy promoting free trade, currency convertibility, free capital flow, deregulation and competition based on free market. The imposition of exchange controls does not mean that the pursuit for liberal economic defers in other areas. (2) Furthermore, Malaysia simply cannot afford to cut herself away from the world. The external sector like exports equaling 70% of GDP is far too large to contemplate the move.

We must also remember Mahathir is no Khomeini. In all other aspect too like the Internet and communication he is very open. Even if other East Asian economies were to play copycat to Malaysia, similar outlook will persist.

What about protectionism pressure from the US? The worry about loosing jobs to low-waged countries due to cheaper imports is not new. Though politicians by and large are in love with freer trade because it means more exports, economist defers. To the economists, the real benefits of trade lie in importing. Economist knows that the only reason for exporting is to earn the wherewithal to import.

As James Mill explained in 1821,

“ The benefit, which is derived from exchanging one
commodity for another, arises in all cases from the
commodity received, not the commodity given”.

The key players in the US economic strategy like Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan are both economists right down to their bones. In fact fed officials already are showing signs of willingness to cut interest rates should the global economic turmoil looks likely to endanger America’s economy.

2. Forum for discussion

Unlike the 1930’s, today most economies are bound together in one way or another to other economies through the World Trade Organization and a host of regional blocks.

Furthermore, the WTO (before as GATT) since 1948 and eight rounds of global trade talks later, each time involving nine countries and each time bringing liberalization further that the last.

In addition WTO also has set up a mechanism to arbitrate trade disputes. Unlike during the days of GATT, findings of the WTO’s dispute panels are not hostage to veto. Countries found in the wrong must change or offer compensation. Those that do neither, face sanctions. Moreover, the mechanism has proven to be more egalitarian.

For example, the WTO has even ruled against America in favour of Costa Rica. Thus, it is not a surprise that within three years of existence, 132 complaints were dealt in comparison to only 300 during the whole 47 years of GATT’s. The WTO is so successful that as of May 1998, 30 countries including China and Russia are queuing up to be members.

Furthermore, most of the world economies are weave in numerous regional trade agreements too many to mention all here. To name the major few, NAFTA, APEC, EU, ASEAN, FTAA and Mercusor. This will be the subject of examination in the next section.

In short the East Asian crisis may slow down trade a little during this or even next year. However growth in trade is still expected to outpace growth in production. (Last year the volume of merchandised trade grew by 9.5% that is over three times faster than global output).

Globalization, Regional Trade Agreements and the East Asian crisis

Just as ‘globalisation’ regionalism is also a neutral event. True that economist have generally are not enthusiastic about it. They worry that preferential tariff will cause a process known as ‘trade diversion’ whereby trade will flow in an inefficient manner taking place.

However, we must note that even prior to the crisis a surpassingly increased number of countries traded with their neighbours. Regionalism makes more sense because of geography, rather than club membership. Geography is why they got together in the first place. As countries lower their tariff barriers, the relatively greater importance of transport cost makes proximity matter more.

Moreover, regionalism did not flourish due to a financial crisis. It is safe to say that regionalism breathe in added vigour in reaction to America’s embracing of regional trade block in NAFTA as well as because the snail paced Uruguay round of talks.

In fact, scrapping trade barriers within a region can encourage trade and investment among countries within the club. The point is regionalism is not necessarily good or bad. As long as regional groups are open to the rest of the world, for example via the WTO it may just be good. It is more likely dependent on whether governments wish to liberalise trade or not. Regional agreements and regional ideals come second. We must not forget that almost each and every member of regional trade agreements is also a member of the WTO.

In short, I do not see the East Asian crisis spreading a new zeal for regionalism especially the ‘diversion’ kind. Thus, it does not pose any major challenges to globalisation. Any further regionalism would take place regardless of the crisis (for example the talk about the eventual combination of NAFTA and Mercosur)

Other issues of globalisation and the East Asian crisis

I also do not see that the East Asian crisis will pose any major challenges in the other major areas of globalisation namely communication, culture, migration of workers, etc. The trend that was familiar prior to the crisis will still hold true. While the current crisis may slow down certain areas of globalisation, (e.g. number of middle class Asians indulging with cyber space), and increase in others (child labour, prostitution, etc.) in reality these are just reflections of the world as it is today. The slow process of globalisation is going through the test of times.

Seen in the long run, the crisis may just look like a hiccup to the long and sure process of globalisation. However, there are also lessons learned from the crisis that can help towards making the world more global.

Where do we go from here?

1. Pay attention to Global and local aspects of the crisis

As stated earlier, the economic crisis was resulted from a combination of exposure to the global capital market as well as the inadequate supervision of domestic financial system. This, any new international architecture of financial system must pay attention to both the global and local dimension of the crisis. As such, we must not only focus on weaknesses within national economies which are also real and needs urgent re-dressal but also tackle the weaknesses within the capital market systems (forces behind short term, speculative capital, fund managers as well as money manipulators).

2. Globalisation needs globalise thinking

As the world globalises, inhabitant of mother earth must also have a mental shift towards globalise thinking. As goods and money stop recognising the state, it is important that humans too are able to think global. Global personal and corporate tax to a Global Tax Fund (GTF)
may sound crazy today but may be just the answer for overall world growth in the longer run. For example, if an individual and corporation in Malaysia pay 28% of income to the government, perhaps 2% should go to the GTF and the remaining 26% to the national government.

The GTF then redistribute their collection to all needy nations as well as subsidises developing countries in the industry in the area of comparative advantaged and environmental protection. In that way, we can minimise child labour and environmental decay and pollution. Children in affected countries will then be able to go to school and later be more productive citizens of the world. In the longer run more countries will go out of poverty and at the same time provide consumers for goods produced.

One must remember that the issue today in the current economic crisis is the extreme lack of markets for East Asian economy to export to. We are totally dependent on a few rich economies namely Japan, Europe and most importantly America to absorb the outstanding exports of East Asia. Imagine if we have China, Central Russia and Africa as potential markets, too.

Thus in the long run, making sure all other economies grow in tandem with the current advanced economy will only benefit everyone. In order to do so, the capitalist system must transform itself into a more equitable and efficient system via a global system to redistribute wealth. One such endeavour is via the GTF.

In summary,

The current economic crisis may have an affect to the process of globalisation but on a very limited scale. Seen in a longer time span of history, the current crisis may proof as just a mere hiccup to the longer process of globalisation.

Globalisation is here to stay.

Anas Zubedy
Kuala Lumpur
Sept 1988

References and Bibliography

1 Adlan, Dato' Noor May 1, 1998 APEC and Asia's Crisis
2 Beams, Nick April 1998 The Asian Meltdown - A Crisis of Global Capitalism
3 Cheong K.C. 1998 CSU/MBA Course Outlines and Notes
4 De Melo, Jaime & Panagariya, Arvind 1992 The New Regionalism In Trade Policy
5 European University, Barcelona 1998 Communications and Culture Transformation -
Cultural Diversity, Globalization and
Cultural Convergence
6 FitzGerald, Valpy June 1998 Global Capital Marlket Volatility
and the Developing Countries –
Lessons from the East Asian Crisis
7 Krugman, Paul 1997 Is Capitalism Too Productive?
8 Lietaier, Bernard January 1997 Global currency speculation and its implications
9 Muzaffar, Chandra August 1998 The Crisis : A Year Later
10 Rossetto, Louis 1996 Cyberspace vs. the State
11 Sachs, Jeffrey June 1997 the Limits of Convergence - Nature, nurture and growth
12 Soros, George September 1997 Wold Bank Speech, Hong Kong –

Towards A Global Open Society
13 Stiglitz, Joseph July 1998 Road to Recovery - The Future of Globalization
14 The Economist September 1997 Bergsten on Trade
15 The Economist August 1998 Emerging-market measles
16 The Economist August 1998 Finance and Economics - A question of preference
17 The Economist July 1998 Investigating investment
18 The Economist 1998 Schools Brief - A World view
19 The Economist 1998 Schools Brief - Bearing the weight of the market
20 The Economist 1998 Schools Brief - Capital goes global
21 The Economist 1998 Schools Brief - Delivering the goods
22 The Economist October 1997 Schools Brief - One World?
23 The Economist 1998 Schools Brief - Trade winds
24 The Economist 1998 Schools Brief - Workers of the world
25 The Economist 1998 Schools Brief - Worldbeater, Inc.
26 The Economist October 1994 The Global Economy
27 The Economist July 1997 The NAFTA Effect
28 The Economist December 1995 - January 1996 The Shape of the Workd - The nation-state
is dead. Long live the nation-state.
29 The Economist December 1996 World Trade - All free traders now?
30 The Economist December 1996 World Trade - All free traders now?
31 The Economist May 1998 World Trade - Fifty Years On
32 Wolf, Martin 1998 Flow and blows
33 Wriston, Walter B. October 1997 The CATO Journal Vol. 17 No. 3 –
Dumb Networks and Smart Capital

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pariah - The Real Issue

Most Non-Indians do not and cannot understand the sensitivities with the word Pariah within the Indian communities. At least not the way our brother and sister Indians do.

This is because the real issue with what is Pariah and what is not is an internal Indian problem. In fact, in the Indian community the issue is not just ‘what’ a pariah is, but more so ‘who’ is a pariah.

Let me explain.

While Non-Indians may use the word in a spate of anger, by calling someone a Pariah, the term has a larger and deeper import when used by Indians.

My late father for example will shout ‘Hindu Pariah’ when he is angry at an Indian cutting in into his lane while driving regardless if he is a Brahmin or a Pariah – it cuts across the community - Chinese and Malays too are not spared. But that was about it. It does not go any further than that spate of anger. In fact my late father will call anyone pariah even Muslim religious leaders as long as they screwed up or angered him.

The term Pariah is basically thrown to anyone who does not meet expectations. In fact the term pariah can also be used to a country; a pariah state -a country whose activities is out of line with international norms.

But within the Indian community, Pariah has deeper undertones and meaning. It means that you are by natural order has no right to marry my children, dirty, outcast by birth. In fact till today you will find non-Pariahs who will not even eat anything that is cooked or served in utensils used by a pariah.

It is not uncommon when a non-Pariah and Pariah were to fall in love, their goal to be together will be a fight till the end. They may lose their family ties, outcast and left all alone to fend for themselves.

It is within this context that we need to understand the current issues with regards to Interlok. I highly suggest you read Dr Chandra’s recommendation here and here.

We need to allow our Indian brothers and sisters time to solve this ‘internal’ issues. We must not use the word Pariah within the context of the Indian community. The real issue is not so much about Indians and non-Indians but more so an intra-Indian concern.

I find it sad that this issue has slipped into a race issue again – where a certain segment of Malaysians even good intentioned educated ones see it fit to pit the problem as though it is a fight between a Malay bureaucracy and the Indian community.

I suggest my Indian brothers and sisters to look within, while the rest of us non-Indians must practice empathy.

My Indian brothers and sisters, kindly note that if a non-Indian girl were to bring home a boy from the Pariah caste – the initial resistance by the parents is because he is an Indian – not a Pariah.

Until we are true to ourselves, we cannot be true to others. Gandhi tried to solve this Indian issue, we should follow suit.

Shanti, Shanti, Shanti .

Sunday, January 23, 2011

CNY Advert - Give Tax Breaks To Multiracial Neighbourhoods:)

This advert will be featured in The STAR this coming Friday 28th January 2011. Do spread the message if you agree :)

Have a meaningful
Chinese New Year

"I had been taught at home to be tolerant of others and to respect them." - Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu (1919-2010)

Do it for Unity:

Give tax breaks for multiracial neighbourhoods

Multiracial neighbourhoods are one of the best ways to promote Unity as it nurtures interaction from a young age. It is crucial that our children get to know their brother and sister Malaysians at home, especially as some children are separated in schools.

By living together in community, we will learn about and come to understand each other. When we live side by side, we become familiar with each other’s habits and practices. We share each other’s food, hear each other’s language and observe each other’s way of life; our beliefs, our odd behaviours, our sounds, our smells. We learn to appreciate all our different places of worship and religious practices: funerals, prayers, rites of passage, celebrations. We become acquainted with the other’s way of being… and in a natural way, acceptance and respect for one another are deeply ingrained.

In multiracial neighbourhoods our children know each other as friends they meet at the playground, before they even know about race. Hanging out in each other’s homes becomes a part of everyday life, discussing teachers and school, talking about the latest music and battling on Playstations together. They will laugh and cry together, and through it all they will learn their most important lesson - friends and enemies come from all backgrounds; we love and trust individuals, regardless of race.

With more and more residential communities being built, now is the chance for Malaysians to restructure how we live. We remember Kampung Melayu, Kampung Cina and Kampung India fondly, but moving forward, we need to create Perkampungan Malaysia. Malaysians of all races living in one community - what better way to practice Unity?

Choose to let our children experience the joys of unity in diversity. As a catalyst to create more Perkampungan Malaysia, we propose that the government provide tax breaks for those who live side by side with people of a different race.

At zubedy, our programs draw strength from shared values and traditions. We believe that at heart, all Malaysians want good things for themselves and for their brother and sister Malaysians, simply because our nation cannot prosper as a whole if some of us are left behind.

Let’s be first and foremost Malaysian :)

Let us add value,
Have a meaningful Chinese New Year

Friday, January 21, 2011

Good to read - The Rising Price of Makanan


The sharp increase in global food prices and their consequences raises some fundamental questions about the state of the world economy and how we organise our lives.

According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) its food price index hit an all-time high in December 2010. It was partly because of soaring prices that 925 million people worldwide suffered from hunger in 2010, an increase of 150 million since 1995-97. There have been mass protests and riots in a number of countries, including Algeria and Jordan. The escalating cost of bread was one of the many factors that led to the ouster of the Tunisian dictator, Zine-El-Abidine Ben Ali, by the people on 14 January 2011. In other countries, such as India and China the inflationary trend in food prices has forced their central banks to push up interest rates. This will have repercussions for their pace of growth which in turn may affect the global economic recovery.

To read further click here

The Third Conversation

When you are talking to another person, how many conversations are taking place?

The answer is three.

The first one is the most obvious; the words both of you are using plus the body language. The second is the one in your head. The third one is in the other party’s mind.

Which one should you focus on?

You must try hard to listen to the third conversation. When you do that, you will find out what is in the other parties heart – swiftly. The real issue, the real message. The first conversation is only symbols and clues for us to uncover the third conversation.
Let’s look at some examples.
  1. Your mom complains you always come home late and treat the house like a hotel. The real message could be that she wants to spend more time with you.
  2. Your partner says that you don’t love her anymore. The real message could be “I need a hug”.
  3. When someone complains he or she has so much work at the office, the real message could be, “I am a very important person in the company”.

The ability to listen to the third conversation is very productive, cuts out lots of noise and unnecessary arguments. But it needs empathy, understanding and compassion. One must WANT to listen to the other side.

Unfortunately, most times our second conversation is so loud that we become totally deaf to the third conversation. Many are quick to frame answers and comments while the other party is still framing their words and has yet to complete their sentences.

Many will be busy picking whatever 'ammunition' they can get from the first conversation to win an argument or simply hit back - wrongly using the clues within the first conversation as comebacks. Most times hurting the other and spiralling the exchange into arguments and a heated debate.

Taking the examples above, we may find the comebacks as the following.

  1. Suggesting that in no way you can treat your home as a hotel, as a hotel would have had a swimming pool and better amenities.
  2. Suggesting that your partner expect too much and being impractical.
  3. Suggesting that it is time to ask for more pay or simply resign. Or bitch about the boss or company.

Silencing our second conversation is the key action in capturing the third conversation. We need to really pay attention and consciously try very hard to ‘read’ all the clues and signs within the first conversation.

We will need to ask questions, a little probing will help too. Our hearts and minds must be ready and willing.

Those who are able to listen to the third conversation will be better husbands, wifes, siblings, friends, salespeople, bosses, colleagues, etc.

They will also be better citizens, better Malaysians. Let us try the following. What do you think is the third conversation in these examples?

  1. When the Malays demand their special positions must be respected?
  2. When the Indians get angry with a word like ‘pariah’ in a novel?
  3. When the Chinese are angry that they are called pendatang?
  4. When the Sabahans say that 'Sabahans will show the way'?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What is the similarity between Anwar’s dare with Mohd. Ghani’s?

Educated versus Learned?

Malaysia has a high rate of educated people but perhaps not those who are learned. A learned person is able to differentiate between right and wrong, what is wasteful and what is productive, is fair, balanced and are able to be honest on both sides. Educated people only have information and use them to prop up what they see fit.

For example, an educated person may support their leaders even when they are not making things better, but a learned person on the other hand will support even an enemy when the enemy is right.

This is because learned people can make sense of what is good and what is bad. What is pure bullshit and what is really good action.

Pure bullshit is when Mohamed Ghani Abd Jiman challenged Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to a fist-fight, alleging the DAP leader had defamed him – read here. Simply because he perceives that he is stronger at a PHYSICAL FIGHT.

Similarly ...

A learned Malaysian will see not much difference between Ghani’s challenges with the one Anwar is throwing at Najib. To debate him over matters that could be better dealt with pure action, good governance of opposition states, better management of PR and PKR, correct the wrongs of PKR elections etc Read here.

Simply because he thinks he is better at TALKING :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

PAS Youth should ask for the banning of football instead.

PAS Youth wants the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) to uphold its decision to bar Muslims from working in places that sell liquor although there is pressure from DAP leaders to overturn the ruling. – The Star 16 Jan – read more click here

I would like to suggest that they focus on banning something that affects more Muslims. In fact millions of Muslims – football.

Traditional Islam suggests that men must not show skin (aurat) from the navel to the ankle.

As such, all football games are haram from traditional Muslim point of view. It is like Muslim women who are all covered up with tudung but are wearing tight skirts :)

Pas youth should express disapproval to their spiritual leader Tok Guru Nik Aziz for watching the final game between Kelantan and Negeri Sembilan (Malaysia Cup) and later jubilantly celebrated when they won. In fact by their standards the Tok Guru should announce that it was a KEMENANGAN YANG HARAM.

Why it is only women that are coerced, pressured and even forced to cover their aurat? Is it not hypocritical? Why all the billboards that have women showing skin are darkened with black ink? If you want to celebrate football, then let them women wear skirts too :)

Note : I do not agree with the banning of alcohol as it is and the intrusion of personal choice in the name of religion .

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Azan, Temple & Church Bells etc - Are they irritating you?

...not to me .....!!!!

This article is from my book 'The Quran and I' - chapter 3

Bob Agency

Of some apostles We have already told thee the story;
of others We have not …Quran 4:164

I grew up accustomed to Chinese drums and Hindu temple bells and the experience made me a Muslim who loves the Quran more than any other book in the world.

Let me tell you why …

I grew up on Evergreen Road, Fettes Park Penang. From Fettes Road turning into Evergreen Road, you will need to battle a short slope uphill where we kids needed to paddle standing up while riding our bicycles and ladies got off to push theirs till the road flattens 10 meters ahead – about 100 meters later you will pass my house, house number 14.

There is an empty space almost triangular in shape where the two roads meet. At the centre of that empty land stood a large tall leafy bee infested tree with red colored nuts sprouting from the branches. On one side of the empty land was a row of shop-houses. On its corner lot wall the words NEW BOB AGENCY in red bold capital letters greeted the Fettes Park community. So we call that little corner piece of land - Bob Agency. Across the road from Bob Agency stood two temples; one Chinese and the other Hindu.

Bob Agency for the better part of the year was left empty but the piece of land comes alive twice a year when the Chinese temple organizes Chinese Operas (Teng Lang Kho Tai) especially during the Hungry Ghost Festivals. Usually the first two days it would be the Chinese Opera (we use to call it The Tong Tong Tong Cheng! Show) followed by two days of modern bands belting the latest Chinese numbers and some popular western songs. I especially love it when the emcee announced something like “Andy Gibb chang terk, Shallow Lancing!” .

Each year the temple committee, both Hindu and Chinese will go house to house to request donation either for the upkeep, repair and temple improvement or for projects like the Hungry Ghost festivals or Thaipusam. Each time my Mom will ask me to tell them politely that as Muslims we cannot donate to a ‘Tokong’. Besides, we actually did not have any extra cash anyway! Ha!ha!

They too were polite and understanding and just moved away wishing me thank you regardless. I did not question my mom’s reasoning as I took it as true; not until 1977 when the Penang State Government was building the Penang State Mosque when I was 13.

It was announced that Loh Boon Siew the big Towkay of Penang donated RM 1 Million to the building of the state mosque. But wait a minute. We cannot give but we can take? That does not sound right, in fact it is unfair. My mom had no answers so I brought it up during agama class in school. After all, it will not be the first time I was asked to leave the class anyway- so what’s another period of wondering around the school (my eldest sister was not allowed to be in agama class at all during certain years in her school life; also for asking many questions!).

Honestly, I was not a bad boy. In fact I have won the agama prize for being top in school. But I had questions that needed real solid answers. And, I do not give up easily!

Poor Ustazah. I asked her if I could donate to temples and her answer was a firm ‘No’. We can’t give but we can accept? I told her that my religion sounds unfair and I cannot accept her answer as my Jid told me Islam is the most just religion in the world.

I refused to accept the answer and kept on harping on the RM 1 million from Loh Boon Siew. Finally she relented and said that if we were to give any donations to the ‘Tokong’, we must ‘niat’ that it is money we ‘ buang ke dalam sungai’. I told her ‘Ustazah dah merepet’.

She was by then in tears and it did not help that my classmates were cheering with drum beats – thumping the table top. She rushed out of the class and the rank cheered, the class went into the usual rumpus of school boys without supervision… but it did not last for long.

She returned with Ustaz Mahyudin, whom we were all scared shit of! And he was not alone; he brought his friend a handsome one meter rotan. He banged the rotan on the teacher’s table a few times, we were dead silent. He uttered a few words of warning, and left.

Actually Ustaz Mahyudin was a kind and nice man, in fact I have never seen him use the rotan on anyone. I had good conversations with him, and he allowed differing opinions although he was worried of my constant questioning of the status quo. He treated Non-Muslims kindly too, and with respect.

I did not get my answer until I was in university when I took to reading the Quran and Muslim history for myself. I discovered a verse that said:

'WOE UNTO THOSE who give short measure: those who, when they are to receive their due from [other] people, demand that it be given in full, but when they have to measure or weigh whatever they owe to others, give less than what is due! Do they not know that they are bound to be raised from the dead? [and called to account] on an awesome Day (Quran 83: 1-5)

I also discovered that early Muslim leaders created a peaceful environment so that people from various faiths can practice their way of life. In fact state money was used to build, repair and support the building of not just the mosque but also Non- Muslim places of worship. The Muslim army has a duty to defend all places of worship as commanded by the Quran:

(They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right,- (for no cause) except that they say, "our Lord is God.. Did not God check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure. God will certainly aid those who aid his (cause);- for verily God is full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will). Quran 22:40

In the mid 90s I bought a condo unit in Sunway. Beside the wonderful square swimming pool, the other attractions were a Hindu and Chinese temple right in front of the guard house and a mosque just behind the corner. In the morning you can hear the azan, the temple bells and every now and then I get to smell Chinese incense bringing me back memories of growing up in Fettes Park near Bob Agency. The only missing link was a church. Each morning, each evening, each nite – each day that condo where I stayed for a good many years reminds me of another Quranic announcement. It is as though the Quran spoke to me directly,

“To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what God hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way? If God had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God. it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute (Quran 5:48)

Thank You Bob Agency, Thank You Evergreen Road, Thank You Fettes Park, Thank You Penang, Thank You Malaysia! Thank you for helping me see the world the way God wanted me to see it.

Thank You God!

Unlocking Interlok

Good to read, 3 articles abt Interlok

Hariz Z – Interlok, Pariah dan Sikap Kita - here

Dr. Chandra – The Interlok Controversy -

And, an article in mStar interviewing Abdullah Hussain himself – which i cant seem to get my hands on from mStar online :(

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Financial Freedom?

Some years ago I was invited to give a talk to a few hundred Universiti Malaya’s undergrads.

During question answer time, one of the participants gave a rousing comment about Financial Freedom and the need to make money work for you instead of working for money.

It was followed by a question about how best to achieve Financial Freedom.

I asked him what is his way of life; he answered Buddhism.

So I suggested he go be a Buddhist monk :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

If we allow these people to decide, TIN KOSONGS will run the country.

Click here to read an article extolling debates by Lim Mun Fah.

It’s sad to know that many educated Malaysians truly believe that debates are a good way to gauge leadership, explain policies & as an avenue for political engagement. No wonder our politics are in such a mess:)

How many good debaters u know r productive citizens? Is Bill Gates a debater? Have you seen Warren Buffet debate? Lim Goh Tong? Steven Spielberg? Henry Ford?

How many school debaters you know are now running organizations? While some capable leaders are good debaters, majority are not. One must not mistaken oratorical skills with conceptual and organizational ability.

In fact, in business organizations, those who like to debate are usually those lazy disruptive individuals who hide their inability and unwillingness to be productive with complains clothed in words that sounds smart, full of courage and concern. They love to whine about what 'others are not doing'.

They do not become Top Management; in fact many never even got to mid management. But everyday they have debates and opinions at the kedai kopi, office cafeteria , etc etc...

Many delusional ones essentially believe that they know better, is smarter and should have been Top Management. LOL!

Empty Vessels Make The Most Noise?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why do many rich Malaysian (especially the middle class) feel poor?

"The net result is a society of winners as whiners, where people who are not only doing fine but doing much better relative to the median than they were a generation ago nonetheless feel left behind" - Paul Krugman

to read more click here

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Of Course All Religions Are Different: But There Are Values That We Share - Shared Values 1: The Golden Rule

One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish desire. (Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 113.8 - Hinduism)

Comparing oneself to others in such terms as "Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I," he should neither kill nor cause others to kill.

(Sutta Nipata 705 - Buddhism)

The sage has no interest of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind: for Virtue is kind. He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful.
(Tao Te Ching, Chapter 49 - Taoism)

Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.
(7:12, Matthew - Bible)

...And do good unto your parents, and near of kin, and unto orphans, and the needy, and the neighbour from among your own people, and the neighbour who is a stranger, and the friend by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom you rightfully possess... (Quran 4:36 - Islam)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Little Brown Moth - By Halimah Mohd Said

By Halimah Mohd Said

In Memory Of A Dear Father

It wasn’t big and magnificent. It wasn’t streaked with brilliant hues. It was just a little brown moth.

It fluttered across the room just before subuh on the morning of July 24, 1996, brushed my left shoulder, flitted around awhile before fixing itself onto the old marital bed head suspended from the ceiling across the wall of the living room of Teratak Jasa. There it lay inert despite my vibrating efforts to stride across the room, vigorously shake the bed head post and will it to stir just once more with the promise of the quiet, unspoken presence of an aged parent.

I wanted it to kindle my much-diminished spirits, soothe my bleeding heart and nurse my aching grief. But it had done enough, so it must have thought. It had come and was simply and unobtrusively there when I needed it. It was time to leave me to wrestle with my own garishly-hued ghosts and demons just as it would have wrestled with its own brown dreams. We sons and daughters pray for our dead parents to ease their passageway (so we think) when we are in fact praying for our own souls, cleansing our own guilt.

That was my father – Mohd Said bin Mohamed – a man with sturdy brown dreams in a steady slumber behind translucent corneas that never vacillated as my heavily-tinted ones often do with each night’s vividly haunting reprieve. Bah was a man with deep intent and unshakeable values – brown ones that were not conspicuous in the hugely colourful world outside. He was old-world and therefore old old-fashioned, unyielding and therefore uncompromising, unchanging and therefore un-modern. Un-dynamic, so some thought.

So he was when I first noticed him with my youthfully fickle eyes. And so he obstinately remained in spirit throughout the last, feeble, opaquely brown days of his life.

But in those earlier days, those who knew him knew him well even when they might not have liked him for calling a spade a spade. They knew that through the clear black-rimmed spectacles he saw a world that was white, where there appeared no murkily grey areas. For this most feared him. Many respected him. A few were fond of him.

We his family strived to love him despite his unwavering paternal discipline, his oftentimes unrepentant aloofness, his consistently strange shyness at showing us he cared. As children we desperately lamented the emotional deprivation of his selfish aloneness, much preferring the company of his books to that of a rather large, female-dominated family. But now in conceding middle age, I am utterly and shamelessly convinced that he did give us his everything, all that he was capable of. Bah loved us with the same understated appreciation he had for his other loves – medicine and English literature.

Perhaps as loved ones and offspring often expect a single, visible, verbal manifestation of affection makes up for the thousand voids and silences we patiently bear.

So it was when he was a medical officer in government service. Those who still remember say he was brutish in expecting devotion to vocation, ruthless in demanding perfection in work, and merciless in instilling commitment to duty in the matrons, nurses and hospital assistants who worked with him. He was neither forthcoming in his appreciation nor open with his thanks. When Dr Said stalked the wards, the floors would quiver and the walls would tremble in empathy with the assistant nurses who would menikus, scurrying away like frightened mice. Only when Dr Said reluctantly managed a rare smile did they feel he actually cared. Then they would smile and care in return. Underneath the irascible surface, they admitted, he was a good man and he meant well.

But thankful patients and their families always remembered him well and wanted to show it in funny ways. So it seemed in those days. And so the family peeled the delicious mandarins that gratefully arrived on Chinese New Year’s eve and gingerly bit into the still-soft kuih bakul made by the appreciative patient herself. These little niceties the family was allowed to relish at Bah’s expense but never, the more concrete manifestations of human gratitude. Thus we reluctantly returned the generous angpow thrust into our young palms and pockets. Back in our rooms in quiet rebellion, we discarded dreams of wonderful gifts and beautiful presents from a parent who was frugal to the point of being kedekut by sheer circumstance and necessity, we now magnanimously concede.

I remember the younger Bah so well, although being the youngest of seven children, six of whom are daughters, I was relegated to the care of beloved Mak or Nek Yah – so many colourful dreams ago.

As a politician, Dr Said was commended not for his great politically manipulative craft or his resounding oratory skill but for his integrity and honesty, his undying devotion to principles. It was said that he was so highly principled and incorruptible he flatly refused to entertain guests, his many anak buah and sepupu from Linggi, his kampung. He would not suffer fools especially those from Linggi, except that Linggi was also his constituency and the anak buah and sepupu had voted him in.

Perhaps this was because he became a politician late in life and already set in his will, not of his own volition but because he was asked to by a trusted leader. The country needed well-educated men at the helm of the newly-independent nation and that Dr Said certainly was. He was intellectually well-seasoned, peppered and salted. His hunger for knowledge knew no bounds right up to the autumn of his life when his failing eyesight deprived him of the very books he adored, of the very manna he eagerly tucked into when the day’s work was done. He read voraciously in English, having been tutored by English teachers at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar for whom he had the greatest admiration. By day he would devour the great thoughts of the great minds of the writers he met nightly in his brown dreams.

Just as he relished the well-articulated feelings and thoughts of the best English poets and writers, Dr Said articulated his own brown thoughts extremely well in the best of English. At home, not a single morning passed after a typical English breakfast of half-boiled egg, toast and marmalade served after subuh, when he did not faithfully sit in the same breakfast chair to enter the previous day’s happenings in his diary. Thus, his impressions of every political happening of some significance and every person of some consequence in his brown eyes were painstakingly recorded.

It was with the greatest mischief and the most dishonourable betrayal of human privacy that my siblings and I oftentimes sneaked our noses into his sacred book in order to sneak into his mind and discover whether our misdeeds had been critically assessed and duly reprimanded. And so, rather sneakily and cheekily, we came to know who he liked and who didn’t strike his fancy and why so. Secretly we grew to understand the issues and concerns that absorbed his thought-filled days and dream-filled nights. And thus with some care we chose our friends and acquaintances. With some reluctance we allowed Bah’s taste in life to influence ours.

At the more formal level, his writings on favourite themes like reminiscences of his schooldays at the Malay College and adat pepatih were well documented in the Straits Times and other newspapers of the period. To this day readers of that era remember well Dr Mohd Said’s ruminations written in the old-world English style that came to him so naturally. In retirement, the first part of his autobiography Memoirs of a Menteri Besar was published and was well received by readers with the same literary penchant. Lat’s Kampung Boy illustrations juxtaposed against Dr Mohd Said’s vivid and humorous descriptions of his own boyhood pranks grace the pages of The Straits Times Annual of some years ago.

Dr Said was a man wise with the words and wit that realised his simple brown dreams. But in the world of politics, wisdom takes different forms and dreams, different hues even in those early days.

I was a foolish teenager and shortly after, a more foolish young adult when Bah was the wise Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan for two elected terms of ten years. So many dreams have passed and so many more incongruities have emerged it seems. Have those dreams changed? Will they ever? Bah’s dreams never did – they remained steadfastly brown. Mine are as horrendously colourful as ever. More garish in middle age. I fear being gaudy and ungracious in old age unlike Bah who gently and quietly slipped into his octogenarian days and… oblivion.

Memories are short especially political ones. One that remains horribly black in my mind’s eye is that of Bah in early retirement, being openly snubbed by the brother of a Negeri Sembilan chieftain whom he had restored to power. The brother of the chieftain had himself recently acquired financial power and was therefore – powerful? My wickedly vicious mind can not, will not erase the memory of Bah, walking stick in hand, respectfully reaching out to this younger man as he emerged from his limousine at Subang Airport – only to be ignored in total un-recognition. And then there was a confident attempt by virtue of being a retired Menteri Besar to apply for a short stay at York House, the government guest house in London. Dr Mohd Said’s application was politely turned down for reasons known only to the officer in charge then – many dreams ago.

We your children remember you, Bah. Your dear friends Suffian and Bunny remember; so do your anak buah and sepupu Intan, Bok Chik and Atan; so do those like Wan Radzi and Zainal who worked closely with you. We all remember you dearly even when, having incurred your wrath, we were duly chastised and admonished.

Strangely, in my mind’s eye, your clear brown dreams are juxtaposed against the motley hues of my imaginings and somehow they do not seem incongruous. Are incongruities in life imagined? Some are I suspect. Perhaps like Chomsky’s challenge to the linguistic world “Colourless Green Ideas (Can And Do) Sleep Profusely “ in some worlds. Sleep in peace in yours dear Bah

Friday, January 7, 2011

Why did many smart people in the opposition become stupid?

Greed for Putrajaya before knowing how to deal with what they already have :)

Chuang Tzu explained it well here ...

"When an archer is shooting for nothing, he has all his skill.

If he shoots for a brass buckle, he is already nervous.

If he shoots for a prize of gold, he goes blind or sees two targets — He is out of his mind!

His skill has not changed. But the prize divides him.

He cares. He thinks more of winning than of shooting— And the need to win drains him of power.”

Monday, January 3, 2011

1Malaysia - 20 months later - by Dr C.M.

by Dr Chandra Muzaffar

It was 20 months ago that Prime Minister Dato Sri Najib formally announced his 1Malaysia concept. We are now in a position to examine the challenges facing the idea, to reflect upon its achievements and to look ahead.

The first of the challenges comes from vested interests with a stake in perpetuating ethnic dichotomies that are inimical to national unity. Among Malays and Bumiputras, there are groups who abuse Special Position embodied in the Malaysian Constitution and in certain public policies to advance their own interests. They alienate not only the vast majority of non-Malays but also a significant segment of the Malay and Bumiputra populace. Likewise, the pronounced push for Chinese primary and secondary education within the Chinese community, in contrast to its passive approach to education in the national language, has created a great deal of disillusionment among Malays who feel that the former are not inclined towards integration that acknowledges the identity of the land.

A second challenge emanates from partisan politics. Some individuals and groups within the political opposition view 1Malaysia as a propaganda tool of the Barisan Nasional. They ignore the fact that 1Malaysia was presented to the people as a national mission on 3rd April 2009 by the Prime Minister in his capacity as the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia. Besides, right from the outset, 1Malaysia was anchored in the Malaysian Constitution and linked to the Rukunegara and Wawasan 2020, which are instruments of nation-building, not political party manifestoes. If it had not been for this negative attitude of some politicians, which has an impact upon a portion of the populace, 1Malaysia would have gained more traction.

Certain unhelpful religious sentiments also impede 1Malaysia. There are influential elements in the religious establishment who do not realize that their narrow, bigoted interpretations of rules and regulations undermine that universal, inclusive spirit of Islam which reinforces the notion of common humanity that 1Malaysia envisages. O the other hand, there are non-Muslim politicians who are totally insensitive to Muslim feelings about Islamic etiquette, practices and institutions.

1Malaysia is also hampered by certain communal pronouncements and ethnic distortions and misconceptions which are ventilated more frequently than before in the public square. Words such as ‘pendatang’ and ‘penumpang’ directed at fellow non-Malay citizens are not only demeaning and degrading but also utterly reprehensible from the standpoint of our quest for national unity. They are, to some extent, a reaction to the constant attempts by a section of the non-Malay intelligentsia through cyber media to question the Malay position. Ludicrous arguments are trotted out such as that the presence of small pockets of Chinese on the Malay Peninsula for hundreds of years delegitimizes the Malay position. On the contrary, the very fact that they were well integrated into what were essentially Malay milieus, sustained by Islam, the Malay language and the Malay Sultanates, proves that the Malay polity was the precursor of the Malayan, and later, Malaysian nation-state.

In spite of these formidable challenges, there are certain achievements that one should attribute to 1Malaysia.

One, it has helped to foster – to a limited degree at least--- a feeling of ‘togetherness’ amongst a lot of young Malaysians. They understand 1Malaysia as an all-inclusive idea that embraces the nation’s diverse communities. Our accomplishments in regional and international sports throughout 2010 have also contributed to this feeling.

Two, 1Malaysia has also been associated with the present emphasis by the government upon extending assistance to the poor and needy, regardless of ethnicity. That social justice is a more important consideration than ethnic or religious affiliation is a critical 1Malaysia message.

Three, for the first time, there is an earnest endeavour on the part of the government to recognize and reward ability and excellence, irrespective of ethnicity. The award of local and foreign scholarships to all 9A plus scorers in the School Certificate Examination (SPM) in 2010 was testimony to this.
Four, through 1Malaysia, efforts are being made to increase the intake of non-Malays in the Civil Service, the Police and the Armed Forces, and to ensure that there is greater mobility for them in these public institutions. Certain private enterprises dominated by one community at the managerial level should emulate this and also become more multi-ethnic.

In 2011 and beyond, apart from building upon our 1Malaysia achievements, the government, the opposition and civil society groups should do much more to overcome the challenges that confront 1Malaysia. Raising public awareness should become a more systematic and organised enterprise with the capacity to rectify serious inter-ethnic misunderstandings.

For instance, ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ is not --- as erroneously interpreted by the English language media--- ‘Malay Supremacy’. It is more accurately described as ‘Malay Sovereignty’. The fight against the Malayan Union in 1946 was an attempt to restore Malay sovereignty, crucial elements of which were later incorporated into the Malayan and Malaysian Constitution in the form of the position of the Malay Rulers, the status of Malay and Islam, and the Special Position of the Malays.

Suffice to emphasize loyalty to the Constitution today, without harping upon ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ which from a 1Malaysia perspective is divisive and detracts from our noble endeavour to strengthen inter-ethnic unity and harmony through common Malaysian citizenship.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan 1Malaysia, and Professor of Global Studies at Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Petaling Jaya
3 January 2011

Jesus Was Palestinian And Why It Matters

Written by Jehanzeb Dar
Posted: 29 December 2010 13:34

Because of modern alarmist reactions to the word "Palestine," many non-Arabs and non-Muslims take offense when it is argued that Jesus was a Palestinian (peace be upon him).

Jesus’ ethnicity, skin color, and culture often accompany this conversation, but few people are willing to acknowledge the fact he was non-European. A simple stroll down the Christmas aisle will show you the dominant depiction of Jesus: a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, white man.

Islamophobia and anti-Arab propaganda have conditioned us to view Palestinians as nothing but heartless suicide bombers, "terrorists," and "enemies of freedom and democracy." Perpetual media vilification and demonization of Palestinians, in contrast to the glorification of Israel, obstructs us from seeing serious issues such as the Palestinian refugee crisis, the victims of Israel’s atrocious three-week assault on Gaza during the winter of 2008-2009, the tens of thousands of homeless Palestinians, and many other struggles that are constantly addressed by human rights activists around the world.

To speak from the perspective of the Palestinians, especially in casual non-Arab and non-Muslim settings, generates controversy because of the alignment between Palestinians and violent stereotypes. So, how could Jesus belong to a group of people that we’re taught to dehumanize?

When I’ve spoken to people about this, I’ve noticed the following responses: "No, Jesus was a Jew," or "Jesus is not Muslim." The mistake isn’t a surprise to me, but it certainly is revealing. Being a Palestinian does not mean one is Muslim or vice versa. Prior to the brutal and unjust dispossession of indigenous Palestinians during the creation of the state of Israel, the word "Palestine" was a geographic term applied to Palestinian Muslims, Palestinian Christians, and Palestinian Jews. Although most Palestinians are Muslim today, there is a significant Palestinian Christian minority who are often overlooked, especially by the mainstream Western media.

That dominant narrative not only distorts and misrepresents the Palestinian struggle as a religious conflict between "Muslims and Jews," but consequentially pushes the lives of Palestinian Christians into "non-existence." That is, due to the media's reluctance to report the experiences and stories of Palestinian Christians, it isn’t a surprise when white Americans are astonished by the fact that Palestinian and Arab Christians do, in fact, exist. One could argue that the very existence of Palestinian Christians is threatening, as it disrupts the sweeping and overly-simplistic "Muslim vs. Jew" Zionist narrative. To learn about many Palestinian Christians opposing Israeli military occupation, as well as Jews who oppose the occupation, is to reveal more voices, perspectives, and complexities to a conflict that has been immensely portrayed as one-sided, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Muslim.

To read further click here

Saturday, January 1, 2011

In The STAR today :)

Anas Zubedy, 46, entrepreneur

I believe my mission on Earth is to advocate unity among people. I knew this from the time I was a really young boy, growing up in Penang.

When I was three, my family moved to a Chinese area in Fettes Park, Penang. We were the only Malays living there. So while we were a Malay family at home, I grew up just like any other Chinese boy outside. I was an odd sight — a skinny Malay kid chattering in Hokkien.

There were children who refused to play with me, and there were those who refused to play without me. From that young age, I learnt that there were no bad races, just “unconscious” people.

Our immediate neighbours were Eurasians. They welcomed my siblings and I into their homes and taught us English. Then one day there was a new Indian kid at school. He became a good friend. Once, when I was at his house, my friend’s father reprimanded his mother for serving me chicken that had not been slaughtered according to Islamic tradition. I was just a small insignificant boy, and yet this man respected my faith enough to make sure that it was honoured in his home.

These experiences growing up taught me that no matter the colour of our skin or the language we speak, there are universal values we all share.

My experiences in university and in working for one of the world’s best multinationals has taught me conceptual skills and leadership skills, business pragmatism and the power of innovation, but there is one thing I’ve learnt which never fails, and that is God. He allows us to experience the fullness of life — which also means making mistakes, so that we may learn from them.

It sounds ironic, I know, but when we know our limitations, we start to perform. It means we have a good base to work on so we won’t fall as many times as before. That’s what my past 10 years were like. Growing older and accepting my limitations. These days, I’m able to see the bigger picture. I have also become more forgiving. For instance, I realise now that unity doesn’t happen in a day. You have to work towards the transition period.

Writing ads about racial harmony is one thing but we also work at the ground level to get the message across. Talk less, do more — that’s my philosophy. We need to have more conscious people, which is why I aspire to help more people discover their potential at the personal level. My dream for the next 10 years is to become an advocate of unity, not just in Malaysia, but in the world, through my writings.

For the whole article click here