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The Thinker

The Thinker
Staring out the BUS, thinking abt life..

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Are we ready for Inter-faith Dialogue?

With all the tsunami that hits our shores and cast HOPE for the nation to truly have a chance to revamp itself from the baggages that were laid by the wave in the form of 'dacing' that never left the shores, I believe the nation at this time is going through a very interesting period.

Reform is and never will be a comfortable for all-that's why it is called reform. Nonetheless, let me clarify that the reform I am talking about is definitely not about shouting in the streets and throwing water bottles at each other like cave man in pre-historic times (oh ya, cave man didn't have water bottles right? So, maybe stone??)

Reform I am referring to come in terms of inteliectual discourse where civilise human beings regardless of his or her up-bringing and teaching are able to sit together and talk about issues pertaining to socio development and let thoughts fly around. Spoken with humulity and humbleness while accepted with good faith.

Time to throw away the 'rubbish' that we are being fed and told to hear and obey for half a century. Read the article below which I stumble upon or click here to read

The future of our interfaith dialogue

The incident of the aborted Bar Council forum was a good example how we will continue to approach inter-faith dialogue. There is vision in chaos, creation in destruction, and opportunities in threats.
---Azly Rahman

Must engaging in dialogue on religion be painful? Must it be greeted with hostility? Or is it a moot question—that the answer lies in what we failed to have done through our education system, decades ago?

I have faith that we will one day be ready to appreciate interfaith dialogue. On this note, I too believe that we will one day appreciate philosophical discussions and scientific debates. My experience conducting interfaith dialogue every semester in the American classroom setting gives me the assurance that we will be ready. It would be good to one day know that our corridors of academia are filled with passionate discussions on the self, the universe, God, and fate of humanity.

The core of each religious foundation is there for us to explore and to learn from. We need to escape from being trapped in the particular and liberate ourselves into explorers of the universal. Of course this will take time given the nature of class and caste system we are in; developments that have impacted upon our consciousness. But evolve we must, if we are to see a progressive country emerging out of these ruins of communal politics, immorality of modern capitalism, and persistent religious misunderstandings. Ignorance is the greatest enemy of knowledge, as the sage Socrates once said.

What is interfaith dialogue?

The incident of the aborted Bar Council forum was a good example how we will continue to approach inter-faith dialogue. There is vision in chaos, creation in destruction, and opportunities in threats. Educators of peace and social justice must not give up. In a country in which we have for example Center for Civilizational Dialogue in Universiti Malaya, and in a country wanting to be known as a "moderate country with a Muslim majority", we are seeing contradictions. It will get uglier if we fail to reflect upon the means and methods of religious dialogue. We do not know much what each one of us believes in and what are the rituals and practices of our neighbours. We do not know what scripture they read, let alone the meaning of the prayers, the doa, zikir, the pujas, and the mantras. We lack the knowledge of the fundamentals. This is understandable – fear governs our consciousness and directs our actions and ultimately reproduces itself inter-generationally. Religion is a "sensitive" issue, they say--- which needs desensitization, I would contend.

Back to the protests on the Bar Council forum. It is a misrepresentation of what Muslims are and a reflection of how we have approached not only dialogue on religion but also on other "sensitive issues" as well. In this environment and in this regime where exploitation of issues are orchestrated by opportunists at the expense of peaceful dialogue, we will always be at the losing end of education for critical consciousness and for peace.We must go back to the drawing board of our approach to teaching religion in terms of curricular design and how to juxtapose or even infuse it with core idea of humanism and rationalism. This will take another few decades given the complexity of our society and how it has evolved in line with the "half-bakedness" of hypermodernity.Here in the United States, I have just finished teaching two summer classes on "Religions of the World" and Introduction to Religion" in a college where I have also been asked, for the last three years, to teach "Islamic Scriptures".

I find it liberating to conduct classes after classes in which my students not only are American and foreign-born Muslims but also Jews, Christians, Catholic, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists, Agnostics, and even Pagan. At the end of each semester, they have a different perception of each other -- more in-depth understanding of what could have remained antagonistic. We read the Quran and the Hadiths and look at the scriptures from a hermeneutic perspective, situate it in the present and projecting it into the future. Most often, our discussions on jihad evolved into a reflection on the struggles for the human self to explore suffering, violence, and liberation in all religious traditions. It includes passionate discussions on media representation of the concept.

Dialogue in Malaysia?

I often wonder if what I am doing is possible in Malaysia but I certainly have the confidence and hope that given the most peaceful way to approach it, a lot can be gained. Essentially religious dialogue need not be painful. It ought to help foster deep understanding and dispel misconception of ANY religion. It ought to make us become deeply religious and to learn to explore what others believe, to respect them, to learn from the universal themes of spirituality, and ultimately to contemplate our existence within the context of the struggle between Good and Evil and to evolve as more ethical and rational beings – so that we may participate better as political and social beings..I believe we need to revamp undergraduate foundation courses in our public and private to include one that teaches the classics of the thoughts of the Eastern and Western tradition and the scriptures of the major religions. But then again, our university students are not even allowed to be involved in politics and to engage freely in public forum on political matters – how might this be possible with interfaith dialogue then?We have a long walk to mental freedom and to a philosophical understanding of Islam and other religions. Unfortunately we are now known as people who are good at disrupting dialogues. I hope this perception will change.

But then again, education is about hope, peace, empathy, intelligence, and liberation -- these we must use as a basis for a new design once we see major restructuring efforts under way, undertaken perhaps via a new political, social, and educational arrangement.

Let us look at possibilities in interfaith dialogue.

Let education for peace and justice do that.

[NOTE: I have gathered some background materials on various major religion as on my website Please scroll down to the very end]

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Political Revival or Another Political Tsunami

As I await in the noisy hall of my beloved ex-college hall for some decent internet connection and to check out how is the poll counting going on in Permatang Pauh, some thoughts just flowed in my mind.

As Malaysians who awaits the official number of the polls, I wonder whether we are going towards political maturity or just another political tsunami where voter's choice and faith are treated lightly and I might even term as 'trash'. Both sides of the fence promise something really beautiful in words and when they are in power, the task suddenly becomes too big or too complicated to resolve in 'short' duration.

I'm torn in between the two candidates of BN and PR (sorry to leave out Mr. Hanafi) because I believe as much enthusiasm as he possess, he is just a plankton among the whales.

If BN wins and DSAI loses in the by-election, that means DSAI would need to hide his face in the most secluded area of the world due to embarassment and lost of faith by the people of his so-called strong hold in Permatang Pauh. However, if DSAI wins the by-elections and especially with a higher majority, our opposition would garner more firm grasps in Malaysian political arena. Having said that, I hold my doubts how would our country experience this transition period and go through political maturity (which I hope could happen).

Anyhow, I think its fair enough to say that all politicians' hand are not clean in terms to get to where they are now and today. Somewhere along the line, their hands are tied and may have been dirty by others' dirt. Nonetheless, I believe if the motive of these political leaders are always focus on the rakyat and strive to reach "ideal" nation-state, for the good of all Malaysians then I would put my vote to the ballot for this man or woman. It is definitely not easy trying to please anyone and everyone, but as long as the Good For All is preserve then I guess that is as perfect as we can get...for now...

2008 is definitely a wonderful year for Malaysians and definitely for me personally. Reason is because I thought of leaving this country for greener pasture when the chance come to my door step. However, I may re-consider that option as things seems to be GREENER here than before.

Suddenly, 'I have a Dream' by Martin Luther Jr came to mind.

***This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."***

In the context of Malaysia, maybe I could have the liberty to change it to ***This note was a promise that all men, yes, Malay as well as Chinese, Indian, Sikhs, Kadazan, Dusun, Melanau, Lumbawang and the many indigineous people of Malaysia, would be guaranteed the "unalieable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."***

Let's be brave enough to DREAM

Monday, August 25, 2008

For the LOVE of nation, race and religion

These are the few words that are always being said by many people especially in the political arena. Nonetheless, I wonder whether race and religion is really necessary anymore in this age. Am I saying that we should forget 100% clean of race and religion? Definitely NO!!

What I am trying to imply is that we should focus 100% on nation-hood while letting race and religion tail behind. Nation-hood is the only way forward for Malaysians to be truly Malaysians-eating the same nasi lemak and roti canai in the morning and drinking the same teh tarik during tea time without being afraid of intentional food poisoning for ethnic cleansing.

The trend has begun for everybody in Malaysia to swear by the name of Allah. It first started by the famous Saiful who nobody knew before the scandalous event, then comes the ex-MB, Deputy PM and who knows who else more to come. I'm by far no Islam scholar, but it seems to me that the sacred name of GOD is simply challenge among the low-beings that He created long long time ago before creation started. It seems that anybody and everybody is so eager to swear by the Holy Name that I don't think they are really scared of 'Laknat' anymore. Religion should be left out in political gimmick (no matter how holy you try to justify the means).

What makes matter worst is when 'holy man' of Islam puts other religion to blame. Claiming that its a Christian way to swear by God's name on the Holy Bible. Just to justify my claims, everybody can check the 10 Commandments that God-Jehovah Jireh gave to Moses. Thou shall not use the name of God in vain. Click on the link and see for yourselve. Of course, if wikipedia is not a trustworthy source for some, do flip through the Holy Bible and see for yourself.

Back to what I want to share.

I strongly believe that religion should never be used to gain political sympathy especially twisted tales and narrow interpretation. Authority on religion should be the final bastion of redeeming and protecting the cause. Individuals who are overly zealous would come across as Jihad warriors and praise by those who holds the same faith but at the same time, I also believe that Allah would not condone rude and vulgar manner used on yet believers as they are His creation too.

By the way, I don't understand what's the whole fuss on the usage of the word Allah by non-Muslims in this country too. After all, it's only an Arabic equivalent to the word God.

Wiki: Allah (Arabic: الله, Allāh, IPA: [ʔalˤːɑːh] pronunciation (help·info)) is the standard Arabic word for 'God.'[1] While the term is best known in the West for its use by Muslims as a reference to God, it is used by Arabic-speakers of all Abrahamic faiths, including Christians and Jews, in reference to "God".[2][1][3] The term was also used by pagan Meccans as a reference to the creator-god, possibly the supreme deity in pre-Islamic Arabia.[4]

Check this out too while you're browsing along in cyber world.


"Praying hand for True Peace and Unity in Malaysia"



It's been a long long while since I last blog due to work and a change of lifestyle. I've move on to the next phrase in life where an undergraduate becomes a graduate and turns into the corporate worker. Hopefully the turnover would be some sort of caterpillar turning into the beautiful butterfly. Sadly, it's not always like that nor is it always common to be smooth free transition.

Anyway, talking about transition and changes that is happening in my personal life. Our country Malaysia is definitely going through some changes in its own context too. Ever since March 8 of 2008, many people from the analyst to the Pak Cik at the mamak stall are talking about it. You have many 'brave' voices coming out from almost every nook corner of the country. Political party talking about leaving status quo to move on and become more matured (meaning no more race based politics), you have Bar Council organising forum that are deem 'sensitive' by our little fear-ish section of the community and the government giving out monetary 'helps' in Permatang Pauh for 'sudden' development plans. Arrgghh..let's not forget the bravery of undergraduates to march on the streets for certain issues that are said to undermine Malay Supremacy and Islam (referring to the street protest by UiTM and UIA respectively).

Malaysia is indeed going through some interesting times in 2008.

However, I cant stop pondering and wondering, where are we exactly going after 51 years of Independance? Have we truly become the melting pot of races and culture? Are we truly living the slogan of Visit Malaysia Year; Malaysia-Truly Asia? Are we truly harmonious and united or does that only happens few times a year during open houses where FREE food are available?

It depends on what relative scale are we comparing ourselves to actually. What do I mean by that?

I remember being answered by our smart politicians when questions such as those above are asked by me some time ago. They would always compare to countries that are worst off than Malaysia where civil war is happening or happened, corrupted governments that are unable to provide decent living for its citizens, bloody killing happening on the streets and ultimate question always quoted was: 'Adakah saudara mahu perkara 15 MEI berlaku sekali lagi?''translation means 'do you want the incident of 15 May to happen again?'

I believe Malaysia and Malaysians as a whole should be given more credit than that answer because we are better off than the examples I have mentioned.

Each time when the citizens of Malaysia who are enlightened enough want to have a discussion on issues relating to mutual understanding and socio-development, the government officials from various political parties says these are sensitive issues that may incite heated argument. I would not disagree fully with this argument, nonetheless, I believe Malaysians are now more matured to sit and listen and discuss compared to times like 70s or 80s where racial sentiment are not stable yet.

Merdeka means freedom in many ways but largely interpreted as FREE from the dominion of British occupancy and control. However, I opine that it was merely a change of foreigners controlling us to local politicians controlling us to their benefit. For too long has our nation been supress by racial and religion baggages. I would argue that it was so during the late 1950s but HEY!! Malaysia is 51 years old now!! After such a long time, we are (politically) still so much concern about race and religious battle for rights. When someone talks about liberalise the education quota systems, the last bastion of the Malays need to be protected even though there's still 90% more to go. Some body organise talk on Islamic issues that affects the community at large, someone must go ahead to be zealously protecting the religion when the authorise body to do so is quiet. When certain party of the opposition who so happen has Chinese Malaysian majority, the other fraction are scared that their land and welfare are threaten.

It just goes to show we still don't trust each other politically. Why I mention politically is because if all races are not involved in active politics, all these conspiracy theory does not arise. Don't believe me, do some observation.

After 51 years of celebrating Merdeka where all races and culture are bonded to perform to the world to see, showcase our uniqueness and beauty, all the millions that are thrown in to make it wonderful..have we truly enjoyed Merdeka?? Do all citizens who are born under the same Malaysian sun, speak the same Bahasa Melayu, saluting the same Jalur Gemilang treated similarly? Can the 'foreigners' who came from China and India 51 years ago able to say loudly that they are Malaysians without being shout 'balik Cina' or 'balik India'? Can poverty that hits all without relation to race be truly eradicate without special economic policies?

Malaysia has come a long way from what we were and manage to do well in many areas. We are developing and still developing even though certain 'obstacles' exist in our midst. For those who envision a Bangsa Malaysia, Malaysia for Malaysians or whatever terms, please be affirmative in your stand and do not be dismayed because this is the land we shall live and die for. Be the change we envision it to be. Let's carry the race and religion burden together as a nation if its deem rightly to be so otherwise let's just throw it away and progress without the need to be reminded constantly whether you are of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Dusun, Murut, Singh, Jawa, Bajau etc descendant. Lets find a common stand where we can truly live together as ONE nation, calling Malaysia as our home and live peacefully with everyone respecting the rights to live and practise its own religion freely without being threatened or showing supremacy and superiority to others who are deem marginalise.

Lets celebrate the coming Merdeka on 31st August and many more years to come as MALAYSIANS and singing Negaraku proudly and upholding the constitution and Rukun Negara with respect and reverance.


Daulat Tuanku..Daulat Tuanku..
Daulat Tuanku..Daulat Tuanku..
Daulat Tuanku..Daulat Tuanku..
Daulat Tuanku..