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We are all Africans

Posted: 29 Aug 2013 04:34 PM PDT

Fact of the matter is, we are all Africans. Scientists have announced back in 2007 that a skull analysis of 6,000 samples from modern humans show that we all originated from a single point in East Africa.

Zurairi AR, MM

The Malay Mail Online's story on a condominium in Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya banning African tenants received mixed responses from readers.

Chief among the responses has been praise for the decision, lauding it as necessary to ensure the safety of Malaysians.

The responses included anecdotes of crimes allegedly committed by Africans — I am using the term loosely here — and accusations that they are involved in some sort of drug cartel.

However, the dominating feeling has been that of fear. Quite simply, Malaysians are afraid of having so many Africans in their midst.

They related feeling uncomfortable being in the same elevator as them. They did not like the Africans harassing their women. They were afraid of the tall, dark, muscular African men.

Almost none of those who gave such responses admitted that, by supporting a blanket ban on all Africans, it means that yes, we are racist.

It speaks volumes of us Malaysians when a clear-cut racist policy such as this was enacted and nobody even batted an eyelid.

Worse still, is when a senior member of a political party said "since the residents had voted for such a measure, it would be contradictory and ironical if Malaysians are to be accused of racial discrimination."

This, perhaps unsurprisingly, came from the MCA which is one of the few parties left which exclusively fights for the rights of only one ethnic community above all others.

We feel so secure clinging to our ethnic identities. After nearly 50 years of Malaysia's formation, we still pigeonhole ourselves into the various ethnic identities instead of embracing each other as Malaysians.

Just a few days ago, a friend tweeted a photo of an online form that he had to fill. One of the questions was about race.

In the drop-down menu, there must have been dozens of minute ethnic groups. Even "Melayu" was divided into another subgroup, "Melayu Sarawak" (Sarawakian Malay).

In this decade, how would this classification of citizens into races be useful?

We forget that "race" is just a social construct. Nobody was really born Malay, Chinese, Indian, or "lain-lain."

The precious "Malay" identity is perhaps the most flexible of all.

Malay father + non-Malay mother = Malay.

Non-Malay father + Malay mother = Malay.

Non-Malay father + non-Malay mother + convert to Islam = there is a chance you'll be recognised as "Malay" too. Just ask Ridhuan Tee, the most Malay of Chinese there is.

The Constitution even states that for a Malaysian to be Malay, you only need to speak Malay and practise Malay culture, and be Muslim.

If you leave Islam, then you are not constitutionally Malay. Ah, but how can that be if you were born a Malay?

Fact of the matter is, we are all Africans.

Scientists have announced back in 2007 that a skull analysis of 6,000 samples from modern humans show that we all originated from a single point in East Africa.

Around 150,000 to 200,000 years ago, the predecessor of Homo sapiens evolved to modern humans in Africa.

It was then after 50,000 years ago that a branch of humans started venturing out into Europe, Asia, Australia, and started evolving independently.

This branch of humans over time replaced other early human populations such as the Neanderthals and Homo erectus.

After migrating to the Near East from Africa, the humans spread towards South Asia around 50,000 years ago, and to Australia around 40,000 years ago.

A group of these early humans, the Cro-Magnons, reached Europe around the same time 40,000 years ago.

Humans reached Asia some 30,000 years ago, and North America much later, between that and 13,000 years ago.

Genetic evidence shows that humans of different ethnicities are all 99.9 per cent the same underneath.

The difference in build, skin tone, hair colour and so on were products of evolution when humans tried to acclimate themselves to different environments.

Remember that all in all, they only constitute around 0.1 per cent of our genes. That is one-tenth of one per cent, if you still cannot imagine how inconsequential that is.

I leave you with this quote from Dr Spencer Wells, lead scientist of the Genographic Project:

You and I, in fact everyone all over the world,

we're literally African under the skin;

brothers and sisters separated by a mere two thousand generations.

Old-fashioned concepts of race are not only socially divisive,

but scientifically wrong.


The history of ourselves

Posted: 29 Aug 2013 04:21 PM PDT

The Malays of yesteryear may have been passive, but a spark had been ignited. There may have been no Internet then, but colonisation brought new forms of activities; urbanisation, modern bureaucracy, and these unsettled them. Who were they really? What were they? Were they to be the dogs of the colonialists forever?

Dina Zaman, MM

To understand why we are who we are today, I referred to a few texts (and with a word limit, I would like to stress again that this essay is not a definitive and conclusive one. I read and write to seek answers.).

The Islam that was brought to our shores — was it political? A tool to colonise the Malays into submission? There has been much discussion that in the early days, Islam was Sufistic in nature.

As mentioned in an earlier essay, Husin Mutalib's Islam and Ethnicity in Malay Politics, documented in the first chapter the origins of Islam's arrival into the region. Prior to that, the Malays were followers of animism and Hinduism.

The British Occupation changed everything, especially for the Malays. Realising that the Malays were most observant of their faith, their educational policies "… not only contributed to the relative passivity of the Islamic factor in the life of the Malays, but (also) added a new and unsettling Islamic dimension."

While the average Malay was accorded basic primary Islamic education, it was the scions of the rich and aristocrats who were allowed entry into a privileged world: they had the opportunities to pursue a secular education to the highest level, including "tertiary education in Britain."

The Malays of yesteryear may have been passive, but a spark had been ignited. There may have been no Internet then, but colonisation brought new forms of activities; urbanisation, modern bureaucracy, and these unsettled them. Who were they really? What were they? Were they to be the dogs of the colonialists forever?

Hope came in the form of a group of concerned Muslims: the Islamic reformists. An example would be the Kaum Muda, who are what few know as literalists and greatly influenced by Wahabism.

"At the beginning of the twentieth century pamphleteers and editors in Singapore, then the hub of the regional Malay language media, spread competing Islamic doctrines around the region. They set the stage for a political contest in Indonesia, and later in Malaysia, between the Sufi-influenced practices of Kaum Tua (the traditional establishment) and the Wahhabi-influenced approach of the Kaum Muda (the reformists).

"The Kaum Tua represented the traditional court-centred doctrines in Malaysia and the inclusionist beliefs of the Javanese heartland, which had accommodated pre-Islamic and Sufi practices and beliefs.

"The Kaum Muda represented the modernist, Muslim reformists strongly influenced by the pan-Islamic revivalist movement originating from Egypt. It sought to expunge the pre-Islamic beliefs that had been woven into the fabric and practice of Islam in Malaysia and Indonesia.

"As a result of the large numbers of pilgrims who went on the haj to Mecca and Muslim ulema who had attended madrassahs (Islamic religious schools) in Arabia and India, the austere literal interpretations of the Islamic faith contained in Wahhabi doctrines have had a growing impact on the region since the 1870s."

References: William R. Roff, The Origins of Malay Nationalism (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1967; Robert W. Hefner and Patricia Horvatich eds.), Islam in an Era of Nation-States: Politics and Religious Revival in Muslim Southeast Asia (University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1997).

Many will argue that syirk practices must be done away with. Paganism, seeking the advice of healers per se; yet as we modern-day Muslim-Malay Malaysians pursue our faith, we forget our roots, language and culture.

One authority we should also turn to is Indonesia's Azyumardi Azra who can be considered one of the definitive historians on Islam in Southeast Asia.

He is not verbose but eloquent, and in his essay Islamic Thought: Theory, Concepts And Doctrines In The Context Of Southeast Asian Islam (Islam in Southeast Asia, edited by KS Nathan and Mohammad Hashim Kamali), he wrote in depth about the clashes between Muslim thought and sects. "Southeast Asian Islam is overwhelmingly Sunni since the 12th century." Wandering Sufi teachers, mystics and traders, mostly from Arabia, spread the word of Allah to the people they met in tropical, humid SEA.

He admitted in his essay that literalists such as the Salafis, who are more literal in their outlook and radical in their approach to political and religious matters, have made an impact on the Islam practised today.

However, this is not just the only reason and factor as to why Islam in Malaysia is practised the way it is presently. There are many factors leading to the divide. An erosion of true Islamic education based on compassion, intellect and facts is one contributor.

Another intellectual who echoed similar sentiments was Syed Naguib Al-Attas. The still-living philosopher wrote in his paper, A Preliminary Statement On A General Theory of the Islamisation of the Malay-Indonesian Archipelago, that Islam came to the region "couched in Sufi metaphysics. It was through tasawuf that the highly intellectual and rationalistic religious spirit entered the receptive minds of the people" and this spiritual enlightenment was not just brought to the courts, but to the people. Its egalitarian approach to faith and spirituality was very attractive to the Malays.

In light of the above, my question is how did such a democratic Islam that empowered a people and country become vilified today? Is it the people or the politics? How strong is the Wahabi/Salafi influence, that we have or are losing ourselves?


Allah is more than just a word

Posted: 29 Aug 2013 03:46 PM PDT

Their Malay language Bible – the Alkitab- uses the word Allah to refer to God. This is the only Bible they have so come what may, they will continue to use their Alkitab which contains this troublesome word. That's their Holy Scripture, their heritage. No court judgment can alter this fact.

Bob Teoh, TMI

It doesn't really matter how the Federal Court will decide on whether non-Muslims, particularly Christians, are allowed to use the word Allah to refer to God. The Home Ministry and the Islamic establishment have already decided the word is exclusive to Muslims. Period.

It makes no difference either to Bumiputera Christians who account for two thirds of the Christian population of two million in the country.

Their Malay language Bible – the Alkitab- uses the word Allah to refer to God. This is the only Bible they have so come what may, they will continue to use their Alkitab which contains this troublesome word. That's their Holy Scripture, their heritage. No court judgment can alter this fact.

The court of public opinion has already made its decision on this issue. There's even a call to burn the Alkitab. Yet all this is beyond sub-judice and contempt of court. Christians too have been making vigorous defence of their right to use this word.

Under these circumstances, the hands of the Federal Court are tied. It is inconceivable it can arrive at any substantive decision.

Even if the apex court of the country can make sense out of the usage of this word, there are more than thirty other words decided by fatwas of the respective states that non-Muslims cannot use.

Compounding the dilemma is the fact that fatwas are Islamic edicts. They cannot be applied to non-Muslims. There are, of course, sharply differing opinions on this.

For instance, on December 11, 2003, the Sabah Mufti made and published a fatwa in the State Gazette prohibiting non-Muslims from using 32 words in Bahasa Malaysia in their teaching and in the propagation of their belief. Some of those words are Allah, Firman Allah (Word of God), Wahyu (Revelation), Iman (Faith), Rasul (Apostle, Messenger), Nabi (Prophet), and Injil (Gospel).

Eighteen days later various government authorities entered and seized several titles in a Christian bookshop. The reason for seizure was that the books contained the word Allah.

Let's not pretend. We are all in deeper trouble than we care to admit. But living in denial is not going to solve the problem. One option is for the government to withdraw its appeal against the High Court judgment, which in effect allows Christian to continue using the word Allah to refer to God. It's time for reconciliation.



The fight for true freedom

Posted: 29 Aug 2013 09:31 AM PDT


In all honesty, how free are we, truly? We may have kicked our captors out, but our shackles will never be broken until we, the rakyat, stand united to break them.

Elza Irdalynna, FMT

There seems to be a recurring theme in my articles here on Free Malaysia Today. Whether they discuss art or socio-politics, inevitably I tend to argue how stifled we are as Malaysians, bound by censors and a biased, paranoid government.

Year after year, we cry out "Merdeka!" every Aug 31. We pride ourselves of the fact that we freed ourselves of our western colonisers without going to war to gain our independence.

But in all honesty, how free are we, truly?

The nationalists in the days of yore are probably the only ones who have claim for the pride of our independence, for they fought the brave fight for liberty. They wanted to reclaim our lands as our own, with our own people to govern it, and prosper from it; to instil our own ideologies and beliefs, our practices and traditions.

However, ever since then, freedom and independence had taken on a very different meaning. Although we are now self governing, we are far from independent.

With an economy that is often unstable, a rising cost of living and a government that wastes the country's income on projects that do not favour the people, we are always living in fear of bankruptcy like the countries in the EU.

Most of our hard labourers are foreign workers. From an economical standpoint, we are in actual fact, dependent.

Furthermore, with every passing year, there has been a steady increase in numbers of Malaysians emigrating elsewhere.

As government scholarships are being slashed with each annual budget, the current trend of the brain drain will leave Malaysia no choice but to reach outside assistance, as we would be lacking in our supply of qualified graduates.

We are already seeing companies outsourcing their work to countries with cheaper labour. If nothing is done to remedy the economy, it will only be a matter of time before unemployment rates reach a record high.

We are not free in other aspects as well. As a Malaysian, one would be a fool to believe that we are governed by a democracy.

Even our freedom to vote had dirty hands messing with it. When the ballots were finally cast, so many of us were naïve to think it would be a transparent and clean poll. No matter the numbers, the results were already decided for us.



Strive for unity, not personal glory: Razif

Posted: 29 Aug 2013 09:16 AM PDT


A 1992 file photo of Datuk Punch Gunalan holding the Thomas Cup aloft. Next to him are Razif Sidek and Foo Kok Keong. That was the last time Malaysia won the Thomas Cup 

 "It doesn't matter what our backgrounds or race are. We should cultivate team spirit and look out for one another. Sports has proven time after time that it can unite people."

Rajes Paul, The Star  

KUALA LUMPUR: Former international Razif Sidek has wonderful memories of the national shuttlers walking as one team during the Merdeka Day parade – 21 years ago at Dataran Merdeka.

Clad in national attire, captain Razif and the 1992 Thomas Cup-winning team marched with heads held high – waving the Jalur Gemilang to Malaysians who had turned up in hordes to celebrate Malaysia's independence and the millions who were glued to their television sets, witnessing the grand celebration.

"There was a sea of colour and people of different races and colours coming together. It was a very proud moment for the badminton team as we marched on," reminisced Razif.

"The badminton team had won the Thomas Cup that year. In the same year, I had also won the bronze medal (with my brother Jalani in the men's doubles) at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

"Many things are vague now but what I vividly remember was the unity among the national shuttlers and how we were able to bring the nation together as one – despite the different races and colours. I just felt so proud to be a Malaysian. I still am."

Razif hopes the spirit of unity will live on in the national badminton team.

He can't help but feel that the chase for honours has become more of an individual pursuit rather than a team effort in recent years.

Malaysia have yet to win the Thomas Cup since the feat of Razif-Jalani and their team-mates – Rashid Sidek, Foo Kok Keong, Kwon Yoke Meng, Rahman Sidek, Wong Ewee Mun, Cheah Soon Kit and Soo Beng Kiang.

They also had excellent guidance from BAM's heirarchy then – president Tan Sri Elyas Omar, team manager the late Datuk Punch Gunalan and coaches Yang Yang, Han Jian and Chen Chengjie.

In contrast, today, Malaysia do not even have a solid team for next year's Thomas Cup Finals in New Delhi, India. In fact, for the last two years, many players – even the ones with potential – have left the national team because of a combination of reasons.

Many coaches have come and gone, without having time to establish anything concrete for Malaysian badminton.

And there have also been issues with the selection process.

"There should not be any place for politics in sport. The players and coaches should help one another to enhance their performance. We should do more to instil national pride and unity among the shuttlers," said Razif.

"I think it's time that we give emphasis to team events. We have to have a strong base to build a good team.

"Please do not get me wrong. I'm not saying that we are not united right now but I believe we can do more to strengthen our unity.

"I feel that many – players and coaches – are chasing personal glory. There is no harm in that but it should not be at the expense of team unity.

"It doesn't matter what our backgrounds or race are. We should cultivate team spirit and look out for one another. Sports has proven time after time that it can unite people.

"I do hope that as we celebrate our 56th Merdeka, we will be able to put our perspectives right," added Razif, who coaches a handful of independent shuttlers – like Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif-Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari, Mohd Arif Abdul Latif and Mohd Hafiz Hashim.

It will surely be a point for new BAM president Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel Tengku Ariff to ponder.

Tengku Mahaleel is doing some ground work to look into what could be done to strengthen the coaching and training programme and create a wider base of talents so that Malaysian badminton will constantly be on the world map.

He is expected to reveal his plans during the council meeting on Sept 7.

Not Yet the Real Merdeka

Posted: 28 Aug 2013 10:16 PM PDT


Flying the flag is only for show, and if we are truly patriotic, we don't even need to do that. As for celebration, what is there to celebrate this year? 

Kee Thuan Chye
As we prepare to commemorate Merdeka Day this Saturday – notice that I do not say "celebrate" – it would be timely to acknowledge that the real "Merdeka" has not happened yet.
I say this because we are still not free. We are still under the thrall of the masters who took over from the colonial ones in 1957. They are no different in their intent to oppress us. In fact, over the last few decades especially, they have proven to be even more oppressive. And if the British imperialists divided us in order to better rule over us, the current masters have outdone them in this respect by employing the mechanism of religion on top of that of race.
The current masters also continue to use the instruments of power inherited from the British to control us, such as the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Official Secrets Act, and the Internal Security Act (ISA) which was replaced by the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act and the Public Assembly Act.
In terms of freedom, we have hardly progressed. When I look back on my growing-up years in the 1960s, I find little difference between then and now. People viewed as Communists (even if they were not) or political threats were taken in under the ISA. Youngsters barely out of school were arrested, and some were robbed of their youth for as many as a dozen years.
Even former government ministers were not spared. Aziz Ishak was a minister in Tunku Abdul Rahman's Cabinet until he resigned in 1963 because of irreconcilable differences with the Tunku. Two years later, he was detained under the ISA for allegedly collaborating with Indonesians to set up a government-in-exile. He denied this and wrote a book about his detention called Special Guest. The book was banned. The media was indeed controlled.
Dissent, especially if it came from a superior intelligence, was also not tolerated. Lee Kuan Yew was found to be too outspoken. So Singapore got expelled from Malaysia in 1965.
As the rock band The Who sang: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
The new penjajah (coloniser) still holds sway over us. These days, we tend to refer to it as the Umno-BN (Barisan Nasional) government. The emphasis is on "Umno" because it is the biggest party in the ruling coalition and, clearly, the one that calls all the shots.

It now wants us to fly the Malaysian flag to show our patriotism and celebrate the 56th anniversary of our independence. But flying the flag is only for show, and if we are truly patriotic, we don't even need to do that. As for celebration, what is there to celebrate this year?

Read more at: http://my.news.yahoo.com/blogs/bull-bashing/not-yet-real-merdeka-062452935.html 

Kredit: www.malaysia-today.net

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