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Friday, June 06, 2008

In Memoriam: Toni Kasim (1966 - 2008)

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When Marina M. asked Walski the other day if he'd known Toni, sadly Walski had to say no.

Image courtesy of Pang Khee Teik, hosting by PhotobucketThey say only the good die young, and in this case, a caring soul was taken at a very young age. Zaitun Mohamed Kasim (or 'Toni' as she was known) passed away in the early hours of June 4th, succumbing to Duodenal cancer, from which she'd suffered for many months.

Toni was laid to rest at Pusara Kenangan Abadi Muslim cemetary at 12:30pm on the same day.

What gets Walski is that Toni passed on at such a young age. It's times like these that we take stock and be thankful for every extra moment that the big guy up there grants us. The last time these thoughts came to Walski was when his younger cousin passed away, some ten years or so ago, at an even younger age.

But how does one write an obituary for someone you didn't know personally? Most people probably wouldn't even bother. Walski on the other hand thinks that in Toni's case, it's definitely worth the time.

The solution? You borrow from friends who did know her.
(Toni seen in the eyes of others, in the full post)

Kakiseni carried a beautiful obituary, written by Kathy Rowland:

Toni Kasim was a good person, and she died much too soon. Is there a cosmic bargain that bestows certain individuals some unique gift, in exchange for a shorter lease on life?

It’s a simple word, good. An almost impoverished adjective, surrounded as we are by superlatives nowadays. Awesome -- to inspire awe -- is reduced into the verbal equivalent of a fist in the air, greeting the most mundane of actions. “Fantastic”, “extraordinary”, “wonderful”, “amazing”, is applied like a cheap neon highlighter to people and places and events which are at best, footnotes.

But it’s a word which fits Toni, for she was many different shades of good.

She was good at what she did. Over the years, Toni’s involvement in civil society reforms has not so much blossomed as it has spread its roots deep and wide: human rights, gender and sexuality, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, political accountability. Like many activists, she had a grasp of the theory, the issues, the politics, and the policies. She also had an eye for the minute and the absurd. She once said "It drives me crazy when the papers report 'six people were injured in the accident, including one woman.' "

(source: Kakiseni, where you can read the complete obit)

From Haris Ibrahim:

Today, civil society lost a good friend.

Toni succumbed to cancer this morning.

The call I received early this morning of her death left me numbed.

I had wanted to go see her so many times since her illness turned for the worse, but there always seemed to be something more pressing.

I realise now that there is nothing more pressing than to hold a dying friend and to love her back in the way she had loved so many people.

I left this to too late.

In life she was an inspiration to so many. Let not her passing today diminish our memories of all the good that Toni stood for.

Toni has left us to push on in the many challenges she has been a part of in striving for a just society.

In remembrance of Toni, my candle in Kamunting this Saturday shall be lit both to honour the passing of a friend and to show solidarity with my fellow anak Bangsa Malaysia in calling for an end to the injustices of the ISA.

(source: The People's Parliament)

But the most simple, yet touching, for Walski comes from Pang Khee Teik, of the Central Market Annexe, from whose Facebook page Walski took the image of Toni:

Toni Kasim was one of the most inspiring human beings anybody would have had the privilege to meet. She was an internationally sought after trainer on issues of gender, sexuality and religious equality, having made a difference in the lives of everyone from abused housewives to transexual sex workers to hardened ulamas. In fact, she made a difference to us all - her sense of humour, love of people and passion for justice prevail even now to remind us of the endless tasks before us. She was tireless in her championing of open dialogue, political accountability and intelligent activism. In 1999, she became the first independent woman to run for elections, and though she didn't win, she reduced the majority in her Selayang constituency by 30,000 votes. She was going to run for elections this year when she had to be hospitalised. After months of battling cancer, she left us at the dawn of Wed 4 June, 5.30am, in her sister's arms. She was 41. She has done more in this life than most of us can dream of. I owe my worldview to her. Thank you Toni. And goodbye.

Central Market Annexe, incidentally, will be holding a memorial for Toni at the Annexe Gallery on Saturday June 14th, from 7pm to 11pm. Facebook users may check out the event announcement here.

Walski regrets that he never had the privilege of meeting and knowing Toni Kasim. From what he's gathered from many people, she's someone who's touched the lives of many in a very positive manner. She was, in fact, positivity personified.

Rest in peace, Toni, and may God bless your kind soul...