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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Mental housekeeping in a brewing Perfect Storm

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Yes, Walki’s bad... he’s been away from this blog for way too long. Worse, without a word of why. So as to not sound like a broken record, he won’t say why, only “Sorry”. But if you must know, it’s pretty much the same reason that he’s mentioned more than once or thrice before.

On top of that is a creeping feeling of depression about the immediate future of this country, and the feeling of helplessness in not being able to do more to make it a better place for everyone. This post, hopefully, will bring Walski back into the mood of blogging and to get the posts out with more regularity. The source of this feeling that’s overcome Walski, therefore, becomes the central theme of this long-overdue post.

But first things first – a very terribly inexcusably belated Happy Diwali (or Deepavali) to one and all, in particular Walski’s Hindu friends and myAsylum readers. Light pwns Dark, good over evil, and all that jazz…

Gee, that was what… two weekends ago? And it’s been around that long since the last post. So yeah, a very belated greeting to the bloggerhood.

You see, apart from work (yup, same excuse reason) and the associated travelling, the mood to blog has somewhat diminished – not because there’s nothing to blog about, per se, but because of the crap that’s been happening in the past half a year. Be it politics, socio-pathalogic nutcase shenanigans of the religious right, the economy, etc. There’s just too much crap that’s been happening, and it’s mostly pretty depressing stuff.

And then there’s Twitter – this blogger’s new writer’s block escape hatch. Hence, the Twitter window on the sidebar. Just so that you know Walski’s still alive somewhere. 140 characters at a time.

So, exactly what else has been happening over the last few weeks, while Walski’s mind was wandering the four-to-the-power-of-n corners of space-time?

In this dimension alone, lots. Even in the small section of our space-time continuum called Malaysia. For starters, the continued cramping of our lifestyle by the religious fruitcake mix that for some reason today inundates Malaysia. 
(khalwat by committee, bouncing Beyoncé off the menu, and more, in the full post)

Walsk doesn’t intend to list out every single thing that’s happened in the last couple of weeks. That would be so… well, last couple of weeks. Instead, he’ll merely rant about some of the highlights, or low-lights as the case may be.

One real big low-light was this snippet of news, reported by The Malay Mail, on Monday, October 19th – about the home invasion by the resident’s association at one of the condos at Prima Damansara’s, just outside KL.

More than two, but it's still khalwat
Vice raid by 'officers' from residents' association allegedly leaves man with black eye

IF you think that you can’t be nabbed for khalwat (close proximity) just because you are found together with more than one other member of the opposite sex, think again.

Aqmal (not his real name) and four of his friends found this out the hard way when their durian-eating session at their condominium unit in Block F of Indah Condominium at Prima Damansara came to a halt when several men from the local residents’ association came knocking on their door.

He claimed that the men were not only aggressive and thuggish, but also hurled insults at him and his friends.

To compound his misery, two of the men also punched him three times, leaving him with a black eye.

But the worse part for Aqmal is not about whether he was beaten or not; it was that the men who knocked on his friends’ home did not even identify themselves.

“I had just sat down to watch a DVD while my friends (three female and a male) were preparing food, others were in their rooms and one was on the computer when there were loud knocks and rattling of the grilles,” said Aqmal.

When his female friend opened the door, the shouting men, numbering about eight to 10, barged in and demanded their identification.

“They were without tags or any identification and they wrote on exercise books; one even called my friend a prostitute for inviting over male friends,” said Aqmal, who said he followed their directions without complaint.

But when they were bringing him and his three friends (two males and a female, as the other female was apparently a Christian), out the door, one of them told Aqmal he acted like an American — to which he replied: Lebih kurang lah (maybe).
(source: The Malay Mail)

But think about it though – it’s very fortunate that the occupants of the condominium unit didn’t panic and start jumping out of windows, as sometimes happens in these types of moral police raids. Funny, but Walski doesn’t recall any instance when there have been serious injuries, or death, as a result of these raids, that the people conducting the raids have ever been charged with anything. Much less for causing bodily hurt, or culpable homicide.

What a wonderful climate for attracting more direct foreign investment, eh? Ok, from Saudi Arabia, maybe.

What’s also interesting is that the Selangor State religious department (JAIS) came out with a statement (also in the Malay Mail), that the raid was not authorized. Which is not at all what the resident’s association claimed. Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

Who cares?

Speaking of religious departments… isn’t it strange that Muslim NGOs have been sprouting up like mushrooms on dew-wet dung of late? And it seems like whenever there’s a new controversy or something contentious to do with Islam, you hear of a new NGO that appeared out of nowhere. Is the Malaysian Islamic bureaucracy actually encouraging their emergence?

And what about when you have a local NGO, belonging to a larger global movement that promotes things contrary to nationhood? The one Walski is talking about is, of course, Hizb ut-Tahrir. They have a local chapter, Hizbut Tahrir Malaysia, whose aim is to champion Malaysia becoming a theocratic Islamic state. Support from the Islamic bureaucracy Walski can understand. But support from the Malaysian government itself?

Click on image to view PDF copy of publication. Image hosting by Photobucket

Anyone that’s tried applying for a KDN number will know that it’s not exactly a trivial matter. Similarly with setting up an NGO and getting it registered with ROS (Registrar Of Societies). So, what gives?

Hizbut Tahrir Malaysia somewhat came into the spotlight a couple of weeks ago when they organized a seminar entitled “Sisters In Islam – Pembela atau Perosak Wanita?" (Sisters In Islam - Protectors or Corrupters of Women?"), held one week ago on Sunday, October 25th in Petaling Jaya. As it turns out the seminar was a rather tame affair. The HT Malaysia official report concluded, however, that SIS is a “grave danger to the Muslims” (last paragraph: ‘amat berbahaya kepada umat Islam’).

They see SIS, and any other organization or individual that dares raise criticisms as a danger to their dogmatic views, so their conclusion comes as no surprise whatsoever.

The same goes with many other Islam-centric NGOs that have sprouted – the champions of a rigid world view and dogma that they believe to be ‘true Islam’.

Now, Walski is in no way suggesting that voices such as these voices be banned. Far from it – they have every right to voice their opinions. What bothers Walski however is the double-standards surrounding who is given leeway (by the Islamic bureaucracy) and who isn’t. And what he asks for is a level playing field of discourse and debate.

And there lies the conundrum – on the one hand, the UMNO/BN led government is pursuing a more progressive, modern and competitive Malaysia. On the other hand, parts of the same government want to ensure that no healthy debate or alternative viewpoints are allowed when it comes to Islam, a faith that’s professed by a majority of the country’s citizenry.

Walski’s observation is that what we’re witnessing today is the beginning of a “perfect storm” – a nexus of seemingly unrelated events that will one day culminate in calamity. An education system that does next to nothing when it comes to creating a generation that can think critically for themselves, encroachment after encroachment of state-sponsored religious authorities into our personal lives and space, prohibition on any materials deemed contrary to populist and majoritaristic Islamic thought, a religious bureaucracy that is allowed to operate on the periphery or even outside the bounds civil law, insistence on the prohibition of debate when it comes to any religious matter regardless of how far-reaching its effects on the entire populace, attempts to change (again) the Federal Constitution that will take this nation one step closer to becoming an Islamic totalitarian state (via The People's Parliament)… the list goes on and on. 

Last week, Egyptian freelance journalist Mona Eltahawy wrote in her Washington Post column, highlighting that Malaysia is at a point in its history where the confused state of the nation, as seen from external eyeglasses, makes it necessary for the country to decide what kind of nation it wants to be. The same article was re-published by The Malaysian Insider last Thursday.

"The Malaysian government must acknowledge that interfering in people's private lives and sentences such as caning are the antithesis of a "moderate" Muslim state. Malaysia must make clear what kind of country it wants to be. Is it the nation of the splendid Kuala Lumpur skyline, blending the traditions of its mosques and temples with the modernity of the dazzling Petronas Towers? Or is it a judgmental, moralistic nation that obsesses over the private lives of its citizens?"
(source: The Washington Post)

Unfortunately, it would be a lot simpler if it were merely up to the government. There are also numerous extra-governmental forces at work – a 3rd quasi-political column operating in the shadowy periphery. While Mona Eltahawy asks the right questions, she mat not be asking them to the right people. Not entirely, anyway.

Quo vadis, Malaysia?

In Walski’s eyes the next few years do not look at all promising. The momentum of those wanting to make Malaysia into something else gets stronger with each passing day. All he can do is to point out the danger, in hopes that the warning doesn’t fall onto deaf ears. It’s quite depressing actually. Worse still when he knows that there are those who actually look forward to Malaysia sliding deeper and deeper into religion-fueled decay, seeing it as an almost demented fruition of God’s promise of greatness.

Just remember that the Iranian Revolution brought great promise of an era free from oppression, only to be replaced by another kind of oppression.

Be careful what you ask for – it may just come true. In spades.

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