Monday, January 30, 2006

HAMAS VICTORY/Maal Hijrah 1427

HAMAS won 76 out of 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative elections last week, with a high 78 percent voter turn-out. This spelt the end of Fatah dominance and, God Willing, the beginning of a new era of dignity and sovereignity. Here's a special poem for Palestine and the Palestinians!

Palestine is alive

Palestine speaks
Palestine writes
Palestine sings
Palestine is alive

Palestine hurts
Palestine cries
Palestine mourns
Palestine is alive

Palestine kicks
Palestine bites
Palestine struggles
Palestine is alive

Palestine loves
Palestine cherishes
Palestine believes
Palestine is alive

Forever alive



In the spirit of the Islamic New Year, here’s a quote from Miracles of the Messenger (pbuh, translated by Sameh Strauch, 2003, 99):

“It does not befit any human being that he should prostate to another human being. If it were right for a human being to prostate to another human being, I would have commanded the wife to prostate to her husband, due to his great right upon her. By Him in Whose Hand is my soul, if from his feet to the parting of his hair was a boil flowing with pus and she were to face him and lick it up, she would not have fulfilled his right upon her.”

The moral of the story:
“That it is not permissible to prostate to any other human being whomsoever it might be and whatsoever his rank and status might be and that prostration is only for Allah.
The great merit which a man has over his wife and the greatness of his right upon her.”


Phenomenal Women:

Caught up with SY and SS, old friends from the media industry, for lunch and then coffee at the GE Mall last Saturday; got my fill of latest gossip about local artistes and celebs. Talked about the possibility of making a made for tv movie on Serikandi Melayu. That would let me pick up the pieces where I left 7-8 years ago researching on Tun Fatimah, Cik Siti Wan Kembang, Puteri Sa’adong and the gang. Then it’s the question of finding the right team of scriptwriters, director, producer and investor; wonder if the likes of Yasmin Ahmad or Amir Muhamad (remember the Bette Davis eyes and the Garbo mystique?) would be interested in this kind of project?

Tun Fatimah - "In my research on her she struck me as the true imperial to Melaka. She was the ruler. The basic story line (of what most people think of her) is that she was very demure and a woman who became a victim of the feudal system. This type of thinking about her makes me very uncomfortable. People think of her as the poor, pitiful woman, when her husband Tun Ali was murdered by Sultan Mahmud (who then married her). In truth, she was the pillar of strength for the Sultan when Melaka fell in the year 1511. Sultan Mahmud was a broken man and she was the one who led the nation from Melaka to move on to Johor Lama and then to Pulau Bantam, when the Portuguese was after them. It is also through her bloodline that she was able to continue and maintain the Melaka empire. She was a very powerful woman, a woman with a vision. Even though a man kills her family there is no malice or vengeance felt. She even managed to change the Sultan's ways after which he repented and became a very religious man. With this, the honour of her family and herself was restored."

(Azanin Ahmad)


Bet’s Bites:

“Damn if you do, damn if you don’t; so just do what is right by you”

Lear's Cordelia


Kala pertama kupandang
Pesona di wajahmu
Saat itu hatiku kan terpana
Tiada ragu lagi tiada bimbang lagi
Semuanya ingin kumiliki
Gelisah jiwaku ini
Dilanda bayanganmu
Kau mengkoyak dinding keangkuhanku
Kauciptakan rindu
Kau buat hatiku terjerat tali cinta
Pun tiada menentu
Bila semalam pun tiada bertemu
Kan terasa oh..sepi
Bila kau tiada
Nampakkan senyummu

(Harvey Malaiholo)


An Austin Chase Moment

(Follow, stop, get out and get in; four simple steps, baby, just four simple steps, ok? Not run, fetch, heel, roll-over or play dead, hahah)

Dear Austin Powers, Is it shyness or arrogance? Is it fair for a man to protect his own image at the expense of a woman’s reputation? That had been the contentious issue that I had faced with JKS, AO, etc. That I’m engaged in this monologue once again reflect a conflict of values – status/money/power vs. self-concept/dignity/self-worth. Perhaps you need to grow in tandem with me? It must be grating your nerves to have a mirror that refuse to lie, a court jester or Fool who speaks the brutal truth, a Cordelia to your Lear, not an obsequious flatterer and deceiver. Ciao


Bet’s Bites:

“Money may speak louder than words, but it’s a poor substitute”

“People feel the way you feel, so stop being self-centered”

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Revolution Will Be Live

Like A Stone*

On a cobweb afternoon
In a room full of emptiness
By a freeway I confess
I was lost in the pages
Of a book full of death
Reading how we'll die alone
And if we're good we'll lay to rest
Anywhere we want to go

In your house I long to be
Room by room patiently
I'll wait for you there
Like a stone I'll wait for you there

On my deathbed I will pray
To the gods and the angels
Like a pagan to anyone
Who will take me to heaven
To a place I recall
I was there so long ago
The sky was bruised
The wine was bled
And there you led me on

In your house I long to be
Room by room patiently
I'll wait for you there
Like a stone I'll wait for you there

And on I read
Until the day was done
And I sat in regret
Of all the things I've done
For all that I've blessed
And all that I've wronged
In dreams until my death
I will wander on

(You are viewing lyrics of Like A Stone by AUDIOSLAVE from the album Audioslave at LyricsAndSongs.COM)

* Dear Digory a.k.a KN, whenever I hear this song, I thought of men who just wait; now that I've got the lyrics I'm not sure whether it should be dedicated to you or me, or, maybe both you and me. It just take one call, text msg, or 'hello' to take us from deadlock to adventure. It's really up to you, and me. Ciao.

Dear Afflatus, I hope you don't mind me stealing your idea of theme songs and if mine are more hip than yours, heheh. Plus, I gotta make amends and mend fences before I die. So, there will be songs dedicated to all the men* that God had sent to teach me about the complexities of humanity - the cold and utilitarian side, the vulnerable and intense side, the warm, kind, generous and responsible side - and to finally understand, accept and forgive my father, may he rest in peace. It could be a Swan Song, or a Final Curtain, Tho' It Ain't Over Til the Fat Lady Sings. Maybe I should go see your Ayah Pin, oops Ayah Pa. See what the future holds for me. Regards to Cin, Nuggets, Becks and Princess. Cheers!

* Including platonic male friends, who taught me much, if not more. As for women who have befriended and betrayed me, I learnt not to be nice to Bitches anymore and best to ignore them. As for my kin, if Cain can hurt Abel, then my hurt is just a tiny drop in the vast Ocean of Life, I have forgiven you all, even if you haven't forgiven me.

Songs specially dedicated to:

EOW - Sunshine (John Denver), Country Road (John Denver), Leaving on a Jetplane
JKS - Wild World (Cat Stevens)
AO - Penantian (Zubir Ali)
HS - Soul Provider (Phil Collins), Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me (Elton John)
KN - Sonata Musim Salju (Hazami), The Long & Winding Road (Beatles), Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel), Like A Stone (Audio Slave)


The residual Radical in me couldn't help but be excited to share this piece. I would like to write more on the Digital Convergence, Privacy on the Internet, etc.

The revolution will be no re-run brothers; The revolution will be live.

Gil Scott-Heron, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

In his 1974 song The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Gil Scott-Heron sings of the ways that the dominant genres of television (the news, the soap opera, the commercial, the sitcom, etc.) prevent any oppositional political content from being represented there. In his view, the chief political function of television is to represent the interests of the white ruling class as natural and inevitable, while distracting us and turning us into passive consumers by "entertaining" us at the same time. The person whose structure of feeling is built around the experience of consumption, Scott-Heron suggests, is not the person who engages in radical political action: "The revolution will not go better with Coke/The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath." The song concludes with his insistence that the revolution will not be televised, it will not be a "re-run," it will be live."

In his insistence on liveness, on the necessity of revolution responding to and participating in reality itself, Scott-Heron updates a longstanding Marxist tradition anxious about our ability to represent and thus apprehend historical reality. Without a map of the historical situation in which we find ourselves, how can we possibly develop a plan for changing that reality? Our inability to map out our historical situation is frequently seen as the result of a stubborn melancholic intrusion of the lost past into the present. For example, in The 18th Brumaire Marx famously laments that: "The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living." Just when people seem ready to revolutionize themselves, they "anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service." Thus, they keep betraying themselves because they mis-recognize themselves, their real conditions of existence and their relations with each other. The revolutionary task is to be present to the present--to s ee the world as it is and act accordingly. I take this to be Lenin's suggestion when he remarks that," one can never be radical enough; that is, one must always try to be as radical as reality itself." We are always playing catch-up in relation to reality. There is a persistent time lag that we are always trying to close.


The difficulty of the task lies in the effort to determine what kind of a fluctuating "thing" reality is. This perpetual transformation is perhaps the one constant of modernity. In a phrase, which has since come to signify the ever-shifting, changeable and volatile character of modern life, Marx and Engels exclaimed in The Communist Manifesto that "all that is solid melts into air." (1) They referred first of all to the fact that capitalism by its nature is constantly expanding and therefore needs to constantly revolutionize itself in order to create new markets, leaving nothing solid or permanent in its wake, both destroying and conjuring into existence everything from cities to human populations along the way. They were also speaking of the way that capitalism reduces everything to the shadowy abstraction known as money. Both of these processes have accelerated and transformed themselves in the twentieth century. New technologies have greatly expanded the human capacity for both creation and destruction, an d the universality of money as a standard of value above all others has been supplemented by the (much discussed) process through which everything, if it is to be felt to exist at all, must also be able to be transformed into an image.

This is the situation of which Jean Baudrillard has written: "The very definition of the real has become: that of which it is possible to give an equivalent reproduction." In some circles, this development, often discussed as one of the basic features of "posimodernism," has been understood as an abandonment of the possibility of ever catching up with the radicality of reality that Lenin spoke of. The world cannot be represented because it is itself always already a representation, because the spectacle constitutes reality itself; or, as Andy Warhol put it: "I don't know where the artificial stops and the real begins."
In the days and weeks following September 11 I was in Moscow and I heard many people suggest that the attacks signaled the end of postmodernism. Such diagnoses were heard throughout the American popular press as well. The terrorist attacks, the argument, would go, were a massive "return of the real." They were not a simulacrum but a horrifyingly actual event of historical proportions; here reality had emerged with perfect clarity from amidst the confusing simulacra. There was no confusing the artificial and the real here. Slavoj Zizek compared the effect to the moment in The Truman Show when the Jim Carrey character realizes that he has been living in a constructed reality, or the moment in The Matrix when the Keanu Reeves character is shown the "desert of the real" that he actually inhabits. Everybody else in the world knew that life in the present world is regularly punctuated by events of terrifying violence; only America was able to live in a (fake, simulacral) world in which this was not the case. Many p eople seemed to be thinking: "Now you know what it feels like to live in the rest of the world." The hope expressed in many places was that America and Americans, through their own experience of suffering through the newly awakened "real," would gain a newfound sympathy for the violent reality in which the rest of the world lived.

While I think that it is true that the events of September 1 had the potential to bring people around the world together through a recognition of a common experience of death and destruction (as I will discuss more below), it is not because the events of September 11 signify the arrival of the "real" and the end of the simulacral. On the contrary, the attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) are the clearest signal yet that the media spectacle is now a constitutive element of our "reality;" they signal not the end of postmodernism, but its apotheosis. After all, the attacks were planned precisely from the point of view of their reproducibility as images. Less visually spectacular, less symbolic, less ideologically contingent attack-sites that would have killed more people could have been chosen by the terrorists; a nuclear power plant, for example. The WTC offered a perfectly condensed and extremely visible site for a disaster that capitalized on the iconic reproducibility and, often horrible, attraction of sp ectacle. And, in the hours, days and weeks following the event, the images of the planes crashing into the towers and the towers collapsing were reproduced ceaselessly, tirelessly on television, in newspapers, in magazines. (Anywhere on earth where some kind of visual media are present, these images were shown.) Furthermore, as I hope to suggest below, The Truman Show effect whereby we feel that our illusory world has been punctured by the intrusion of reality is itself an effect produced by "live" television. The belief-that here we have hit a bedrock of historical reality allows us to disavow the more disturbing ways in which the attacks on the WTC have brought the persistent ontology of "reality" itself into question.

Friday, January 27, 2006

All that is Solid Melts Into Air

Bridge Over Troubled Water

When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all;
I’m on your side. When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

When you’re down and out,
When you’re on the street,
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you.
I’ll take your part.
When darkness comes
And pain is all around,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

Sail on silvergirl,
Sail on by.
Your time has come to shine.
All your dreams are on their way.
See how they shine
If you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind.

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.

© 1969 Paul Simon

Chronic Chronicles:

Dear Digory, Who was the ‘guru’ who said that: “Change is a Constant”; what if “humanity does not pass through places as a train passes through stations; being alive, it has the privilege of always moving yet never leaving anything behind. Whatever we have been, in some sort we still are” (Downing, 2005, XIV). Can we start a new adventure without letting go of our existing ways? Can we be “A reasonable soul … with a moral sense and a rational sense, with free will and the power of speech”? (Downing, 2005, 73) Or do you believe that predestination will determine our daily lives and our final destiny? Polly

p.s. I'm setting a timeline - if by Awal Muharram, I do not receive a properly verbalised or written invite from you, then I will cease to entertain your shenanigans, because it's a waste of my time and it had affected my productivity; I'm sure there are zillions of girls out there willing to spare their time to read your mind and clues and jump at your signals for the "dangled prize" and "treats". If you want a proper person, then you have to do it the proper way. Or you could join AO's Club of Poor Little Rich Boys!


Bet's Bites:

"You can be too proper for an improper world"


Bet’s Take:

100 Years of Radio

It must have been yesterday or the day before that I heard Faridah Merican (Actors’ Studio) talking over Red104.9fm about the centennial celebration of radio broadcasting in Malaysia.

Radio broadcasting has come a long way since the early years of the last century, when those ‘hammies’ (ham radio operators) started ‘wireless clubs’ in Singapore, Penang and Johore Baharu in modernising Malaya. Of course, the technology then became an ideological state apparatus in ‘winning the hearts and minds of the people’, first by the Colonial Brits and Japs, then the ‘gomen’ of the day. Radio is also entrenched in our memories of childhood, adolescence and young adulthood (P.Ramlee and Saloma, Fantastic Facts and Fancies, Patrick Teoh, etc.)

However, many intelligent commuters who are daily assaulted with the ‘mind-numbing’ trivia, otherwise termed ‘info-tainment’ (talk about ‘newspeak’, to borrow Orwell’s term in 1984), lament about the dearth of mentally stimulating content over local radio stations. It seemed that whenever there is a ‘station of substance’, somehow it could never acquire sufficient funding to sustain its existence. Remember Talk 108fm, 99.3fm with Yasmin Yusuf’s signature laughter, nerve-grating “Good Morning” greetings and reasonably smart programs, Rock and Opus, which were subsequently made available over ASTRO TV?

Funding, or the financial basis of ideological and cultural content (to use the academic jargon favored by progressive scholars, including yours truly), is an important issue in determining not only freedom of speech or expression (‘pushing the parameters of dissent’) but also the quality of information and discussion over the air. Apart from the State and Commercial Models, Malaysians do not have the options of Public Service and Community Broadcast within the country, like the BBC, PBS, Radio Pacifica, WORT (Talk Radio), etc. Although the Internet technology has spurred the growth of independent and community journalism by leaps and bounds (Jeff Ooi’s Screen Shots is one fine example), the development of alternative web radio (and television) broadcasting has been somewhat thwarted by conceptual and financial factors. I personally have to clue in to the progress of and Cyberjaya TV. Tune in to mental stimulation.



Policing the Police

The planned formation of the special independent panel to monitor the police force must have called for a celebration for ‘accidental’ activists such as former controversial radio deejay, Patrick Teoh (chastised for highlighting corruption amongst the PDRM personnel) and Opposition MP, Teresa Kok (catapulted into international fame over the infamous ‘ear squat’ incident).

Unlike the Islamic Family Law that had received public criticism for failing to consult special interest groups, the public is now encouraged to air their grievances regarding the conduct of the police force directly to the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (The Star, 25/01/06, N4).

Hopefully, this will lead to enlightened public participation in democratic decision-making process in this nation.


Mobile Malay Males

The findings from the Hand Phone Users Survey 2005 (MCMC) revealed that Malays make up 53.9 percent of mobile phone users, and 57.4 percent of the users are males. However, it did not bracket the age group, and the questions are skewed towards the benefit of service providers on the ‘m-readiness’ of consumers (necessity of 3G services and awareness of VOIP). The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission is apparently not interested in promoting ‘m-democracy’, the use of mobile technology for social cohesion and democratic participation.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Identity, Interdependence and Contradictions

I am a Rock

A winter's day
In a deep and dark December;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I've built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

Don't talk of love,
But I've heard the words before;
It's sleeping in my memory.
I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

(Simon & Garfunkel)

Dear Digory, Being a recluse, I'm sure you know, is a form of self-preservation which has its own advantages and disadvantages. Yet, no man/woman can live in isolation forever - he/she has to engage in the discomfort, pain and joy of living. To do that, I need to unlearn certain orthodoxies or at least temper the more radical aspects of my sets of beliefs and values - fierce independence, extreme self-reliance, over-individualism (?) and Idealism. The circumstance in the last few years have forced me to to humble myself in ways that I never had to before, yet I'm held back by unpleasant episodes in the past where I had made myself vulnerable; I shouldn't let that cloud my interactions with you, it really is not fair. I should shed my armor/'scales', or the 'undragoning', according to C.S. Lewis, because "the secret of change lives in submission, not self-effort ... throw yourself down safely, i.e. let go and trust yourself to Another (145)". It is no longer bearable to be alienated and unreasonable to avoid what may be fated, or abdicate from destined duty. I have to outgrow this self-defeating condition of 'split mind', 'contradictory identities' and 'flight from reality'. Will u take my hand, Polly

Monday, January 23, 2006

Is Chivalry Dead? (What Digory/Edmund/Eustace Has to Undo)

Chronic Chronicles:

Dear Digory,

Sorry, I let you down again, yea I am a 'chicken'. How was your weekend? I spent mine reading Into the Wardrobe by David C. Downing, catching a play by a disabled Japanese-Korean artist and watching the 'hyped-up' Memoirs of a Geisha (guess it's hard to escape Hollywood's allure).

Reading Downing, I discovered that C.S. Lewis was a close friend of Tolkien (LOTR) and that he was a professor in medieval and renaissance lit at Oxford and Cambridge. There was a passage that stood out, and I quote:

"In the chronicles, courage does not mean immunity from fear; it is overcoming fear. ... "Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do." In all the Narnia stories, the protagonists have to set aside their fears in order to do what has to be done. This is more an act of moral courage than physical courage. As Lewis noted in The Screwtape Letters, "Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point .... A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky." (2005, 103)

Taihen was a disturbing yet moving performance which made me feel so shallow about my own pre-occupation with physical appearance - 'bad hair day', 'bare, no make-up face', 'wrong clothes', etc. It also made me hang my head in shame for my own 'disability' to overcome my fears and doubts, to open up and be sensitive and flexible to other people's ways, wants and needs.

Memoirs of the Geisha moved me in the way that Amy Tan's novels like Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife (chick lit) did: "Thank God I was born, raised and educated in 'the best of times'"/"Those were certainly the BAD old days" when young girls were sold into bondage, had to sell their virginity (misuage?) to the highest bidder to free themselves from the bond, had to sing, dance, entertain and serve men who can afford to pay for their services or artistic skills, and wait for that generous/beneficiant male 'donor' to provide financial security (that sort of sound familiar, hahah). I do wish to put end to this 'correspondence', don't you?




The path to destruction

(by Kalimullah Hassan, NST, Opinion 19, 22/01/06, that picked up Wong Sulong's New Year resolutions)

I found yesterday's column articulated my angst (and others' too) very well:

" ... the culture of envy, jealousy and hatred has seeped in so much into society that it has become unbearable.

... if they were innovative and originated ideas and became successful, then their enterprise would not be acknowledged.

... If they fail, then the hate-mongers will applaud.

... The safest bet among the three options - succeed, fail or go overseas - would, of course, be to expand abroad.

... Rita Mae Brown's philosophy: "About all you can do in life is be who you are. Some people will love you for you. Most will love you for what you can do for them, and some won't like you at all."


Phenomenal Women:

Powems by Rabi'atulAdawiyah -

Rabi'a al-'Adawiyya (717 - 801 AD) was born in Basra. As a child, after the death of her parents, Rabi'a was sold into slavery. After years of service to her slavemaster, Rabi'a began to serve only the Beloved with her actions and thoughts. Since she was no longer useful to the slaveowner, Rabi'a was then set free to continue her devotion to the Beloved.

Rabi'a held that the true lover, whose consciousness is unwaveringly centered on the Beloved, is unattached to conditions such as pleasure or pain, not from sensory dullness but from ceaseless rapture in Divine Love.

Rabia was once asked, "How did you attain that which you have attained?"
"By often praying, 'I take refuge in You, O God, from everything that distracts me from You, and from every obstacle that prevents me from reaching You.'"

Rabi´a al-Adawiyya, translation by Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut - 'Perfume of the Desert'


In love, nothing exists between heart and heart.
Speech is born out of longing,
True description from the real taste.
The one who tastes, knows;
the one who explains, lies.
How can you describe the true form of Something
In whose presence you are blotted out?
And in whose being you still exist?
And who lives as a sign for your journey?

Rabia al-Adawiyya


I have two ways of loving You:
A selfish one
And another way that is worthy of You.
In my selfish love, I remember You and You alone.
In that other love, You lift the veil
And let me feast my eyes on Your Living Face.

Rabi´a al-Adawiyya. Doorkeeper of the heart:versions of Rabia. Trans. Charles Upton


The source of my suffering and loneliness is deep in my heart.
This is a disease no doctor can cure.
Only Union with the Friend can cure it.

Rabi´a al-Adawiyya, translation by Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut - 'Perfume of the Desert'


I have made You the Companion of my heart.
But my body is available to those who desire its company,
And my body is friendly toward its guest,
But the Beloved of my heart is the guest of my soul.

Rabi´a al-Adawiyya translation by Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut - 'Perfume of the Desert'


Brothers, my peace is in my aloneness.
My Beloved is alone with me there, always.
I have found nothing in all the worlds
That could match His love,
This love that harrows the sands of my desert.
If I come to die of desire
And my Beloved is still not satisfied,
I would live in eternal despair.

To abandon all that He has fashioned
And hold in the palm of my hand
Certain proof that He loves me---
That is the name and the goal of my search.

Rabi´a al-Adawiyya, translation by Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut - 'Perfume of the Desert'


O Lord,
If tomorrow on Judgment Day
You send me to Hell,
I will tell such a secret
That Hell will race from me
Until it is a thousand years away.

O Lord,
Whatever share of this world
You could give to me,
Give it to Your enemies;
Whatever share of the next world
You want to give to me,
Give it to Your friends.
You are enough for me.

O Lord,
If I worship You
From fear of Hell, burn me in Hell.

O Lord,
If I worship You
From hope of Paradise, bar me from its gates.

But if I worship You for Yourself alone
Then grace me forever the splendor of Your Face.

Rabi´a al-Adawiyya, translation by Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut - 'Perfume of the Desert'


Soul Food/Growth:

Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-73) saint and mystic, inspiration for the Mevlevi Order of the whirling dervishes, highly revered for the great Mathnawi which is a majestic tribute to the depth of spiritual life.

The Jesus of your spirit is inside you now.
Ask that one for help, but don't ask for body-things...

Don't ask Moses for provisions
that you can get from Pharaoh.

Don't worry so much about livelihood.
Your livelihood will turn out as it should.
Be constantly occupied instead
with listening to God.

Rumi, Mathnawi II:450-454


Listen for the stream
that tells you one thing.

Die on this bank.
Begin in me
the way of rivers with the sea.

Rumi - Coleman Barks - from "Say I Am You"


You've no idea how hard I've looked for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.

What's the point of bringing gold to the gold mine, or water to the Ocean.
Everything I came up with was like taking spices to the Orient.

It's no good giving my heart and my soul because you already have these.

So- I've brought you a mirror.

Look at yourself and remember me.

- Jalaluddin Rumi

Longing is the core of mystery.
Longing itself brings the cure.
The only rule is, Suffer the pain.

Your desire must be disciplined,
and what you want to happen
in time, sacrificed.

Rumi - The Essential Rumi - Coleman Barks


Oh! Supreme Lover!
Let me leave aside my worries.
The flowers are blooming
with the exultation of your Spirit.

By Allah!
I long to escape the prison of my ego
and lose myself
in the mountains and the desert.

These sad and lonely people tire me.
I long to revel in the drunken frenzy of your love
and feel the strength of Rustam in my hands.

I'm sick of mortal kings.
I long to see your light.
With lamps in hand
the sheikhs and mullahs roam
the dark alleys of these towns
not finding what they seek.

You are the Essence of the Essence,
The intoxication of Love.
I long to sing your praises
but stand mute
with the agony of wishing in my heart.

Rumi - 'The Love Poems of Rumi' - Deepak Chopra & Fereydoun Kia


Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
You're covered with a thick cloud.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet. Quiteness is the surest sign
that you've died.
Your old life was a frantic running
from silence.

The speechless full moon
comes out now.

Rumi - The Essential Rumi - Coleman Barks


The Morning Wind Spreads
The morning wind spreads its fresh smell.
We must get up and take that in,
that wind that lets us live.
Breathe before it's gone.

Rumi - 'The Essential Rumi' - Coleman Barks


Everyone is overridden by thoughts;
that's why they have so much heartache and sorrow.
At times I give myself up to thought purposefully;
but when I choose,
I spring up from those under its sway.
I am like a high-flying bird,
and thought is a gnat:
how should a gnat overpower me?

Rumi - Mathnawi II, 3559-3561 - 'Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance' - Camille and Kabir Helminski


I wonder
from these thousand of "me's",
which one am I?
Listen to my cry, do not drown my voice
I am completely filled with the thought of you.
Don't lay broken glass on my path
I will crush it into dust.
I am nothing, just a mirror in the palm of your hand,
reflecting your kindness, your sadness, your anger.
If you were a blade of grass or a tiny flower
I will pitch my tent in your shadow.
Only your presence revives my withered heart.
You are the candle that lights the whole world
and I am an empty vessel for your light.

Rumi - "Hidden Music" - Maryam Mafi & Azima Melita Kolin


Happy the moment when we are seated in the Palace, thou and I,
With two forms and with two figures but with one soul, thou and I.
The colours of the grove and the voice of the birds will bestow immortality
At the time when we come into the garden, thou and I.
The stars of heaven will come to gaze upon us;
We shall show them the Moon itself, thou and I.
Thou and I, individuals no more, shall be mingled in ecstasy,
Joyful and secure from foolish babble, thou and I.
All the bright-plumed birds of heaven will devour their hearts with envy
In the place where we shall laugh in such a fashion, thou and I.
This is the greatest wonder, that thou and I, sitting here in the same nook,
Are at this moment both in ‘Iraq and Khorasan, thou and I.

Jelaluddin Rumi, in The Mystics of Islam, translated by Reynold A Nicholson


Awakened by your love,
I flicker like a candle's light
tryin to hold on in the dark.
Yet, you spare me no blows
and keep asking,
"Why do you complain?"

Rumi - "Whispers of the Beloved" - Maryam Mafi & Azima Melita Kolin


My heart tells me it is distressed with Him,
but I can only laugh at such pretended injuries.

Be fair, You who are the Glory of the just.
You, Soul, free of "we" and "I,"
subtle spirit within each man and woman.

When a man and a woman become one,
that "one" is You.
And when that one is obliterated, there You are.

Where is this "we" and this "I"?
By the side of the Beloved.
You made this "we" and this "I"
in order that you might play
this game of courtship with Yourself,
that all "you's" and "I's" might become one soul
and finally drown in the Beloved.

All this is true. Come!
You who are the Creative Word: Be
You, so far beyond description.

Is it possible for the bodily eyes to see You?
Can thought comprehend Your laughter or grief?
Tell me now, can it possibly see You at all?
Such a heart has only borrowed things to live with.

The garden of love is green without limit
and yields many fruits other than sorrow or joy.
Love is beyond either condition:
without spring, without autumn, it is always fresh.

Rumi - Mathnawi I, 1779-1794 - The Rumi Collection - Kabir Helminski



The following translations are examples of what the Qur'an tells us about guidance from the One:

It is true thou wilt not be able to guide everyone whom thou lovest: but Allah guides those whom He will and He knows best those who receive guidance.
---- 28:56

Nay the wrong-doers (merely) fellow their own lusts being devoid of knowledge. But who will guide those whom Allah leaves astray? To them there will be no helpers.
----- 30:29

and those whom Allah leaves to stray no one can guide
.... 13:33

If Allah so willed He could make you all one people: but He leaves straying whom He pleases and He guides whom He pleases: but ye shall certainly be called to account for all your actions.
---- 16:93

Is he then to whom the evil of his conduct is made alluring so that he looks upon it as good (equal to one who is rightly guided)? For Allah leaves to stray whom He wills and guides whom He wills. So let not thy soul go out in (vainly) sighing after them: for Allah knows well all that they do!
---- 35:8

Light upon Light! Allah doth guide whom He will to His Light.
---- 24:35

Allah is the Guide of those who believe to the Straight Way.
--- 22:54

Allah hath (now) revealed the fairest of statements, a Scripture consistent, (wherein promises of reward are) paired (with threats of punishment), whereat doth creep the flesh of those who fear their Lord, so that their flesh and their hearts soften to Allah's reminder. Such is Allah's guidance, where with He guideth whom He will. And him whom Allah sendeth astray, for him there is no guide.
---- 39:23

We sent an apostle except (to teach) in the language of his (own) people in order to make (things) clear to them. Now Allah leaves straying those whom He pleases and guides whom He pleases: and He is Exalted in power Full of Wisdom.
---- 14:4

To such as Allah rejects from His guidance there can be no guide; He will leave them in their trespasses wandering in distraction.
--- 7:186

Whom Allah doth guide he is on the right path: whom He rejects from His guidance such are the persons who perish.
---- 7:178

As for those who believe in Allah, and hold fast unto Him, them He will cause to enter into His mercy and grace, and will guide them unto Him by a straight road.
---- 4:176

36 ....He whom Allah sendeth astray, for him there is no guide.
37 And he whom Allah guideth, for him there can be no misleader.
---- 39:36-37

Those whom Allah (in His Plan) willeth to guide He openeth their breast to Islam; those whom He willeth to leave straying He maketh their breast close and constricted as if they had to climb up to the skies: thus doth Allah (heap) the penalty on those who refuse to believe.
----- 6:125

Allah has revealed (from time to time) the most beautiful message in the form of a Book consistent with itself (Yet) repeating (its teaching in various aspects): the skins of those who fear their Lord tremble thereat; then their skins and their hearts do soften to the celebration of Allah's praises. Such is the guidance of Allah: He guides therewith whom He pleases but such as Allah leaves to stray can have none to guide.
---- 39:23

It is he whom Allah guides that is on true guidance; but he whom He leaves astray for such wilt thou find no protector besides Him.
----- 17:97

Then seest thou such a one as takes as his god his own vain desire? Allah has knowing (him as such) left him astray and sealed His hearing and his heart (and understanding) and put a cover on his sight. Who then will guide him after Allah (has withdrawn Guidance)? Will ye not then receive admonition?
----- 45:23

No kind of calamity can occur except by the leave of Allah: and if anyone believes in Allah (Allah) guides his heart (aright): for Allah knows all things.
---- 64:11

Allah chooses to Himself those whom He pleases and guides to Himself those who turn (to Him).
---- 42:13

36 Is not Allah enough for His servant? But they try to frighten thee with other (gods) besides him! For such as Allah leaves to stray there can be no guide.
37 And such as Allah doth guide there can be none to lead astray is not Allah Exalted in Power (able to enforce His Will) Lord of Retribution?
---- 39:36-37

71... Say: "Allah's guidance is the (only) guidance and we have been directed to submit ourselves to the Lord of the worlds;
72 "To establish regular prayers and to fear Allah; for it is to him that we shall be gathered together."
---- 6:71-72

For Allah guides whom He will to a path that is straight.
---- 2:213

How shall Allah guide those who reject faith after they accepted it and bore witness that the Apostle was true and that clear signs had come unto them? But Allah guides not a people unjust.

It is he whom Allah guides that is on true guidance; but he whom He leaves astray for such wilt thou find no protector besides Him
---- 17:97

We have indeed sent down Signs that make things manifest: and Allah guides whom He wills to a way that is straight.
---- 24:46

But if they hearken not to thee know that they only follow their own lusts: and who is more astray than one who follows his own lusts devoid of guidance from Allah? For Allah guides not people given to wrongdoing.

It is true thou wilt not be able to guide everyone whom thou lovest: but Allah guides those whom He will and He knows best those who receive guidance.
---- 28:56

Evil is the similitude of people who falsify the Signs of Allah: and Allah guides not people who do wrong
---- 62:5

11 No kind of calamity can occur except by the leave of Allah: and if anyone believes in Allah (Allah) guides his heart (aright): for Allah knows all things.
---- 64:11

51 It is not fitting for a man that Allah should speak to him except by inspiration of from behind a veil or by the sending of a Messenger to reveal with Allah's permission what Allah wills: for He is Most High Most Wise.
52 And thus have We by Our command sent inspiration to thee: thou knowest not (before) what was Revelation and what was Faith; but We have made the (Qur'an) a Light wherewith We guide such of Our servants as We will; and verily thou dost guide (men) to the Straight Way
53 The Way of Allah to whom belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on earth: Behold (how) all affairs tend towards Allah!
----- 42:51-53

78 Verily thy Lord will decide between them by His Decree: and He is Exalted in Might All-Knowing.
79 So put thy trust in Allah: for thou art on (the Path of) manifest Truth.
80 Truly thou canst not cause the Dead to listen nor canst thou cause the Deaf to hear the call (especially) when they turn back in retreat.
81 Nor canst thou be a guide to the Blind (to prevent them) from straying; only those wilt thou get to listen who believe in Our Signs and they will bow in Islam.
----- 27:78-81

There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever rejects Satan (and what he calls to) and believes in Allah, he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handhold, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing. 2:256

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Queen of Wishful Thinking

Chronic Chronicles:

Dear Digory,

What excuse do I have up my sleeve this time? That it’s that time of month that women just have to rush home, that I had forgotten to look for codes, that once again I had hoped that you would actually speak to me (such wishful thinking). So, we’re back to where we were before – ‘plus ca change, plus ca non change’ or ‘c’est la vie’ (my French is really, really rusty).

Much as I'd like to see myself being confident and bold, I couldn't take the risk of presenting myself at a man's turf when I know that there would be a lapse between 'reading' and 'response', and I would honestly rather die than be vulnerable. The reason I 'clicked' with HS who may not rich was because he showed up at my door and persevered. I wonder if lightning strikes you if you were to text msg or call or appear at my gate?

The ustaz had adviced not to give up – that hope springs eternal, and that’s the ‘raison d’etre’ in this transient world.

Au revoir,



Works (forever) in Progress:

My visit to Clark - Subic Bay – Manila in September 2005 had got me all fired up (which quickly fizzled in the face of other tasks) to do research and write about ‘Raha Sulayman’ and the Malay kingdom there before Santiago (“the slayer of Moors”) led the Spaniards to colonize the group of islands that they later named the Philippines.

Phenomenal Women:

In relation to Nusantara nostalgia, I had started writing the outline and concept about ‘Malay Proto-feminists’ late last century – you know, ‘strong’ role models for modern young women, like Puteri Sa’adong, Che’ Siti Wan Kembang, Tun Fatimah, Puteri Gunung Ledang, etc. But, like most of my ‘grand plans’, they were shelved and ended up collecting dust or ‘hijacked’ (which wasn’t really that bad if the ‘hijackers’ actually did justice to it, but they usually did not). So, it was with mixed feelings when I found this title by DBP – 101 Puteri Nusantara – that listed all the female rulers, from Mindanao to Myan Mar, who were thought to be worth documented.

In any case, it is fascinating to learn that there are actually female monarchs who ruled Islamic Acheh, for instance, which should be suitable material for ‘made-for-television’ documentary like Rome, where strong female characters such as Atea (?) were among the main protagonists. I wonder what happened to the documentary on Melaka?

I’m a real sucker for epics – Alexander (Jolie’s Ambitious-Mother-from-Hell that drove Alexander to conquer the world and Roxanne), Troy (Kruger’s Helen and Bloom’s Paris may be wimps, but Pitt’s Achilles in micro-mini was definitely eye-candy), Arthur (I felt cheated by the absence of the Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot love triangle in the last version) and, of course, Kingdom of Heaven (Ah, to be able to ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after).

And period pieces (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, The Great Gatsby, etc.), but that’s a topic for another day.

Of Sufis and Saints:

Another interesting project would of course be on poems by RabiatulAdawiyah, partly because my late mother was named Rabiah (how her eyes would light up when she heard Jamal Abdillah sang Ghazal untuk Rabiah). A Chicken Soup for the Malaysian Woman’s Soul should be compiled from stories of ordinary women’s extraordinary lives. I am sure there are many more strong women who had raised, fed and educated their children in the face of all odds (no education, no well-paying job, no family or community support group like we have now). Who was the person who said, “every mother is a single mum”?


Soul Provider - About Choices:

“We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them”

– Khalil Gibran, Sand and Foam

Friday, January 20, 2006

Oops, I did it again!

My dear, dear Digory:

There I go again, running off to another chore - fixing my car window that was jammed, or just another excuse for a 'bad hair' day?

And when I finally thought I had found the courage to drive up - I got cold feet again; this can go on forever and forever - like that Grecian mythical figure that had to carry the boulder up the hill over and over again? Only you can end this 'self-imposed punishment' by helping me boost my confidence and courage by going all the way to my doorstep, just like Digory did. or at least meet me halfway? And please, when I say 'talk and invite', I mean verbally, not via car plate numbers, it just freaks me out.

I will try visualizing a 'breakthrough' in this impasse; maybe you should too? I wouldn't expect you to follow the Prophet's (pbh) path: 'If the Mountain don't go to Mohamad, then Mohamad will go to the Mountain'; but it would certainly be a delightful change. Do surprise me.



p.s. Been praying for a miracle.


Bet's Bites:

"When the going gets tough, the tough goes gyming/shopping/yatching"*

* Denial/avoidance may alleviate the agony but don't solve the problems.



"Come up, and see me sometime"

- Mae West (Don't some of us wish we could get our away just like Ms West?)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Blade and Chalice*

* (The Da Vinci Code, 2003, 481)


An Austin Chase Moment:

“Life is One Daring Adventure, Or Nothing At All”

- Helen Keller

Make your choice, adventurous stranger;

Strike the bell and bide the danger,

Or wonder, til it drives you mad,

What would have followed if you had.

(The Chronicles of Narnia, 2001, 64)

Dear Austin,

Will you be my Digory?

Or would you rather we continue on ‘This Long and Winding Road” or ‘via dolorosa’ (a painful path)?

I’ve finally come to the realization that the problem is not with men that I encountered in my life, but with me; I’m compulsively critical and have too high expectations.

Bill, my Ozzie mate in Perth, ‘dished’ it well:

“I think the problem is not with the men, Noor, but with you; you want to be with everybody.” Do I really, Bill? But Mike was our friend and I had to talk to him too; that he was a cutie was, of course, beside the point.

I got the same appraisal from Rod, my small group leader in this self-help program that HS enrolled me for:

“You know, Noor, I think men see you as a butterfly.” Oh, Rod, can I help it if I’m beautiful and adorable? Seriously, Brits are such ‘bland’ blokes, and Paul there looks so interesting.

God, even lil Yani thinks I’m a flirt and a tease! But flirts are basically insecure and immature that they have to ‘test’ their desirability all the time; surely mature and stable men can understand and accept harmless flirtation now and then? It’s not the same as ‘dangerous liaisons’. Plus, it’s gratifying to be the object of male attention after growing up being told you’re the ‘ugly duckling’.

Maybe Bill and Rod were making laypersons’ observations; but when you hear it from a soothsayer, shouldn’t it have credibility?

“You’re very intelligent, but also very stubborn; you don’t know what you want, and people don’t know what you want.” Ouch! Truth does hurt.

Now, what do I want?

Not a wedding at a chapel, for sure, EOW. Everyone was wondering why you held that semester’s class at the campus chapel and to bring the coffee maker to class? What made you think that your wedding ring and professorship would not pose moral and ethical issues?

But wait a second, that blonde and blue-eyed Christian from across the room was looking my way; and you didn’t miss that, did you, EOW? That’s why you used that neophyte MN as ‘check and balance’? And to ‘dangle’ an RAship before a sophisticated lady like me? Tell me all about ‘dusty, crusty’ academic life! Boy, am I difficult, or am I difficult?

EOW, that was a really, really sweet gesture to leave the brand-new red Mercury at the bus stop outside my student apartment late that night after my ‘beat-up’ Honda Civic let me down in the cold mid-western winter for the nth time; but I just couldn’t take the car without taking you as well, could I? In retrospect, I just wanted companionship, not commitment. I’m so sorry for turning your life upside down those four long years.

And the same to you, too, Al M – RP was right for you, and Al G – DF was such a brainy Barbie; why did you guys have to be enticed by visions of the exotic Orient? And a fickle one, at that. You were right, CTS, “Camelot sucks!” when it’s not a steadfast Guinevere; DR was the one for you.

Now, was I glad to be home in the land of endless summers and cheap, delicious hawker food. And I could not believe my ears. JKS was now single and available – our eyes had met across the staff canteen and seminar rooms before I left for the US but we were with other people. Now my tall, dark and brooding hero was sitting across the table from me, trying to arrange a committee for me to complete my dissertation. Why then did I have to be so damn, bloody independent? Why didn’t I just let him take charge? I would have completed my dissertation and got my PhD, and all the recognitions that come with it. But, no, I didn’t want to owe my success or achievements to any man, no siree, no no. Then, again, subconsciously, I must have second thoughts about living with a mum-in-law and two step kids. It is indeed a ‘Wild World’, isn’t it, JKS? Hope you’re happy and well, wherever you are now.

So, one would think that just a mum, minus step kids, from the same culture and a rich one to boot, plus a 914 Porsche and a million ringgit zakat paid out every year, would be a much better option? Except that, et tu had to be ‘weird’, AO? Now. no man had ever succeeded in getting me run after them with just a ‘throw away’ line; whatever made you think that that would work in your case? Why couldn’t we just have our hi-tea with friends and took the time to know each other well? Why did you have to attempt that ‘you know what I mean’ look, got up and expected me to follow? Yeah, I was casually dating the young MO but that shouldn’t have stopped you from inviting me to your home. And all those ‘chance’ meetings at the store and along the roads – they just won’t work if you expect me to make the first move all the time. It got tiresome after some time; you can keep your Porsche and your mum can keep her jewels. But you can’t just have Ash the cat for company for the rest of your life.

Yes, Bill, I’m willing to swallow my pride and admit, that the problem is not them, it’s me; yeah, HS, KN, etc, I am difficult, I know that too well. But I want to change, adjust and adapt to other people and situations; how to bend, without breaking (down)? God Help Me, I never needed salvation and deliverance more than I do right this moment.




A Room of One’s Own*:

God, grant me the serenity

To accept things I cannot change;

The courage to change the things I can, and

Wisdom to know the difference

* Virgnia Woolf’s notion of a female writer’s need for her very own special place of peace and solitude


Phenomenal Women:

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.

Then try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them

They say they can’t see.

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about.

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

The palm of my hand,

The need for my care.

‘Cause I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

- Maya Angelou.


Bet’s Bites:

“Do rest and relax,

Don’t be deprived and depraved”



“Is that a gun I see in your pocket,

or are you just happy to see me?”

- Mae West (one really risqué Hollywood broad from the 1930s)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Reality Check/Mission Impossible

An Austin Chase Moment:

Dear Austin Powers,

How are you?

Sorry, I relapsed into 'self-doubt's penchant for misery' and 'Kate & Leopold/PGL & HT' fantasies since Friday; yesterday, I had to rush somewhere and was low on gas, plus low energy too (someone must have put a hex on me, hahah!) Sure, I was dazzled by the 'dangled prize', but it's just too awkward for me to pull that kind of stunt. If you were me, would you be able to?

Plus, life's too short and too much time have been wasted sweating the small stuff - the 'right' or 'precise' color, number, time, parking spot, driving lane, etc. Can we just, like, chill? A semiotician (was it Eco or Pierce?) said that "signs are arbitrary" - different people/cultures interpret symbols differently - so does everything has to signify something?

Maybe you're just painfully shy and never had to try that hard, and I'm critical and difficult. But you have the solution, and I've to be realistic. Do talk and invite properly (surely it's not that hard); mind games are such time-wasters, they're just not me.

Chalo hai,

Beyonce Knowles

P.S. I'd like to compile these letters and turn them to cash; contributions are welcomed and percentage of royalty can be discussed (Mail to: Should the working title be: "Why it's hard to tell her you're into her", "No Talk, Action Only", "Sounds of Silence" or "Don't Speak (No Doubt)"? Hey, I might even write to Oprah and get invited to her show (hyper-ventilating)!


Bet's Bites:

"You can't live on love and fresh air alone, or the mountains of bills gonna pollute your air"*

*(So, get real, and be practical, babe!)



"I believe in the institution of marriage, but I'm not ready to be institutionalised"

- Mae West


Soul Provider*:

"Be a queen. Dare to be different. Be a pioneer. Be a leader. Be the kind of woman who in the face of adversity will continue to embrace life and walk fearlessly toward the challenge. Take it on! Be a truth seeker and rule your domain, whatever it is - your home, your office, your family - with a loving heart.

Be a queen. Be tender. Continue to give birth to new ideas and rejoice in your womanhood ... My prayer is that we will stop wasting time being mundane and mediocre ... We are daughters of God - here to teach the world how to love ...

It doesn't matter what you've been through, where you come from, who your parents are - nor your social or economic status. None of that matters. What matters is how you choose to love, how you choose to express that love through your work, through your family, through what you have to give to the world ...

Be a queen. Own your power and your glory!"

Oprah Winfrey, p54-55, Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul

*(H used to sing to me this number, plus Pretty Woman, Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me, etc. Boy, he was such a wooz!)


Community Outreach:

Speaking of queens, Malaysian Muslim women have reason to rejoice over the postponement of the controversial Islamic Family Law. So many generations of Muslim women and children have suffered from unfair decisions passed by Syariah judges, which (surprise, surprise!) usually favor the men. Kudos to SIS, AWAM and other women NGOs that had fought fervently against the passing of the Bill.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

One Step Forward, Three Steps Back

An Austin Chase Moment:

Dear Austin,

Do I earn a 'golden star' for "taking heed and being good"? I have yet to learn to 'go with the flow', but I am venturing out of my comfort zone. But to respond to signs or signals would be a giant step indeed.

H used to challenge me by saying: "Look, babe, deliverables"; but I'm not a 'letter' to be posted or delivered. That explains the passed-up chances with CS, EOW, RF, AM, AG, JKS, AO, etc. that I didn't really care for that much anyway. If this type of men prefer to signal, 'lead' and 'wait', that's their prerogatives, but I will not berate myself anymore for failing to match their style.

I was visiting a farm near Perth some years ago when along came a hunk of a 'farmhand' on horseback (Ooh ... Crocodile Dundee!) When he showed us how to milk the cows later, he turned to me and said: "Do I have to spell it out?" Yes, honey, with 'dimwits' like me, you have to say it.




Bet's Bites:

"Sure you have to make efforts at relationships, but if it's too difficult, give it up"*

*(Yeah, easy cop-out, babe, that's your style, haha)



"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there"

- Will Rogers


Self Improvement:

Since there's no one to pat me at the back, I should still do it to myself. I have set out an 'Integrity Time' to "pay attention to my inner life as it emerges in the here and now" - this need not be meditation, but regular prayers and 'zikir'. And I have started 'Notes to Myself', "the practice of self-reflective writing to develop clarity about my free flow of experience" - in the form of my own blog or journal.

I used to laugh at H about his practice of writing his goals to see if he meets them by the end of that week, but now that we're apart, I could see the benefit of inculcating the same habit - to make sure that I don't lapse into self-pity and paralysis.

Guess I learnt as much from everyone that I encountered as they learned from me.


Community Outreach:

Dear Noor,

Make Trade Fair!

Photo: Kim Johnston/Mercy Corps Fair trade would allow poor women to feed their families and send their children to school, thus breaking the cycle of poverty. So why are rich nations refusing to trade fairly with the developing world? Act now: Urge President Bush make trade fair.

U.S. trade policy saves you a nickel on a cup of coffee -- but it also means Amina Ibro's children cannot go to school or get the medical care they need. Amina Ibro is a farmer in Ethiopia, a country whose survival depends on trade with the United States.

Our country is built on the principal that through hard work, people can improve their lives and the lives of their children. But while we Americans aspire to this principle, our trade policies deny the same opportunity to the poorest developing nations. U.S. trade policy keeps our prices low by denying people like Amina Ibro the ability to earn an honest wage for their labors.

Break this cycle of poverty perpetuated by U.S. trade policy - Ask that the U.S. pursue a policy of trade that is fair to all people.

Amina Ibro is like many of the world's poor. She lives a hardscrabble life with her husband, Kalifa, and their seven children. Amina lives in a village of mud and straw homes, surrounded by fields of coffee, sweet potatoes, and other crops in the highlands of Ethiopia. The people of the village are dependent on these crops for their survival.

Families like Amina's stand to benefit most from fairer trade policies. Eliminating trade barriers and agricultural subsidies in the world's wealthiest countries would allow poor countries to generate nearly $300 billion per year in revenue for their own development by 2015, with sub-Saharan Africa benefiting the most.

Please sign this petition and ask that the U.S. pursue a policy of fair trade, so that millions of people like Amina Ibro, can improve the lives of their children through hard work.

Jenny McKinley
Care2 & ThePetitionSite Team

Thursday, January 12, 2006

O' Mice and (Wo)Men

An Austin Chase Moment (Follow that car, babe!)

Dear Austin/Bond/Nash:

It pains me to see you put so much effort all these years, and I really wish that I'm not so self-absorbed, that I could shake off this veil of self-consciousness, and be alert and on auto-reflex mode, and respond on cue. But I've spent days, weeks, months and years, agonising and beating myself up for not trying hard enough to match that style. I've given up before, and really feel like throwing in the towel once again; it's frustrating and counterproductive for both of us.




Bet's Bites:

"Sure it's gratifying to think the world revolves around you, but honestly, baby, it doesn't"*

*(so, for the shy or full of pride, stop being so self-conscious and make that move!)



"The meek will rule the world, if you don't mind"

- Anonymous



Another self-help book that H introduced to me was Who Moved My Cheese? (Spencer Johnson, PhD, 2001). I used to scoff at it but these things have a way of getting to you, so here are some precious nuggets:

"Life is no straight and easy corridor along which we travel free and unhampered, but a maze of passages, through which we must seek our way, lost and confused, now and again checked in a blind alley.

But always, if we have faith, God will open a door for us, not perhaps one that we ourselves would ever have thought of, but one that will ultimately prove good for us."

- A.J. Cronin

"If you do not change, you can become extinct" (p 46)

"What would you do if you weren't afraid?" (p 48)

" ... sometimes some fear can be good. When you are afraid things are going to get worse if you don't do something, it can prompt you into action. But it is not good when you are so afraid that it keeps you from doing anything."

"Better late than never." (p 49)

Chalo, hei mere beti.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Self-Doubt's Self-Perpetuating Cycle

Salaam, this is a new year's greeting that I'd like to share:

Like birds, let's leave behind what we don't need to carry ...

and Regrets.

Fly light. Life is Beautiful.

Bet's Bites:

"Every girl's a princess, every woman's a queen"*

*(And if we bother to dig deeper, every family tree leads to a monarchy, but as Rhett Butler, from Gone With the Wind, said it well: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn)

Pride & Prejudice:

Now, Ms Elizabeth Bennett is one feisty Austen heroine who strongly believes in speaking her mind, and let it be damned. But those were the good old days, when guys were 'gentlemen' who have the courage to propose in person, get down on their knees, and inform the parents. No point reminiscing the good old days; you've come a long way, baby (or haven't you?)

Of Pets (& Peeves):

After having two female felines - Elsa and Peep - I noticed that cats' behavior is also gender-bound. Pip used to snuggle up and put her head on my lap to be pet but her son, Spike, will only roll over at a distant spot and expects me to go over to stroke his tummy. Then again, it could be order in the family - Pip is the baby (I gave her two rambunctious siblings away) while Spike is the middle kit (his adventurous baby sis, Patch, was run over at 3 mths, and his extremely handsome and brooding bro, Whitey, a cat version of James Dean, was knocked down by a vehicle seconds before I reached home). Of cos, we've read psych stuff that tells us that behaviour is determined by family ranking; the eldest is usually domineering and focused while the youngest is playful and easily distracted. So, do opposites attract or repel?

Self-Improvement Corner:

"Developing confidence is not a matter of knowing that you can make yourself into a better person. It is a matter of allowing yourself to be who you are. Fully and freely".

I found this gem of a workbook, not a recent title but valuable nevertheless,
Ending the Struggle Against Youself: A Workbook for Developing Deep Confidence and Self-Acceptance (Stan Taubman, 1994).

Taubman offers a critique of self-help programs:

"Unfortunately ... some people attempt to conquer self-doubt in a way that only made things worse. ... they are lured by programs that promise unlimited power or a life without fear, guilt, or other unpleasant feelings. When they fail to reach a state of incredible perfection, they take that as just another sign of something wrong deep within.

"Others are distracted by the quick fix. They try to overcome self-doubt by learning how to dress for success, how to give a power handshake, impress the boss, or win friends and influence people. They learn to master the seven secrets to success or the five fundamentals of fame and fortune. One by one they take on each presumed flaw while bypassing the iceberg whose cold sense of fundamental inadequacy hides beneath the surface. ... Others avoid both the tip and the iceberg by retreating into a world of drugs or obsessive romance. These people will always sense that something's wrong. There will always be a part of themselves they want to be rid of."

Which reminds me of "Addicted to Love" (Meg Ryan) and "Women who loves too much" (must check the writer again), but this book claims to offer "a practical approach to using the natural healing power of self-acceptance and personal integrity to restore a sense of confidence and self-esteem." What say you, Sister Bridget? Menezes, that is, not Jones. Adois, amigos.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Title of Fatwa: War Ethics in Islam

Suspect a flu sdeaking up me throat and giving sniffles to me dose!

Certainly not in spy-chasing mode (like I ever had been).

Pardon me, Austin, but you should know by now that I'm no Beyonce or Charlise to get that Job done right! Maybe we could rehearse it a few times more before I get it right? Heheh.

In the spirit of Eid-il-Adha, I wish all Muslims the world over a meaningful Eid. Selamat Menyambut Hari Raya Haji. May soulmates the world over who had been separated for a million years like Adam and Eve/Hawa be reunited on this fateful day, InsyaAllah. And for all hajj pilgrims, like Yan (Norazian Ali), pray they be rewarded with haji mabrur. And may cheeky chicks like moi get another chance to visit the Holy Land again, not just Makkah and Medinna, but BaitulMaqdis as well.

Dare I say 'cheers' or 'ciao'? Nah ... I better behave this eve. Salaam alaikum.

Topic Of Fatwa Relations during War
Question of Fatwa:
I am not a Muslim. Yet I'm a peace-loving person and I am eager to know whether there are ethics that govern war in your religion, especially as we know and see what happens nowadays: gross violations of all ethics and teachings. Your earliest response will be very much appreciated.

Name of Mufti Islam Online Fatwa Editing Desk

In The Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon
His Messenger.

Dear brother in humanity, thank you very much for having confidence in
us, and we hope our efforts, which are purely for Allah's Sake, meet
your expectations.

First of all, we would like to tell you that war is decreed in Islam in
self defense. This indicates that aim behind war is to ward off
aggression not to impose Islam as a religion. Referring to this, Allah
Almighty says: "To those against whom war is made, permission is
given (to fight), because they are wronged; and verily God is most
powerful for their aid." (Al-Hajj:39)

Turning to the main topic of the question concerning war ethics in
Islam, we would like to develop the whole issue while dealing with the
following main points:

1-Personal Behavior of the Troops:

In war, as it is in peace, the instructions of Islam are to be
observed. Worship does not cease in war. Islamic jurisprudence
maintains that whatever is prohibited during peace is also prohibited
during war. War is no excuse to be lenient with misbehaving troops. The
Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is reported to have said:
"Beware of the prayer of the oppressed; for there is no barrier
between it and Allah." Here, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon
him, differentiates between the oppressed believers and non-believers.

2-Whom to Fight:

Fighting should be directed only against fighting troops, and not to
non- fighting personnel, and this is in compliance with the Qur'anic
verse that reads: " Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight
against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not,
aggressors." (Al-Baqarah: 190)

In one of the battles, a woman was found killed, and this was denounced
by the Prophet saying "She did not fight" This will be further detailed
under the instructions given to the armies and their commanding chiefs
by the Prophet and his Caliphs.

3-The Prophet's instructions to Commanding Chiefs:

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, used to instruct his
commanding chiefs saying: "Fight in the cause of Allah. Fight those
who deny Allah; Do not be embittered. Do not be treacherous. Do not
mutilate. Do not kill children or those (people) in convents."

4-Abu-Bakr's instructions to Usama's Campaign on Syria:

"Do not betray or be treacherous or vindictive. Do not mutilate. Do
not kill the children, the aged or the women. Do not cut or bum palm
trees or fruitful trees. Don't slay a sheep, a cow or camel except
for your food. And you will come across people who confined themselves
to worship in hermitages, leave them alone to what they devoted
themselves for."

5-Abu-Bakr's Instructions to Yazid ibn-Abi Sufian:

"I give you ten commandments: don't kill a woman or a child or an
old person, and don't cut trees or ruin dwellings or slay a sheep but
for food. Dont burn palm trees or drown them. And don't be spiteful
or unjust."

6-Maintaining Justice and Avoidance of Blind Retaliation:

None can be more illustrative in this respect than the words of the
Qurt'an. Allah Almighty says: " O ye who believe! Be steadfast
witnesses for Allah in equity, and let not hatred of any people seduce
you that ye deal not justly. Deal justly, that is nearer to your duty.
Observe your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Informed of what ye do."
(Al-Maidah: 8)

7-Medical and Nursing Services:

>From the early days of Islam the sanctity of the medical profession
recognized. Christian and Jewish doctors were employed by the Islamic
state since the days of the Umayyads, and some of them were even court
and personal physicians to caliphs. Under the tolerant attitude of
Islam, some of them got the chance to unfold their full scientific
potential and thus contributed to the progress of medical knowledge.

Medical help was a right to all men in spite of religion or creed. That
this was also extended to those amongst enemy. An example well known in
the West is that of Saladin securing medical help to his opponent,
Richard Lion Heart of England who was seriously ill during the
Crusades. Saladin sent him his own doctor and personally supervised
Richard's treatment until he became well.

In quoting this particular example, one dare say that such an attitude
was quite different to the behavior characterizing the invading
crusaders. When the crusaders entered Jerusalem on July 15th 1099, they
slaughtered seventy thousand Muslims including women, children and old
men. They broke children's skulls by knocking against the wall, threw
babies from roof tops, roasted men over fire and cut up women's bellies
to see if they had swallowed gold.

This description was given by Gibbon, a Christian writer, and commented
on by Ludbig Wbo wondered how come after those horrible atrocities they
prayed at the burial place of Christ for blessing and forgiveness
(Draper/History of the Intellectual Development of Europe, Vol. 2, p.

We do not mention this in bitterness or prejudice for every honest
Muslim or Christian well knows that Christianity is something and many
deeds of the crusaders are something else.

8-Prisoners of War:

For the first time in religious or sectarian history, Islam adopted an
attitude of mercy and caring for the captured enemy. Unprecedented by
previous legal systems, and long before the Geneva Convention, Islam
set the rule that the captive is sheltered by his captivity and the
wounded by his injury.

Previously, it was the custom for the captive to work for his food or
get it through private means. The Qur'an made it a charity to feed
the prisoners saying:

"Lo! the righteous shall drink of a cup whereof the mixture is of
water of Kafur. A spring wherefrom the slaves of Allah drink, making it
gush forth abundantly. Because they perform the vow and fear a day
whereof the evil is wide spreading. And feed with food the needy
wretch, the orphan and the prisoner, for love of Him. (Saying): We feed
you, for the sake of Allah only. We wish for no reward nor thanks from
you." (Al-Insan: 5-9)

The Prophet instructed his Companions to be good to the captives. In
one of his traditions, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him,
ordered his Companions saying: " You should be good to the

Abu Aziz-ibn Umair, one of the captives of Badr battle, recalls:

"Whenever I sat with my captors for lunch or dinner, they would offer
me the bread and themselves the dates, in view of the Prophet's
recommendation in our favor (in that desert situation bread was the
more luxurious item of food than dates)

As soon as any of them held a piece of bread, he would offer it to me.
"Feeling shy, I would give it back to one of them but he would
immediately return it to me."

Another, Thumama ibn-Athal, was taken prisoner and brought to the
Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, who said: "Be good to him
in his captivity." When the Prophet went home he instructed to
collect whatever food there, and ordered it sent to the prisoner.

When the Jewish tribe of Bani Qurayzah were captured, loads of dates
were regularly carried to them, with the Prophet's instructions to
shelter them from the summer sun and to provide them with water to

>From the legal point of view, Muslim opinion is unanimous on the
prohibition of subjecting the captives to ill treatment by withholding
food, drink or clothing.

9-The Fate of War Prisoners:

This was based upon the teaching of the Qur'an:

"Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting
of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of
bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its
burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have
punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try
some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of
Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain." (Muhammad: 4)

According to Islamic law, the captive belongs to the state and not to
his captor. The ruler has the ultimate option, as he sees fit, of
granting freedom or doing that after taking a ransom.

Among those whom the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, granted
freedom was a poet called Abu-Azza who said to the Prophet: "I have
five daughters who have no one to support them, so give me away to them
as a charity and I promise never to fight you or help your enemies.

Abul-As Ibn Al Rabiae was freed for a ransom, which the Prophet later
returned back to him. Later, the man embraced Islam.

Umarna Ibn-Athal was set free upon his promise not to provide the enemy
with food. This gentle treatment touched the man's heart and was then
converted to Islam saying to the Prophet: "There was a time when your
face was the most hated face to me, and there comes a day when it is
the most loved."

Sometimes captives were exchanged for Muslim captives in enemy hands.
An acceptable ransom that was quite often carried out was to teach ten
Muslim children to read and write. It is noteworthy that modern
international law allows for setting free a prisoner of war on
equivalent lines.

Personnel were set free upon their word of honor not to fight again,
and they should not be ordered by their governments to go to battle
again. If they break their promise, they might be punishable by death
if they are captured again.


Islam never fought nations but fought only despotic authorities.
Islamic war was one of liberation and not of compulsion. The freedom of
the liberated people to decide their religion has already been
mentioned, and it was to ensure this freedom that Muslims fought. It is
interesting to mention that when Muslims fought the Romans in Egypt,
the Egyptian Copts sided with and helped Muslims against the Romans who
were Christians like them. This was because Christian Egypt was
suffering religious oppression by the Christian Romans to compel them
to adopt their religious beliefs.

One of the earliest actions of the Muslims in Egypt was the assurance
of religious freedom and the reinstatement of Bejamin as Bishop of
Alexandria after years of hiding from the Romans in the western desert.

But religious freedom was but one aspect that Islam gave. Whether Arab
or Egyptian, Muslim or Christian, Islam built up that FELLOWSHIP that
humanity aspires to, in equality and fraternity .The story is well
known of the running contest held in Egypt and won by an Egyptian to
the dismay of an Arab competitor who was the son of `Amru Ibn Al-`Aas,
governor of Egypt. The Arab hit the boy saying 'how dare you outrun me
and I am the son of the nobility." Upon which Umar, the caliph, ordered
the three all the way to Madinah, and ordered the Egyptian to avenge by
hitting the offending Arab, saying: "Hit him back. Hit the son of
nobility." Addressing `Amru, he uttered his famous saying: "O `Amru,
since when have you enslaved people while their mothers have born them

10-International Law:

The process of active intervention to stop or remove aggression is a
development that modem international law has recognized.

The second world war for example was sparked by Germany's invasion of
Poland, and drew into the fighting countries that were not direct
parties to the conflict. One of the fruits of war was the creation of
the United Nations in order to settle disputes between nations by
peaceful means or indeed if necessary by a collective military force.
No one should argue therefore that Egypt and the Roman Empire for
example should have been left alone to solve their mutual problems. In
modem times the rest of the family of nations consider it a duty to do
something about it. Fourteen centuries prior to the establishment of
the League of Nations and later the United Nations, Islam decreed such

The legal principle of intervention to solve dispute was offered by the
Qur'anic saying:

"If two parties of believers fall into a quarrel, make ye peace
between them: But if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the
other, then fight ye (all) against the one that transgresses until it
complies with the command of God; but if it complies, then make peace
between them with justice, and be fair: for God loves those who are
fair." (Al-Hujurat: 9)

11-Respect of Treaties and Agreements:

One of the major shortcomings of modern international politics is its
meager regard to moral obligation. Time and again, treaties and
agreements proved unworthy of the price of paper they had been written
on. The most splendid produce of the human intellect in the field of
international law might instantly vanish upon the call of greed or
creed at this age that we wish to think has brought us to the epic of

And what is worse is that the most sophisticated achievements of
scientific progress are often used as tools in the hands of Godless or
God-disregarding policies: instead of being exploited 'in the cause of

>From the outset, Islam has emphatically prohibited treachery by taking
the enemy by surprise attack. Recent examples of signing a pact or
treaty with a nation as camouflage to hidden intent to attack it are
quite contrary to Islam, as several quotations from the Qur'an reads:

" O ye who believe! Fulfil your undertakings..."(Al-Maidah:1)

"Fulfill the convenant of God when you have entered into it, and
break not your oaths after you have confirmed them; indeed you have
made God your surety, for God knoweth an that you do." (An-Nahl: 91)

If Muslims sense the treachery of any enemy with whom they had a
treaty, they should declare to him the annulment of that treaty before
embarking on war again.

"Thou fearest treachery from any group, throw back (their covenant)
to them, (so as to be) on equal terms: for God loveth not the
treacherous." (Al-Anfal:85)

Although Muslims are bound to go to the help of their Muslim brethren
who are religiously persecuted in the land of an enemy; they are not
allowed to fulfill this duty if there is a treaty between the Muslim
community and this enemy. Priority goes to honouring the treaty.

"But if they seek your aid in religion, it is your duty to help them,
except against a people with whom you have a treaty of mutual alliance.
And (remember) God seeth an that you do." (Al-Anfal:72)

Now, Can any law be more idealistic!?

And above all, this is not a nicety to be taken or left by the state.
It is a binding religious dictate overruling emotion and prejudice:
otherwise it would be a grave violation of Islam."

The above quotation is excerpted with slight modifications from

You can also read:

Islam's Stance on Prisoners of War

If you have any further comments, please don't hesitate to write back!

May Allah guide you to the straight path, and guide you to that which
pleases Him, Amen.

Allah Almighty knows best.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Tension of Opposites

Here are some gems from Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, 1999, which I reread today:

"Dying ... is only one thing to be sad over. Living unhappily is something else ... " (p 35)

"Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing, but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn't ... " (p 40)

"The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it" (p 42)

"The most important thing in life is to learn to give out love, and to let it come in." (p 52)

" ... I know it hurts when you can't be with someone you love. But you need to be at peace with his desires. Maybe he doesn't want you interrupting your life. Maybe he can't deal with that burden ... " (p 177)

In a different less self-indulgent note, here's a take on the tendency to scapegoat youth sub-culture by a writer who is a superior clone. I used to immerse myself in Cult Stud during those heady days at UW-Madison, which greatly enhanced my understanding of minority sub-cultures. I wish mainstream journalism is able to show more empathy and understanding and not victimise youths or marginalised groups just because they lack the social, political or economic power.

(T6 Music StarTwo, 06/01/06)

Rising above


Last Saturday saw the usual New Year’s Eve celebrations taking place everywhere in Malaysia.

But for the 380 mostly young people detained at the Brickfields police station in Kuala Lumpur, the festivities was cut short when they were arrested at the venue of a gig in Jalan Klang Lama in Kuala Lumpur that night and carted to the station in police trucks for alleged “black metal” involvement, illegal gathering and other unfounded charges.

Despite being hushed and shepherded like convicts, the group simply continued their New Year celebrations when the countdown came at midnight. What the officers hadn’t counted on was that the group they had just arrested knew their rights.

These were the children of suburban middle-class families. If the police and their media cohorts came looking for the black metal bogeyman, they had come to the wrong gig. With private college students, members of the workforce and practising lawyers among the detained, they had messed with the wrong people.

Get up. stand up ... A section of the crowd, mostly indie musicians and their fans, gathered for a press conference at Paul’s Place early this week.

The generalisation of “black metal” itself is a lazy exercise of scapegoat labelling, a cruel generalisation of an alleged sub-culture of hedonism and “Satanic” practices, a Loch Ness monster the tabloids created with accusatory, non-researched articles and vague, unsolicited photographs of youths gathering at random concerts and music showcases.

To echo just a few heartfelt conclusions made by observers, it takes little more than common sense and a high school education to see music for what it is. Music is music. If media, authoritative or religious gatekeepers are so fearful of its influence on our young, then perhaps it says much about these parties’ own insecurities.

Perhaps the mainstream tabloids in question feel it within their power to seek out a scapegoat for their own shortcomings, to make up for their own laziness, their own failure to keep up with the times.

It has always been human nature to be afraid of and to demonise something they do not understand. It is natural to feel left in the dark about something one is unfamiliar with, and thus feel a strange liberty to condemn a perceived “lesser” group.

Music in Malaysia has always been kept in check sufficiently to be no more than cultural expression and a healthy outlet for the younger generation. Yet how frequently and persistently it is misunderstood is frightening: A bunch of confused adults is a lot scarier than a bunch of confused youth.

In developed Asian countries like Japan, music is valued and appreciation of music is encouraged by the family institution.

Music is also an important part of the community and it often serves as a lens to the state of a society here now.

Film, music, and literature of independent nature here often serve as an extension of creative traditions from the grassroots and can provide us not only with an insight into young Malaysia but can also share with us the multi-cultural impact of the past and give us a greater understanding of the present.

To anyone overwhelmed in the wake of the events, perhaps it should serve as reassurance and comfort in itself that a genuine love for music and the arts should outlast media demonisation and authoritarian muscle flexing.

If there have been complaints that local independent music lack substance, perhaps this is the perfect time for self-improvement – to inject that little bit of satire, critique and message in the music. And if there was never really a reason for young urbanites to really stand up for their rights, perhaps now there is.

The events following the New Year’s Eve raid is a wake-up call for the creative community to band together.

Standing united

The solidarity seen at the emergency press conference the day after the raid is a state aspired by all but in reality, a rare thing. Perhaps a forum designed to create and strengthen ties between musicians, artists, writers, curators, activists, filmmakers, tactical media provocateurs, students, designers, dreamers, architects, critical thinkers and cultural workers – everyone – would do well to ensure that the young and youth culture are not demonised again.

How much longer will young people be made scapegoats? Youth culture here has come so far since the bohsia era to redeem its battered reputation.

From having homegrown alternative rock music at Stadium Merdeka to independent films celebrated abroad and bands being showcased at the KLPac complex, modern young Malaysia is hardly about to shrivel up and be transported through some black hole back to Draconian times just because of a really bad idea by some tabloid “reporters”.

And anyone with a high school education would know that the good idea always wins out over the bad.

Father Figure/Oedipal Complex

I read bits and pieces of Farish Noor's From Majapahit to Putrajaya and was struck by his disclosure about his relationship with his late 'absentee' father. Indeed, there will always be fathers from all cultures, social classes and historical contexts who are 'not there', either physically or emotionally. And this will definitely impact on their children's development and interactions in different ways- searching for 'father figures', withdrawing from intimacy and commitment, yearning for the distant and unattainable and resisting the available and close-at-hand/within reach.

To be fair, 'mother figures' too affect their children's perceptions about gender roles and relationships,opting for the traditional submissive-dominant or manipulative-beleagured pattern or the non-traditional independent path, depending on options and opportunities that are available to them. Notice how men too search for the Ideal Woman who somehow resemble their mothers, either in terms of looks, personality or character. Or they may be so repelled that they settle for just the opposite.

The point is: to come to terms, accept, understand and forgive, so as not to live in the past (or be the proverbial 'Hangman' who is too paralysed/petrified to make a move/decision).

Shakespearean tragedy such as Hamlet is a classic case: "To be or not to be", the indecisiveness that drove Ophelia insane and eventually to her death. Sometimes, male and female 'Hamlet's are so familiar or comfortable with their adversities that they think they dont deserve to be happy. Or if the prospect of success or happiness invites too many objections or obstacles, hallenges and hostilities, they would rather allow 'victory' to their opponents and accept 'defeat' and retreat or simply wish to be left alone.

Mama Shima (Hashimah Ismail), a mother figure of sorts during my umrah some years ago, pointed to 'Ayat 4 & 5' from 'Surah Yusuf' that I found comfort and solace in. That explains why so many individuals have to 'migrate' and distance themselves so as to fulfil their destinies (Ayo, my england sometimes very bad one, u know - PCK)