March 2006 Archives

The truth about our universities

Holy crap, the Truth has been spoken. Outstanding article, worthy of at least 2 readings.

Renouncing Islam

Rubber tapper, Mohd Yunus Kassim, wants to renounce Islam.

He was born a Malay, carries a Malay name and is registered in his identity card as a Muslim. But Mohd Yunus Kassim says he stopped practising Islam nearly 50 years ago and wants this made official to avoid "unnecessary complications" when he dies. Now Mohd Yunus, 62, who is married to a Chinese and raises his children as Buddhists, is applying to the Syariah Court to declare he is not Muslim. "I do not want to share the same fate as some other cases," he said today. "When I die, I want my funeral to be peaceful. I don’t want any problems."

via NST.

Theoretically speaking, the penalty for apostasy in Islam is death. Theoretically, the Syariah Court has to declare him apostate and sentence him to death.

Interesting how a religion of "peace" has particularly violent ways of dealing with people practising their own free will. Its things like this that fuel the arguments of the Orientalists.

Lee Kuan Yew vs Sam Harris

The Old Man Lee says it boldly in the first sentence of his article in Forbes: "Islam has not been a problem".

Sam Harris, on the other hand, says it boldly in the title of his article in the LA Times: "Religion Isn't the Solution -- It's the Problem".

Both are excellent reads and absolutely recommended as a primer to the dichotomy of perspectives that exist on the issue of religiously motivated terrorism.

I picked up Sam Harris' book, "The End of Faith", at MPH over the weekend and it asked some very direct questions.

It opens with a real-life scenario: a well-educated Muslim boy from a well-to-do middle class family, boards a bus. Sits next to a family of three, a little girl right next to him. He closes his eyes, whispers a silent prayer, and blows himself up, killing everyone on the bus and dozens more in the street. Why did he do it?

The thesis of his work is that religion is the cause of violence; everytime a Muslim commits some form of mass atrocity, someone will come on the tv and say that "Islam is a religion of peace", the actions of Muslims who commit violence in the name of Islam do so unsanctioned by the majority of Muslims. While the act of violence itself is unsanctioned by Muslims, it does not deny the possibility (i use the word "possibility", Harris uses the word "fact") that the Holy Quran allows, and even encourages violent action against non-Muslims.

"So let us now make sense of the impossible by acknowledging the obvious: there is a direct link between the doctrine of Islam and Muslim terrorism. Acknowledging this link remains especially taboo among political liberals. While liberals are leery of religious fundamentalism in general, they consistently imagine that all religions at their core teach the same thing and teach it equally well. This is one of the many delusions borne of political correctness. Rather than continue to squander precious time, energy, and good will by denying the role that Islam now plays in perpetuating Muslim violence, we should urge Muslim communities in the West to reform the ideology of their religion. This will not be easy, as the Koran and hadith offer precious little basis for a Muslim Enlightenment, but it is necessary."

via Sam Harris, Bombing Our Illusions.

Let's accept for a moment his thesis that religion validates violence, by quoting the Quran, people like Osama bin Laden are doing things "by the book", Harris has an interesting follow-up argument: moderate Muslims while not the locus of violence, assist in its perpetuation.

"Religious moderates may ignore or overlook the more barbaric passages in their religious books, but by venerating the books in general, they leave us powerless to really oppose the belief systems of fundamentalists. And because moderates tend to ignore the most lunatic parts of scripture, they lose touch with how dangerous these books are when taken literally. In fact, they have trouble believing that anyone does still take these books literally, and so they tend not to recognize the role that faith plays in inspiring human violence. Religious moderates are blinded by their own moderation."

via Sam Harris Q&A.

His writing and perspectives are incredibly inflammatory -- its interesting that the Malaysian Government take so much offence to a bunch of cartoons printed in the NST, but have absolutely no problems allowing a book like "The End of Faith" sit in the Bestsellers/Featured section of the local bookstore. That's consistency for you.

But his ideas and arguments are not empty vessels. His book is full of direct quotations from the Quran, citing verses that allow and encourage violence against non-Muslims. I've looked up those verses myself, and taken within a particular interpretation, its possible to argue these verses advocate violence:

009.123 YUSUFALI: O ye who believe! fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him. PICKTHAL: O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him). SHAKIR: O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil).

via USC-MSA Holy Quran Online.

The Holy Quran can be interpreted many ways -- some people who read the above will argue it validates violence against oppressive non-Muslims i.e. Israeli Jews. Others will read it and argue that the word "fight" does not necessarily refer to physical violence; jihad can take on many forms, many of them non-violent. The problem is the reader, not the Book.

A survey of women

While some of the findings of the recent UM survey are very surprising, some of them actually are not. Care to guess which ones they are?

A career, he said, meant a lot to women as it symbolised independence. "Among the Malays, the women chase careers to be able to help out their families. "Eighty per cent of Malay women feel an indebtedness to their parents and feel the need to be financially secure to be able to contribute to the family."

via NST.

The sampling of the survey is suspect, in my opinion: 200 women can only provide a very small demographic slice of the female population of this country. That in itself opens the survey up to a whole lot of valid criticism.

However, assuming that some of the points made by the survey report are true based on my own personal experiences, the report could provide a very general snapshot of the way the "modern" Malay women thinks and behaves.

My dad, a medical professor with some very chauvinistic, yet often practical leanings, always tells this joke to his students: why do women pay so much attention to a man's ass? Its because she wants to see the size of the bulge his wallet makes.

The purists and the romantics will scoff at this assessment, but how untrue is it really, considering the evolutionary needs of our species. In the wild, the strong males dominate, and have their pickings of the brood; its been observed that the females of the species gravitate towards the stronger males in the pack -- sometimes, two males will battle it out for the affections of the female. Are we so arrogant to assume that the evolutionary cycles of mankind are any different?

On a side note, during an interview with the NST, Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina has this to say about her high-flying husband, Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Effendi Norwawi:

Q: How has Datuk Seri helped you in your career?

A: He is patient, understanding and supportive of my career. I cannot ask for more. He plays the devil’s advocate with me and often puts things into perspective.

I believe that a career woman could never be happy or successful without her husband’s support. I wouldn’t be where I am if not for him.

via NST.

Answering Ozie

The debate has yet to abate. This is from Ozie, a long time friend of the VOI:

Come on Aiz the Danes have an anti-blasphemy law that protects the Christian faith from being ridiculed in the media. So when the Danes feel like utilizing it they do. Often times its just the Danes making fun of their own religion so the government doesn't act but there have been occassions when they have. So much for freedom of expression huh. However when it comes to Muslims, the anti blasphemy law doesn't cover it. So there is discrimination in Denmark.
With regards to freedom of expression there are limits. You say that limit is when a law exists to provide it. Hence if the Danes doesn't allow anti Christian sentiments to be published but do allow anti Muslim ones then this hypocrisy is ok?

via Debating Our Hypocrisy.

The following is my answer:

Perhaps the law you're referring to is Section 140 and 266b of the Danish Criminal Code, where the law prohibits disturbing public order by publicly ridiculing or insulting the dogmas of worship of any lawfully existing religious community in Denmark. This law has not been enforced since 1938. Section 266b criminalises insult, threat or degradation of natural persons, by publicly and with ill intent attacking their race, color of skin, national or ethnical roots, or sexual orientation.

Concerning the application of this law against Jyllands-Posten, Muslim NGOs in Denmark lodged a police report on October 27, 2005 against the newspaper for alleged violations. The police and public prosecutor investigated the case, and on 6 January 2006, the Regional Public Prosecutor in Viborg discontinued the investigation as he found no basis for concluding that the cartoons constituted a criminal offence. He stated that, in assessing what constitutes an offence, the right to freedom of speech must be taken into consideration. That while the right to freedom of speech must be exercised with the necessary respect for other human rights, including the right to protection against discrimination, insult and degradation, no apparent violation of the law had occurred. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark.

As to your argument that the Danish government is a hypcocrite for enforcing the law on anti-Christian expression, but not anti-Muslim expression, please refer to the legal precedent: since 1938, NO ONE has been convicted under this law, regardless of faith. The application of the law has been, in the last 70 years, very consistent and thus provides protection against calls of hypocrisy on the part of the Danish law enforcement and judiciary.

If the law above is not the law you were referring to in your posting, please enlighten us with the exact anti-blasphemy law in Denmark you were speaking of, and cases of recent judicial action where persons or parties have been successfully tried and convicted under this law.

Lastly, on your remark that Denmark will suffer economic sanctions for the action of refusing to sanction Jyllands-Posten (the newspaper recently won an award for the protection of free speech), it has to be argued whether the OIC or any particular Muslim nation has the teeth to support their bark. Denmark is a member nation of the European Union, and any attempt to impose large-scale economic sanctions on it by Muslim nations will be likely to invoke a very strong response from the EU. As you can see by the mostly "we-disagree-but-won't-do'anything-about-it" stance taken by most Muslim nations so far, including our very own Malaysia, Muslim leaders tend to be very pragmatic in their approach towards international incidents of this nature, and rightly so. Small scale sanctions will still happen, but as evidenced, they are nothing but drops in the ocean and are likely to have no impact whatsoever on Denmark's economy.

Tough Cop

A very, very amusing snippet. :)

A Tough Cop

Warning: Only for those with a sense of humour!

A tale of Gubra

If there was a movie i really wanted to see this year, it would be Yasmin Ahmad's "Gubra", the sequel to the award-winning "Sepet". Its almost a crime that a Malaysian movie premiered in Singapore just a couple of nights ago, we'll probably have to wait another month before we can see it in our local cinemas.


If you're not familiar with "Gubra", check out the review here.

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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