Friday, December 31, 2010

Rumi's gift



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 said it all.  
That's her in the mirror.
The face is the mirror of the soul. 
She sees joy, despair, hope, doubt.

This is the end of another year in her life.
A time to reflect and express her emotions.
Love, forgiveness, healing and trust dominate all kinds of thoughts.
She did many things right but she wavered too.

Listen to your inner voice.
Pressure? Deal with it!
Quiet successes inspire her with confidence.
Failures provide just the spur she needs.
As she looks back on the past year, she is grateful that she got through it.
Rumi, thank you for your gift!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It isn't child labour when ...

A young worker helping with sales at his father's accessories stand at the Jelatek night market, which is close to the city centre in Kuala Lumpur.



There is a clear line between engaging young workers to do light duties and exploiting them.

Youngsters who help their parents to manage makeshift stalls at the side of roads or night markets are learning about the real world and in the process acquire skills which might come in handy.

The abuse begins when they become the sole breadwinners or carry out “difficult, dangerous and dirty” (3D) jobs to supplement their family incomes.

That is the message from union leaders and the head of an employers’ organisation in Peninsular Malaysia.

The issue of working youngsters came under the spotlight when Parliament recently passed the Bill of the Children and Young Persons (Employment) (Amendment) Act 2010 which seeks to change the current legislation, 13 years after Malaysia ratified the Minimum Age Convention (C138).

Click here for the full report.


Monday, December 20, 2010

First among equals

Professor Datuk Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, Professor Dr Lai-Meng Looi and Professor Tan Sri Mohd Kamal Hassan.



These three scholars have earned their places in the history books when they were named Malaysia's first Distinguished Professors recently.

Read about them here:

Distinguished Professor Datuk Shamsul Amri Baharuddin

Distinguished Professor Dr Lai-Meng Looi

Distinguished Professor Tan Sri Mohd Kamal Hassan

Background

Criteria

 

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

X'mas is where Koh Soo Ling is

There are 19 days until Christmas and New Sunday Times contributor Dr Koh Soo Ling is feeling Christmassy!

She knows that successful gatherings need good planning and preparation for her first Christmas in Ireland started early.

In addition to the traditional decorations and tree, she will be introducing Malaysian cuisine on the Christmas table.

I asked her to describe her Irish Christmas "fever" and this is her reply via email.

See below for a new poem from the pen of Soo Ling: Wintry Charm. 

If you are meeting Soo Ling for the first time, read about her here.

"My freezer (Mat Sallehs have this very serious business about having an extra freezer in the shed) is stocked up with Christmas game and frozen food, my windows and two fireplaces are decorated and I'm
expecting two Malaysians to come over and stay during the Christmas season. 

"So I will dish out turkey, cranberry sauce as well as ketupat (bought earlier from Malaysia, so just throw into boiling water), satay sauce (Brahim's) and satay (now this is authentic) except that it has
to be grilled in an oven. 

"I have three in one teh tarik too.

"We will print out carol sheets, Audrey will play the keyboard and we will sit by the fire crooning. Chocolates like Quality Street sweets are very cheap and I've stocked up a few tins to fill up the stockings.

"I like the Christmas celebration here, it is very very warm and even the streets are lighted up.

"As for church, we have quite a number of activities too. One of them is packing toys into shoe boxes for children in Africa and poor countries. 

"Then we also have Christmas hampers (we contribute the goodies) that we leave at the door steps of the needy during Christmas day but we remain anonymous. Just ring the doorbell, leave the hamper
and run."


What an attractive Christmas window display!

A fireplace with X'mas decorations.

The snow on the trees is really pretty.
Meet Michael Howard, Soo Ling's other half.

Soo Ling is looking forward to her first Irish Christmas.

Soo Ling has created a warm and festive atmosphere in her Irish home.

Wintry Charm


When the snow falls
On the icy ground
And the wind calls
A curious sound
It’s a mystery
That every snowflake is unique
And everything flies in a flurry
As we shuffle our feet.

When the snow falls
And the robin goes and hides
Behind the walls
That are frozen and white.
The branches are bare
The leaves brittle and light
In the cold thin air
Through the long dark night.

When the snow falls
Wrapped in warm coats and mittens
We hurriedly open the doors
With our wooden tobaggans
We scoop up some snow
Partially hidden we lie
No weapons, no arrows or bows
Ready to pelt snow balls at passers-by.





Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fast train to Ipoh

The ETS intercity makes life easy for those who have to travel to Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Seremban regularly.


The ETS (which stands for Electric Train Services) intercity is another indication that Malaysians love travelling by train. 

Since its launch on August 12, this year more and more people are catching the train to Ipoh-Kuala Lumpur-Seremban. 

That is the observation of an Ipoh-based  KTM employee who declined to be named. 

The Kuala Lumpur-Ipoh service is popular with professionals especially lawyers, he says. 

They get on the early morning train from Kuala Lumpur and arrive in Ipoh in time for their court cases, he adds. 

Some Ipoh residents who work in Kuala Lumpur are contemplating commuting between their hometown and Malaysia's capital city.

The seats are comfortable and there is legroom in the front of the seat.
I took the ETS from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh recently and understood instantly why my relatives and friends are passionate about it.

"Speed, comfort and convenience" are among the reasons enthusiasts offer. And I agree with them.

I boarded the train at 8.30am, fell asleep almost immediately and woke up at Tapah Road, the fourth stop before my final destination -- Ipoh.

Ipoh Railway Station.



From Tapah Road the train snaked its way through the track to Ipoh Railway Station and the time on my watch was 10.45am.

What can I say?

I gave an ecstatic sigh of happiness. 

The journey time was two hours and 15 minutes on the transit train. The express service would be shorter by some 20 minutes. 

I said  goodbye to bus trips -- which are longer and do not have door-to-door convenience -- to Ipoh, my hometown.

I got off the train and in less than 30 minutes by taxi I was at my sister's home.

Passengers get off the train at Ipoh Railway Station.



If train journey is under-appreciated in Malaysia it is because people are fed up with old, slow trains which show no signs of retiring.

Those in a hurry, however, find the ETS intercity enticing.

The introductory rail fare of RM 30 (Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh) may put some people off but that is nothing if you hanker for "speed, comfort and convenience".

And yet a train ride can even be a vacation in itself particularly over longer distances.

That was how I felt when I got the train to Ipoh.

Okay, so I slept right through (almost) the journey but that did not lessen the excitement.

Train stewardess Rosziyana Ruslan.
There are plans to extend the service to Malacca, Johor Bahru and Singapore for the future.

I hope that would be sooner rather than later.

Train travel is attractive in an old-fashioned way.

Writers have written about it and Paul Theroux's Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China comes to my mind.

Your experience on the ETS intercity may not be as dramatic as Theroux's adventures in China but you can still read, play cards, enjoy the greenery passing by or simply doze off.

High-tech trippers will have their iPods and laptops.

There are compelling reasons -- eco-friendliness, comfort and convenience, to name but a few -- to hop on the next train to Ipoh, Kuala lumpur or Seremban.
  
Student Izzati Johari says the ETS intercity is the most suitable mode of transport for her.







                                               

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A question for ETS intercity

Passengers expect good Internet access while travelling.
This facility for charging cell phones is a boon to passengers.

I have a quick question for the managment of Electric Train Service (ETS).

When will passengers, who board the ETS intercity train at the Kuala Lumpur Old Station, have access to the Internet?

Passengers especially mobile office professionals expect good Internet access while travelling and waiting at railway stations.

I wonder what the two computers -- visibly placed next to the cell phone charger area (opposite the ticketing counter) -- are for?


Since its launch on August 12 (2010) the Ipoh-Kuala Lumpur-Seremban route is gaining popularity among locals and foreigners.

This is an opportunity to enhance the reputation of your service.

Monday, October 18, 2010

JMM wants Malaysian Insider to shut down



Azwanddin Hamzah making a point at the peaceful protest in Bangsar this afternoon.

Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (JMM) wants local news portal Malaysian Insider to vanish off the face of the earth -- and plans to hold regular peaceful protests to drive its point home.

"Malaysian Insider has betrayed Malaysia and its people," says JMM head Azwanddin Hamzah.

He was referring to, among other things, the news portal's relationship with Indonesian nationalist group Bendera.

"I have the documents to prove it," says Azwanddin, adding that he had passed them on to the police for action.

JMM is also upset about Malaysian Insider's recent reports which it said "insulted the Sultans and Malay royalty".

Azwanddin said this after JMM had staged a 30-minute peaceful protest against the conduct of the news portal this afternoon.


The group had chosen the premises of the LRT station in Bangsar as the venue for the public meeting.

Many commuters lingered for several minutes to absorb the points raised by Azwanddin.

As in the first rally last Friday -- when Azwanddin was arrested for organising the event without a permit -- today's peaceful demonstration was also carried out illegally.

Azwanddin was adamant that JMM would continue to express its disapproval until Malaysian Insider shuts down.

See also this report.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

When life was all gloom

I met her in Ipoh -- my hometown -- when she begged for money two years ago.

Nini -- my niece in Ipoh -- called me a minute ago to say that she had died.

She had been infected with HIV for many years but the details of her death are sketchy.

I, like many in Ipoh, don't know her name.

She had approached me at the Central Market in Ipoh on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr in 2008 and asked for money. I gave her RM20; she thanked me profusely and went away.

That was my first and last encounter with her.

She was a beauty in her teens but her tragic life turned her into a demented soul, by all accounts.

Apparently she was raped repeatedly as a teenager.

Some allege that the perpetrator of the crime was her father; it is unclear whether he was her biological father or stepfather.

The disappointments and betrayals in her life later forced her into prostitution.

It appeared that everything had conspired to make her life a misery.

I don't know if she had sought medical help for her condition.

According to the Malaysian AIDS Council, an average of 10 people are being infected daily and there are some 87,000 HIV-infected people in Malaysia.

I believe that life's not all gloom and despondency but how do you describe hers?

The brevity of human life. It's a terrifying thought.

But Rumi reminds us that "everyone is so afraid of death, but the real sufis just laugh: nothing tyrannises their hearts. What strikes the oyster shell does not damage the pearl".

Al-Fatihah.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Satisfy your curiosity


Did curiosity kill the cat?

It appears that the Union of Concerned Scientists does not believe that to be true.

Instead, it argues for "scientific curiosity" because that "is the key to solving our world's most crucial environmental, health and security problems -- such as global warming".

The grouping of scientists accuses those with "a vested interest in denying global warming" of "trying to kill the public's curiosity and thus squelch the truth".

"Scientists are curious for life," states the Union and it pleads the cause of supporting curiosity and urges us to start by being members of the grouping. 

We should take a leaf from Union's book.

"Curiosity killed the cat" is an idiom meaning to tell somebody not to ask questions or try to find out about things that do not concern them.

That is appropriate for personal affairs but in all other matters we, like the children in our midst, should show curiosity about everything.

Why should it ever stop? When my niece was four she wanted to know "why her shadow was following her?" I was amazed at her ability to notice things around her. She is now in her early twenties and she continues to ask the "shadow"-type questions.

Many questions about life remain unanswered. It is time to dig up the truth. "Curiosity about the world is the beginning of knowledge -- and science", notes Union.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why Shamsul Amri dislikes Facebook

Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin

People who do not use Facebook fall into three broad categories.

The first group is completely indifferent to it, the second finds it mildly irritating and the third dislikes it intensely.

Malaysia's prominent sociologist Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin is of the last type.

I made the mistake of asking Shamsul, who is director of the Institute of Ethnic Studies at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, if he was on Facebook, the social network which was hatched up in the dormitories of Harvard six years ago.

"I have a face and I keep thousands of books. Why do I need Facebook?"

How do you react to that reply?

I didn't. I meekly invited him to elaborate on his reasons.

"Facebook will take away my soul and I won't allow that to happen because I am a believer," says Shamsul fiercely, who launched into a tirade of accusations against Facebook.

Ninety per cent of the things you read on Facebook are either petty, bitter, rude or offensive.

"I refuse to read something that I may not want to know. I have the right to read what I want," says Shamsul, adding that he does not want the social network to take away that right from him.


The very private Shamsul is unwilling to open up to strangers.

"Only Allah knows about me; why should I elevate Facebook to the status of Allah?"

There are now 500 million Facebook users and the social network is "adding 50 million new members each month".

So what?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The impersonal open house


The Malaysian Open House is a tradition that is likely to continue for a very long time.
It has been non-stop feasting for many Malaysian Muslims as they continue to manage or visit open houses during the month of Shawwal which began on September 10.

Many have expressed admiration for this "unique and peculiar Malaysia tradition".

The Malaysian open house or rumah terbuka (in the Malay language) is mostly held during major festivals such as Eid-ul-Fitr, Diwali, Christmas, Chinese New Year and Hari Gawai, among others.

It is the season to welcome relatives, friends, colleagues and sometimes strangers from the different ethnic groups into their homes.

The activity creates goodwill and may lead to friendship for some people.

While I like the idea of an open house, and by extension an open heart (because that is what the gesture implies), I find the sort organised by corporations a little impersonal.

I prefer small gatherings of family and close friends. I am actually terrified of mingling with thousands of people I do not know.

That was how I felt when I attended the Maybank Eid-ul-Fitr open house yesterday.

I was told by Prakash, the corporate communications executive at Maybank, that the open house hosted by Malaysia's largest banking group catered for 3,000 guests.

If it had not been for Yani, an old school chum who is now working for Bernama, the national news agency, I would have skipped the festivity.

I wanted to meet Yani, whom I have not seen in a while.

I found out at an Eid-ul-Fitr dinner party prepared for close friends at the home of another pal later that day that some people accept invitations to open house dos of the kind I had alluded to earlier for the same reason I appeared at the Maybank function: to meet up with buddies.

Many more do it to network with vendors, customers, business contacts and even competitors besides using the opportunity to be seen with the powerful and famous.

What happened to the idea of enhancing ethnic relations?

Nowadays, the desire to promote ethnic harmony and understanding during such occasions seems less important.

It is all about making lots of money now.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why I love Malaysia


Globetrotters often express the following sentiment: "The best part of travel is coming home".

I am going to modify that slightly: "The best part of travel is returning to Malaysia."

After a few days in a foreign land I begin to crave for all things Malaysian and that include teh tarik, street food, ethnic diversity and even the corny (some may say racist) jokes that Malaysians are fond of making.

It would be nice if the weather was kinder, the transport system more efficient, traffic flow smoother and people remembered to hold doors behind them as a courtesy to others.

It's not perfect but we are getting there.

Today Malaysians celebrate the 47th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia when Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore joined Malaya on September 16, 1963. Singapore left the federation in 1965.

From this year Malaysia Day is a national holiday.

The following pictures show some of the things that make Malaysia so lovable.

Terengganu boasts the best beaches in Malaysia. This one is a short walk away from Awana Kijal Golf, Beach & Spa Resort. Go ahead ... indulge yourself with a weekend stay here. 

Malaysians and durian are inseparable. Some would disagree but they don't count.

Picture shows the interior of Hai Peng Kopitiam (Chinese coffee shop) in Kemaman, Terengganu. It is 70 years old and serves great local coffee, toasted bread with butter and kaya (egg custard). There is always a steady stream of visitors here so be prepared to wait for an empty table.

I miss Malaysian street food when I am abroad. Some complain that such places are dirty. Yes, that's true in a few cases but the majority of food stalls such as this one observe good food hygiene. 

Eating out Malaysian-style. Stalls like this are everywhere.

A mug of nescafe or teh tarik? This one is nescafe tarik. There is nothing I'd like better! Remember the English  and their inevitable cups of tea? The feeling is similar.

This is tako, a Thai dessert, made in Malaysia. The choice of sweet food is endless.

Hussain Restaurant serves the best Indian Muslim food in Peninsular Malaysia. I discovered this when I was in Sungai Petani, Kedah a few years ago. Don't forget to have your meals here whenever you are in Sungai Petani.
I am proud of the fact that we are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. Let's inspire young Malaysians to appreciate diversity. Don' they look sweet?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Eid-ul-Fitr: A time of great rejoicing

Yesterday was Eid-ul-Fitr, the first day of Shawwal, which marked the end of Ramadan.

Muslims in Malaysia celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr or Hari Raya Aidil Fitri in true Malaysian fashion: holding open house to spread the festive joy with friends and colleagues from the different ethnic groups.

It's always open house at the homes of most Malaysians during major festivals. It is a well-established tradition in Malaysia.

Believers had gathered in mosques all over Malaysia on Friday morning to offer the Eid-ul-Fitr prayers.

After prayers they exchanged greetings by saying "Selamat Hari Raya (Happy Eid)" and asked for forgiveness for any wrongdoing they had done.

Then it was time to welcome guests to their homes. For some the open house is held later in the month of Shawwal when Malaysians continue to engage in festivities until the very end.

This is because they want to focus on other things on the first few days of Shawwal such as visiting graveyards to pay their respects for the departed and reuniting with family members in other parts of the country or balik kampung as Malaysians call it.

Traditional and modern delicacies sit happily together on the Eid-ul-Fitr culinary table. The staples include rendang, lemang and ketupat.

Many say Eid-ul-Fitr is for children who expect new clothes, the customary Eid-ul-Fitr cash gifts (or duit Raya in Malaysia) and special food on the table.

Even parents who were not in the festive mood due to a variety of reasons tried their best to inject enthusiasm into the Eid-ul-Fitr preparations during Ramadan because they wanted to make their offspring happy.

Believers fell prostrate in worship during Eid-ul-Fitr prayers held in mosques throughout Malaysia on Friday morning, the first day of Shawwal. Picture courtesy of New Straits Times.

Children visit their elders on the first day of Shawwal to ask for forgiveness. The best part of this ritual is the Eid-ul-Fitr cash gift which all youngsters look forward to receiving. Picture courtesy of New Straits Times.

This teenager in Malacca is about to leave after visiting his neighbours (and receiving duit Raya from them) yesterday. He dropped in on them with a group of friends. This is a typical scene in Malaysia during the month of Shawwal.

The rear of the teenager's bicycle is cleverly fitted with a spare part from an abandoned motorcycle. His friends think his vehicle looks pretty cool with that fixture.

Lemang stalls such as this one dot Malaysian trunk roads during most of Shawwal. Lemang is made from a mixture of glutinous rice and coconut milk that is very slowly cooked in a bamboo stick lined with banana leaves. It is best eaten with rendang and both dishes are must-have on the  Eid-ul-Fitr menu. Picture courtesy of New Straits Times.

Picture shows ketupat palas (left), glutinous packed rice in English, and it is usually served with a savoury meat dish such as rendang tok (right), a spicy beef dish from the state of Perak.

Cookies and cakes complete the wide array of Eid-ul-Fitr food. 

This delicious strawberry cheesecake makes a great centrepiece of  the Eid-ul-Fitr huge spread.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Eid-ul-Fitr: When the hometown beckons

The balik kampung rush began about a week ago. Picture courtesy of New Straits Times.

Indonesian house helper Ien was reunited with her teenage daughter and parents in Brengkok Village, Central Jawa, Indonesia last week.

The reunion was an occasion she had longed for because the last time she returned to the family abode was more than two years ago.

Ien and her husband -- a Kuala Lumpur-based construction worker who is also from Indonesia -- made the journey home because they wanted to savour Eid-ul-Fitr or Hari Raya Aidil Fitri with family and friends this year.

It's the first day of Shawwal -- the month that marks the end of Ramadan -- tomorrow and by this time many Muslims who are residing outside their hometowns are with their loved ones or are on their way to be together with them.

Malaysians have a term for the social reunion: balik kampung which literally means "going back to the village".

Malays are not the only ones who observe balik kampung as a form of social reunion. The Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Murut, Iban, Bidayuh and other ethnic groups in Malaysia do it too.

It is also a regional phenomenon as exemplified by Ien and other foreign workers in Malaysia.

The reason the other ethnic groups in Malaysia have adopted the Malay term balik kampung to describe their journey to a social reunion "is because it has existed in the realm of popular idiom much longer than any other expression that is available locally," Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin told me 13 years ago, when  I interviewed him for an article on the topic.

The Professor of Social Anthropology at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia defined balik kampung as essentially a reunion of loved ones, that is, between those who have been forced to live separately from their rural-based families, owing to economic and social circumstances, and those who stayed back in the villages.

It is a time to maintain, enhance or repair the social bond that has declined, fragmented, stretched to the limit or partially broken down by forces within modernisation, the two most critical components being urbanisation and industrialisation.

Shopping for Hari Raya Aidil Fitri includes buying gifts for the folks back home. Material and non-material sharing enhances the social bonding during the festive season. Picture courtesy of New Straits Times.
The Malays' first taste of modernisation began in the colonial period when villages became urbanised and modern education was introduced.

For the Malays, who were then predominantly peasants, this was the beginning of the fragmentation of their families and social life.

Some orang kampung (rural people) became orang bandar (urban dwellers) and this gave rise to the rural-urban divide which expressed itself in complex ways.

As Shamsul put it then: "It affected differently and unevenly the life spheres of those who live in the kampung (village) as well as those in the bandar (town or city). It also influenced their relationships."

Industrialisation further complicated the plight, in some ways rupturing altogether the already tensed relationship between the orang kampung and the orang bandar.

"The pressure of the felt difference especially by those who live in the bandar forced them to seek ways of coping with it, one of which is balik kampung."

And from then on balik kampung as a social reunion became central to Malay life, providing the parties involved, who recognise that they have become dissimilar in their world views as well as the way they conduct their daily lives, with a chance to pursue a new kinship.

In cases where the difference is so wide or where it has reached a desperate level, the reunion becomes obligatory to avoid a total collapse of the social bonding.

For that reason, it is often an emotionally-charged event and an attempt to minimise the contrast is made through material and non-material sharing.

Baking cookies for Hari Raya Aidil Fitri is a major activity during Ramadan. It is time-consuming but fun and even the youngest member of this family wants to be a part of it. Picture courtesy of New Straits Times.
Even so, the reunion which is a celebration of change as well as solidarity-making, is a temporary relief from the pain which the difference has brought into the lives of the Malays.

Besides Hari Raya Aidil Fitri and Hari Raya Aidil Adha, there are other social events in the life of a Malay such as weddings and funerals that can reunite him or her with far-flung relatives.

Are Malays still enthusiastic about balik kampung?

Shamsul predicted 13 years ago that "balik kampung is here to stay". And it has.

Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that the level of intensity has dropped a notch recently.

How do you explain the growing tendency among Malay professionals, whether single or married, to "go away" during the festive season?

The idea is not to balik kampung but to travel to other places for their Raya holidays.

Alternatively, they would stay back in the urban centres they now call home and rejoice at the peace and quiet that descended on city life after the balik kampung exodus.

This is especially true of Malaysians whose parents have passed on.

This photo shows shoppers making a last-minute dash to buy Hari Raya stuff. Many stalls at this bazaar on Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Kuala lumpur stay open until very late on the eve of Aidil Fitri. Picture courtesy of New Straits Times. 
There is no compelling reason to balik kampung particularly if they are not close to their siblings or other relatives who are still living in the old hometown.

Interestingly, the balik kampung reunion is no longer viewed as compulsory. There are various options open to them and balik kampung is just one of the many.

But purists are not happy about this and my friend Yani is one of them.

She cannot conceive that Malay Muslims would wish to spend Hari Raya Aidil Fitri in unfamiliar surroundings.

For her Hari Raya Aidil Fitri should be enjoyed with your parents, siblings, relatives and close friends at the place where you were born or lived as a child.

After months of hard work in noisy, crowded and unfriendly Kuala Lumpur a retreat to the birthplace is just the thing for tired bodies, frayed nerves and dejected spirits.

Yani, like Ien, derives great pleasure from engaging in festivities kampung-style (village-style) and the trip home is trouble worth enduring.

Eid-ul-Fitr greetings to all Muslims!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Muslims still sore about TV3 ad!




Muslims in Malaysia are still upset about the controversial Hari Raya Aidil Fitri (Eid-ul-Fitr) advertisement which was pulled out recently following protests from viewers.

They cannot believe that TV3 -- a popular television station in Malaysia -- had approved the festive commercial which depicted Hari Raya Aidil Fitri as Christmassy.

There were elements of Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism in the commercial: flying trishaw (which resembles Santa Claus' sleigh), lamps and lotus.

"This is totally unacceptable," says an academic from a well-known private university college, who requested anonymity.

"It is possible to be 1Malaysia but not 1Religion," he adds, alluding to the 1Malaysia concept, which Prime Minister Dato' Sri Najib Tun Razak is promoting.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Soaking up the Eid-ul-Fitr mood

Today is the last Sunday before Eid-ul-Fitr or Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, as Malaysians call it, which is likely to fall on September 10, this year.

Eid-ul-Fitr is the first day of Shawwal, which marks the end of Ramadan, the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar.

This is the day Muslims celebrate the end of fasting and "thank Allah for the help and strength that he gave them throughout the previous month to help them practise self-control".

For some Muslims in Malaysia preparation for the day of rejoicing started early.

Many wives and mothers did their Raya shopping, as we name it in Malaysia, about a month before Ramadan began while others prefer to do it later.

Land Public Transport Commission chief operating officer Shahril Mokhtar window-shopped two days after the start of the fasting month to "check out the prices" and to observe the festive trends this year.

"Today is my actual day of shopping," said Shahril, who was trying skull caps for size at the Jalan Masjid India bazaar.

Sisters Siti Zulaika Mohd Sokri and Siti Marlina Mohd Sokri were also out shopping today. They go for ready-made clothes because they are cheaper than buying fabrics and getting them tailored.

Looking at the crowds out shopping, you could be forgiven for thinking that everyone has plenty of money.

Indeed, many went into the Jalan Melayu/Jalan Masjid India/Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman shopping belt to indulge in some serious shopping.

Bazaar retailers say they are not affected by the recession because they have a steady stream of regular customers.

Here are some photos I took this afternoon at the Jalan Melayu/Jalan Masjid India/Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman shopping area.

Urbanites strolling to their favourite outlets at the Jalan Masjid India bazaar. 

Siti Marlina (left) and her sister Siti Zulaika showing off their new headgear. Hari Raya will be a low-key affair for the siblings and their families.

This skull cap might fit me, says Shahril.

A smile suddenly animates Shahril's face because the skull cap fits well. He plans to browse the stores for Baju Melayu after this.

Young women flock to the henna painting stalls for an edgy Raya look. We want to look pretty for Hari Raya, they say.

Faizal Ahmad is looking for Baju Melayu and hopes he will find something suitable today.

Artificial flowers are always in season and this year's colours are white, pink and peach. People usually buy these flowers on the eve of Hari Raya.

A familiar scene at a zakat or alms giving counter set up at strategic places during Ramadan. The "compulsory giving of a set proportion of one's wealth to charity" is the Third Pillar of Islam.