Archive for November, 2008

Still taking a leap into yoga

The controversy surrounding yoga still rages on in Malaysia as reflected in the mainstream press. In today’s Sunday Star and New Sunday Times (NST), for example, a few pages have been allocated for the discussion of yoga and its relationship with Islam.

The NST published its interview with Dr Abdulfatah Haron Ibrahim, a professor of Theology and Philosophy from UKM regarding his take on yoga and Islam under the headline, ‘Why create the trouble?’. This is followed by another piece, also an outcome of presumably the same interview, headlined, ‘Yoga, mysticism and Islam’.

In its ‘Focus’ column, Sunday Star ran a piece headlined, ‘In a twist over fatwa ruling’. Here the writer interviewed people such as the religious adviser to the Prime Minister, Dr Abdul Hamid Othman, Syariah lawyer Saidiah Din, Jamaah Islah Malaysia president Zaid Kamaruddin, Pas research head Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, yoga instructor Suleiha Merican, and Sisters in Islam (SIS) programme manager Masjaliza Hamzah.

While it’s commendable that these newspapers did attempt to bring to the fore the controversial subject of yoga, I feel that more needs to be done so as to enlighten the readers further. For instance, the views of other yoga experts and practitioners should be given ample space to explain in detail about yoga particularly when certain Islamic leaders and bodies claimed that the kind of yoga that is practised in Malaysia has some elements of Hinduism, and therefore can cause havoc to a Muslim’s aqidah.

That said, I thought I’d share this with you what, it seems to me, requires a mental leap after reading the last bit of the Star story. In response to SIS’s Masjaliza’s contention that the religious authorities should not ‘make it a criminal offence to go against a fatwa’, Dr Abdul Hamid snapped in disagreement.

He said: ‘Going against a fatwa is a crime because it is a crime against religion. When you believe in Islam you are bound by its laws. For example, you can’t walk around naked in public.’

It doesn’t take a nudist to tell you that going around in the altogether is a complete no-no not only to adherents of Islam but also other faiths. And I am sure practitioners of yoga are also uncomfortable with the idea of walking unclothed in the public domain.

Put another way, the controversy surrounding yoga may not be as clear cut as baring oneself in public — although it may expose one’s incoherence.

Oops! I did it again!

This teenybopper-ish number by Britney Spears is dedicated to all the Tajudins and Tajudins of this world — and beyond.


‘Blockade’ in Malaysian Parliament

The Edge Daily reported that Malaysian Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Ronald Kiandee had rejected an all-party motion to discuss Israel’s ongoing blockade of Gaza that has left many Palestinians starving and facing humanitarian crisis.

Kiandee argued that the Malaysian government had already made its stand on this, and therefore ‘the issue is not urgent and need not be discussed here’.

Perhaps Kiandee needs to know that it would have made a great difference and political impact had parties from both sides of the political divide in the Dewan Rakyat be given the opportunity to come together and register their common stand pertaining to the Israeli blockade.

Moreover, what does it take to make this issue REALLY urgent in Parliament? Does one wait very patiently until a substantial portion of the Gaza population gets wiped out by hunger, military atrocities, etc?

Many a time, the sense of urgency, or lack of, displayed by the Speaker and/or his deputy boggles the mind.

Besides, this all-party stand on the Israeli blockade is one of the rare moments when ordinary Malaysians are ‘saved’ from the ghastly occasions of racist and sexist remarks and puerile antics exhibited by certain Parliamentarians.


KUALA LUMPUR: Members of parliament (MPs) from both sides of the bench stopped their usual bickering and crossed partisan lines yesterday to support a motion tendered by Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi (Batu Pahat-BN) to discuss Israel’s ongoing blockade of the Gaza.

In rejecting the motion, Deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee said the Malaysian government has made its stand known to the world on the matter through a statement in October when it asked for strict action to be taken against the Israeli regime.

“I am satisfied that the issue is not urgent and need not be discussed here,” he said, drawing protests from both sides of the House.

Mohd Puad said in his motion that Israel has shown disrespect towards the demands of the international community and United Nations resolutions, which had called for the conflict in Palestine to be resolved peacefully and Palestinians to be given the right to form their own government.

“Israel again had used the blockade tactic and closed all border crossings so that the Palestinians in Gaza were left starving and faced with humanitarian crisis. The regime also has no respect for the Hamas government, which has been chosen as the rightful government during a democratic and fair election,” he added.

Datuk Mohamad Aziz (Sri Gading-BN) who protested Kiandee’s move said the big powers must be alerted so that they can make the Zionists withdraw the blockade.

Salahuddin Ayub (Kubang Kerian-PAS) then asked whether the House could call for those in favour of the motion to stand up but Kiandee said there was no need for that as he had made his decision.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (Permatang Pauh-PKR) said it was a good opportunity to show that the BN and PR MPs could unite to agree on an important issue, irrespective of their political stand.

At this juncture, Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin (Kinabatangan-BN) asked Kiandee to reconsider his decision. Kiandee explained that he rejected the motion after discussing the matter with relevant parties who were satisfied with the government’s stand.

N Gobalakrishnan (Padang Serai-PKR) told Kiandee that the parliament is different from the government, so it needs to take a stand of its own.

Anwar, when met in parliament lobby, said: “I’m upset because this was an opportunity for us to debate this matter. There is a big difference between a government decision and the parliament’s stand.

“A parliamentary stand includes representatives from all the parties. The act of halting food supplies to the Palestinians by the Israeli government is too much. If this had happened to an African nation, it would receive a lot of international criticism. But because it’s done by Israel, it’s seen as trivial.

“The question of supporting Palestine does not come up as this is about humanitarian matters concerning blockade of food.”

Home Ministry investigates a four-year-old book

The Nut Graph reported that a book written by Farish Noor, From Majapahit to Putrajaya, is now being investigated by officials of the Home Ministry.

The entire stock of the book was confiscated from a leading bookshop in Kuala Lumpur on August 15, 2008 and the bookshop is still waiting for the outcome of the investigation.


PETALING JAYA, 27 Nov 2008: A leading bookstore in Kuala Lumpur has stopped selling a book by Malaysian public intellectual Dr Farish Noor, pending an investigation by the Home Ministry.

The entire stock of the book, From Majapahit to Putrajaya, was confiscated from Kinokuniya’s KLCC outlet on 15 Aug 2008 by officers from the ministry’s Selangor office in a regular annual inspection. Other book titles, mostly on religion, were also seized.

“Kinokuniya will not be selling these titles until the Home Ministry arrives at a judgement. We do not practice self-censorship, but this is a pending issue, so we will wait for a proper decision,” Kinokuniya corporate affairs manager Theresa Chong told The Nut Graph.

She said the enforcement officers were supposed to inform the bookstore of a decision within two weeks, but they have been waiting for three-and-a-half months now. “We have been asking them to give us an answer,” she added.

However, From Majapahit to Putrajaya, a collection of essays about contemporary Malaysia published in 2005 by Silverfish Books, is still being sold at other bookshops. Also still on sale, including at Kinokuniya, is the Malay translation of the book, Di Balik Malaysia: Dari Majapahit ke Putrajaya.

Making film, history and heritage

The government has allocated a sum of RM15 million for the sole purpose of encouraging Malaysians to make films of ‘national interest’.

According to a Bernama report, Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Shafie Apdal said that this film project would ‘serve to contribute to the enhancement of national unity and celebrate the many human tales and case studies of courage and endeavour’.

Noble aims, but the underlying and crucial questions here are, whose ‘national interest’ would be served, and whose history and cultural heritage would these films be expected to foreground?

Additionally, it would be interesting to know the composition of the selection panel of experts or group that is expected to address questions such as the above. 


KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 (Bernama) — The Government has approved the setting-up of a RM15 million fund for the making of films of national interest, said Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.

“We believe that support should be given for the production of films with historical, cultural and heritage themes,” he said in his speech at the welcoming night of the 2nd Kuala Lumpur International Film Festival (KLIFF 2008), here Wednesday night.

Shafie said the development would also serve to contribute to the enhancement of national unity and celebrate the many human tales and case studies of courage and endeavour.

This development alone will increase the local investment for the production of films by at least 40 percent,” he said.

He said within the next three years, it was estimated that the Malaysian film industry would produce no less than 35 mainstream feature films a year.

“This figure does not include the increasing number of digital films, short films, documentaries and animation movies that are coming online due to the increasing demand from various televisions stations and satellite TV,” he said.

Da ya think I’m sexy?

No, this question was not posed by Indonesian dangdut performer Inul Daratista whose gyrations in Malaysia were feared to have the potential to cause havoc to one’s moral mooring, let alone social order. It was British singer-songwriter Rod Stewart who cheekily raised this question in 1978 for reasons only best known to himself.

‘Controversial blogs’ that attract Home Ministry

The Home Ministry is looking out for those blogs that can ‘confuse’ unsuspecting Malaysians regarding certain issues it considers controversial. That is, ‘naughty blogs’ posting comments that can ‘pose a threat to public security’.

Here’s the story from The Star:

KUALA LUMPUR: The Home Ministry is monitoring blogs to check if bloggers are posting comments that confuse the people on controversial issues.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung said that at the moment, the ministry was merely advising bloggers against the misuse of blogs.

“So far, we are only telling them not to use their blogs as a mechanism to confuse people or as a weapon against those they don’t like,” he said on Tuesday when asked about bloggers posting comments on the National Fatwa Council’s edict banning Muslims from practising yoga.

“However, if the comments are deemed as posing a threat to public security, we will view them seriously,” he said, adding that it would be left to the minister to act on such cases.

“The ministry is always monitoring developments in the blogosphere,” Chor said after the launch of the National Anti-Drug Agency’s new programme, Rakan Anti-Dadah (Rada), to eradicate drug abuse.