Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sarawak Bersedih Hari Ini - "PAS ucap takziah kepada keluarga Sulaiman Daud" -TV PAS

PAS ucap takziah kepada keluarga Sulaiman Daud: bukti perbezaan ideologi kepartian, kerajaan-pembangkang dan Semenanjung-Sabah-Sarawak bukan sebab untuk tidak mengenang jasa seorang negarawan; bukti juga masih ada sinar harapan untuk masa depan suasana politik Malaysia yang lebih baik.

Terharu aku melihat sebak Hadi Awang mengenangnya.

Lihat juga:

Dr Sulaiman, an Experienced Minister with Almost 20 Years Service (BERNAMA)
Dr Sulaiman Daud Disenangi Rakyat (Malaysian Insider daripada Berita Harian)
King Pays Respect to Late Sulaiman Daud (BERNAMA)
PBB Most God-Fearing Politician Passed Away (Sarawak Update)
Sulaiman Tidak Pernah Harap Jawatan (Utusan Malaysia)

Sebagai anak jati Sarawak, aku ucapkan berbanyak terima kasih di atas jasa yang telah almarhum taburkan sebagai salah seorang pemimpin negeri Sarawak dan negara Malaysia.

Al-Fatihah. Takziah buat keluarga almarhum. Semoga rohnya dicucuri rahmat dan digolong bersama orang-orang yang beriman dan berbuat kebajikan, amin.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Remember Doraemon

In memory of Doraemon. To those who grow up during its time - Doraemon the finale (unnoficial):

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It is Possible to Become Muslims Without Believing (God forbid!)

While reading the translation of the Quran, I encountered the following verses; I was struck by them:

The Bedouin Arabs say: "We have believed."

Tell them: "You have not believed; rather say 'We have become Muslims'; for faith has not yet found its way into your hearts. If you obey Allah and His Rasool[Messengers], He will not deny you the reward of your deeds; surely, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."

True believers are those who believe in Allah and His Rasool[Messengers], then never doubt; and make Jihad (exert their efforts)with their wealth and their persons in the cause of Allah.
(Quran 49:14-15, Malik trans.)

I am not an Ulama' nor an exegete. But from my rather rough reading, I conclude it is possible to become Muslims WITHOUT believing if we lack certain criteria, as mentioned above - God forbid!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Of Plastic Money: a Snippet


What about plastic money. You can bring a single piece and can reach almost everywhere in the world!


Yes, that is an argument for plastic money. In terms of demographic access, plastic money can be used in all major cities around the world plus many other areas, especially in the “First World” countries. It is also a major “currency” for internet transactions. But on the same account, plastic money does not represent many retail transactions done in the Third World or even in the Developing World.

Also, in terms of access of usage, one needs to be in certain “credit standing” (i.e. “good standing”) to be able to use it. And guess who are able to use this “feature”? Yes, only from those with “good credit standing” of the middle and upper class. Those of the lower class would most probably shy away from using the “service” or are weeded out through some kind of filtering mechanism by credit rating bureaus.

Furthermore, the buyer and/or seller must PAY for plastic money by servicing the debt (from interest rate or all other kinds of “financial fees”) and membership fee. Despite many kinds of perks and benefits the owners of plastic money may lure people about, many have fallen into endless debt cycles in their lives.

Why must we, buyers and sellers, pay extra for private transactions every time? Yes, these kinds of “taxed” transactions do distort price equilibrium in the market. Most often, the buyers who are left to pay all the extraneous transaction cost – when the sellers decide to factor in the transaction cost into goods they sell. Does this do justice to those who don’t use plastic money?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Must read: Islam and Authoritarianism by M. Steven Fish

Islam and Authoritarianism (M. Steven Fish) - A must read article! (I bet you can find one by searching it in EBSCO or research services your university may have.)

Please somebody, but not limited to, who are studying political science (or other social sciences) and/or religious studies read this.

Thesis statement: "Muslim countries are democratic underachievers... [mainly because] ... the subordination of women." (p.4-5, Fish)

I'd like to know if there are other researches done to further back the claim or rebut it. Also, if there is any serious researches done by scholars in the Muslim world in answer (either supporting, rejecting, or expanding the premise).

Monday, March 8, 2010

Imagine: "Mosque Open House" in Malaysia

When I received an email newsletter from a student organization this morning, my eyes were caught on this:

Friday March 12: "Mosque Open House"
TIme: 1-2:30pm
Location: CIMIC

Yea, that's right... Friday during the Juma'ah prayer time, the Muslim community decides to hold an open house. Now, how can that be? Would the Non-Muslims then listen to the Khutbah (sermon) delivered by the Imam? Why not? As far as my experience goes with the previous "Mosque Open House" occasions, things went pretty well. Chairs were lined up just like the saffs (the formation of straight lines of prayer); non-Muslim men with Muslim men in front and non-Muslim women with Muslim women at the back.

The event attracted many curious minds certainly and of various religious backgrounds and ethnicity. Caucasians are common sight, but there are also people of Japanase and Korean origin. By the way, the "Open House" is for "Islam Awareness Week" program for the campus. So, this week is kind of special with more stuff going on around the Mosque and campus with speeches, seminars, performances and exhibitions regarding Islam. But even during "normal" Juma'ah prayer, there will be chairs readily lined up (though not as many as the Awareness Week) for visitors who would like to come and lend their ears to the Khutbah.

Why not we emulate this example back home? No, the point is not with the intent of proselytize (convert) the visitors (I refuse to say da'wah because da'wah can be interpreted much larger in context other than to proselytize alone). Rather, to introduce the visitors to what Islam is and who the Muslims are. One of the best way to do this is to open the door of the House of God so that the visitors themselves may witness how the Muslims pray, what kind of speech does the Khatib (the ones who give the sermon) may say, the many kinds of Muslims of various ethnicity and background, and yes, the beauty and vibrant dynamic of the Mosque institution itself.

Every year, we have "Hari Raya Open House" (as well as other festivals) in Malaysia. That is good enough. Why not we expand the already ingrained openness and acceptance in our culture to the Masjid institutions as well? That way, with good intent, more understanding can be achieved. We are rife with the rhetoric of religious diversity and harmony, but if we are asked about what our neighbors and friends who are non-Muslims about what they believe in what are they religious taboos and practices, how many would be able to answer? On the same account, so are theirs.

In Malaysia, we have great opportunities because of the omnipresence of Mosques, unlike in the West where one almost need to pinpoint the location to find a Mosque just to pray. From the humble ones at the corner of a Kampung, to the elegant ones in Putrajaya, each and every Mosque is unique in their own ways in terms of representing the local culture of Muslims inhabiting the particular area. I understand Masjid Putrajaya are open to tourists for viewing, but to reflect the spirit of Islam, there is more than about beautiful marble stones and intricate calligraphy.

Here during Ramadan, you will see people (Muslims and non-Muslims) flocking to the Masjid for good food. Thanks to diversity of Muslims here, we have rotations from Bangladesh food, Arab food, Indonesian food, Pakistani food, American food, etc. etc. that makes us students can't thank God more for free and sumptuous food! Of course, at times, the food are humble or 'not as expected'. But my point is, there is always food during Ramadan, and the food is shared for all. Yes, this is the effort of the community - the local Masjid here does not receive a cent from the government for their activities and maintenance, the wealth comes from the resource of the people.

We can certainly emulate this! You know, in Malaysia, our Bazaar Ramadan is filled with us and certainly there are food provided by the local Masjid. Why not we invite, a day or two, our local non-Muslim neighbors and friends to come to the Masjid and eat with us during the iftar? Even better, invite them to fast for a day (I can tell you youths and teenagers would love this as a challenge to them) with us? Even if they refuse, it is fine because sharing the joy of breaking the fast during Ramadan is what counts... after the hunger and all.

Let us move beyond terms, speeches and languages that may scare and hence prevent our non-Muslim (or even some Muslims!) friends and neighbors to visit and know the Masjid. The Masjid is supposed to be the heart of particular Muslim society who reside at that particular area - it reflects Islam in context of practice within that community. If the Masjid is like a Forbidden Palace, a place reserved and enclosed but to the "elites", then how do we expect the perception of others about Islam to be any different?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Where Wealth Does NOT Equal to Paper Money

It is often perceived that money equals wealth. We have been taught that we must work in order to acquire some money. Why money? Because money can buy many good things in life. Generally, the more Green Bucks (or whatever currency) one possesses, the more one is able to get things that he/she wants by the means of purchasing them from market transaction(s) that recognize the currency he/she uses.

So simplified is the concept of money that we are taught to think that the paper money we are using is wealth by itself. So far the concept had derived from it that we even treat those paper currencies as commodity, as if the paper by itself has an intrinsic value that can be used to make something or something that can be readily consumed. This is a betrayal to concept of money, where whatever we use to represent our wealth is supposed to be grounded as true representation of wealth, not mere imagination of it.

It took me a long time to understand why the Bible make such a strong statement regarding money:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10, New International Version)

Notice the Bible (or the Bible translators) did not use the term 'wealth' as the root of evil. Rather, the term 'money' is used. This calls for scrutiny, is the concept of money is at fault or the medium we are using as money is at fault, or both? Now let us identify some possible consequences of lazy stereotyping of money equals wealth.

First, imagine if the entire monetary system crumbles overnight (or almost overnight) due to loss of trust in the banking system. This had happened in Latin American history and Japanese Banana Currency in Malaya. As a consequence, whatever monetary value (i.e $100 000) one has in the bank or in hand, the value is now useless in terms of representing wealth. In short, one is just as broke regardless of certain amount of Green Bucks with a person possessing none. But with seemingly unrelenting confidence of the mass with this 'fiat money' system, they rest their fate based on mere trust on the 'legal tender' of the government that their money really have real value!

Paper money is not equal to wealth. A wealth is a material good that one can use for consume and/or to produce other goods. For example, a pound of rice is wealth because one can eat the rice and consume it. A pair of male and female goats are also wealth because they can give birth to more goats - adding to more wealth of similar kind to the owner. But paper money is being treated as wealth in our modern society. People invest in interest-giving accounts and in money market in hope that it can serve to multiply their wealth, in terms of making more money.

But when it comes to issue of stability, paper money is hardly stable. The value fluctuates daily and its perceived value is determined by the Central Bank of the government that produces the money. Interest rates are used by Central Banks to determine the purchasing power of money - meaning if the Central Banks will, they can make one (artificially) rich and poor by decreasing and increasing the interest rate and/or amount of money in the market.

And the derivatives that come from this paper money is no better. The prevalence of plastic money and now, online money, adds more to the misrepresentation of wealth. The material goods, which is supposed to exist and can be seen (picture the living pair of goats and a bag of 1lb of rice), is now imaginary numbers in one's head. Transactions are now perceived as the increase and decrease of those numbers instead of real transactions that involve real transfer of wealth. Let alone outrageous interest rates charged by those who operate in the plastic money industry, almost literally enslaving those unawares with a vicious cycle of debts.

Nor does paper money money a good motivator to create real wealth if it is to be seen in the electronic transactions of Wall Street and Nikkei. Those involved produce more money (or lose them) by mere clicks, form fillings, and shouts of the computer and at the floors of the stock exchange, not planting apple trees and nurture them until they bear fruits that can be consumed or produce more apple trees. Again, the former is derived from the assumption of the credibility of imagined value, and the latter is derived based on true creation of wealth.

There must be an alternative to this system. The concept of money itself is not a problem, but they way we treat money as equal to wealth is. What alternatives are available out there? Should we resort to barter trade? Should we use other commodities (i.e. gold, silver, or precious metals) to represent money? Or should we rethink the entire concept of market transactions based on money?

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