Archive for category Singapore

Pinkdot: A Muslim’s View

Pinkdot is an event which celebrates the freedom of LGBT, recently held in Singapore. I’m not sure what their objective is exactly, but as a moderate Muslim, I really disagree with the promotion of LGBT lifestyle.

The issue of LGBT itself is not new, but it seems that many Muslims forget the unanimous view among our spiritually-discerned ulama. Not one of the them said that homosexuality is halal. Not. A. Single. One.

Admittedly, the issue itself is complex. It is imperative that we focus our discussion not on men who may appear feminine and vice versa (there’s a specific hadith on that, by the way). Instead here, we are talking about people who engage in homosexual relationships.

What’s our position?

Homosexuality has been discussed for hundreds of years by the ulama. They concede that some people may develop certain tendencies towards people of the same sex. They even talked about the permissibility of praying behind someone with such tendencies, as Hamza Yusuf clarified:

But nowhere do they say that it is okay to act on those tendencies. In fact, as many others, including Tariq Ramadan (video below) have argued that these feelings represent the personal challenges for these Muslims. Just like someone who have tendencies to be violent, does it make it okay to act violently? Or someone who has the tendency to commit adultery or steal, does it make it okay for them to act on it? Definitely no. This self-improvement is among the focus on their jihad in this world, to gain the pleasure of Allah in the next.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we must excommunicate or totally ostracize the gay Muslims. Instead, we should take the steps to make them understand their religion even more, and create the necessary space for them, as Sherman Jackson argued:

My interpretation of the necessary space here is not one that encourages nor allow homosexual Muslims to engage in sinful acts, but a space for them to interact with true Muslims, those who love Allah and strive to make amends to improve themselves. We need the space so that we can identify and educate our fallen brothers and sisters, so they can get back on their feet .Because without such space, what we are doing it basically alienating them to one corner of society that envelopes them from outreach efforts.

With such a “space,” expert counselors can talk to gay Muslims and make them comprehend the hikmah of Allah’s law.  Spiritual guides can talk to their family and make them supportive of the correct Islamic teachings, instead of something which is heavily influenced by the we-can-do-anything-as-long-as-no-one-gets-hurt hedonism. Thinkers can help develop a plan at the strategic level so that our precious young ones fully follows deen from very early on.

The big(ger) problem

On a wider plane, I personally think that the “popularity” this gay lifestyle is a by-product of globalization, one with very modern-Western-centric influences.

One example is the TV. If we switch our TVs on, and our minds off, then we will unknowingly consume all that rubbish in our own living room. Take for example the drama Glee. Sure, they make for great entertainment, especially if you love singing and dancing. But the garbage that is deemed to be primetime TV is also a great waste of time. More critically, they bring about these unintended “values” that we Muslims are suddenly finding ourselves in its midst. The acceptance of homosexuality is definitely one of them.

Before we know it, our frame of mind is influenced by the premises set in such shows. Thus when we talk about rights, the modern Western definition of rights come up to our mind. Same goes for freedom. Freedom to wear what what the nafs (and billion-dollar fashion industry) wants. Freedom to watch what you want. Freedom to do as you please. Leaving nothing to be sacred.

Methinks, the proliferation of gay personalities on popular TV shows such as Glee, Ellen, How I met Your Mother, and many more TV shows is a contributing factor. At first Muslims might think, “Hey, these gays, they’re not bad people.” Of course they are not. We have nothing against the gays. What we oppose is their action.

But with increasing acceptance of such personalities, common everyday Muslims will find it hard to filter which is good and which is bad; which of their commendable characteristics should be praised (creative, hardworking), and which of their bad characteristics should be condemned. The line simply is blurred when they accept such people as a whole, instead of viewing an individual critically.

Now imagine a 12-year-old Muslim boy watching Glee, and suddenly remembers that he has a boy crush on his class monitor. In my time, those things are considered to be normal, and one grows out of it. In this time, he may very well think that he is “born different” and should “be true to himself” and “not succumb to the pressure of conservative family ideals.” In my time, boy crush means that you try and be best friends with that class monitor. In this time, boy crushes may be honed to be the the foundation of homosexuality.

Similarly, I believe our kids know Ryan Giggs, John Terry, Christiano Ronaldo very well. In addition to their football skills, news exposés also revealed their sexual misconduct (to put it mildly). So just as we tell them that these sportsmen train very hard to get to their peak, we should also be very clear to them that their merit is limited only to soccer, and not anything more. The lines drawn should be decisively clear.

Conclusion

As such, it hurts me to watch this scene (00:12 mark).

I don’t imagine handling such identity issues will be easy, but I pray that the family involved are taking steps in the right direction.

And my parting thoughts to my fellow Muslim brothers who see themselves as part of the homosexual community, please, be with the right company. Be with people who love Allah and His messenger PBUH. Those that pray five times a day, and realize that it trains the nafs. Those that fast often, and know that obedience comes before desire. For, when stepping on Allah’s land, and roofed with Allah’s sky, the least we can do is to make that effort live with Allah’s rules.

Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned. “Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people.” Al-Baqarah:286

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How to profile Arab tourists 101: Thobes and abayas

Saw those tourists at the mosque or shopping centres? Wonder which rich Arabic country they are from?

Here’s a quick guide for men:

And women:

(I believe the two images above are originally from Brownbook Magazone)

Of course, it takes no astute political scientist to note that the men are the ones who don traditional Arabic thobe (or thawb; which literally means shirt) anywhere they go. Generally the women Middle-Eastern tourists are almost always identifiable by their abayas. Others may wear some other long-sleeved attire. So if they are wearing the hijab, look at the head covering for clues.

What’s an abaya, you ask?

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Related post:

Of Veil and Oppression

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How come got opposition rally in SOPA?

So I was watching the video above explaining why we should not support SOPA. Normally I try not to read too much into domestic US issues, but with heavyweights like Wikipedia shutting down their websites in protest of SOPA, I took special note of this.

Basically, the SOPA detractors are worried that this new bill will be dominated by the lobbying music and movie industry to unfairly target and sue websites that they deem infringing on copyright (now which Youtube video doesn’t use some popular song or movie clip?). The video noted that even baby clips are taken down because background music belongs to some giant record label.

Also if the US SOPA bill gets passed, other governments may be over-zealously end up censoring things on the internet with their own version of SOPA. Such as, censoring speeches or videos from those who disagree with their rule.

[The internet is] a vital and vibrant medium. Our government is tampering with it’s basic structure so people will maybe buy more Hollywood movies. But Hollywood movies don’t get grassroots candidates elected. They don’t overthrow corrupt regime.”

Suddenly I notice this. With the HDB flats as a dead giveaway, I’m sure that is one of the Singapore opposition political parties’ rally. But I don’t know which one it is.

And the voiceover that comes with this image? “But Hollywood movies don’t get grassroots candidates elected.”

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CNET, Chinese accent is NOT Singaporean accent

CNET Asia, you guys really dissappoint me. I saw this video of you guys testing Siri:

http://asia.cnet.com/videos/first-look-siri-and-asian-accents-45699808.htm

At first there was the Filipino accent, then Malay accent. Then a guy with distictively local Chinese accent tested the phone, and the caption reads “Singaporean accent.”

My reaction, had I been eating cereal.

Chinese accent = Singaporean accent??

Really??!!

And that Malay and Indian accents were not in any way “Singaporean?” I guess that Freudian slip clarifies the way you think, and how you look at others.

Mr John Chan, CNET Asia editor, you’ve really got some editing to do.

Tsk tsk.

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How to Eat Sup Tulang

(Image credit)

Ramadan is a time for reflection. So today we shall be reflecting on one of the bountiful sustenance which we are blessed with – food glorious food.

Anthony Bourdain calls bone marrow as “God’s butter.” Arguably the way to enjoy marrow is one in sup tulang (lit. bone soup).

Go to Beach Road hawker center (that’s Golden Mile Food Court for ye tourists) and get yourself a plate of sup tulang from any of the established stalls in the basement. What you will obtain is an almost meatless piece of lamb bone in vivid red gravy – deceivingly bloody to some. But trust me, it is cooked to perfection.

First things first, get the marrow out. To do so, knock the bone ever way you can. If the place is packed, look around you for inspiration. Sup tulang should be the one of the more commonly requested items there, so you should find no excuse for lacking inspiration. If your hand-eye coordination let you down at the moment when it really counts, use a straw.

Success comes in the form of a cylindrical piece of wobbly jelly-like substance. Don’t consume it all at once as the distinct taste may overwhelm you. It is bone marrow after all. Connoisseurs revel at the opportunity to complement it with the rest of the meal; take the piece of bread, press it against the marrow so that a small chunk of it sticks to the pastry, and then dip the whole thing in the scintillating red gravy.

By now you should have in front of you a bite-sized scarlet piece of heaven. Do not place it in your mouth yet; enjoy the aroma while allowing the bread fully soaks the gravy goodness that actually makes you crave clogged arteries.

Then put it in your mouth.

(Image credit)

Instantly your tongue will be caressed by the delicately-balanced red sauce. It is sufficiently spicy, and wonderfully savory. Yet almost teasing your senses with the perfect equilibrium of sweetness. By now, the gravy would have enveloped your mouth, spreading itself thin. You may have thought the taste sensation is over, but at that moment the the marrow will almost instantaneously melt and suddenly reawaken your tastebuds, only this time more emphatically multiplying the aftertaste of the sublime gravy, this round with a distinct creamy sensation.

In just a moment, you will suddenly find that only the the initial container of it all – the bread – is left in your mouth. Its momentary presence between your teeth is mocking at best, merely so you have something tangible to react to; the pathetic act of chewing to physically register your pleasure while the material sensation dissipates as quickly as it began.

God’s butter. Appreciated more in Ramadan.

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I won’t be hanging my flag

(Image credit)

I have never in my life had the urge to hang the national flag outside my home and be a part those of think that patriotism is proven with a pieces of symmetrically lined up cloths hanging on buildings. Such representations are somewhat of an oxymoron ni current times, and even more so hypocritical; flags, fireworks, and a full parade is emphasized over a fair and just, and transparent leadership.

Well, be it as it may, a building covered in red-white patches is ubiquitous come August every year. For those who wants to demonstrate patriotism through such means, so be it – they are free to do so. It’s their property anyway, and they can hang their undergarments to prove how not insecure they are, for all I care.

But freedom of expression is hardly a one-way street; and so I take issue with those who compel you to hang the flag. The corridor is arguably a common area that these patriots can peruse as well, but when a coveted wall can only be accessed through my home, too bad then.

You see, every year there’s this group of aunties who persistently knock on doors to ensure that a flag is hung outside the bedroom window. I relented in the past, due to combination of their persistence and on my part, the insistence of some peace and quiet. This year however, I think I have the upper hand. Ramadan is here, I’ll be at work during the day, and at night (hopefully) praying at the mosque. So their incessant knocking won’t be answered by anyone.

But I know they’ve been knocking, evident by the brand-new packaged flag found at my doorstep after work one day.Which brings me to another point: wastage. I am not the only one in Singapore who receives a brand new flag every year. And I still have those from yesteryears folded in some nook in my storeroom. How much are they spending on this? These people should know that it is not important for every single house to be furnished with a flag.

Also with the onslaught of foreigners in my country, seems these days anyone can be a Singaporean. As many others who are born here, I sometimes feel that I’m a foreigner in my own country. And as long as the politicians think that profit from cheap foreign labor can compensate for nation building, methinks the country is betraying its people for money.

So, in the spirit of Ramadan, I will avoid wastage, be truthful to myself, and put my flags up – for sale.

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Post-GE2011: Where are my real Malay-Muslim leaders?

A member of the infamous million-strong PAP Makcik Batallion. How can the opposition win them over? (Image credit)

So GE2011 wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I am not happy with the results. To be frank, I was hoping that Tin Pei Ling and the whole of PAP Marine Parade team to succumb under the pressure of NSP and Nicole Seah, but let’s focus on the Malay issues.

Did the bulk of Malay-Muslim voters still side with PAP? Let’s see.

A day after polling day, hey-Muslims-be-less-strict-lah LKY and his dutiful son LHL came out a day just to rub a bucketful of salt and sand into the gaping wound. The former insisting that his comments didn’t affect Malay votes (link), and the in latter’s exact words: “I believe that the Malay votes were with us in this general election. I think Yaacob (Ibrahim) would confirm that.” (link)

I take it their electoral analysts have really managed to narrow down the vote patterns based on the ballot boxes. So do the Malays really forgive that fast?

Then two days later I found myself having teh tarik with some friends, and naturally GE hogged the conversation.

“You know,” said a friend. “I think the reason the opposition failed to get more seats was because of their weakest link.”

“Weakest link? You mean Chiam See Tong?” said another who’s more concerned with emotional articulation than substance. Fair point though given he’s one of those first-time voter.

“No, not him. I mean, the Malays in the opposition lah,” the friend quipped.

True enough, I thought.

To be honest, I cannot even name more than two of the Malay opposition candidates correctly. And the one I can name correctly is because I know he looks very familiar – which I found out later he’s a friend’s acquaintance.

Most of us followed the frantic 9 days of campaigning. But can you recall a time where a Malay opposition candidate was singled out because of merit? Not once. Heck, even TPL garnered more publicity than any of the Malay opposition candidates. Granted for the wrong reason, but still, why is there no prominent Malay opposition candidate?

I know of so-called up-and-coming Malay professionals who claimed they were courted to join the PAP, invitied to one of those tea parties, and even interviewed. But none of them were even appraoched by the opposition parties. I know the opposition lack resources and funds, but they really gotta work the ground. And if they are really serious about getting Malay votes, the have got to find the right Malay candidates.

For me, I like the opposition not because of their Malay candidates, but because of their manifestos and policies. Really, it’s a world apart from the pro-corporatist PAP which doens’t sem care if the rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer. It’s like the freaking GDP is their holy grail, and if they get that, all other problems are magically solved.

But somehow, it seems to me that a bulk of the Malays are not able to process anything beyond the candidates personality or qualifications. Of course, the extra cash ala Grow and Share helps too, especially to those who are cash-strapped and regard the handout as a literallifesaver.

Yet this particular Malay demography do raise a pertinent point for the opposition parties to ponder; they don’t want some Amat, Mamat or Rahmat to represent them in parliament. Read again: these electorate don’t care about policies. They see themselves in a weak state, and they want someone highly qualified to be their voice in parliament because of that feel-good factor. I know how irrelevant a Malay PAP Member of Parliament is for the Malay-Muslim cause, but again it seems that to this particular demography, it doesn’t matter. So read this again: Choosing between some Malay diploma holder or obscure businessman or financial consultant, I really believe they will instead pick someone with a “Dr” behind their name. See their logic? Irrational as it is, you gotta whink like one to win their hearts.

And then comes the next issue, and here’s my personal grouse. The Malay-Muslim Singaporeans – in general – should better position themselves in politics in order to ensure that they stand a chance to actually shape the direction of Singapore. Look, I’m not saying we go about doing some covert ultra-right-wing nationalist underground clan, but the own community should make sure that they are represented in parliament with good, strong Malay-Muslim individuals.

Look at the other minority, the Indians. We have a whole lot to learn from them in politics. Be it in the PAP or opposition, they have really capable people represented there. Look at the likes of Pritam Singh, or Vincent WijeySingha, or even the Singaporean-celup Janil Puthucheary. It’s not hard to imagine one of them to be appointed as ministers. But do we have Malay candidates who shine like that? Where are our real Malay candidates? When will we ever have our own Rajaratnam or Dhanabalan?

It got to start from now. At least to look after our own interests, we should have good, solid, people throughout. We gotta stop thinking short-term and make sure that we are prepared when the next wave comes by the next general election. Maybe it will take another 2-3 terms to see the opposition breaking the two-thirds majority. And that means we have between 5-15 years to groom some solid Malay-Muslim politicians. One who is strongly rooted in the community, with excellent qualifications and experience, and most importantly born with titanium backbones. For own our sake.

And by we, I’m looking you, opposition parties.

PS: Even the semi-foul-mouthed Tuan Johari Awang is looking at these issues closely. He had a blast with his first piece, and has agreed to contribute more to this blog. So keep on a lookout for him in future postings, which will be categorized under “Johari Awang.”

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