Archive for May, 2009

31
May
09

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O YOU who have attained to faith! When you are told, ” Make room for one another in your collective life”, do make room: [and in return,] God will make room for you [in His grace].

And whenever you are told, “Rise up [for a good deed]”, do rise up; [and] God will exalt by [many] degrees those of you who have attained to faith and [above all,] such as have been vouchsafed [true] knowledge: for God is fully aware of all that you do.

AL – MUJADALAH (11) 

 

 EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE?

The Cabinet decision to limit the number of subjects for SPM to 10 from next year is a wise move. The Minister of Education must stand by this decision and not be swayed by the ten percent of students and their supporters who think that genius is quantifiable.

These young Malaysians, encouraged by enthusiastic parents and teachers and artificially boosted by media attention, have grown to believe that the 20 As on their SPM certificate mark them as superior academic achievers who deserve more than a special consideration in the queue for tertiary education. It has become the bargaining point for financial aid and scholarships and other accolades they think they deserve.

So much so, these exam geniuses and paper chasers are threatening to sideline the average Fifth former who sits for the 9 or 10 subjects recommended in a balanced school curriculum. So much so, those who score 9 or 10 As are no longer regarded as outstanding because the others have given more of their time and effort to double their As.    

 The danger in subscribing to the belief that excellence in education is quantifiable is that it will only perpetuate an education philosophy and teaching methodologies where the assessment of academic performance is done purely by examinations. School tests and government examinations using multiple choice questions are easily scored but are they a reliable measure of academic excellence?  

 As a beneficiary of the Malaysian education system at primary, secondary and tertiary levels I would like to say that my peers and I have fully benefited from a system that provided a good balance between the academic and the co-curricular. We went through a system where academic subjects were handled as expertly in the classroom as Physical Education was in the school field. Our subject teachers were as enthusiastic about History and Economics as they were when we participated in inter-school sports and debates.

 There was of course the school loyalty and pride when students did well both in the academic and co-curricular arenas but there was none of the glamour and sensationalism that accompanies the release of UPSR, SPM and STPM results  today.

 There were of course the smart alecs and geniuses among us who went on to achieve excellence in their post-graduate studies and careers but they have remained grounded and well balanced individuals.

 As a retired educationist involved in language education in secondary schools for 7 years and in a public university for 24 years, I would like to add that excellence in education does not lie in the string of As one collects but in the thinking and rational beings that the national education system nurtures. Provided the system does encourage the students to think and reason!

 It is time to revamp the evaluation system in Malaysian schools to include continuous classroom assessment and project work, and co-curricular activities where students are given ample opportunities to interact and communicate face -to-face with their teachers and peers.

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27
May
09

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But [there is many a one] who says to his parents [whenever they try to imbue him with faith in God]: ” Fie upon both of you! Do you promise me that I shall be brought forth [from the dead], although [so many] generations have passed away before me?” And [while] they both pray for God’s help [and say], ” Alas for thee! For, behold, God’s promise always comes true!” – he but answers, ” All this is nothing but fables of ancient times!”

It is [such as] these upon whom the sentence [of doom] will fall due, together with the [other sinful] communities of invisible beings and humans that have passed away before their time. Verily, they will be lost: 

AL – AHQAF( 17 – 18)

 

SOUL FOOD

Today was a day for my soul!  Today I hosted the fortnightly usrah led by Datin Nik Noraini, attended by about three dozen ladies who regularly partake of the sessions held at the home of a VVIP.

Today I hope the barakah and rahmah of  the Quranic teachings and concepts articulated so lucidly  by Hamka in TASAUF MODEN  and presented in such an animated and lively manner by our ustazah will nourish our minds and feed our souls.

Today these lovely ladies who are the daughters of beloved mothers and fathers, the sisters of beloved siblings, the wives of beloved husbands, the mothers of beloved children, the grandmothers of beloved grandchildren were united in their pursuit of  qana’ah, ikhtiar, tawakkal and all things beautiful in the holy Quran. It was a wonderful solidarity of women in common pursuit of the things that matter most in life – love, happiness and the unity of the family and community!

Deepak Chopra on a Larry King women’s panel last week refers to the “nurturing” qualities of women and how much better he thinks governments and the world will be if more women lead the way. Islam teaches us “syurga di bawah tapak kaki ibu”.

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Women are nurturers of not only the family but of each other, of other women who come into our lives. We are generous in our support when our sisters are in grief and in trouble, and give freely of our time and counsel. 

How wonderful I thought if the same solidarity can radiate from our homes and families into the larger community outside and in an even bigger circle into the bigger society that constitutes our nation! 

If every Malaysian embraces the goodness in the teachings of his/her faith and religion and practises this in his/her private and professional life, in his/her wordly endeavours, in his/her spiritual pursuits we will make for a better nation of people.

If every community is sincere in its efforts to build a nation that accomodates the needs and aspirations of  its own as well that of the other communities, Malaysia can boast of being truly progressive.

If every race or ethnic group recognises and accepts one another’s differing socio-cultural backgrounds and interests we are on our way to becoming a truly integrated society!

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If goodwill and good sense prevails we can be assured of better times ahead!

24
May
09

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And, indeed, We sent our messages unto people before thy time, [O Prophet,] and visited them with misfortune and hardship so that they might humble themselves: yet when the misfortune decreed by Us befell them, they did not humble themselves, but rather their hearts grew hard, for Satan had made all their doings seem goodly to them. Then, when they had forgotten all that they had been told to take to heart, We threw open to them the gates of all [good] things, until – even as they were rejoicing in what they had been granted – We suddenly took them to task: and lo! they were broken in spirit; and [in the end,] the last remnant of those folk who had been bent on wrongdoing was wiped out.

For all praise is due to God, the Sustainer of all the worlds.

AL – AN’AM (42 – 45)

 

MALAYSIA O MALAYSIA

Melayu O Melayu bangsaku!

Malaysia O Malaysia bumi tumpah darahku!

Rasa sedih melanda diriku tiap kali merenung  nasib orang Melayu di bumi  mereka sendiri!

Rasa marah menghantui perasaanku bila dicabar bumi ini bukan bumi Melayu!

Kurang faham dan kurang ajar orang yang mengatakan orang Melayu tidak ada tempat istimewa di tanah air yang mereka warisi sejak beratus tahun; yang mereka lindungi sejak zaman nenek moyang; yang mereka bina dengan kudrat dan titik peluh bangsa sendiri; yang mereka cintai dengan jiwa rohani bangsa yang dipanggil Melayu!

KEMELAYUAN ORANG MELAYU berasal daripada tanah tumpah darah mereka dan adat resam yang menyelubungi  hidup mati mereka; maruah terbina daripada semangat melindungi kepentingan bangsa dan agama daripada serba ancaman luar dan dalam; jati diri bersemangat kerana bumi yang mereka cintai berkembang  mekar atas usaha gigih anak bangsa! 

Bumi orang berbangsa Inggeris dinamakan England, bumi orang berbangsa Cina dipanggil China, bumi orang berbangsa India disebut India! Tiap-tiap satunya kelompok manusia yang disebut “bangsa” megah dengan warisan bahasa, adat budaya dan kepercayaan dan agama masing-masing walaupun sudah lama meninggalkan tanah asal dan merantau di bumi asing!

Jika merenangi lautan yang lebar dan menyeberangi tanah yang luas sekali pun bangsa Inggeris tetap Inggeris, bangsa Cina tetap Cina, bangsa India tetap India! Ini hakikat gen bangsa atau ras yang tidak boleh dipisahkan! Rupa dan bentuk gen asal kita tetap Inggeris, Cina, India dan Melayu! Darah yang mengalir dalam tubuh badan kita jelas menandakan gen bangsa kita! Tidak  boleh dibina gen bangsa Malaysia!

Orang Melayu yang berhijrah ke Afrika, Pulau Cocos, Amerika dan England tetap Melayu dan sedikit sebanyak semangat budaya Melayu, identiti Melayu, maruah Melayu kekal kukuh dalam hati dan jiwa mereka!  Begitu juga orang Inggeris, Cina dan India!

Salahkah di bumi mereka sendiri yang dipanggil Malaya dan selepas itu Malaysia, orang Melayu melindungi kepentingan bangsa mereka? Janggalkah semangat kemegahan orang Melayu mendukung warisan mereka dan mengekalkan maruah bangsa dan agama meluap-luap apabila dihina oleh orang lain,?

Sedih melihat orang Melayu dihina di bumi mereka sendiri!  Jika orang Melayu bangun mempertahankan kepentingan mereka yang terancam salahkah?

Bukankah mereka memang sudah  berkurun-kurun berkongsi sumber dan hasil tanah air dengan orang lain yang menetap di bumi Melayu?  Tidakkah orang Melayu sentiasa menunjukkan semangat beradab dan beralah hidup seiring dengan bangsa bangsa  lain yang menetap di sini? Semangat akomodasi yang dilaung-laungkan oleh penjajah? Semangat toleransi yang digalakkan oleh pemimpin kebangsaan? 

Orang Melayu dipujuk  berkerjasama dengan orang Cina dan orang India yang nenek moyang mereka memilih bumi Melayu untuk dijadikan bumi angkat.  Bukankan semua ini terbukti dalam sejarah negeri dan negara? Sekarang semua bangsa di negara Malaysia diseru bergabung tenaga memperjuangkan kepentingan bumi tumpah darah mereka. Bukankah ini semangat patriotisme dan identiti kebangsaan dan jatidiri negara yang disuarakan oleh pemimpin yang serba rupa!

MERDEKA! WAWASAN 2020, BANGSA MALAYSIA! SATU MALAYSIA!  SLOGAN – SLOGAN yang mempunyai pengertian yang agak sama! Semuanya mempunyai matlamat menyatukan, memperkukuhkan, mempertingkatkan, memperkembangkan maruah dan jatidiri bangsa-bangsa di  bumi Malaysia. Bukan mereka dipaksa melupakan identiti sendiri dan menjadi Melayu! 

Tidak boleh dinafikan bangsa-bangsa Malaysia mempunyai budaya dan adat resam yang berlainan!  Bukannya mereka diajak mengasimilasikan budaya Melayu! Tidaklah mereka dipaksa melupakan sejarah dan warisan budaya dan bahasa sendiri! Berasimilasi dengan bangsa Melayu!  Mereka hanya diminta merperjuangkan bersama Bahasa Kebangsaan negara yang memudahkan komunikasi antara rakyat berbilang bangsa!

 

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Jika Bahasa Inggeris memainkan peranan mengintegrasikan masyarakat antarabangsa di prasada dunia, Bahasa Melayu berperanan mengintegrasikan masyarakat Malaysia di peringkat kebangsaan!

Rakyat Malaysia mempunyai hak asasi kemanusian dan kewarganegaraan yang sama!

Tetapi tidak boleh dinafikan bangsa bangsa di Malaysia mempunyai kepentingan budaya dan warisan yang berlainan!

22
May
09

026

…And never let your hatred of people who would bar you from the Inviolable House of Worship lead you into the sin of aggression; but rather help one another in furthering virtue and God-consciousness, and do not help one another in furthering evil and enmity; and remain conscious of God; for, behold, God is severe in retribution!

AL – MA’IDAH (2)  

 

CULTURE AND HERITAGE

So much of us is shaped by the culture we grow up in and with, and the heritage we inherit!

This can be something as unassuming as family culture  or peer culture, or somethings more definitive in the culture of our community and our people. We internalise the many facets of this culture and it becomes part of our psyche and our souls! It directs our lives and influences our thinking, conduct and behaviour. We embrace it as it grounds us and gives us a sense of identity and belonging! 

Rites and rituals apart, the influences of culture are most of the time unseen and unheard. They are subtle and intangible. They are there in our midst  in our home and community among the people we are closest to.  Much as we want to resist and escape their clutches we are in the end a part of  them. They become our heritage and the basis of our lives. And we consciously and unconsciously perpetuate them!

Amidst new exposures and experiences, a part of us will  advertantly or inadvertantly display the  myriad manifestations  of our culture and heritage in  our faiths and beliefs,  manners and mannerisms, dress and decor, cuisine and cullinary skills, nurturing and mothering;  each one  underscored by the all-embracing, all-pervading, all-encompassing values, customs and traditions!

Last night there was a reunion of sorts with my KGV cronies of a truly mixed Malaysian heritage! 4 Chinese, 2 Indians and 2 Malays – which was roughly the ratio of the urban English school population of the 60s. There were fewer Malays in the Sixth Form Arts and Science classes that we were a part of in KGV Seremban. Many of them would have dropped out after LCE or MCE in the smaller town schools or schools in the rural areas. They would not have made it!

 The KGV cronies talked about this and that! Personal and national issues! All was bared and no holds barred as the 8 old school friends  laid out  their almost 50 years of experience! Almost as old as Merdeka! We laughed at infidelities and lamented disloyalties. We were delirious with the joy of friendship but were sad at the chasms of  national disunity and disparity!

But one thing was certain! We had not changed from the teenagers and young adults that we were despite the passing years! Each of us has remained true to ourselves, our personality and character, our hopes and dreams, our faiths and beliefs, our family values and traditions!

All the more I’m convinced that culture and heritage shape us more than we would care to admit!

20
May
09

031

IT IS HE who has created you [all] out of one living entity, and out of it brought into being its mate, so that man might incline [with love] towards woman. And so when he has embraced her, she conceives [what at first is] a light burden, and continues to bear it. Then, when she grows heavy [with child], they both call unto God, their Sustainer, “If Thou indeed grant us a sound [child], we shall most certainly be among the grateful!”

AL – ARAF (189)

WEDDING JOY

It was a beautiful wedding!

It’s the first traditional Indian wedding I’ve witnessed at close range, made all the more meaningful because the bride Rebecca Ranjini is the daughter of my good friend Vimala Sundram. The bride was resplendent in two beautifully hued wedding saris while the groom Rabindran Ramachandran was handsomely dignified. The couple are really well-matched and look so good together.

The rites and rituals went without a hitch from the chantings of the priest in Sanskrit to the cracking of the coconuts to the tying of the thali to the bride’s stepping on the stone to vow her fidelity. The groom did not have to symbolically make the same promise – something which Vim and I were not too happy about! 

Vim and I go back a long way in time and space – from the times of a blissfully happy childhood and the spaces of Hose Road and Rahang in Seremban. We were neighbours and the members of our two families shared a great friendship and camaraderie. We’ve all seen some ups and downs in our lives and have become only stronger and more resilient with each passing challenge!

 

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Those were the days “of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower” . While the youngest of the Dr Said siblings, plump pre teen Bon played gasing, guli and kunda kandi with Vim’s brothers and the neighbourhood boys, her older sisters babysat  little Vim and Kamala. My sister Tik was Kamala’s kindergarten teacher at St Pauls. 

Later, the much slimmer Halimah Mohd Said was to share some joyous Sixth Form moments at King George V with James Sundram and the gang which included former Cabinet Minister Fong Chan Onn and the girl he married Tan Lay Hwa, Sonnie Fong (of Adelaide), Peh Foong Kwan (of UNDP), Punch Gunalan (of BAM fame) and Philip Mathews (of NST and ISIS). My favourite teacher in KGV was the wonderfully kind Mr Ung Tat Hean now a near octogenarian whom I last saw at the soft launch of Galeri JASA in Gedong Lalang last October.

How time has flown and friendships have grown even stronger in middle age! How wonderfully warm our relationships! How naturally and spontaneously integrated our faiths, our beliefs, our ideals, our dreams, our visions !

 

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One Malaysia can learn a lot from people like us!

17
May
09

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ALLURING unto man is the enjoyment of worldly desires through women, and children, and heaped-up treasures of gold and silver, and horses of high mark, and cattle, and lands. All this may be enjoyed in the life of this world – but the most beauteous of all goals is with God.

Say, “Shall I tell you of better things than those [earthly joys]? For the God-conscious there are, with their Sustainer, gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide, and spouses pure, and God’s goodly acceptance.”

And God sees all that is in [the hearts of] His servants –

AL – IMRAN (14 – 15)

 

JUDGE JOHN DEED

You’ve guessed right!

My current favourite TV programme is BBCE’s Judge John Deed aired on Saturday night with a repeat on Sunday afternoon. It is packed with legal substance, the best of  English language use and an array of human character types in positions of authority and power. It is filled with  the wisest legal argumentations and judgements on a wide variety of cases presided over by Judge John Deed.

What intrigues me about the series is the person of John Deed himself, sensitively portrayed by actor  Martin Shaw. While highly principled and displaying the most admirable attributes that the word “integrity” connotes in his professional capacity as a judge, the character fails miserably as a man.

He is weak where the flesh is concerned and succumbs to a host of fleeting romps in the hay with legal colleagues and even women who appear in the cases before him. His one overpowering love is of course the extremely bright but erratically aloof  barrister Jo Mills (Jenny Seagrove) who loves him dearly but is repulsed by his philandering ways.

 

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The on/off relationship between the two and the moments of great tenderness or fiery spats are worth waiting for – especially if, like me, you are an incurable romantic!  I yearn for the day the two get married but then – that will be so so boring! And that will be the end of the series!

The deep underlying cause of John Deed’s  psychological malfunction is a troubled childhood as an adopted child whose adoptive mother never showed him much love and finally committed suicide. He is thus constantly searching for that one love who adores him for what he is and not for the advantages to be derived from associating with a wise judge. Under the mighty regal robes;  beneath the right  honourable wig;  on the distinguished esteemed bench;  in the respected august court room – is a puny human being in search of love!

How ironic the twists and turns of human existence ! Is this what we all come down to in the end?

 

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Adding to the intrigues of crime and law and society’s grapplings with human failings is the office politicking and backbiting and professional rivalry which impede and slow down real progress. Of course abuse of power and corruption rear their heads in subtle and not so subtle ways in English society!

I can’t help reading more into this English scenario however much it is embellished for TV audiences! I can’t help seeing the parallels  in real time Malaysia, in our daily lives, with family, friends and colleagues, among the highest offices/ officers of the land! 

Is there a lesson for us here? Do we have the right to be so judgemental and condemning when our own private  lives are so vulnerable?

I believe we have to set our own homes and our own hearts and our own souls in order first before we expect the same from our leaders! Or should it be the other way round?

14
May
09

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AND DEVOUR NOT one another’s possessions wrongfully, and neither employ legal artifices with a  view to devouring sinfully, and knowingly, anything that by right belongs to others.

AL – BAQARAH (188)

 

EXPLOITATION AND ABUSE

It looks like Malaysia is not the only country having problems with politicians abusing their rights and privileges!

It looks like Malaysians are not the only people disgusted with the unethical and immoral antics of their elected leaders!

Should we feel assured that Great Britain (renown for the greatness of Empire, and long established in parliamentary democracy and the rule of law) is struggling with the same problems of modern immorality as its former colonies?

Should we feel smug that the British who are so proud of their established standards of etiquette and decorum are not spared the incursions of modernity and a more fluid interpretation of  morality?

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The British people are reeling with disgust over MPs’ exploitation of  their rights and privileges. A report by American journalist Heather Brooke in The Daily Telegraph  has revealed the most trivial claims made by MPs from all parties, which include claims for pet food and garden manure and many more things of a personal nature. 

They are shocked that taxpayers’ money is being channeled towards maintaining the private lives and whims and fancies of politicians. In one case, Cabinet minister Hazel Blears is said to have made a huge profit selling her property which the public helped to maintain.

This is just the tip of the iceberg and there’ll be many more revelations I’m sure of the liberties taken by politicians to interpret parliamentary rules and regulations! So many more grey areas will emerge as to what is allowable and what is not in the conduct and behaviour of public servants. 

FOR SERVANTS THEY ARE INDEED! AND SERVANTS DO NOT TAKE LIBERTIES!

Closer to home we hear of Ministers using public funds for family holidays under the cover of official trips! Even expenses incurred by household maids are claimed out of their rights and privileges! Excess baggage from shopping trips are thrown together with official baggage! This – apart from the wining and dining!

I hope the KPIs proposed by the Prime Minister for the cabinet and by the Chief Secretary for civil servants will have a means of measuring a Ministry’s expenditure for official as well as unofficial needs. And this must be made available for public scrutiny!

I hope Ministries and their departments are transparent in their claims for entertainment, gifts, favours and other things included as necessary in the line of duty.  A list of the things allowable in the line of duty must be published for public knowledge! 

THE ABUSE AND RAMPAGE OF PUBLIC FUNDS AND TAXPAYERS’ MONEY MUST BE STOPPED!




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