My Portal 2 Special Edition

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My Portal 2 Special Edition

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Malaysian Media Row Casts Race Policy in Stark Light – WSJ.com

April 28, 2011

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A row over the role of Malaysia’s state-controlled newspapers and television networks is throwing back the curtain on how racial scare-mongering is becoming an increasingly common political tool in a country that presents itself as a beacon for tolerance and diversity.

Last September, shortly after being elected president of Malaysia’s journalists’ union, veteran reporter Hata Wahari issued a statement urging the country’s newspapers to steer clear of publishing racially inflammatory articles.

Now Mr. Hata is on the brink of losing his job at one of Malaysia’s most influential newspapers, embarrassing Prime Minister Najib Razak and potentially setting back his efforts to modernize Malaysia’s resource-rich economy and unwind its race-based affirmative action policies.

Mr. Hata, 41 years old, says he thought his statement echoed Mr. Najib’s “1 Malaysia” campaign to create a level playing field for all Malaysians, whether they are from the country’s majority ethnic-Malay population or from its Chinese and Indian minorities.

“I asked the media to be less biased and be fair in its reporting to all parties,” Mr. Hata said. “A few months earlier, the prime minister said the media should be free.”

Mr. Hata’s employers at Utusan Melayu Bhd., publisher of the Utusan Malaysia daily and owned by the main government party, the United Malays National Organization, took exception to Mr. Hata’s remarks and suspended him from duty. On April 14 a disciplinary panel found Mr. Hata guilty of, among other things, revealing company secrets. He will find out whether he will be dismissed in the next few days.

Executives at the publishing company didn’t respond to requests for comment.

At the same time, the newspaper is stepping up its “1 Malay” campaign to unite ethnic Malays against ethnic Chinese political groups that they accuse of plotting to win political power. A prominent Malay rights group called Perkasa has joined Utusan’s “1 Malay” campaign and some influential ethnic Malay politicians have given their support, despite widespread consternation elsewhere in Malaysia.

The controversy is becoming a significant political headache for the British-educated Mr. Najib. He has tried to distance himself from the ethnic Malay nationalists and, since taking over as premier in 2009, he has tried to woo the support of Malaysia’s ethnic minorities by gradually rolling back a decades-old system of race-based preferences designed to help ethnic Malays catch up with their more prosperous compatriots.

Malaysia’s affirmative action program was introduced in the early 1970s and is one of the most extensive such programs in the world, providing ethnic Malays with discounts on homes, stakes in initial public offerings and better access to universities. In many ways, the policies have helped provide a degree of stability in this racially diverse nation of 28 million people.

But Mr. Najib argues that economic reforms will help lure more investment and propel Malaysia out of the ranks of the developing world’s middle income countries and onto a higher growth path. He has already begun leveling the racial playing field in many key areas and has said he hopes his message will resonate with voters.

By law, Mr. Najib must call a national election by spring 2013, but many analysts say the polls could come earlier, and Mr. Najib has said he is considering the best time to call a vote.

Now, some analysts say the “1 Malay” campaign threatens to alienate the voters Mr. Najib has been trying to win back after many of them voted for opposition parties in the last national elections in 2008. Their shifting allegiance enabled opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to prevent the ruling National Front from taking a two-thirds majority in Malaysia’s Parliament for the first time in years.

“The biggest problem for the government is that this campaign could backfire,” says Bridget Welsh, an expert on Malaysian politics at the Singapore Management University. “It could bring the opposition closer together, especially in urban areas where race-based politics holds less sway.”

Some analysts say the continuing trial of Mr. Anwar for allegedly breaking Malaysia’s sodomy laws could also tighten opposition ranks, although there is also a risk that the alliance of Islamist and left-leaning groups could crack without the charismatic Mr. Anwar to hold it together. One of Mr. Anwar’s former aides accused the opposition leader of sodomizing him in 2008—an allegation Mr. Anwar denies and describes as part of a political conspiracy to end his political career. The 63-year-old father of six was arrested on a similar charge in 1998, which he also denied, and his subsequent conviction was later overturned in 2004.

In the meantime, the snowballing pro-Malay campaign also indicates that some ethnic Malay hard-liners are giving up on the ruling coalition winning back ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indian voters, some analysts say. Instead, ethnic Malay activists appear to be focusing their efforts on creating a solid voting bloc to ensure the primacy of the National Front, which has ruled Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.

And that, economists say, could jeopardize Mr. Najib’s efforts to transform Malaysia’s economy. “It seems he could end up being boxed in by this racialist push,” says Tim Condon, Asia economist with ING in Singapore.

Write to James Hookway at james.hookway@wsj.com

A crying shame really. Guess it is really that hard to let go of the old ways. One wonders though, does this mean that racism is inbuilt in the fabric of the Malaysian media and political establishment? Disappointing really..

The 1980s mujahideen, the Taliban and the shifting idea of jihad | Nushin Arbabzadah | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

April 28, 2011

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Afghan mujahideen in Bagram, 1992

Mujahideen in Bagram, Afghanistan, days before their victory over the communist regime on 28 April 1992. Photograph: AP

28 April marks the 19th anniversary of the mujahideen’s victory over the Red Army forces in Afghanistan. The original mujahideen of the 1980s and today’s Taliban may use the same language of holy war, but their understanding of jihad is worlds apart. The key difference between the original mujahideen and the Taliban is that the former waged a traditional type of jihad. In a traditional jihad, if waged locally, a contest over control of resources takes place between rival strongmen who each run their own private armies. In this scenario, the ultimate legitimacy to rule draws upon military strength, but the contest itself is called jihad simply because Islam is the sole language of political legitimacy.

Crucially, in a traditional jihad, the victorious party has an unspoken right to pillage, rape and loot the conquered population. This is because militia fighters are not paid soldiers in a regular army and hence looting is the material reward they receive for fighting. The original mujahideen followed this traditional pattern of jihad upon coming to power in 1992. Since competition over resources rather than ideology is key to traditional jihad, the mujahideen’s war focused on Kabul where the nation’s wealth and the foreign embassies, another potential source of funding, were to be found.

Judging by a historical account from the 1920s, back then the women and girls of the conquered populations also belonged to the pillage package offered to militia jihadis. Hence, in the diaries of court chronicler Katib Hazara on the siege of Kabul in 1929, we read that the victorious mujahideen of the time had demanded to see the list of girls registered at a Kabul school so as to allocate female students to militia fighters.

Katib’s account might be exaggerated, but the story still reveals that there was an unspoken rule that women and girls were part of the conquest package. As such, the mujahideen’s struggle over Kabul was a continuation of traditional jihad complete with internal rivalries, pillage and looting. The mujahideen were part of the realm of traditional politics in which a conquered region is a turf that can be exploited by strongmen, who call themselves mujahideen so as to appear respectable.

The Taliban’s conquest of Afghanistan in 1996, by contrast, strayed from the path of tradition. In a striking breach of precedence, the Taliban militia did not make use of their unspoken right to pillage and loot. They searched the conquered populations’ homes, but only to confiscate weapons and so ensure a monopoly of violence for their state.

In a comical incident that features in Sabour Bradley’s documentary series The Extreme Tourist, the Taliban saw a poster of Rambo with a machine-gun in the home of an Afghan bodybuilder fan of the Hollywood star Sylvester Stallone. Ignorant of the world beyond the sharia law, the Taliban assumed that Rambo was a family member and told the bodybuilder: “Tell your cousin that he must hand over his machine gun to us.” The bodybuilder’s protestation that the poster depicted a fictional Hollywood hero fell flat with the Taliban, who subsequently imprisoned the man.

The Taliban were exceedingly ignorant – which made them cruel – but there’s no doubt that they saw jihad as a means to establish a state rather than legitimacy to pillage a conquered territory. Building a state was of utmost importance to the Taliban because without it the sharia law could not be enforced. If the mujahideen struggled over resources, the Taliban were concerned with religiosity.

The Taliban’s choice of their capital city, Kandahar, was further evidence of their radically new approach to conquest. As already mentioned, historically Kabul drew its importance from the fact that the nation’s wealth and the foreign embassies were concentrated there. The mujahideen’s vicious fight over the city, which resulted in thousands of dead, and their disregard for public buildings, which they indiscriminately destroyed in rocket attacks, was rooted in the view that the capital city was there to be pillaged by whichever party that came out victorious.

The Taliban, in contrast, disregarded Kabul, moving their capital to the much poorer city of Kandahar. Accounts of Afghans who met Taliban officials all reveal a lack of interest in material goods or symbols of social hierarchy. Meetings would be held seated on the floor in a circle, erasing all signs of hierarchy that traditionally has been part of Afghan court etiquette.

Ironically, such egalitarianism was what the communists had dreamed of in 1978. But in such a deeply religious society, it is not surprising that egalitarianism had to come as part of a religious doctrine. With the Taliban, rural Afghans came to power, ruling over the more sophisticated urban populations. This, too, was a breach of precedence.

Fighting for resources in a traditional fashion complete with looting and pillaging versus fighting for a state that would enforce sharia law even to the point of an obsessive preoccupation with the correct length of young men’s pubic hair is what distinguishes the original mujahideen from their Taliban nemesis.

Both parties use the same language of legitimacy – Islam, jihad, and mujahideen – which adds to the confusion, but their similarities are skin-deep.

Interesting read on the difference between the ‘standard’ mujahideen and the Taliban. Based on this the Taliban might have been better in some ways, no?

A holiday, a funeral and life

April 26, 2011

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It was quite a whirlwind of a week I had. What started out as a visit from my auntie turned into tragedy. I am tired and not in the most stable state of mind regarding this. I will write more when the time comes.

Cest la vie as they say in France.

How to fix any computer – The Oatmeal

April 20, 2011

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ROFL !!

Living in Malaysia is expensive –  Latest news around the world and developments close to home – MSN Malaysia News

April 20, 2011

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If you don’t know already, it’s expensive to live in Malaysia, especially in Kuala Lumpur. A report shows that Malaysians have less purchasing power than many nationals elsewhere.

AP File Photo(AP File Photo)

The Malaysian Insider, an online Malaysian news website, examined the purchasing power of Malaysians in comparison to nationals of other countries. The website cited a 2010 Prices and Wages report by UBS AG, a Swiss banking giant.

Here are the highlights:

The purchasing power of KL residents is 33.8% of New Yorkers; 42% compared to London, 33.7% to Sydney, 32.6% to Los Angeles, and 31.6% to Zurich.

KL workers need to labour 22 minutes for a bread loaf. In comparison, Los Angeles counterparts take 18 minutes. In Sydney, it’s 16 minutes. In Tokyo, 15 minutes. In Zurich, 12 minutes.

The Malaysian Insider also compared broadband prices in Malaysia to those in countries. Even after currency conversion, Malaysia comes out on top… in expensiveness. Here’s the summary:

Kuala Lumpur – 5Mbps broadband package – RM149
London – 10Mbps broadband package – GBP13.50
Melbourne – 5-8Mbps broadband package – AUD40
New York – 7Mbps broadband package – USD41.95

Here’s another tidbit from The Malaysian Insider article:

In KL, a Honda Civic is priced at RM115,000 – 20 times an auditor’s average monthly earnings.

In Melbourne & London, the price is respectively AUD25,000 and GBP19,000 – 3 times an auditor’s average monthly earnings in those places.

Follow MSN Malaysia News on Twitter (twitter.com/mymsnnews) for breaking news in Malaysia and the world.

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Sigh, cest la vie. Somebody in the government do something !! Although I reckon this call for help will fall on deaf ears as western propaganda to divide us. Problem is, most of us actually feel this thing and it is very real. Sigh indeed.

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