Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Happy 50th year

It's still early to wish everyone Happy Merdeka and I am usually not patriotic in thaaaaat sense but when Dr. D sent me a very touching email about his happiness getting a Malaysian PR just a week or two ago (he's Anglo-American), I thought I'd share with you his mail (I have gotten his permission to post his mail here in my blog)

Sometimes we don't know how blessed we are as Malaysians.It will take someone who has been around telling us that our grass is greener than others.Wah, me so semangat.

Dr. D, congrats on you becoming a family member.Welcome home!

Dr. D's email:


When President Kennedy was assassinated, I was
standing in the lobby of the International Student
Center on the Stanford University campus. My legs gave
out beneath me and I fell into a nearby chair. Almost
everyone my age remembers very well that split second
when the history of my country was changed forever.

Killing had entered American life. Not the far-away
killing in Vietnam, but the very nearby killing of one
of the most beloved American presidents in modern
times. Everyone everywhere seemed to love JFK. The
Global popularity of American presidents since then
has done nothing but fall, until one of the most hated
presidents now occupies the White House.

And so has the ethical credibility of the office. The
big lies started with the assassination itself. No one
yet knows who was responsible. Then these lies
escalated with the “body-bag” counts coming in from
Vietnam as JFK’s successor tried to justify a losing
war – inflated enemy dead, much reduced American dead.

Many of my generation, sent to Vietnam or not, were
profoundly traumatized by that undeclared, therefore
illegal war. I myself made my escape to Jakarta in
1969, to seriously take up my practice of Islam. Islam
was seen to be a viable ethical and spiritual response
to unfolding events when the great Muhammad Ali
embraced the religion, and then did jail time to
escape serving in the military. The conversion of
“white America” began then. My own conversion occurred
after that “escape Ramadan” of 1969, to the home of my
future Ustaz in Indonesia.

To make a long, sad story short, I was awarded PR in
Malaysia the other day. My initial happiness was that
no one could henceforth order me to return to the USA
against my will. My aversion to any and all
government-sanctioned killing, no matter whose
government, was exonerated.

I am now a Permanent Resident in one of the few
countries in the world where the routine
extra-judicial killing of human beings is not taking
place, unlike Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines,
Myanmar, Pakistan, and many other countries, including
of course, those killings sanctioned by the USA in
Iraq, Afghanistan, and perhaps presently in Iran.

Let’s go back to 1961. The real beginning of my PR
happiness took place on a Bangkok city bus in that
year. Even before the appalling entry of assassination
into modern American political life, I was smitten
with the very natural beauty of a young Thai bus girl
as she took my fare. For the first time in my life, I
became aware that cosmetics were not necessarily the
key to feminine beauty. Here was a woman whose every
move seemed graceful and unstudied, whose face
radiated happiness and friendliness without any paint.

So my first disaffection with American life took place
when I returned from this youthful journey to Thailand
and many other countries along the “Silk Road”.
American women simply did not look very beautiful to
me any more, and the more cosmetics they used, the
less beautiful they appeared to me. Only now, looking
back from the standpoint of my new PR, can I
appreciate that my heart’s “inner dream” of living
abroad really began then.

When I awoke the first morning after having my PR “in
hand”, I felt so light. It was as if a ton of extra,
unwanted concerns had been removed from my mind. I was
a free man. No more stressful border crossings,
wondering if maybe somebody turned me in to some
immigration blacklist as had happened to other
westerners I knew. No more reminders that I was only a
guest in this or that country. No more having to
report and beg permission from various immigration

And on a more subtle level, no more
difficult-to-answer questions like, “Going back
home?”, which people always used to ask me as I rolled
my suitcase full of laundry through the streets of my
neighborhood on the way to the “dobi”. No more having
to be polite to aggressive, man-hating, painted
western women, nowadays proud, so proud, to have slept
with many men and tried many drugs. Another American
convert friend of mine married a Malay woman because,
as he put it, the only thing his recent American
girlfriends seemed to know well was the price of
street drugs and the use of various sex toys.

Have I established a precedent for younger western
converts? The late, great Syed Hussain Alatas urged me
to discover somewhere within the Malaysian
governmental system a corruption-free path to PR. He
truly wanted to see me “graduate” from “Musafir” to
“Muhajir” status. “Muhajir” as an immigration category
is not recognized by most Muslim governments, for
whatever reason. And now we have found it here in
Putrajaya. Alhamdulilah.

As the days move on, I realize this PR is a truly
priceless gift. When we western converts convert and
then often so eagerly leave our home countries, we
always simply assume there is a Madinah out there some
place, with a real Islamic Ummah that we can migrate
to. Well, there isn’t. There simply isn’t. Almost all
legal systems in use by Muslims copy or were written
by western colonial powers. We are welcome by Muslim
governments only so long as we can work forty hours
per week. If not, we are out. No residence permission,
unless we can manage to buy it (Malaysia’s Second Home
program, or else PR-by-bribe).

Did the Meccan Muhajir have to buy their status in
Madinah? How could they? How could I? They, and I,
lost everything including property and inheritances
when we became “traitors” to our ancestral families.
Can well-meaning Muslims in so-called Muslim countries
take us in and really be Ansar to us? No. They have no
legal basis for doing so, except to give us work and
residence permits as “Musafir”. Pass the age of sixty,
as I have done, and the truth becomes clear. We never
were more than “Musafir” in these countries. “Malaysia
My Second Home”? This is only a program for rich
Musafir or richer non-Muslims. Malaysia is my first
home, not my second home.

Could the Meccan Muhajir go back and forth to see
their families and bank balances in Mecca? Nor can I
go back and forth to the USA for similar purposes. For
years before they passed away, my parents forbade me
to see them unless I re-entered the church. On a
recent visit to the Masjid in my son’s town in
** beeeep, the Imam took me quietly behind closed doors
and told me that white Muslims were under surveillance
and often called for interrogation by FBI and CIA who
were chasing “money trails” in the “war on terrorism”.

Innocent or guilty, the US government can and does
cancel passports for any reason they like, trapping
people in the USA. There was a young American student
at the Islamic University here whose passport was
cancelled so that he could be brought back and jailed
by two American Federal Marshalls. The Malaysian
government said they could do nothing to stop these
Marshalls since all the student’s travel documents
were invalid.

The unspoken thoughts that I have often sensed behind
local Muslim eyes when I tell them I am virtually
penniless is something like, “How could ANYBODY be so
stupid as to come away from the great USA without
money and property? Asians all succeed over there,
what’s wrong with this guy?” After only six years from
date-of-application, Malaysian government authorities,
up to and including the Home Minister, realized that I
really did deserve recognition here as Muhajir, and
they granted me the PR. My cost? Only a few hundred
ringgit altogether.

May Professor Alatas of blessed memory be pleased from
his Afterlife, as he did not live to see the success
of his constant and unswerving dedication to the task
of establishing real “Muhajir” rights for the sake of
future Muslims who may wish to emigrate, or, as the
Malays say, “berhijrah”. As Professor once put it at
the beginning of our long association, ”There must be
some real Ansar around somewhere”.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Nuri Tragedy

I think the whole nation is touched by the recent Nuri tragedy in which all 6 crew and passengers were found dead after almost a week's search.This is the 18th crash in 39 years. I haven't jotted how many deaths which involved trained pilots and personnels.

Sikorsky is no cheap heli and Malaysia is among many affluent countries which uses the heli (safety-conscious and smart countries like Israel and Singapore are NOT among the many operators around the world which include the USA, Canada, Australia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India, etc).US has phased out its use since last year (Jan 2006)and is now using SH-60 Sea Hawk (since the 90s actually)so Mr. DPM...what gives? Why are we still risking the lives of our young, talented people?

I am emotionally touched cos' the pilot was my neighbour and I think this is too close to home.If it happens to your own family member, then I'm sure you'd want to do/say something.How can DPM blame the weather for most of the crashes? My question is was the heli installed with weather radar or whatever you call it? (radar cuaca) that even if the vision is bad, Nuri could still be guided through its radar use?

And why now is the government considering (considering!)buying an automatic gadget which could assist the heli in times of emergency?

As a Muslim, I believe in ajal but I also believe in dying appropriately!(and how doa/usaha can change our qada and qadar).

If Nuri is so safe, we want to see more pembesar/ministers riding it during their official visits outside KL.Don't leave it to the ikan bilis to die before going to war!!!

NEWS UPDATE: The kitchen cabinet announced yesterday that the government would replace sikorsky with another heli in 2-3 years' time.This news is superb! Alhamdulillah.We're yet to know why it'd take so long to get rid of nuri helis.Why can't it happen immediately? (nuri grounded?)

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I've been home almost 3 weeks now.Not a min passed without me doing something or going somewhere.I was there for my mom's second angio.She's with me cos' she has some physio sessions for one whole month.

Chan is also here visiting from Hanoi.Last night I was at Tun Musa Hitam's talk at Sunway Resort Hotel.He gave some new perspectives on FELDA and how it slowed down rural-urban drift and helped with rural development.Issues on race and class were raised openly.KJ was there too, looking like some Bollywood movie star.He spoke very good English but nampak very young and his thinking was also very young. :))