Friday, July 31, 2009

Are we reciting the Qur’an correctly?


Listening to beautiful recitations of the Qur’an is enough to soften the hardest of hearts. We feel this even more in Ramadan when we are praying the Taraweeh. The difference between an Imam who recites with Tajweed rules and one who does not can easily be distinguished. We as Muslims are obligated to learn the correct recitation of the Qur’an. We recite the Qur’an in every Salah, but we do not realize the mistakes we may be doing because of incorrect recitation.

What is Tajweed
The word Tajweed linguistically means ‘proficiency’ or ‘doing something well’. It comes from the same root letters as the word ‘Jayyid’ in Arabic (meaning ‘good’). In the context of the Qur’an, Tajweed means to give every letter of the Qur’an its rights and dues while pronouncing them. Apart from the essential characteristics of letters, the rules that apply to them in different situations should also be observed.
The Qur’an was revealed with Tajweed rules applied to it. Angel Jibreel recited the words of Allah to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He recited and showed the Prophet (peace be upon him) the ways in which it was permissible to recite the Qur’an. So it is upon us to observe those rules and recite it in the way it was revealed.
At the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) there was no need for people to study Tajweed because they talked with what is now known as Tajweed. It was natural for them. When the Arabs started mixing with the non-Arabs as Islam spread, mistakes in Qur’an’s recitation started appearing, so the scholars had to record the rules. Today the common Arabic that Arabs speak has changed so much from the classical Arabic in which the Qur’an was revealed that even Arabs have to study Tajweed.

Purpose of Tajweed
The Qur’an is the word of Allah, and its every syllable is from Allah. Its recitation must be taken very seriously. The purpose of the Science of Tajweed in essence is to make the reciter proficient in reciting the Qur’an, observing the correct pronunciation of every letter with the rulings and characteristics which apply to each letter, without any exaggeration or deficiency. And so through this the reciter can recite the Qur’an upon the way of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who received it from Jibreel who received it from Allah Almighty.

Categories of mistakes
Scholars have divided the types of mistakes one might fall into when reciting the Qur’an into two categories:

1. Clear mistakes
Mistakes in words which are clear and inconspicuous, usually changing the meaning. Mistakes related to correct pronunciation of letters so that letters are not mixed up. Examples of clear mistakes:
• Changing one letter into another. For instance, reading Qaaf as Kaaf.
• Changing a short vowel (harakah) into another. For instance, changing Fathah into Damma
• Not observing the elongations (Madd) at all. Reciting them quickly as if there is no Madd so that they turn into the length of a vowel.
• Elongating a normal harakah as if it were a Madd.
• Stopping or starting at an incorrect place so that the meaning is spoilt. Like stopping at ‘Laa ilaaha’ (There is no god), without completing ‘illAllah’ (except Allah).
Majority of the scholars agree that learning Tajweed rules to avoid clear mistakes is an obligation on every Muslim (Fard ‘Ayn).

2. Obscure (hidden) mistakes
Mistakes that have to do with perfecting pronunciation. They are not obvious and are known only to those who have studied Tajweed rules or are experts in this field. Common Muslims may not be able to identify them. Examples of hidden mistakes:
• Not being exact in the elongation of letters For instance, reciting the Madd shorter or longer by a 1/2 or even 1/4 degree.
• Not observing the attributes of each letter perfectly. For instance, slightly rolling the Raa or exaggerating the ‘N’ sound in Noon.
• Not observing the rules of pronunciation of some letters when they are next to each other. The rule of Idghaam, for instance.
• Pronouncing light letters heavy and heavy letters light. However, by doing this, if one changes a letter into another, it will become an obvious mistake.
Learning these rules to avoid the not-so-obvious mistakes is a collective responsibility on the Muslim Ummah (Fard Kifayah) and not necessary on every Muslim. There must be students of knowledge who have learnt it. This is because the Qur’an was revealed with these Tajweed rules applied to it and the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited it back to Jibreel in that way and the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) read it in that way. So reciting the Qur’an with complete Tajweed rules is an established Sunnah.

“And recite the Qur’an (aloud) in a slow, (pleasant tone and) style.” (Qur’an, 73:4)

Tips to learn Tajweed

• Find a Qur’an teacher who has studied Tajweed to teach it you. He or she will listen to your recitation and correct you. Tajweed cannot be learnt from books, because the movements of your mouth as well as the sounds are important. Only a teacher can correct you and make sure you are applying the rules correctly. Most local mosques run Tajweed and Hifz classes. Qur’an recitation is a science that is being passed down from generation to generation through teachers, not just books, with a direct chain to the Prophet (peace be upon him), even till date.

• Find a book containing the rules of Tajweed and learn each rule little by little, applying it as you go along with the help of your teacher. There are many concise Arabic books and in English there are some books as well as tapes to help. Look for books with some drawings showing you how to pronounce each letter.

• Listen to Qur’an tapes of reciters who recite very clearly, at a medium or slow speed like Sheikh Hudhaify or Sheikh Muhammad Hosary. Listen to how they apply the different rules of Tajweed. Repeat after them while trying to apply the rules you’ve learnt. Try to copy their tone and melody as well and see how it changes as the meaning of what they are reciting changes.

• You can get a new Mushaf (copy of the Qur’an), called Mushaf At-Tajweed, which has the rules of Tajweed incorporated in the text of the Qur’an in colour coding. This is very helpful as it prompts you as you go along. There is also a computer program you can buy which highlights Tajweed rules with recitation.

Ref: Qawaa’id At-Tajweed by Dr. Abdul Azeez Abdul Fattah Al-Qari, a teacher at the Islamic University in Madina.

By Fatima Barakatullah

Dubai : Looking for Space



George O’Donohue

Days after the launch of DubaiSat-1, the Dubai Astronomy Group explains the huge spectrum of benefits an interest in the stars can reap. George O’Donohue reports

Four hundred years ago, Galileo Galilei used the first astronomical telescope to get a closer look at the night sky. He wasn’t the first by any means to take a vested interest in the bigger picture beyond the clouds; civilisations beginning (as far as we know) with the Egyptians 6,000 years ago worked out and recorded how to measure time, space, geographical positions and directions using the stars and planets above us.

Astronomy has played a large part in Arab history for many centuries. Building on discoveries by the Greeks and Romans, ancient Arabs used navigational techniques to aid Middle Eastern trading and have promoted this strain of science at local universities since the 13th century.

Fast forward to 2009 and astronomy is once again at the forefront of people’s minds. This month saw launch of the first UAE satellite, DubaiSat1, into space; a breakthrough that will enable a new level of local data collection on a whole range of subjects.

“It will definitely be the beginning of a new era,” says Ankur Bhatia, an Indian engineer who is a member of the Dubai Astronomy Group.

The Dubai Astronomy Group has been active in the UAE since 2000 and now boasts more than 1,200 members. It is headed up by Hasan Ahmad Al Hariri, an Emirati who has been passionate about the subject since his brother brought home a book on the stars in the 1970s, when he was only 14.

“I even slept with that book,” he laughs. “I am not a researcher, I am an amateur, but I am trying to fill up other people’s lives with something more meaningful than just commuting between home and work. To give people a passion towards their environment, and get them to look at the bigger picture.”

He continues, “Astronomy is the model for all science, it is at the root of everything. There is so much meaning in it, ranging from giving someone enjoyment from the beauty of the stars, to serious scientific research.”

The Dubai group is open to anyone and membership is free. Hasan and his board run a range of activities from lectures and seminars, to training courses and star gazing trips at astronomer ‘hide-outs’ in the desert mountains. They have the largest telescope in the UAE and plenty of resources for anyone interested in learning more about the great unknown. Better still, Hasan’s passion is infectious.

“Astronomy is fun for your soul and fun for your mind,” he says. “What we are missing in Dubai is an appreciation of the beauty of science, it’s important to have something other than work and home to have a rich life.”

His members couldn’t agree more. Kaizad Raimalwala has been a member since he encountered the group at university in Sharjah in 2005. “Imagining the unthinkable enormity of the universe gives me a sense of perspective and humility. It makes me realise there’s more to life than the hatred, crime and war that plagues our world.”

His enthusiasm is echoed internationally. This year is also the International Year of Astronomy, which celebrates the science’s contribution to society and culture. Basic concepts that we live our lives by and take for granted as having always existed such as time, dates, years, the decimal point and the realisation that we live in a heliocentric (or sun-based) universe on a round planet (not a flat disc) all have their roots in star-gazing.

“Many civilisations have a rich past in astronomy,” says Lee Fullen from the International Year of Science organisation (IYA). “It is our hope that people will gain an increased appreciation of how astronomy is a modern, dynamic and fascinating science with many real world applications.”

This sentiment is echoed by Hasan with a very specific local perspective. His group runs summer camps for children and has been working with UAE schools since 2005 to set up and fund clubs for kids to fuel their imagination in the possibilities of science.

“We want to empower children and teachers to love science. Today in the UAE, there are only a small amount of nationals and we have to excel at something that will be beneficial and useful not just for us, but for the international community as well. What I’m trying to do is empower them with knowledge and help them to be citizens of the world,” he explains.

Talking to the group’s members, this approach seems to be working. Astronomy brings perspective to anyone that becomes involved in its wider world, but potential astronomers can take as little or as much from it as they wish.

Indian Ridhi Kantelal will be combining her interest in the stars with her university course of Material Sciences. She explains, “Astronomy combines the creativity of an artist and the rigidity of a scientific mind. During space voyages, more environmentally friendly materials are needed. I hope to conduct research and find materials that will at least aid a leap in the progress of astronomy.”

Hasan himself is an example of what a passion for astronomy can lead to. Thanks to his passion he speaks fluent English and learnt computer programming, which lead to his career in telecommunications engineering.

“I had to learn English because I kept sending NASA questions and the replies were in English, then I learnt more with computers, geology and electronics because my special area of interest is spacecraft missions and robotics,” he says.

The potential held in the universe beyond our own world is exciting and inspiring, yet it can be taken for granted by a modern society more concerned with their short-term, Earth-based pursuits, than a life-time of learning and study. But the members of the Dubai Astronomy Group are positive about a future of international co-operation.

Ankit Choudhary has been fascinated by space since he saw Star Wars as a child, and has been a member for six years, “I see astronomy as helping to bridge gaps between different cultures.”

Others echo his sentiments whole-heartedly. “This feeling of universal brotherhood is something people come to realise after they get involved in astronomy,” says Amol Mane, whose interest sits separate to his job as an IT manager at a real estate company.

But this isn’t just idealistic thinking. The very scope of astronomy requires international collaborations. “You learn to co-ordinate with various people who are sometimes not even living in the same country. Most astronomy projects are on a grand scale, so people from all parts of the world join together to make it happen,” Amol explains.

Similarly, the IYA is spending this year organising and promoting events in 140 countries to encourage young people especially to take a wider interest in the world around them, to a share an experience which transcends nationality or geography.

“If you look at our planet from space, you won’t see political borders piercing through our lands, marking them into territories. You will see big green and brown continents interspersed by blue oceans of water — signs of life. By gazing at the heavens one can appreciate life and it’s immense potential,” says Kaizad. Astronomy might be inspiring for its followers, but listening to them speak is in itself inspiring and encouraging, for the future of not just space exploration, but also here down on the ground.

Talking about the future, the UAE’s first satellite marks a new chapter in Arab astronomy, launching 40 years after man first walked on the moon.

“It is a huge achievement and a beautiful thing,” says Hasan. His own group also have grand plans for a renewed effort in space exploration. They have proposed a space facility on Indonesian Sumatra near the equator, to HH Shaikh Mohammed Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Prime Minister and Vice-President, and Ruler of Dubai, and hope to collaborate with the Indonesian government.

“We could do a great job, and a space facility could develop new technology that would raise the region’s profile in the international community. We would collaborate with NASA, ASA, the Japanese, the Russians, the Chinese, everyone to create something international that could help the entire world,” enthuses Hasan. This international collaboration is already happening; this month’s satellite launch took place with the aid of a Russian-made rocket.

A fellow founding member, Yousif Marhoon looks forward to the day when the group is recognised by Dubai’s government, realising a dream he has had since childhood.

“I always dreamt of running an observatory and being able to contribute to society in a positive way through spreading science to the next generation.” A manager of assets strategy and policy at the RTA, he recognises the potential to change lives that astronomy has, both at an individual level and a wider one for the world, “We really feel that we achieve something valuable with the group, which makes you feel like a productive individual in society.”

It may seem like a diverting folly to launch a renewed interest in the possibilities of space when we have so many pressing problems on the ground, but our biggest leaps in understanding the world around us have come from our interest in a galaxy, far, far away.

“I believe all the answers we’re looking for are right there above us, be it the beginning of the universe or the mystery of dark matter, or even our very own existence. If only humans would spend a little more time looking at the sky, we’d find them,” says Vidya Gopalakrishnan.

Her interest also stems from a childhood film, the 1984 classic, ET. “Satellite monitoring of the Earth maintains a vigil on ice caps and forests, as well as tracking climatic conditions,” adds Lee. “Solving environmental problems on a global scale would be incredibly difficult without astronomy.”

The breadth of areas that astronomy can feed into is exemplified nowhere better than asking different astronomers to name the most exciting discovery since that infamous one step for man. No answer is the same. From planets outside the solar system, to the river beds on Mars to worm-holes, microwave radiation, dark matter and the fact that the universe is accelerating and expanding. As a never-ending voyage of discovery, often these new findings open more doors than they close, but as with all good voyages, it’s in the journey that meaning can be found.

“Dark matter makes our world even stranger and mysterious than previously imagined. This opens up entirely new frontiers in astronomy,” says Amol. For Ankur Bhatia, it is what’s yet to come that spurs on his interest. “I’m looking forward to some positive results from the Keplar mission.” This mission’s objective is to find similar size planets to Earth within a habitable range of stars.

It is this anticipation of the future that this month’s launch of DubaiSat1 hopes to reignite. The Middle East has spent thousands of years tracking the stars. It now has the skills and technology to take its first steps in getting closer to them. Further projects include a new observatory in the mountains, science foundations and museums.

(For more information on astronomy in Dubai, go to www.dubaiastronomy.com or www.astronomy2009.org.)

MOONWALKER

It’s been four decades since Neil Armstrong set foot on our nearest neighbour, and yet the interest in the moon shows no sign in waning. Some of the astronomers above are currently undertaking a moon mapping project. Since it has been inactive for a long time, the surface of the moon is a preserved landscape that can offer us clues to our own planet’s geological history. This sub-group have been mapping this landscape through high resolution photographs, focusing on the most visually striking part, the ‘Terminator.’ Forget the science fiction films, the science fact means this is the line that separates the illuminated part of the moon from the side that is in darkness. The shadows thrown by the Sun’s low rays pick out with dazzling clarity the details of lunar craters. Kaizad explains the project’s appeal, “I hope everyone gets a chance to see the moon up close through a telescope; it’s a sight you will never forget. It still leaves me in awe after many years of moon-watching.”

Thursday, July 30, 2009

When a Syrian PRO can be a CEO of Malaysian company in Abu Dhabi

What a joke, one of the best jokes ever!

Read this, a PRO (Public Relation Officer), which in the UAE means a man in white jubah who assists the companies in getting employee visas, mostly dealing with the UAE Naturalization and Immigration Department, has been appointed as the CEO of a Malaysian company in Abu Dhabi.

Normally these PROs are Emiratis.

The PRO-cum-CEO of that Malaysian company is a Syrian. How BIZARRE!

The company I believe is a listed company back home.

And the PRO-cum-CEO is firing Malaysians who refuse to part with their passports. He is also threatening Malaysia employees that he can make sure that whoever refuse to obey his (as CEO) instruction will NOT get any jobs in Malaysia! How powerful indeed.

Under the UAE law, as everywhere else (except Saudi I think), EMPLOYERS CANNOT KEEP THE EMPLOYEES PASSPORTS!

Details to follow!!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Ugly Malaysians Club"

For certain matters aside (like UMNOputera goons, those stupid politicians, corruptions, crime rate, attitude, buat orang, pakai bomoh etc), I love Malaysia, period.

Eternal love for this beautiful and rich country of ours for whatever shortcomings, imperfections but not the excessive of wastage and abuse of power by our leaders for the last 50 years. If we have had better leaders, we are much more progressed and a world beater in all fields (not that the tallest building, swimming across the English channel, throwing Proton on the north pole, the biggest cake, the biggest flag etc)

If I ever migrate to a new country for economical or political reasons, deep in my heart, tanahair (homeland) is still Malaysia.

If we criticize our leaders and government of the day for their actions or inactions or blunders, stupidity etc, we mean well for the betterment of the nation and these leaders with whatever KPIs or KRAs are supposedly working for us, the rakyat, not to enrich themselves, families or cronies.

I love Malaysia, my homeland, even if I am not living there for last decade....

Let the facts speak for themselves

THE
man who joined the group at a London pub three weeks ago introduced himself and declared: "I came here when I was five and first returned to Malaysia to get my identity card done. I was there again about 15 years ago to renew it." Then he had this to say: "The entire system in Malaysia is corrupt. You even have to pay to get clearance from the Official Assignee’s Office." Little did he know that such an office does not exist and it is now known as Amanah Rakyat.

If after two visits, at least 20 years apart and the last being 15 years ago, he must be the most well-informed person on what’s happening 13,000km away! When he was told that he is talking without basis and asked to prove his claims, he retreats into a cocoon, saying: "You are a journalist, you should know better. You guys always defend the government because you are scared the government will revoke the newspaper’s licence." The riposte was simple and short: "Even a donkey is entitled to its opinion and so are you", which caused a momentary pin-drop silence followed by more unsubstantiated claims.

Elsewhere in London, the Malaysian who has lived there for 30 years makes a statement on government scholars. "They are living it up here. They are the biggest customers of the used-car market in this area. They get their money, lavish it on cars and claim that they are not getting enough and your government continues to feed them."

When challenged, he takes me on a ride to the halls of residence of a nearby university, and says: "Look at those Beamers and Benzes. They belong to Malaysian students waiting to be shipped home." The local students, he says, have returned home for the long summer break.

On Sunday, while winding down after a round of golf in the Gold Coast (Australia), someone remarked: "You must be a lucky guy to be drinking beer here. If you were in Malaysia, you would be caned!" Then you spend a good five minutes explaining the difference between civil and syariah laws and another five insisting that such laws are not applicable to non-Muslims. But he was shell-shocked that a dual legal system existed in Malaysia. Education, he was reminded, comes at a price and the conversation veered into cricket and the Ashes Test.

Little knowledge, it is said, is dangerous. While the majority of overseas Malaysians seem to be getting their basics right, there appears to be a small group that just refuses to accept that things are looking brighter in a country which they had previously abandoned for economic reasons. While everything may not be perfect (tell me one place which you would give a perfect 10?), let’s agree to disagree that things are changing, issues are being debated openly and that democracy, although not thriving as it should be, is not dead like in Myanmar. Yes, it could be better, but to pass judgment based on hearsay and lack of understanding of the issues at hand is certainly unacceptable.

While I may be highly opinionated on certain issues, it would certainly be unbecoming to comment, on say, astronomy or space travel because I am no expert or well-read in the area. However, if people’s money is used for such endeavours which bring little or no benefit to the nation, taking a stand as a watchdog of public spending will certainly be justified.

"Malaysia Bashing" is not something new. What used to be a past-time and what some term as "bitching about the land they abandoned" has now been fine-tuned to an art. Never mind if they speak with facts, but when they take rumour mongering and half-truths to a different dimension, little is left to stand up and defend the truth.

Yes, there are lot of "ugly Malaysians" in Malaysia itself – the daredevil motorcyclists who create mayhem on our roads at night. The same term can be used on the people who rush for food as if they had not eaten for weeks.

There are also other ugly Malaysians – VIPs included – who think that money is a great mover and try to use their wealth to influence people in foreign lands.

More importantly, the ugliest of them are those who drop the race card when they are confronted on issues or when they cannot hold themselves on a good intellectual debate.

Now, we have a new set. These small groups and individuals who shoot their mouths off without facts can start opening branches of the "Ugly Malaysians Club" in their new-found homeland and we Malaysians certainly have the right to not to acknowledge them or the existence of their clubs.

R. Nadeswaran has had his hands full defending unfounded allegations on the country. However, he acknowledges that nothing can be done if claims are based on facts. He is editor (special and investigative reporting) at theSun. He can be reached at: citizen-nades@thesundaily.com

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Towards Qom, the city of Ayatollahs

From a distance, you can see its golden cupola shine in the Iranian sun. Roads leading to various cities in Iran have to pass through Qom.

The ten 14th century blue and gold domed sanctuaries visible on the city’s skyline from the surrounding plains are a clear indication of the significance of Qom as a centre of Islamic worship and study.

Thousands upon thousands of students continue to come here to receive their religious education. The most important of the many religious sites in Qom is the Hazrat-e Masumeh, a mausoleum dedicated to Fatimah Masumah, sister of Imam Raza.

The shrine which was built in her memory soon became a popular site and remains so to this day. Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Revolution, chose Qom as the location from which he would direct the country’s affairs from the time of his return from exile in 1979 until his death 10 years later.

Crossing the Dasht-e-Kavir salt desert in an aging Mercedes bus, we reached Qom a couple of hours later. Look around and there are clerics everywhere and most of the women wear chadors - a pleasant respite from the make-up and figure hugging manteaus which is so disturbingly obvious in Tehran.

In Iran, it’s easy to make friends. A country where the hospitality is generous and heart-felt, finding such company is easy.

Just stand somewhere near the gate and look lost!

But, I made friends inside the shrine. They were three women one from Bahrain another from Saudi Arabia and the other was from Kashan. Soon we got talking and I was invited for breakfast. Sitting in the courtyard, we had more of a traveller’s meal - tea, dates, nuts and dry fruits, with a chocolate to finish.

We were soon discussing, agreeing and disagreeing on the hot topics of the day. Apart from who would win this election (of course “Ahmedi”!), We spoke about the relative merits of democracy - “compare Iran to any other country in the Middle East and this is a democracy,” said Mrs M, a devout Iranian.

What about the likelihood of an American invasion? “If they do attack, it will make Iraq look like the easy fight,” said the two Arabs in unison. From wherever in the world we belonged, we shared the same bond of devotion with Iran.

We may not have agreed on most of the discussion, but each of us was willing to listen to the other’s point. With breakfast over and no agreement on how to cure the world’s evils, we set off for the shrine. At the entrance, the devotion was manifest as even those not entering would stop, bow and offer a small prayer.

It was good to turn around and watch. While only religious fanatics do not populate Iran as some people in the West would have you believe, religion is important. I decided to turn off my reporter’s mode and simply be in the moment. So, I stop, sit quietly and pray for world peace.



An Islamic history is a vital part of Ethiopia’s richness

http://www.sweetmarias.com/travelogues/ethiopia_images/ethiopia.gif

‘We are sorry if you get woken up by the Muslim call to prayer in the morning.” Those were some of the first words I heard at my hotel when I arrived in Addis Ababa, on my first trip to Ethiopia. I confess – I was a bit confused. Call to prayer? In the capital of a “Christian country in a sea of Muslims”, as Ethiopia is sometimes called? Perhaps I was in a Muslim quarter of Addis Ababa that had been recently established?

No, the situation was far more complicated than that, and one about which I had a surprisingly limited awareness. Most non-Ethiopians, including the immediate neighbours of Ethiopia, also believe that Ethiopia is predominantly Christian. The more sophisticated might believe that there is a Muslim minority – and it was to learn about that population that drew me to Ethiopia in the first place. But it is not a minority. About 55 per cent of Ethiopia’s parliament is Muslim and representatives from the country’s Islamic community insist they are at least 50 per cent of the population.

While the US State Department estimates that this number is a bit lower, Islam might actually be the religion with the most adherents in Ethiopia.

If there is any “Muslim quarter” in Addis, it must be an old one. Christianity was the first religion to arrive in Ethiopia – but only in the north of the country. Where the capital, Addis Ababa, is located, the area of Shawa, was the domain of a Muslim sultanate in the early 8th century. Most historical narratives portray Ethiopia’s as a Christian story. If Islam is even mentioned, it is associated with disconnected tribesman in the lowlands who battled Christian kingdoms in the highlands. But history is written by the powerful and now academics are rediscovering the Muslim history of this country of such noble heritage.

As I met people from Ethiopia’s Muslim community, I was struck by their diversity. Most Ethiopian Muslims are influenced by Sufism, and follow the same Sunni rites as their neighbours in Yemen, Somalia and Djibouti (the Shafi’i rite) – but there are also adherents of other Sunni rites, and a significant Salafi movement within Ethiopia. There are dozens of ethnic and linguistic groups among Muslim Ethiopians, from all areas of the country.

But what they share is a long history of discrimination against them. Early Christian-Muslims relations in Ethiopia were very good – the Prophet of Islam sent several Muslim refugees to live among Christians in Ethiopia, who had a very high opinion of the king at that time, who later became Muslim. In the medieval era, Christian Ethiopians under the Zagwes refused to be drawn into the European crusades against the Muslim world, which led to Saladin giving the Ethiopian Orthodox Church a monastery in Jerusalem.

In the same era, Muslims and Christians lived in separate kingdoms and sultanates in Ethiopia, but in peaceful coexistence – and their example proves that deeply religious and pious people of different religions need not be at war with one another.But with the rise of the Solomonic dynasty in 1270 that came to an end. That dynasty, like many others of its age, was expansionist and aggressive, leading to a great number of conflicts with Muslim sultanates over a period of hundreds of years in Ethiopia.

The length of the Solomonic dynasty is staggering – Haile Selassie was its last Emperor, and his reign ended in 1974. He saw the establishment of a modern Ethiopia, but not a modern educational system – at least, not for Muslim Ethiopians. The historians and educators I interviewed in Ethiopia bemoaned the standard of education among Muslim Ethiopians, explaining to me that during Haile Selassie’s tenure, Muslim regions did not receive the same attention as Christian regions and few modern educational institutions were established. Haile Selassie had a formula for Ethiopia: one country, one people, one religion. Muslims were not part of that equation.

The revolutionary regime that overthrew Haile Selassie, the Derg, introduced education for all, but as a communist movement, Muslim communities still suffered discrimination.

Many of those whom I met were from that generation – a generation that had access to education, and began to learn about their religion in a modern sense. With the establishment of a more democratic constitution in 1994, Muslim Ethiopians began to try to build more institutions for themselves.


Much of the contemporary analysis surrounding Ethiopia’s relationship with the Muslim world revolves around Somalia, and Ethiopia’s invasion of that country in 2006. I saw quite a different face, however, to the nation. I saw a huge number of Muslims speaking excellent Arabic (perhaps more than any non-Arabic speaking country I had ever been to), proud of the history of this ancient land that had never been conquered.

On the other hand, I also saw the sadness of many Muslim Ethiopians, who were frustrated that while rich Muslim countries might provide funds to build mosques, or provide food during Ramadan, they would not contribute to provide for the institutions needed to improve the capacity of this thriving community. And it’s not hard to see why – many simply do not believe there is a community there to support in the first place.

But there is an Ethiopian Muslim community there: a community that has learnt to thrive against the odds, and one that teaches lessons about identity in a diverse society and the role of religion in the modern world. It is a community that deserves to be known.


H A Hellyer is a Fellow of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick (UK), and director of the Visionary Consultants Group

Business Targets set for the six Key Result Areas

Looking at these six KRAs, I believe, more public funds (our money) to be pumped into the pockets of fortunate people to realise the targets.

It means more business for those cronies-cum-ass-lickers as well as families of those who walk in corridors of power. Time to rejuvenate the economy during the turmoil with more projects.

No, I am not envious. I can never be in the same level or same group or even a good businessman. In the current situation, as always in Malaysia, politics is almost everything and politics always be mixed with business or vice versa, especially for umnoputeras.

However, if you are real entrepreneurs with lots of ideas, look into these targets, think of something that works and find your partner (any Umno leaders...) to submit your proposals....good luck.


Targets set for the six Key Result Areas

Najib announces KPIs and NKRA

The Government’s promise of an improved delivery system takes flesh with the Prime Minister’s unveiling of the short-term targets for the six National Key Result Areas.

Reduction of crime rate

> Reduce street crime, including snatch thefts and unarmed robbery, by 20% by the end of 2010.

> Re-train Rela members to help improve public perception on safety.

> Upgrade equipment for enforcement agencies and increase the usage of CCTV.

> Set up special courts for street crime to speed up the legal process.

Combating corruption

> Updating relevant policies, procedures and enforcement to improve global perception.

> Use open or restricted tender process for all government projects with the exception of those sensitive in nature.

Widening access to affordable and quality education

> Make pre-school education part of the national education system.

> Ensure all normal pupils are able to read, write and count when they enter Year Four before 2012.

> Reward school principals and headmasters based on the achievements of each school.

> Turn 100 daily smart, cluster, trust and boarding schools into high performing learning centres by 2012.

Raising the living standard of the Poor

> Pay out all welfare cash aid on the first of each month from January.

> Create 4,000 women entrepreneurs under the Sahabat Amanah Ikhtiar programme by 2012.

Improving Infrastructure in rural areas

> Build 1,500km of roads in Sabah and Sarawak by 2012.

> Ensure that no one lives more than 5km from a tarred road in the peninsula by 2012.

> Increase clean water supply to cover 90% of Sabah and Sarawak by the end of 2012.

> Increase electricity coverage in Sabah and Sarawak to 95% by end of 2012.

> Provide 24-hour electricity supply to 7,000 orang asli families in the peninsula by the end of 2012.

Improving public transport in the Medium term

> Increase the number of public transport users to 25% by end of 2012 from the present 16%.

> Add 35 sets of four-car-trains to operate on the Kelana Jaya LRT track by the end of 2012.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Jarir - the legendary poet, NOT Saudi's chain of bookstores

In year 2000 while in Riyadh, I was called for an interview by Jarir Bookstore at its HQ. I was offered the post, but declined due to the package, however, I am always fond of Jarir for its book collections.

Jarir Bookstore View at Night

Jarir – a notable legend in poetry

By Rahla Khan

MOST people who come to the Kingdom carry back fond memories of a chain of bookstores called ‘Jarir’, yet not many of us know much about the eponymous poet after whom the chain of stores is presumably named.


He was Jarir Bin ‘Atiyyah Bin Huthayfah Al-Khatfi Bin Badr Al-Kulaibi Al-Yarboo’i, Abu Hazrah, from Banu Kulaib, a sub-tribe of Banu Tamim.
Born to a humble family in Yamamah during the reign of Caliph Uthman Bin Affan, he later moved to DamascusIraq, Al-Hajjaj Bin Yusuf, with his fawning verse, subsequently made a living by penning eulogies in praise of some of the other Umayyad caliphs.


According to an account in Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Jarir was the only ‘court poet’ who was granted an audience by the ascetic Caliph Umar Bin Abdul Aziz. On the occasion, Jarir recited a few couplets of extempore verse, praising ‘Umar Bin Abdul Aziz for his generosity and comparing him favorably with some other past Caliphs, but he was admonished by Umar Bin Abdul Aziz to “stop lying for a living.”


On hearing this, Jarir asked ‘Umar Bin ‘Abdul-’Aziz for some money, since he was poor and had no other means of sustenance. Umar Bin Abdul Aziz said, “If you could prove to me that you are included among the list of people mentioned in the Qur’an who should be helped with alms, I would be the first person to do so.” When Jarir insisted on receiving some money, pleading his poverty, Umar Bin Abdul Aziz gave him 200 Dirhams from his own pocket, taking care to clarify that it was not from the public exchequer. Jarir later said that those two hundred Dirhams brought him such plenitude, that he was not reduced to begging for money ever again.


Interestingly, Jarir is mainly remembered for his lifelong feud with fellow poets, Hammam Bin Ghalib Abu Firas Al-Farazdaq and the Iraqi Christian poet Al-Akhtal, whom he vied with for official patronage and favors.


This infamous feud consumed the trio’s creativity and became their overriding preoccupation for a large portion of their lives, resulting in a genre of poetry called Naqa’id or ‘flytings’: an elaborate contest of one-upmanship by trading barbs and insults in verse.


No one could really tell who won the upper hand in these medieval flame-wars – the litterateurs of their time and over the ages have been divided in their opinions – and the various books written analyzing the satire and literary style of these contests have proved inconclusive. But one comes away with the feeling that they all lost – their time, efforts, intellectual resources and creativity – in pursuit of a goal that basically brought no tangible benefit to anyone.


One can’t help but compare these poets with Companions like Hassan Bin Thabit, who sought permission from the Prophet (peace be upon him) to lampoon the pagans to counter their propaganda against Islam and the Prophet (peace be upon him), and was granted a pulpit in the Prophet’s mosque to recite his poetry and encouraged with the supplication: “O Allah! Support him (Hassan) with the Holy Spirit (Gabriel).’’ (Sahih Al-Bukhari)


Or Abdullah Bin Rawahah, the Prophet’s staunch supporter and scribe in Madina who was martyred in the Battle of Mu’tah, who wrote verses for the Muslims to take away the tedium of their labor during the Battle of the Trench, and was praised by the Prophet with the words: “Your brother does not utter obscenities (referring to his verses).”


Or Ka’b Bin Zuhayr, the only poet who attempted to meet the challenge of the Qur’an to produce verses like it, but later repented and went to Madina to seek forgiveness for satirizing the Prophet. It is said that he was rewarded with a mantle by the Prophet (peace be upon him) for his poem ‘Baanat Su’aad’ written on the occasion of the Battle of Mu’tah, where several prominent Companions were martyred.


Or the pre-Islamic poet Labid, author of one of the seven ‘Hanging Odes’ (Mu’allaqaat), who later accepted Islam and was praised by the Prophet (peace be upon him), with the words: “The most true words said by a poet were the words of Labid. He said: ‘Indeed, everything except Allah is perishable.’” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)


Or ‘Amir Bin Al-Aqwa’, the poet upon whom the Prophet (peace be upon him), invoked the Mercy of Allah during a journey as he led the camels in the caravan while chanting Huda – poetry that keeps pace with the camel’s footsteps – saying, “O Allah! Without You we would not have been guided on the right path, neither would we have given in charity, nor would we have prayed. So forgive us what we have committed. Let all of us be sacrificed for Your cause and when we meet our enemy, make our feet firm and bestow peace and calmness on us and if they (our enemy) call us towards an unjust thing, grant that we will refuse.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)


The Qur’an says it best (as ever), when it delineates the difference between the two kinds of poets:

“As for the poets, the erring follow them. Do you not see that they roam in every valley? And that they say what they do not do? Except those who believe, and do righteous deeds, and remember Allah often, and defend (Muslims) after they have been wronged...” (Qur’an, 26:224-227)

Indeed, it is a great blessing if one is able to use the gifts and faculties given by Allah in His service, rather than in the service of one’s own whims and desires
.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cerpen - Transit

Dalam penerbangan pulang ke Dubai, terbaca cerpen sendiri, tersiar dalam majalah i bulan Julai 2009.

Transit

(Majalah i - Karangkraf bulan Julai 2009)

(1)

Sebuah lori simen rosak di lebuhraya Al Khail dan menyebabkan kesesakan trafik. Kesesakan trafik di Dubai sudah menjadi rutin. Dengan adanya sistem tol canggih di Jalan Sheikh Zayed, kesesakan semakin bertambah teruk di jalan-jalan pinggiran yang digunakan sebagai jalan alternatif. Ramai yang cuba mengelak dari membayar tol yang mahal.
Kesesakan trafik membuatkan Idham lewat untuk tiba di pejabat yang terletak di Zon Dagangan Bebas Jabel Ali. Kelewatan juga bukan perkara luar biasa dan kesesakan trafik menjadi alasan paling popular untuk datang lewat ke pejabat.
Tetapi kelewatan di hari pertama bulan Julai seakan satu kebetulan yang disengajakan.
“Siapa yang tukar nama di pintu bilik saya?”
Suara Idham agak kuat merentas ruang pejabat. Sudahlah dia sedikit lewat dan kini biliknya pula sudah bertukar tuan. Memang perkara ini cukup sensitif buat seseorang yang dalam keadaannya sekarang.
Terpinga-pinga Wayne yang segera keluar dari pejabat ‘baru’nya. Hari itu hari pertama Wayne yang kini menggantikan Idham sebagai pengarah perhubungan awam.
“Maaf, saya tidak pasti, bila saya tiba awal pagi tadi, terus dibawa ke bilik ini!” Wayne bercakap perlahan dalam cuba menteteramkan Idham. Memang Wayne tidak kena mengena dalam hal ini. Ada tangan-tangan ghaib dibelakang insiden ini.
Kemudian datang pengurus fasiliti, John yang nampak serba salah. Juga bukan yang disyaki sebagai punca tindakan. John tidak mungkin berbuat demikian tanpa arahan mereka yang lebih atas.
“Maaf, bos. Ada sedikit kesilapan!” John cuba menerangkan apa yang terjadi kepada Idham, tetapi Idham menyinga. Selama lima tahun juga, John yang kadang-kala memandang rendah kepada mereka yang datang dari bekas tanah jajahan negaranya, tidak pernah memanggil Idham sebagai ‘Bos’, selain nama sahaja.
“Bos? Siapa bos? Saya bukan lagi bos kamu!”
Lantang suara Idham dengan carutan, seakan mencurahkan apa yang terbuku. Memuntahkan sisa-sisa profesionalism yang tertinggal dalam diri.
Dia bukan lagi Idham yang pernah mempunyai kuasa penuh dalam divisyen selama lima tahun lalu. Kini dia tiada kuasa, hanya menumpang pejabatnya sendiri sementara memindahkan tugasan kepada Wayne.
Bukan perkara yang melucukan buat dia yang kini kehilangan kerja sebagai bos, kehilangan kuasa, kehilangan karier. Lebih menggelodak hati apabila penggantinya telah mengambil alih bukan sahaja jawatan, tetapi juga biliknya di kala dia masih mempunyai masa selama sebulan untuk menghabiskan tempoh kontrak!

(2)

Berpindah rumah bukan perkara mudah dan ringkas. Walau sekadar berkemas dan mengheret bagasi. Sukar apabila emosi dan memori sentimental menguasai suasana.
Idham sekeluarga memang keberatan sekali untuk berpindah. Apartment luas dengan empat bilik di tengah-tengah Bur Dubai sudah menjadi rumah pertama. Tetapi apartment itu milik syarikat, habis kontrak bermakna kena berpindah keluar. Segala perabut, peralatan dan perkakasan kepunyaan syarikat.
Pengganti beliau, Wayne dan keluarga pula akan berpindah masuk.
“Kalian balik ke Malaysia cuti musim panas, sementara Ayah cari kerja lain di Dubai, ada tiga bulan sebelum sekolah bermula!”
Setelah lima tahun bersekolah di Dubai dengan kawan-kawan sebaya yang sama membesar memang tidak mudah dilakukan. Terutama buat Johari, anak sulung berusia enam belas tahun yang sudah mempunyai seorang teman istimewa. Cinta monyet yang menambahkan keberatan perasaan remaja untuk berpindah.
Idham sekeluarga tidak bersedia untuk menghadapi perubahan mendadak sebegini. Tidak mudah juga dalam tergesa-gesa mencari kerjaya baru yang setimpal dengan apa yang didapati sekarang.
Pertumbuhan ekonomi Dubai memang sedang memuncak. Tetapi tidak mudah untuk mendapat ganjaran yang lebih baik kerana pasaran pekerja juga dilanda kemasukan ekspatriat yang semakin bertambah. Yang ramai datang bukan sahaja dari negara-negara dunia ketiga, malah negara maju dan membuatkan pasaran tidak menentu. Ramai seakan terdesak untuk menerima apa saja ganjaran, asalkan dapat bekerja dan tinggal di Dubai. Biarpun inflasi dan kos sara hidup juga terus meningkat.
“Bagaimana kalau Ayah tidak dapat kerja baru?”
Pertanyaan Anum, anak kedua itu juga bermain di fikiran Idham. Apakah pilihan yang ada?
Dia telah mencuba mencari kerja baru sejak sebulan lalu sama ada melalui online, rangkaian kenalan dan iklan akhbar, sejak diberitahu kontraknya tidak diperbaharui dan penggantinya telah dipilih. Seorang calun dari eropah yang dikatakan mempunyai kelayakan dan pengalaman global. Walau realitinya tidak banyak berbeda dengan Idham. Cuma mungkin berbeda warna kulit dan warna paspot.
Tugasnya selama lima tahun bertungkus-lumus memajukan syarikat sudah memadai, selesai, khalas dan syarikat berterima kasih dengan apa yang dicurahkan. Peranan Idham tiada dalam perancangan apabila pemegang saham baru mengambil alih syarikat.
Tiada apa yang boleh dibincangkan kerana dalam kontrak tertulis klausa sedemikian. Kejam atau tidak, itulah realiti korporat. Pemegang saham baru tidak wajib memikirkan dan peduli tentang nasib Idham dan keluarga. Tentunya pemegang saham tersebut mempunyai perancangan lain yang lebih baik untuk kebaikan syarikat tanpa Idham.
Makan malam terakhir di apartmen itu memang tidak menyelerakan. Masakan kegemaran yang dipesan dari restoran popular milik warga Kerala sejak lima tahun lalu juga tidak terasa lazat seperti selalu.
“Rasanya kita kena balik Malaysia dan tidak balik-balik ke Dubai lagi” Johari melontarkan kegusaran. Dia tidak menyentuh beriyani kambing kegemarannya.
Masing-masing berpandangan dalam kejanggalan. Ruang yang selama ini meriah dengan pelbagai peristiwa, karenah dan insiden sebuah keluarga ekspatriat tiba-tiba begitu asing.
Dan malam yang berlabuh seakan sama melabuhkan harapan di hamparan Teluk Arab.

(3)

Kaunter bank cawangan Karama begitu sibuk di hari terakhir sebelum hujung minggu. Apalagi akhir bulan dan Idham terpaksa beratur panjang.
Setelah keluar apartmen dan memulangkan komputer riba, tidak lagi dapat berurusan secara on-line. Idham tidak suka sekali untuk beratur dan menanti, baginya membuang masa. Sebab itu dia menunggu saat terakhir untuk menutup akaun sebaik urusan pembatalan visa kerja selesai.
Dalam melihat jarum jam di dinding bank yang seakan perlahan bergerak, tiba-tiba dia teringat seorang guru sekolahnya dahulu pernah menasihati.
“Setiap manusia tidak boleh lari dari menanti! Ibubapa menanti sembilan bulan sebelum kelahiran bayi. Bayi pula menanti bertahun-tahun untuk menjadi dewasa. Kemudian kita terus menanti dalam banyak perkara, menanti keputusan peperiksaan, menanti jawaban ke universiti, menanti konvokesyen, menanti tawaran kerja......!”
Dia juga terus menanti, menanti untuk berurusan di kaunter bank dan lebih dari itu, menanti tawaran kerja baru. Sesuatu yang semakin merimaskan. Berulang ke interviu dan berulang berharap. Setiap saat adalah harapan yang datang dan pergi. Masih berharap dalam penantian.
Penantian sesungguhnya satu penyeksaan. Dia tidak pernah mempunyai pengalaman menanti sebegini. Ssejak keluar dari universiti, kerja yang terus menanti beliau. Dia telah dua puluh lima tahun bekerja dan enam kali bertukar syarikat dan pangkat. CV dan biodata cukup hebat. Ada pengalaman dari syarikat gergasi tempatan ke multi-nasional. Dari eksekutif biasa ke peringkat pengarah. Dari asia tenggara ke eropah dan terakhir di timur tengah.
“Kamu mungkin terlebih kelayakan untuk jawatan yang ada!”
“Kami lebih berminat mereka yang berusia tidak melebih 45 tahun!”
“Pakej yang diminta melebih pakej yang ingin kami tawarkan!”
“Kami memerlukan calun yang fasih berbahasa Arab!”
“Jawatan ini untuk mereka yang datang dari negara Barat sahaja!”
“Calun-calun lain mempunyai MBA!”
Setiap alasan yang diberi mungkin sekadar alasan, tetapi realitinya, setelah hampir sebulan, Idham masih sahaja dalam terumbang-ambing. Bersama dilema yang memberi tekanan. Dengan usia yang semakin meningkat, menjadi penganggur bukanlah satu pilihan.Wang simpanan yang ada mungkin sekadar cukup untuk dua tiga tahun. Apalagi anak-anak akan masuk universiti. Perbelanjaan semakin besar dan hutang banglo kedua yang baru dibeli juga mengusut belanjawan.
“Maaf, semua kaunter terpaksa ditutup !”
Tiba-tiba seorang pengawal membuat pengumuman apabila Idham mula melangkah ke kaunter yang kosong.
“Sistem komputer kami mengalami sedikit gangguan kerana ada kerosakan dan tiada urusan bank boleh dilakukan. Kena datang minggu depan!”
Ketika itu Idham mahu sahaja menjerit dan mencekup baju pengawal. Tetapi sempat menahan diri dengan beristighfar. Salah satu kelemahannya ialah cepat bertindak melulu, mungkin itu sebab utama kontraknya tidak dilanjutkan. Kurang kesabaran walau dia sering mendengar yang kesabaran itu separuh dari iman.
Segera Idham ke kaunter walau pengawal cuba menahan dari meneruskan langkah.
Dia perlu menutup akaunnya hari itu, hari terakhir dia berada di Dubai.

(4)

“Bagaimana pengalaman transit di Colombo? Adakah merasa kebahagian di tengah-tengah kehijauan sewaktu pemanasan global begitu runcing?”
Hasan bertanya sambil menghirup teh segar dari ladang. Soalan yang sebetulnya masih menghambat kesedaran Idham. Mungkin satu takdir yang menentukan hala tuju kehidupan di luar ekspektasi. Kalau tidak kerana dia terlambat menutup akaun bank kerana kerosakan komputer, diikuti semua penerbangan ke Kuala Lumpur telah penuh dan terpaksa menukar penerbangan lain melalui Colombo, dia mungkin tidak akan pernah menjejaki bumi Sri Lanka.
Idham tersenyum memandang Hasan yang berbangga sebagai Melayu Sri Lanka. Salahsilah dari Tanah Melayu, generasi ke lima. Bercakap Melayu yang sudah bercampur-campur tetapi tetap berbanga dengan keturunannya yang dikatakan berjumlah 60,000 serata pulau Sri Lanka.
Mereka berkenalan sewaktu menanti penerbangan di terminal Dubai dan Hasan mengajak kawan baru yang seakan kehilangan arah ke pergunungan di Kandy. Sesuatu yang juga tidak mungkin terjadi sekiranya urutan peristiwa sejak kontrak kerjanya tidak ditamatkan.
“Memang benar yang kamu katakan, kebahagian itu adalah sesuatu yang subjektif, bergantung kepada pilihan dan citarasa individu atau masyarakat!” Idham berkata perlahan merenung saujana kehijauan ladang teh. Sesekali memandang henfon kalau-kalau ada panggilan mengenai tawaran kerja. Masih berharap sesuatu akan berlaku untuk mengubah penantian.
“Di Norway yang dianggap negara maju, rakyat di sana mempunyai ekspektasi yang rendah seperti di negara dunia ketiga, lalu mereka bahagia dan gembira dengan apa yang ada, walau cukai pendapatan yang tinggi tetapi kehidupan mereka terjaga. Manakala kamu tahu di Dubai, ekspektasi kebanyak ekspatriat adalah tinggi, kerana itu walau jauh lebih mewah dari negara sendiri dengan ratusan ribu bertaraf jutawan, mereka terus tidak merasa bahagia!”
Sambil melihat keliling ladang, Hasan memanggil beberapa pekerja berhampiran untuk makan tengahari bersama di kawasan luar rumah. Ladang teh kepunyaannya itu baru dibeli hasil dari berniaga perlatan telekomunikasi di Dubai. Satu pelaburan yang lebih bersifat nilai sentimental kerana moyang, datuk, nenek, ayah ibunya pernah menjadi pekerja di situ. Kini dia memiliki ladang yang panjang sejarahnya. Pekerja-pekerja adalah mereka yang pernah mengharung kehidupan bersama dan sebagai kawan-kawan.
“Kebajikan bermula dari rumah. Dengan modal yang ada, saya membeli ladang ini dari mereka yang pernah menjajah, yang pernah menindas dan kembalikan maruah kepada anak-anak tempatan. Apa lagi yang lebih baik, selain memberi kehidupan lebih baik buat keluarga dan kawan-kawan yang hidup matinya di sini, berjuang sebagai peladang teh!”
Suara Hasan begitu menusuk dan bergema dibawa angin ke lurah.
“Sri Lanka dan Malaysia mempunyai sejarah penjajahan yang hampir serupa tetapi Malaysia jauh lebih ke depan walau Sri Lanka lebih lama merdeka. Kekacauan etnik, sengketa politik dan tragedi alam yang berlanjutan juga menghantui kami, tetapi bukan alasan untuk tidak terus mencuba bagi kami yang minoriti!”
Mendengar kata-kata Hasan dan melihat wajah-wajah pekerja yang nampak bahagia dilayan sebegitu baik oleh Hasan, Idham sama merenung jauh dalam dirinya.
Sememangnya Idham merasa cukup bahagia dengan apa yang pernah ada. Bahagia bersama keluarga di perantauan. Ganjaran besar dengan segala kemudahan diberikan.
Boleh dianggap bahagia dengan pekerjaan kerana nilai ganjaran. Tetapi kebahagian itu ternyata superfisial, sekadar diukur dari segi pendapatan dan material, bukan dari segi rohani. Hubungan sesama rakan kerja sekadar hubungan rasmi pejabat. Tiada kemesraan.
Selama itu juga dia tidak pernah membalas budi pada mereka di tanahair yang mungkin telah mengorbankan apa sahaja sebelum dia berjaya sebagai graduan luar negara. Tidak juga selepas menjadi ekspatriat di beberapa benua, biar untuk bersedekah di masjid atau membayar zakat kepada pihak berkenaan. Malah keluarganya sendiri jarang di hubungi, takut-takut kalau diminta pertolongan.
Dia kini bertaraf penganggur, pertamakali sejak dua puluh lima tahun dan masih tercari-cari pekerjaan dengan ganjaran yang besar. Ganjaran yang selama ini menjadi sebahagian dari kehidupan ekspatriat di perantauan. Dia merasakan tidak mungkin bahagia dengan ganjaran yang kurang dari yang pernah diterima sebelumnya. Malah dia tidak mungkin mendapat ganjaran yang sama besar di tanahair dan tentunya tidak mungkin bahagia untuk pulang bekerja di tanahair sendiri.
“Peluang ada di mana-mana. Kita perlu menganjak pradigma dan melihat dari luar tempurung serta luar kepompong yang mungkin terlalu sempit, kolot dan bukan lagi zon selamat. Cabaran dan risiko sentiasa ada dalam kehidupan, jangan bimbang untuk berdepan dengan musibah, ada rahmat disebalik penggangguran sementara ini!”
Hasan meneruskan kata-kata sambil mengunyah nasi berlaukan ketam pedas. Pekerja-pekerjanya nampak berselera untuk makan dengan bos besar yang juga sebahagian dari ahli keluarga perladangan teh.
“Kamu kena ambil masa untuk mengkaji balik fokus kehidupan dan prioriti selanjutnya. Bagus untuk bercuti sebulan dua, bawa keluarga ke Sri Lanka, kalau tidak ada idea, mungkin ada rezeki baru di sini, seperti nenek moyang saya dahulu berhijrah kerana keadaan dan keadaan negatif bukan penghalang untuk perubahan!”
Idham menggangguk. Cadangan baik untuk membawa keluarga bercuti di Sri Lanka setelah hampir menjelajah seluruh negara maju, kata orang tak kenal maka tak cinta.
“Kalau berminat, dengan pertambahan pelancung dari timur tengah boleh juga kita jadi rakan kongsi untuk mengembangkan pelancungan-eko di pergunungan ini!”
Idham tersedak. Bukan kerana kepedasan lauk, tetapi kata-kata Hasan itu menembus tempurung mindanya yang mula dirangsang kesegaran angin pergunungan Sri Lanka. Merangsang setiap peraliran darah lelaki yang berusia lima puluh tahun.
Apakah ini mungkin satu destini buat seorang penganggur tua yang tiba-tiba terangsang kebahagian dari dalam, dan bukan lagi satu transit fizikal seorang ekspatriat?
- Tamat -

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Failure of Nur Amalina (who scored 17As)

I was really shocked and speechless to be informed about Nur Amalina Che Bakri.

Nur Amalina had held briefly the record of most 1As scored in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia. Upon the announcement of results of SPM 2004 on 26 March 2005, she received 17 1As - a record for number of 1As received by a student in the history of Malaysian education back then.[2] She was sponsored by Bank Negara Malaysia to study medicine in the United Kingdom, and did her A-levels in Cheltenham Ladies College in the UK.[3]

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I was informed that she had failed in her second year medical study at the University of Edinburgh.

I really hope this is not true......if it is, what went wrong?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Saudi's Swinger's sexual confessions get him arrested by morals cops


Picture 6


Mazen Abdul Jawad learned the hard way that in Saudi Arabia, a guy shouldn’t kiss and tell. While appearing on “The Bold Red Line," a Lebanese television program last week, Abdul Jawad detailed his sexual exploits, beginning with when he had sex with a neighbor at the age of 14, according to the English-language Arab News.


On the program, Abdul Jawad discusses foreplay, sexual encounters with women and even gives a recipe for an aphrodisiac.The 32-year-old Jeddah resident shows off his room as the theme song from the movie "Swingers" plays in the background. The red-themed room contains perfumes and an Arabic book, “101 Questions About Sex." At one point, Abdul Jawad whips out a sex toy.Saudi authorities were not pleased. He was later arrested. Saudi authorities said they received 100 complaints about the segment. The director of the religious police (officially the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) in Mecca condemned the program and held everyone involved culpable: “The program presents anomalies and deviancy in society that are unacceptable and immoral and should be punished according to Shariah.”
Many are accusing Abdul Jawad of not only breaking Islamic law, but also of having bad taste. Following the tour of his room, Abdul Jawad has a conversation about sexuality with his male friends. He gets into his red Mini Cooper and rides off into Jeddah. Abdul Jawad told the program that while he cruises, he contacts women via Bluetooth as a loophole around khilwa, the offense of a unmarried couples associating unsupervised.Below is a segment from the show, in Arabic.

Message boards online are alight with criticism.One viewer from Oman wrote: "This man is ignorant and loves fame and appearing on television."Still, online clips featuring the segment have gotten more than 150,000 views, making Abdul Jawad, who works for Saudi Airlines, a YouTube sensation in the Arab world. The disparity testifies to how young people increasingly are able to circumvent the taboo on sexuality online.Shariah, or Islamic law, provides the basis for Saudi Arabia’s legal system. Though Shariah makes up large segments of civil law in many Muslim countries, the Saudi religious police enforce an especially literal interpretation of Shariah. Abdul Jawad could be prosecuted for propagating vice but also could be charged with having premarital sex. Saudi courts could sentence him to jail time, flogging or both. Abdul Jawad claims his quotes were taken out of context and has contacted a lawyer to file suit against the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp., which carries "The Bold Red Line."
The program is not unfamiliar to controversy. Earlier this year, the program was criticized for its depictions of gays and lesbians in the Arab world.-- Jahd Khalil in BeirutPhoto: Mazen Abdul Jawad shows off perfume. Credit: Los Angeles Times


Swine flu ban at Mecca pilgrimage

Arab health ministers agreed on Wednesday to ban certain people including the elderly and young children from pilgrimage to Mecca in an effort to contain the spread of swine flu.

"Hajj and umrah will continue with some conditions," Ibrahim al-Kerdani, World Health Organisation spokesman in Egypt, said after a meeting of Arab health ministers in Cairo.

"Some groups will be excluded from hajj: people over the age of 65, people under the age of 12 and people with chronic illnesses," he told reporters.


Story continues below

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why Does Abu Dhabi Paper Have to quote Bernama's report on Abu Dhabi investment in Malaysia?

This is indeed a very positive and good news as reported by BERNAMA (our official news agency). However, strange when Abu Dhabi's own newspaper, The National has to quote from BERNAMA and not from its own reporters as the investment was announced during an event in Abu Dhabi.

Another stranger thing, there is no news on Najib's visit or meeting with the Sheikh Mohammed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi's or Dubai's newspapers except for the below news, taken from BERNAMA report in The National.

For that kind announcement on foreign investment, the news shall be flashed all over the papers, or is it too small and negligble for Abu Dhabi?



Sovereign fund close to $1bn deal in Malaysia

Bradley Hope

  • Last Updated: July 21. 2009 7:02PM UAE / July 21. 2009 3:02PM GMT

An Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund seems on the verge of investing US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) into Malaysia, according to Bernama, the Malaysian national news service.

The funds would go into 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a new Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, and be invested in energy, property and hospitality projects, Bernama reported yesterday.

The decision coincided with the Malaysian prime minister’s visit with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, at the Emirates Palace hotel. Sheikh Mohammed is also the chairman of Mubadala Development, an investment arm of the Abu Dhabi Government.

“I had a very productive meeting with the Crown Prince,” Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, the Malaysian prime minister and minister of finance, told the news service.

“He has agreed that Abu Dhabi, through its sovereign wealth fund, increase its investments in Malaysia starting with a fund of $1bn.

Malaysia recently announced it was planning to “liberalise conditions for foreign investors and woo investments to help the economy recover faster from the global and regional slowdown”, Bernama said.

1MDB would be part of the Terengganu Investment Authority, which is in the process of being expanded to a federal level to promote foreign direct investment into the country.


Mubadala has already invested in a project in Nusajaya, in Malyasia’s Iskandar Development Region, to develop 642 hectares of land into a “modern residential and business community, characterising the eastern culture’s heritage and architecture, coupled with the latest technology, security systems and world-class logistics”, Mubadala says on its website.

The Nusajaya investment will “secure long-term financial and strategic returns for Abu Dhabi”.

Mubadala officials declined to comment yesterday.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The World’s Best Places to Be an Immigrant

Throughout the developed world, countries are tightening up border security, building fences, and raising citizenship requirements. But there are still a few places left that are willing to say: “Give us your huddled masses.”

FRAN CAFFREY/AFP/Getty Images

Ireland

Where they come from: Africa, South Asia, Eastern Europe

Immigrants as percentage of population: 14 percent

Why they’re welcome: There’s enough wealth to go around. Known primarily as a source of immigrants throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the “Celtic Tiger” economic boom of the last decade and the resulting prosperity have now made the Emerald Isle an attractive destination. Ireland is also unique in the political rights it grants to noncitizens, which include voting, joining the police force, and running for local office. In the Dublin suburb of Portlaoise last summer, Nigerian-born Rotimi Adebari was elected as Ireland’s first black mayor. Although a few incidents of racial harassment have been reported, the backlash has been minimal, and Ireland doesn’t have the far-right nationalist parties that are common throughout the rest of Europe.


PEDRO ARMESTRE/AFP/Getty Images

Spain

Where they come from: North Africa, Latin America

Immigrants as percentage of population: 11 percent

Why they’re welcome: It’s all about the growth. Like Ireland, Spain spent decades as an economic basket case, but it is now one of Europe’s best-performing economies, thanks largely to its open-door immigration policy, instituted in the late 1990s. Spain has absorbed more than 3 million immigrants, and 11 percent of its population is now foreign-born. Many are attracted by Spain’s thriving construction sector, and minimum-wage agriculture and service jobs are increasingly filled by immigrants. Despite some fears provoked by the 2004 Madrid train bombings, carried out in part by Moroccan immigrants, Spain is keeping the door open and responded to its illegal-immigration problem with a large-scale amnesty in 2005. It’s not all good news for immigrants, though. Human Rights Watch blasted the Spanish government last summer for mistreating African migrant children at its Canary Islands detention centers.


JOEL NITO/AFP/Getty Images

Canada

Where they come from: East Asia, South Asia

Immigrants as percentage of population: 19 percent

Why they’re welcome: The country is running out of workers. Canada’s finance minister recently said that population and labor shortages are Canada’s most pressing economic challenges. One out of 7 Canadians is now a senior citizen, and the country’s fertility rate has been below replacement level since the early 1970s. In response, lawmakers in Ottawa are considering enhancing Canada’s immigration laws, which are already among the world’s most liberal. Canada has accepted around 200,000 immigrants per year over the last 10 years. Canada is also known for having a remarkably open policy for asylum seekers and accepts nearly half of those who seek refugee status. (The United States accepts less than a third.) Security concerns since 9/11 have led Canada to beef up security along its southern border and increase police surveillance powers, but these measures have not led to a decrease in immigration.



HANNAH JOHNSTON/Getty Images

New Zealand

Where they come from: East Asia and the Pacific Islands

Immigrants as percentage of population: 16 percent

Why they’re welcome: Because New Zealand wants the best. In how many countries can you imagine a politician saying, “We are in a global race for talent and we must win our share,” as New Zealand’s then immigration minister did in 2005? For New Zealand, immigration is all about skills. Applicants are awarded a score based on their level of occupational ability. Those scoring above a certain level are automatically granted entrance. With high levels of economic growth and a low population, New Zealand’s policies are geared toward shoring up key sectors of the country’s economy. On the whole, immigrants are thriving in New Zealand’s economic boom and receive public assistance at a lower level than the population at large. The good times may not last forever, though. Nationalist politicians routinely grumble about how the influx of Asian immigrants is changing the country’s demographic makeup, and the government is gradually raising language and skill requirements.

Hari Keluarga 18 ke 19 Julai 2009 - Jungle Lodge

Landing on moon 40 years later



What became of the astronauts on that fateful mission? Buzz Aldrin became a unsuccessful car salesman and now has a new book out about his years struggling with alcoholism, depression and infidelity. Armstrong largely shied away from the media spotlight after returning to earth and worked at an aviation software company for over a decade. Michael Collins, who stayed on Apollo 11 and orbited while Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon, became the forgotten man on the mission, but he was the director of the National Air and Space Museum after he returned.


Forty years after U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon, many conspiracy theorists still insist the Apollo 11 moon landing was an elaborate hoax. Examine the photographic evidence, and find out why experts say some of the most common claims simply don't hold water.

You can tell Apollo 11 was faked because ... the American flag appears to be flapping as if "in a breeze" in videos and photographs supposedly taken from the airless lunar surface.



The fact of the matter is ... "the video you see where the flag's moving is because the astronaut just placed it there, and the inertia from when they let go kept it moving," said spaceflight historian Roger Launius, of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

The astronauts also accidentally bent the horizontal rods holding the flag in place several times, creating the appearance of a rippling flag in photographs (Apollo 11 moon-landing pictures). .


http://www.nationalspatula.com/assets/moon-landing.jpg

The irony of today’s celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of man’s landing on the moon is that 40 years after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon — arguably the greatest technological feat of the 20th century — at present and in the foreseeable future, nobody is really going anywhere.


Going to the moon and bringing astronauts safely back to Earth was surely one of the most profound achievements in human history. The July 20, 1969, lunar landing captivated millions of people around the world and inspired the belief that anything was possible.


But the last of six moon landings was in 1972. Since then, no one has gone much farther than the Earth’s orbit. After they went to the moon, there was something anticlimactic about it. It seems nothing less than a meeting with alien life forms can restimulate the passion.


Times have changed drastically. The glory days of Apollo will never be recaptured. Gone is the vast budget for building spaceships. Gone is the Cold War with the Soviet Union, which unified the US under President John F. Kennedy, who issued the challenge to land on the moon by the end of the 1960s, and lent urgency to the effort to put an American on the moon before anybody else.


That sense of urgency and purpose in spaceflight has lessened drastically. The US economic depression means that NASA is unlikely to get enough money to do anything truly ambitious. Already President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for 2010 shows that the administration plans to slash funding later this decade for the rocket and spacecraft needed to take astronauts back to the moon, much less venture to the next goal: Mars. NASA now employs half as many people as it did at its peak, when the figure stood at 400,000 civil servants and contractors, and its budget is less than one percent of the federal budget when it was once 4 1/2 percent.


In March, Obama said NASA was beset by “a sense of drift” and few would disagree. Today, the reasons for Americans to pay attention to the ground are far more numerous and serious than what’s in the sky. Americans aren’t worried about where they are going but where they are right now.


Today space occupies a very different place. The generations born since the moon landings have other interests: A YouTube clip of the first moonwalk has two million views; Michael Jackson moonwalking has 20 million.


While Americans may still support human spaceflight, they don't make it a high priority because spaceflight is primarily symbolic. Indeed, when a space shuttle is launched, like the current Endeavour as it installs new components of the international space station, many Americans don’t really pay attention unless something goes wrong.


To honor the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, NASA has just released brand new restored videos of those historic first steps on the moon. The pictures are much clearer than the grainier first efforts, but what is more interesting is that they also show the ingenuity of human achievement, revealing a time when man achieved what past generations thought was impossible. Should dreams of the seemingly impossible and unattainable not continue?