Friday, May 28, 2010

Berlin Court Rules Against Muslim Student Prayers

A Berlin mosque: A Berlin court has ruled that praying at school  could cause conflict.

A Berlin mosque: A Berlin court has ruled that praying at school could cause conflict.

Last year a Berlin court ruled that the 16-year-old Muslim could pray in a private room at his school. Now a higher Berlin court has overturned that judgement, saying the prayers could disturb school peace.

A Muslim high school student will no longer be allowed to pray on school property, following a ruling by the higher administrative court of Berlin. The judgement is the latest step on a legal odyssey that began when the 16-year-old was asked to stop praying in the school hallways in 2007. He was the first student in Germany to demand the right to conduct his prayers at school.

In making the judgment the court was overturning an earlier verdict by a lower court, which had allowed the pupil to perform his midday prayers in a private room at his school in Berlin's working-class district of Wedding.

On Thursday, the higher court ruled that one pupil's rights could not be put before the good of the group as a whole. It argued that in a school with students of various religious beliefs, neutrality was required to ensure a proper learning environment.

The conflict began when, in November 2007, the school's headmistress forbade the student from praying in the hallways during intervals between classes. The student objected, saying he had to pray at school because prayer times were pre-prescribed by his religious beliefs. According to the Koran, a Muslim who lives a strictly religious life should pray five times per day: Morning, midday, afternoon, evening and night.

Following an urgent judgment by a lower court issued in March 2008, the school temporarily allowed the student to pray in a private room during school hours, although it would be outside of classes.

Earlier Court Decision Allowed Student to Pray

Then at the end of September 2009, Berlin's administrative court made the arrangement permanent, giving the student permission to pray at school once a day, when not in class. The court ruled that granting a private room was necessary to guarantee the student's right to freedom of religion.

However the Berlin city government's education authority appealed against that judgment, citing the principal of state neutrality when it came to issues of religion. It also argued that, considering the many different religious denominations that students belonged to, the school peace would be disturbed.

On Thursday the higher administrative court upheld those objections. The court ruled that a restriction of religious freedom at school was justified in this case in order to protect other constitutional freedoms: These could include the right to religious freedom of other students, the rights of parents and the need for peace in schools.

"This is a good day for Berlin schools," the school headmistress Brigitte Burchhardt told German news agency, DPA.

This, however, is not the end of the dispute. Thursday's ruling is now likely to be appealed at a higher court, Germany's Federal Administrative Court.

cis -- with wires

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wahabis, the Nawasib and the Rawafid

By Dr. Hamad Al-Majid

Are all of the above terms an example of insults and name-calling? The answer is yes, and for one simple reason, and that is that nobody likes to be branded with such names. It is impossible to get to know others, or create a healthy environment for dialogue, or develop a platform for understanding or communication, whilst branding others with names that they do not like being called and consider insulting.

Of the three terms mentioned above, let us bear in mind that the term "nawasib" is the most insulting because it is untrue. The term "Nawasib" comes from the root word "Nasibi" meaning to declare hostility against, and in this context means those who declare hostility against Ahl al-Bayt [Household of the Prophet]. This is a term used by some Shiite extremists when referring to Sunnis; however this is a huge fabrication, for all Sunnis without exception love and respect Ahl al-Bayt. As for the [original] Nawasib who were hostile towards Ahl al-Bayt for political reasons, they are all extinct.

In my opinion, the term Rawafid is less offensive than this, and it comes from the root word "rafid" meaning to reject, and it is used to indicate those Shiites who rejected Zaid Ibn Ali Ibn al-Hussein for not disowning Abu Bakr and Omar Ibn al-Khattab. When Zaid Ibn Ali's followers asked him to denounce the two caliphs as usurpers, he refused saying they were Companions of the Prophet [pbuh], this resulted in some of Zaid Ibn Ali's followers responding by saying "In that case, we reject you" which is where this term originates. To be frank, the majority of Shiite's reject the position of Imam Zaid, however the main reason that this term should not be utilized is simply because Shiites do not like to be referred to as Rawafid.

As for the term Wahabi, this is different and has been the subject of popular misconception. As Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz mentioned in his important article in the Al-Hayat newspaper published on 29/3/2010, Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul-Wahab's teachings did not constitute a new doctrine or ideology. I would add that it is a credit to the followers of Sheikh Abdul-Wahab that they are dissatisfied with the term "Wahabism" however if this ideology was truly new, it would be an honour for anybody to be associated with the individual who effected this change. If sanctity or sainthood – according to the Salafist belief – was applicable to individuals, then the least that could be done to glorify Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul-Wahab would be to name his disciples and followers after him, calling them Wahabis.

There is no insult or stigma in being a follower of Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul-Wahab, unlike those associated with the term Rawafid or Nawasib. The primary reason that those who are called Wahabis are unhappy about this is that this gives the impression that this is a new doctrine, and this is simply not true. I should also stress that any wrongdoing on the part of followers of Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul-Wahab's ideology should not wrongfully be ascribed to the teachings of this venerable Imam.

Imam Muhammad Ibn Abdul-Wahab is among a handful of the most instrumental reformers in modern history due to the profound impact that his teachings have had not just in the region, but across the entire Islamic world. The success that Imam Abdul-Wahab's teachings have achieved has given rise to bitterness in the hearts of his enemies, and [in his article] Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz said that Sheikh Abdul-Wahab's ideology was being deliberately distorted by a number of parties who are not pleased with the influence that his pure teachings enjoy. This is true, for the remarkable conjoining that occurred between the ruling power and the Wahabi teachings produced a State which has broken all the long-established natural laws, such as those mentioned in Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah, namely that states, like human beings, are born, age, and die, and that they live only once.

This is because the conjoining of Islam and politics occurred in Saudi Arabia, but collapsed with the First Saudi State, however this experience was brought about once again in the Second Saudi State before collapsing once more, however this is something that emerged for a third time in a rare and unparalleled experience in modern Saudi Arabia. During the third Saudi State, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has achieved a strong regional and international position due to this Islamic – political bond. Enemies of this experience everywhere today are trying to break up this close relationship, including by spreading false allegations and lies that aim to defame the teachings of Imam Muhammad Ibn Abdul-Wahab and create a dangerous rift between politics and religion in Saudi Arabia.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Top Cities to live worldwide

The global financial crisis was the issue that created the largest impact on the business climate in 2009. The crisis led to either a recession or an economic slowdown in the majority of nations in the world. Not only did it lead to significant changes in the banking sector in many countries, the financial crisis also helped shape the challenging global business environment that currently exists.

With governments having been forced to revise their investment and development activities, we expected to see limited improvement in certain quality-of-living factors, such as recreation and public services. However, a few factors had a role in how this played out. For example, the global financial crisis has not had a uniform impact on all countries, and government reactions have also been varied. In addition, many developmental activities initiated in previous years have only just started to make an impact on the daily lives of expatriates in the regions where these activities have been launched. Furthermore, limitations on personal freedom and relationships with other countries often are not related to the state of the economy.

Considering all these factors and issues, it is not surprising that we witnessed the usual mix of increases and decreases in quality of living in the past year.

Top 5 cities worldwide

Top 5 cities: Quality of living ranking Top 5 cities: Eco-city ranking
  • Vienna, Austria (1st)
  • Zurich, Switzerland (2nd)
  • Geneva, Switzerland (3rd)
  • Vancouver, Canada (tied 4th)
  • Auckland, New Zealand (tied 4th)
  • Calgary, Canada (1st)
  • Honolulu, United States (2nd)
  • Ottawa, Canada (tied 3rd)
  • Helsinki, Finland (tied 3rd)
  • Wellington, New Zealand (5th)

Top 5 cities by region

Quality of living ranking

Americas Asia Pacific Europe Middle East & Africa
  • Vancouver (4th)
  • Ottawa (14th)
  • Toronto (16th)
  • Montreal (21st)
  • Calgary (28th)
  • Auckland (4th)
  • Sydney (10th)
  • Wellington (12th)
  • Melbourne (18th)
  • Perth (21st)
  • Vienna (1st)
  • Zurich (2nd
  • Geneva (3rd)
  • Dusseldorf (6th)
  • Frankfurt (tied 7th)
  • Munich (tied 7th)
  • Dubai (75th)
  • Port Louis (82nd)
  • Abu Dhabi (83rd)
  • Cape Town (86th)
  • Tunis (94th)

Eco-city ranking

Americas Asia Pacific Europe Middle East & Africa
  • Calgary (1st)
  • Honolulu (2nd)
  • Ottawa (3rd)
  • Minneapolis (6th)
  • Vancouver (tied 13th)
  • Montreal (tied 13th)
  • Wellington (5th)
  • Adelaide (7th)
  • Kobe (9th)
  • Perth (12th)
  • Auckland (13th)
  • Helsinki (3rd)
  • Copenhagen (8th)
  • Oslo (tied 9th)
  • Stockholm (tied 9th)
  • Nurnberg (tied 13th)
  • Bern (tied 13th)
  • Cape Town (30th)
  • Victoria (38th)
  • Muscat (48th)
  • Johannesburg (54th)
  • Abu Dhabi (tied 65th)
  • Dubai (tied 65th)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Secret Mysteries of America's Beginnings

"Riddles In Stone: Secret Architecture of Washington, D.C.", will continue to explore the fascinating history behind the origins and focus of the world's most powerful nation: America.

Why was this nation founded? How was the precise location of Washington, D.C., determined?

What is the meaning of the seemingly countless occult images in our nation's capitol? Volume II zeroes in on the Masonic & Rosicrucian influence so prevalent amongst our Founding Fathers as they planned, and began to implement, the layout of America's Capitol. For years, extreme controversy has abounded as to the exact meaning of the occult symbols found within the street layout, the buildings, and the monuments of Washington, D.C. Is there really an inverted Pentagram formed by the street layout just north of the White House?

We have discovered the esoteric reason why this Pentagram is missing one segment. Was this city laid out to reflect the vision of a Masonic Christ foreseen by Sir Francis Bacon? Is it true that America's capitol was laid out "according to the stars", i.e., in the astrological shapes of certain planets and stars so revered by occultists?

Why did our Masonic Founding Fathers perform "Corn, Wine, and Oil" ceremonies at cornerstone layings and at the dedication of the finished structure? Does this occult "wisdom" represent the interests of America, or a hidden agenda? As with Volume I, this "Secret Mysteries" series will continue to explore current -- and possibly future -- events by examining America's past. What can these realities mean for the unfolding destiny of America and the world?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tighten your Facebook privacy settings

Tighten your Facebook privacy settings

By Scott Mace

In their hunt for market dominance, social networks Facebook, Google Buzz, and Microsoft Live are redefining what social means — and in the process, straining the bounds of personal privacy.

Facebook, the big daddy of these three, has made quiet changes to its privacy settings, ones that members need to understand if they are going to manage the distribution of their personal information.

I find Facebook useful, mostly as a way to stay in touch with a select set of my friends and former co-workers. It's not my public soapbox nor a window into my personal life, left open to the world — for that, I have blogs and Twitter.

As much as I like Facebook, it has a flaw that I'll never see in my blogs and hopefully never see with Twitter. It seems the proprietors of Facebook find it necessary, desirable, or profitable to change member privacy settings, usually with little notice to members. In every case I can think of, privacy settings have become more relaxed — more open, if you will.

What's beneficial for Facebook, however, is not necessarily good for members — their personal information might end up in places they never intended. The world is filled with marketers who would love to know increasingly more about you. And if that doesn't concern you, the world also contains stalkers and hackers who might use that personal information toward evil ends.

You should take your Facebook (or any other social network) privacy as seriously as you do protection from malware on your PC.

Keep in mind that all the big social networks continually tweak privacy settings. This is not just a Facebook problem.

Review and lock down your Facebook settings

In a typical good news–bad news scenario, Facebook's privacy settings have become more granular over time — and consequently far more tedious and complicated to manage. Even more irritating is that, as Facebook adds new categories of settings, it often uses Everyone as the default. (And Everyone means just that — not only all Facebook members, but anyone viewing associated sites).

New Facebook members are especially likely to give out private information unintentionally. Working through a slew of privacy settings is not foremost in their thoughts as they first build their new Facebook wall. Unfortunately, that means they get the default, wide-open Everyone privacy setting.

When deciding what personal information to share, you have two choices. Either don't put it on Facebook to begin with (no, you don't have to fill out every personal information field), or put it up but restrict who can see it.

Start with the simple setting for personal info

If you're going to post information you don't want the whole world to see, or if you just want to generally tighten up your privacy settings, start with the following:
  • Personal Information and Posts: Most settings in this section default to Everyone or Friends of Friends. For a balanced level of privacy, I recommend selecting either Only Friends or Only Me, depending on your comfort level.

    Here, Facebook makes things difficult for new members. Initially, the settings dropdown list does not contain Only Me. You must select Customize and then Only Me from another dropdown list — for each privacy setting. (See Figure 1.)

    Facebook custom privacy  setting
    Figure 1. If you want to use Facebook's most-restrictive setting, Only Me, you must go into custom settings.

    Furthermore, some of these settings affect the level of your friends' privacy when they interact through your wall. For example, when a friend posts a comment on your wall, Posts by Friends controls who else can see that post — everyone, friends of friends, and so on.

  • Contact information: Facebook tightens its default settings for direct-contact information to Only Friends, but if you don't care to share your IM screen name, mobile or other phone number, or current address, change it to Only Me.

    The last three settings on the Contact Information page — Website, Add me as a friend, and Send me a message — are all preset to Everyone by default.

    If you include your Web site URL on your wall but don't want it showing up on a search engine list, consider adding a robots.txt file at your Web site. (Instructions for creating this file are contained on the robotstxt.orgs site.)

  • Friends, Tags, and Connections: This section controls what information people see on your profile, and the options are relatively simple. Items such as Friends, Family, Relationships, and Photos are set to Only Friends by default, and that's probably how you'll want to leave them.

    Some information (such as your Pages and list of friends) is still public and can be accessed by Facebook applications you and your friends use.

    Facebook Pages offer a convenient way to stay on top of your favorite interests from within your profile page. The key is to carefully consider which Pages you choose to Like and which applications you agree to run.

    Liking a Facebook Page is different from, liking a post, photo, or link. When you like a Page, Facebook automatically subscribes you to a feed from that page — which often represents a commercial product or company.
Manage the murky realm of Facebook applications

How your privacy is kept or lost when using Facebook applications is probably the least-understood and most-worrisome aspect of this social network. The privacy controls for apps are found in the Applications and Websites section.

To put it simply, don't run Facebook applications if you don't want to distribute personal information beyond your friends. The following example shows what happens when you run an application. I'll use Farmville, a popular game application, as an example.

When you first run Farmville from within Facebook, all your profile information and photos, your friends' info, and other content it requires to work is pulled into the Farmville system. You have only two choices: Allow this to happen, or leave the application. If you let it happen, a vast amount of your personal information is now governed by Facebook's privacy policies and by Zynga's — the company that owns Farmville. Those policies may differ.

According to Zynga's privacy policy, it generally doesn't collect personally identifying information; in any case, it can collect only what you provide.

Bottom line: Each new application you link to in Facebook could add another layer of privacy management. This could be another argument for not posting sensitive information where it's not fully under your control.

Facebook applications have no middle ground — if you run an app, you're automatically sharing at least some information. You can't run an application just for yourself, as you would a spreadsheet or database. For this reason, I subscribe to few of them.

The most-important app settings fall under What your friends can share about you through applications and websites. By default, nothing can be shared except your name, sex, and profile photo — plus any information that fell under the Everyone option in the other privacy categories. I leave all boxes unchecked.

Should you choose to run Facebook applications, consider changing the Activity on Applications and Games Dashboards control's default setting from Only Friends to Specific People, or even to Only Me.

If you don't want to show up in the search results of unknown Facebook members, tighten the Search setting from Everyone to Friends of Friends or Only Friends. Unchecking Public Search Results also helps keep unknown Web surfers at bay.

Aside from the obvious anti-stalker benefit Block List enables, it also has a Preview My Profile button that displays how most Facebook members see your profile. It gives a good view of how tightly you're locked down.

New privacy leaks from Instant Personalization

Recently, Facebook opened up Instant Personalization, another way for strangers and outsiders to view your personal information. Currently, there is a setting at the bottom of the Applications and Websites page called Instant Personalization Pilot Program. If you opt into this service, selected Facebook partner Web sites can instantly personalize their applications, based on your personal information.

This list of partners is constantly expanding. Even if you opt out of Instant Personalization, your Facebook friends might still share Facebook information about you if they opt in. As far as I can tell, your only recourse is to block each of the application sites.

This could mean going to each apps page and clicking on Block Application, if it even exists. So far, the apps include the recommendation service, Microsoft (a Web-based document creation and sharing system), and the music-streaming service Pandora.

No wonder so many Facebook users are annoyed. If Facebook adds dozens of these apps within the next month, a significant investment in time will be necessary just to tighten up these newly loosened controls.

For the tightest privacy, you should log out of Facebook before visiting these or any other Web sites partnering with Facebook through Instant Personalization. It's certainly inconvenient to monitor whether you're logged into Facebook, but people who wish to share as little personal information as possible with these third-party sites are force to take these steps.

Other resources:'s page, "What does Facebook publish about you and your friends?," shows you what — if anything — public Internet users can see of your Facebook activities. It's a useful tool for managing the personal information other members are allowed to view.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Crazy Driving in Dubai

Roads in the Middle East are the second most dangerous in the world, with 18 of every 100,000 people losing their lives in crashes, a top official has said.

The region's roads ranked second globally behind Africa, according to Robert Marks, a senior official of International Safety Council, during a visit to Doha.

Marks said African roads were considered the most dangerous in the world with 24 people out of every 100,000 dying in road incidents every year.

He added that Qatar’s accident rate was not as significant as Saudi Arabia but still there was "a need to put more effort from governments and private sector to heighten awareness among motorists on defensive driving", The Peninsula reported on Tuesday.

“I take the view that one fatality is one fatality too many,” Marks told the paper.

Globally, Marks said that the majority of road accidents which should have been prevented involve young drivers licensed to drive with less than five years experience.

Best Selling Books Tell the Horrors of Forced Marriage

Stories of the suffering of young Muslim women forced into marriage are best sellers in Germany. But are these books about rape, violence and abuse socially beneficial or simply a cynical and salacious way of making money?

Autobiographical accounts of forced marriages are flying off the  shelves.

Autobiographical accounts of forced marriages are flying off the shelves.

Hülya Kalkan shakes with nervousness as she waits for her younger sister, Esme, in the arrivals area at Frankfurt's Rhine-Main Airport. Esme is fleeing from an arranged marriage with one of her Turkish cousins in Antalya. She is traveling with a forged passport arranged by Hülya.

The family in Turkey has been searching for Esme for some time now. Normally, she isn't allowed to leave the house for even a few minutes without an escort. When Hülya, still waiting at the airport, receives a call from her mother, all the mother can do is scream, "I hope you both die," into the phone.

Hülya knows exactly what Esme has been through. She also fled back to Germany from Anatolia to get out of a marriage her mother had arranged with a stranger. Like Esme, she was suddenly taken out of school in a southern German town at the age of 13 and sent back to Turkey to attend one of the country's strict and now forbidden Koran schools. It's a fate Hülya and her sister share with thousands of other girls of Muslim heritage.

After years of shame and silence, Hülya Kalkan, 26, has written the story of her life, titled "I Just Wanted to be Free." It's not the only accusatory essay of its type. There are now many books that recount the experiences of oppressed women in Islamic societies and call for the liberation of Muslim women. Almost all are top-sellers in the German book market. German publishers are launching six new titles this summer alone.

Tell Us All about It

The books are almost identical in terms of form and dramatic structure: first-person accounts, usually in the present tense, simple chronological arrangements of events and dialogues. But the gruesome details of these women's stories of suffering are disturbingly specific, stories of men imprisoning their wives, routinely beating and raping them, pouring acid on their "dangerously attractive" faces, of grandmothers who mutilate the genitalia of their young granddaughters with glass shards to prevent them from feeling sexual pleasure.

The details of these tortures seem to strike a chord with a broad readership that's apparently fascinated by the sheer horror of it all. The stories of the suffering endured by these women promise to provide grisly entertainment value to readers ennobled by the sensation of helping to further a good cause.

The seductive titles serve this purpose perfectly:

* "I Accuse," by Ayaan Hirsi Ali * "Nobody Asked Me," by Ayse * "Choke on your Lies," by Inci Y. * "Fundamentalism Against Women," by Nawal El Saadawi * "Kidnapped in Yemen," by Zana Muhsen

The books are selling like hotcakes. Eighty thousand copies of "I Accuse" have already been sold. Readers snapped up more than 20,000 copies of "Choke on your Lies" within a few weeks after it hit the bookstores. The publishing houses expect similar successes from "Nobody Asked Me," "I Just Wanted to be Free" and "Fundamentalism Against Women," initially published in printings of up to 30,000 copies each.

In most cases, the women wrote the books with the help of journalists. The manuscripts were offered to publishers through literary agents or directly by the ghostwriters. To protect themselves against attacks by their relatives, Inci Y. and Ayse did not use their real names.

An Author in Hiding

Inci Y. has also refused to be photographed and hasn't told her children that she wrote a book. "Only when they are old enough to understand my story will I reveal my identity to the public," she says in an interview with SPIEGEL, "for my family, the book is a good enough reason to kill me."

Inci Y., 35, has brown eyes and angular, sharp features. Her voice is clear and deliberate. She meets with interviewers in her apartment in a small German city. The door to the interior courtyard of the well-kept subsidized apartment is left open to allow a small amount of daylight to penetrate into the tiny front room with its plain gray furniture. It is here that the author very occasionally meets with visitors.

More Muslim  women than is commonly thought suffer abuse in forced marriages.

More Muslim women than is commonly thought suffer abuse in forced marriages.

She was born in Germany in 1970, the child of Turkish guest workers. When she was a year old, her parents sent her to Ankara to stay with her grandparents. From a very early age, she was taught that girls and women are less important beings, and that they should remain silent in the presence of men. As a teenager, Inci Y. returned to Germany, where her lack of a decent education kept her from finishing even the lower level in a German secondary school. "The teachers have their own strategy to abdicate all responsibility," she writes, "they just give you what's called an 'n.d.' (not determinable), instead of a grade; that's the key."

But then came the biggest shock of her life. Her mother married off the attractive, 17-year-old girl to a dim-witted Turkish car dealer in Anatolia, forcing her into a marriage that turned into a prison. Rape and beatings sometimes bordering on life-threatening attacks soon became part of a daily madness. Once, when Inci Y. refused to grant her husband Hikmet the "matrimonial privilege," he sprayed her with insect spray, "like an annoying fly."

One day Inci Y. decided to escape from her hellish marriage and obtained a divorce. Soon the entire family clan began hounding her and calling her the "sinner."

In an effort to gain custody of the child they had together, her ex-husband tried to blackmail her into signing a pre-written "confession," which contained passages like the following: "I am a whore and I do not want my daughter to become a whore, as well. That is why I waive my right to custody of my daughter Sila and relinquish sole custody to my husband, Hikmet."

Inci Y. fled to Germany to escape the clan's harassment. After a second failed marriage, she and her now 15-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son moved to a cramped apartment, where they have been living for the past four years. She has no contact with her family and the father of her children. Her apartment is lovingly decorated. Inci takes a stack of photographs from a cabinet. She has only one photograph of herself with her first ex-husband. "I was truly disgusted by him and his stench," she says.

Forced marriages and the associated violent subjugation of young women, as described in these books, are not as uncommon as one might think, and not just in the Islamic world.

Marriages which are arranged and enforced by relatives are part of a phenomenon that has developed over the centuries in patriarchal family structures and authoritarian societies in the Middle and Far East, as well as in Africa. According to the women's rights organization "Terre des femmes e.V." in Tübingen, near Stuttgart, the practice also affects Greek, Italian and Brazilian women. In Germany, most women forced into arranged marriages are of Turkish descent, because Turks and Kurds are Germany's largest immigrant group.

Why Do Families Force Their Daughters to Marry?

Forced marriage is a strategy. Muslim families are usually part of a minority in the countries into which they immigrate. The only way to strengthen their base in a "strange land" and secure family assets is to encourage family relations within a clan. At the same time, by marrying off their children, they believe they are establishing a home "back home" to which they can return in old age.

The girls, who are often underage, are easily married off at a tender young age if they come from places like Turkey. The parents know that the younger the daughter is at the time of her wedding, the sooner her new husband will be paying her expenses. Besides, the girls haven't lost their virginity at this point.

Under recent changes in German law, forced marriage is now considered severe coercion, a criminal offence. But if women are married in another country, they are subject to the laws of that country.

Dutch  politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has also written a first-hand account of  her experiences in a forced marriage, is under constant police  protection.

Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has also written a first-hand account of her experiences in a forced marriage, is under constant police protection.

The things she experienced, says Inci Y., are "hair-raising" and "disgusting." Nevertheless, she adds, she doesn't want her book to generate pity. The authors' accounts, she says, should help Turkish women living in Germany "understand the core of their own tragedy," a tragedy in which they are refused all basic education and strapped to an "intellectual wheel chair." If they lack the necessary education, says Inci Y., "how can they gain independence and get on their own two feet to start a career?"

Written by Turks, Read by Germans

The readers these books are supposed to target are other women in similar situations. But do they even reach these women?

Most are either not permitted or have no desire to read such books. Wolfgang Ferchl, director of Munich-based Piper Publishing, says: "Titles like 'Choke on Your Lies' are bought almost exclusively by German women -- because they are beginning to become interested in the lives of the Muslim women who have been their neighbors for decades. Suddenly they feel a sense of solidarity."

In this way, the message tends to reach its intended audience indirectly. Seyran Ates, a Turkish lawyer in Berlin who represents countless women tormented by forced marriage and domestic violence, says this phenomenon is "terrific." "We urgently need the German women to disseminate the message," she says. Ates, who published the story of her own experience two years ago under the title "Big Journey into the Fire," says the books by young Muslim women are "important because they encourage people," and because they create awareness of the problems among Germans. "It's important that the readers realize what a horrible parallel world exists in their own country," says the attorney. That's because courageous Muslim women who fight for their liberation are still portrayed in their own culture as denigrators of their own kind -- and support from German women can sometimes be helpful in these situations.

Since March of this year, the popular Turkish newspaper Hürriyet which is also the most-read Turkish paper in Germany and has published articles condemning the male stranglehold on power, has been running a series about the authors of these first-hand accounts. The paper publishes excerpts from the women's books, but also prints its own, supposedly well-researched opposing views of their stories, which are intended to expose the women's confessions as vulgar lies. "They portray the women as greedy swindlers just looking to turn a profit with what 'Hürriyet' calls their made-up stories," says Ates, who is committed to the cause and expects to see many other first-hand accounts "in the style of Inci Y." in the future. "The more, the better," she adds, "because at least then German society will slowly but surely begin despising the violent patriarchs."

One-Sided Accounts

As disturbing as these stories are, the accounts almost always lack a differentiated tone and dramatic polish. Few of these books contain any passages of cooler argumentation or even a more dispassionate view of these women's plight. "After all, the Muslim man isn't born as a filthy pig," Inci Y. concedes in her interview. He too is cheated of almost everything that "can take place between a man and a woman." The Muslim man, she says, is put on the spot because he is the one who is expected to wield power.

Most of these authors justifiably fear violent retribution by fundamentalist Muslims as soon as their books are published. Ever since the murder of her colleague, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh ("Submission"), Ayaan Hirsi Ali for example has been under constant police protection in the Netherlands.

But Inci Y. remains combative. She puts out her cigarette and says: "Let them to try to kill me. I'm not afraid of anyone."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dubai's other services

(Taken from NZ Herald)

Sun, sand, sex - why Dubai's strict code is a sham

By William Butler
4:00 AM Monday May 17, 2010
There is both legitimate 'romance' and paid-for sex in Dubai. Photo  / AP

There is both legitimate 'romance' and paid-for sex in Dubai. Photo / AP

The bosomy blonde in a tight, low-cut evening dress slid on to a barstool next to me and began the chat: Where are you from? How long are you here? Where are you staying?"

I asked her what she did for a living. "You know what I do," she replied. "I'm a whore."

As I looked around the designer bar on the second floor of the glitzy five-star hotel, it was obvious that every woman in the place was a prostitute. And the men were all potential punters, or at least window-shoppers.

While we talked, Jenny, from Minsk in Belarus, offered me "everything, what you like, all night" for the equivalent of about $1000.

I turned down the offer.

This was not Amsterdam's red-light district. This was in the city centre of Dubai, the Gulf emirate where Western women get a month in prison for a peck on the cheek; the Islamic city on Muhammad's peninsula where the muezzin's call rings out five times a day drawing believers to prayer; where public consumption of alcohol prompts immediate arrest; where adultery is an imprisonable offence; and where mall shoppers are advised against "overt displays of affection", such as kissing.

Ayman Najafi and Charlotte Adams, the couple recently banged up in Al Awir desert prison for a brief public kiss, must have been very unlucky indeed, because in reality Dubai is a heaving maelstrom of sexual activity. It is known by some residents as "Sodom-sur-Mer".

Beach life, cafe society, glamorous lifestyles, fast cars and deep tans are all things associated with "romance" in the fog-chilled minds of Europeans and North Americans.

And there is a fair amount of legitimate "romance" in Dubai. Western girls fall for handsome, flash Lebanese men; male visitors go for the dusky charms of women from virtually anywhere. Office and beach affairs are common. But most of the "romance" in Dubai is paid-for sex, accepted by expatriates as the norm, and to which a blind eye is turned - at the very least - by the authorities.

The bar where "Jenny" approached me was top-of-the-range, where expensively dressed and coiffured girls can demand top dollar from wealthy businessmen or tourists. Virtually every five-star hotel has a bar where "working girls" are tolerated, even encouraged, to help pull in men with cash to blow. But it goes downhill from there.

At sports and music bars, Filipinas vie with the Russians and women from the former Soviet republics for custom at lower prices. In the older parts of the city, Deira and Bur Dubai, Chinese women undercut them all in the lobbies of three-star hotels.

It is impossible to estimate accurately the prostitute population of Dubai. But what makes Dubai prostitution different is the level of acceptance it has by the clients and, apparently, the city's Islamic authorities. Although strictly illegal under United Arab Emirates' and Islamic law, it is virtually a national pastime.

I have seen a 15cm-high stack of application forms in the offices of a visa agent, each piece of paper representing a hopeful "tourist" from Russia, Armenia or Uzbekistan. The photographs are all of women in their 20s seeking one-month visas for a holiday in the emirate.

Maybe young Aida from Tashkent will find a few days' paid work as a maid or shop assistant while she's in Dubai. But most nights she will be selling herself in the bars and hotels and the immigration authorities know that. So must the visa agent, who gets his cut out of each £300 visa fee.

All UAE nationals are entitled to a number of residence visas, which they routinely use to hire imported domestics, drivers or gardeners. But they will sell the surplus to middlemen who trade them on to women who want to go full-time and permanent in the city. The higher the social and financial status of the Emirati, the more visas he has to "farm".

Thousands of women buy entitlement to full-time residence, and lucrative employment, in this way. Three years in Dubai - the normal duration of a residence visa - can be the difference between lifelong destitution and survival in Yerevan, Omsk or Bishkek.

It also ensures a convenient supply of sex for Emiratis. The other big category of punters is Europeans and Americans, and it is remarkable how quickly it all seems normal. A few drinks with the lads on a Thursday night, maybe a curry, some semi-intoxicated ribaldry, and then off to a bar where you know "that" kind of girl will be waiting. In the West, peer group morality might frown on such leisure activities, but in Dubai it's as normal as watching the late-night movie.

In the long, hot summer, wives and families escape the heat by going to Europe or the US, and the change that comes over the male expat population is astounding. Middle-aged men in responsible jobs - accountants, marketeers, bankers - who for 10 months of the year are devoted husbands, transform in July and August into priapic stallions. Tales are swapped over a few beers the next night, positions described, prices compared, nationalities ranked according to performance. It could be the Champions League we are discussing, not paid-for sex.

In my experience, many men will be unfaithful if they have the opportunity and an expectation that they will not be found out. For expats in Dubai, the summer months provide virtual laboratory conditions for infidelity.

There is the Indonesian maid who makes it apparent that she has no objection to extending her duties, for a price; the central Asian shop assistant who writes her mobile number on the back of your credit card receipt "in case you need anything else"; the Filipina manicurist at the hairdresser's who suggests you might also want a pedicure in the private room.

Sodom-sur-Mer is flourishing. But would-be snoggers beware - your decadent behaviour will not be tolerated.

William Butler is a pseudonym for a writer who lived in Dubai for four years.


Monday, May 17, 2010

NZ one of world's 'lifestyle superpowers'

1:40 PM Monday May 17, 2010
BBC correspondent Nick Bryant says he wishes the rest of the world  could be more like New Zealand. Photo / Alan Gibson

BBC correspondent Nick Bryant says he wishes the rest of the world could be more like New Zealand.

New Zealand is "one of the great lifestyle superpowers of the world" according to the BBC's Sydney correspondent Nick Bryant, who wonders in a post on why the rest of the world can't be more like little ol' Aotearoa.

Bryant's thoughts, penned following a recent visit to our shores, were prompted by an encounter with "a middle-aged customs official with a sense of humour", the discovery that New Zealand has a 24-hour rugby channel, our "funky" arts scene and the "quaint fastidiousness" which still sees cricket commentators convene on the boundary during the tea break to enjoy - of all things, a pot of tea.

He points out too, that New Zealand can be "edgy and forward", citing the fact we were the first country in the world to give women the vote and the impending launch of the "world's most comprehensive emissions trading scheme to curb greenhouse gases".

"Best of all, perhaps, is how non-indigenous New Zealanders live in such harmony with their indigenous compatriots," writes Bryant, whose piece is among the most-read articles on today.

"Next year [New Zealand] hosts the Rugby World Cup," he concludes, "but for now I will leave this country with my usual parting thought: 'Why can't the rest of the world be more like New Zealand?'"

Earlier this year, an index compiled by International Living magazine ranked new Zealand as the fifth-best country in the world to live in.

The index ranks 194 countries, taking into account cost of living, culture and leisure, economy, environment, freedom, health, infrastructure, safety and risk, and climate.

New Zealand's "pristine landscapes", the Auckland waterfront and the Southern Alps were singled out for special mention.

Last year's UN Human Development Report, which calculates the well-being of people in 182 countries by taking into account life expectancy, literacy, school enrolment and GDP per capita, ranked New Zealand 20th.

However not all recent coverage of New Zealand in the international media has been positive.

Last November, Guardian columnist Fred Pearce said New Zealand was promoting itself as "clean and green" despite having emissions which were "60% higher than those of Britain, per head of population".

"In recent years a lot of Brits have headed for Christchurch and Wellington in the hope of a green life in a country where they filmed the Lord of the Rings. But it's a green mirage," Pearce wrote.

What they said about New Zealand

"There's a real purity in New Zealand that doesn't exist in the States. It's actually not an easy thing to find in our world any more. It's a unique place because it is so far away from the rest of the world. There is a sense of isolation and also being protected." - Actor Elijah Wood

"Fiordland, ladies and gentlemen. What a spectacle. Earth Destination Number One... To throw words at such a spectacle would be like throwing meringues at a charging rhinoceros. Fruitless. (Unless it's banana pavlova). - Actor Stephen Fry

"I find that the girls [in New Zealand] are so like, beyond warm and polite. I don't know, do you guys have haters? America's all about haters. I don't feel that here... I always wanted to come to New Zealand, because the terrain is like, insanely gorgeous." - Host of America's Next Top Model Tyra Banks

"Last, loneliest, loveliest, exquisite, apart." (About Auckland) - Author and poet Rudyard Kipling


Sunday, May 16, 2010

50 ways to find a new job

Planning a career shift may seem daunting. But with the right attitude and expert advice you can't go wrong

By Graham Snowdon, Guardian News and Media Limited

Talk to recruiters to establish what they consider to be an above-average CV
  • Image Credit: Rex Features

Changing careers isn't easy but it helps to know where to start, who to target and how to succeed at interviews. Here are some tips:

1. Make the first move

"List out career options you think you would really enjoy, not just the ones you think you can do," says Catherine Roan, managing director of career change consultants "Research how others moved to these careers."

2. Think about things you're good at

Tanya de Grunwald, founder of says: "A good job search should start with you, not your CV. Are you an ideas person? Are you good at explaining things? Look closer and you'll find moving towards jobs you'll enjoy."

3. Think about the skills you have picked up

Is there crossover between what you are good at and the skills you have? If so, use these lists to help identify the types of jobs and industries you are most suited to.

4. Do your homework

"Many careers sound exciting when you only know a little about them," says Dr Rob Yeung, executive coach at consultancy Talentspace. "Make sure you know what's boring about a job and what's great."

5. Dip your toe before taking the plunge

"Research what it entails, what training you may need and talk to people doing that job," Roan says. "If possible, try it out part-time or shadow someone in the role."

6. Tidy up your CV

Talk to recruiters to establish what they consider to be an above-average CV. Consider asking a CV-writing agency "but only if it comes recommended by someone you know," says Rowan Manahan, author of Ultimate CV: Trade Secrets from a Recruitment Insider.

7. Create your own marketing pack

"Choose a high-quality paper with matching envelopes," says James Innes, author of The CV Book, The Interview Book and Brilliant Cover Letters. "A co-ordinated image can really impress; it's a small investment which could pay huge dividends."

8. Don't go over the top

"Razzmatazz won't help you be taken seriously," advises Rebecca Corfield, author of Knockout Job Presentations. "Be unforgettable for the right reasons. Impact comes from strong words, having a clear and logical layout, and detail about what makes you special."

9. Have some trusted friends give you feedback

"When you've been tinkering with your CV for hours it's easy to miss glaring typos, so make sure someone else has seen it," says De Grunwald. "The best people to canvass are those already working in your chosen industry."

10. Include a cover letter

"Many people lose out not because of their CV but because of their cover letter — or lack of one," Innes says. Create a template cover letter and modify it to suit your needs.

11. Consider a video CV

Go for this if you are in a technical field. But be careful, it's easy to do this very badly. "Produce a 30-second, a 90-second and a 5-minute piece and make sure the channel — YouTube or Vimeo — reflects the professional image you are seeking to cast and track viewing stats closely to assess if your approach is working."

12. Customise your CV

"Put yourself in the shoes of each recruiter and make sure you've emphasised the bits they'll be most interested in," De Grunwald says. "Don't use jargon and if your former employers aren't well-known, explain briefly the nature of each."

13. Where and how to look

Search online by area and job title, and repeat your search every day. "The methods that pay most dividend are Google Alerts for the wider market and manually tracking specific companies you would like to work for," Manahan says.

14. List organisations you would like to work for

Visit their websites and look for employment information — you may find jobs that don't appear elsewhere online.

15. Look under your nose

While many large firms use the internet to find employees, most small businesses do not. A local paper can still be a useful place to find jobs in your town.

16. Cast the net wide

"Difficult times require more creative solutions and you will find more options this way," Corfield says. "Don't be put off by commuting. It can provide time for reading, learning or just thinking."

17. Aim high and low

Apply for jobs above and below the level you are working at. It's hard to generalise but particularly if switching careers, you need to be realistic about the level of opportunity that may be open to you.

18. Apply to unconventional places

You may assume your local hospital, for instance, doesn't have any jobs you would be suited to if you aren't a healthcare worker — but you might be wrong. "Most large organisations have admin, IT and HR staff," Corfield says.

19. Look out for scams

Scams encompass everything from "work at home" to "pay for a list of jobs". "Some agencies trawl for good CVs and approach companies with the claim that they have the cream of the market," Manahan says. "Make sure the advertisement you're responding to is a real job."

20. Build an online profile

Put your CV online. Download it and see how it looks and make sure it prints out the way you want it to.

21. Use a universally accepted document format

"PDF or Word-compatible are the best," Innes says. "If your CV is in a different format, you're reducing the chances of someone being able to access it."

22. Use the right keywords

The goal is to have your CV pop up at the top of the list when a potential employer searches for those keywords. "Gather as many job-description and person-specification documents as possible as you proceed with your search," Manahan says.

23. Become an expert in your field

"Think about articles you could write for trade journals, blogs and other opportunities to build credibility in your field," Yeung says.

24. Build online profiles

"For findability, it's hard to beat a good profile on LinkedIn," Manahan says. "Start the profile privately, hone it and go public to reach a wider audience."

25. Keep your profiles accurate and up-to-date

"Employers frequently use the internet as a quick and easy means of checking up on applicants. Don't get caught out," Innes says.

26. Behave yourself online

If you use a more general social networking site, such as Facebook or MySpace, be careful to present yourself in the best light and make sure privacy settings prevent casual viewers from seeing your full profile.

27. Be old-fashioned

Many employers are geared up to receive applications online but sometimes, submitting your application and following up by phone is the best approach.

28. Marshal your resources

"In a healthy market, 55 per cent of jobs beyond graduate/entry-level positions will be filled through some level of personal contact and in an unhealthy market the figure is higher," Manahan says. "Let people know what you are looking for."

29. Ask for a referral

If you know someone who is leaving a job which feels appropriate, ask them to put in a word on your behalf. You may be able to apply for the position before the company readvertises the opening.

30. Make use of any resources your former employer offers

If you have been laid off, consider accepting any assistance offered by your employer with CV help, retraining or career counselling. "It can help you start on the next phase of your career," Corfield says.

31. Apply for benefits

If you are eligible, apply for unemployment benefits right away, even if you think you will land a new job.

32. Be professional

Treat your job search like a job in itself. "Finding a new job, especially if you are changing careers, is not easy. It can seem an overwhelming task at times. Keep busy and you'll get there," Roan says.

33. Get a sensible e-mail address

"Set up a separate address for career management and point your social networks to that address. Set up a professional signature on your e-mail account that shows your address, phone and key online sites."

34. Be easily contactable

The phone number you put on your CV should be one you can either answer immediately or one that has voicemail.

35. At the interview

Be prepared for common questions such as "Where do you see yourself in five years?" or "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" Have the answers to such queries up your sleeve.

36. Rehearse to a live audience

"Express yourself in an articulate fashion by asking a friend to throw likely questions at you," Yeung says.

37. Create an "elevator speech" about yourself

"Get ready to talk about your skills and experience," Corfield says. "How does your personality fit? What is your vision for the job? Why are you the best person to do it?"

38. Turn the tables on your interviewer

"Try to find out as much as you can about your interviewer," Innes says. "You will have a head start."

39. Free the skeletons in your closet

Be prepared to address the six-month gap in your employment history or the reason why you suddenly had to leave your last position.

40. Be honest

Don't claim to have degrees or experience you don't.

"Remember that many organisations check references," Yeung says. "Any inconsistencies could lead to an employer rescinding a job offer."

41. A class apart

Dress appropriately. Presentation can make the difference in whether or not you are hired or even the salary you are offered. "Dress at least as well as you would when actually turning up to do the job — preferably better," Innes says.

42. Be nice to everyone you talk to

This is especially true when you aren't sure who they are. "I once assumed the girl who greeted me and asked if I wanted a coffee was a secretary — but when she sat down and started the interview I realised she was the boss," De Grunwald says.

43. Be on time

Phone in advance to confirm time, place and directions. Scout out the location in advance to check parking, transport and cafés. "If you are late, phone and offer to reschedule but don't expect to be taken as seriously as the candidate who showed up on time," Manahan says.

44. Send a thank-you note

Follow up an interview with a brief courtesy message (an e-mail will do) a few days later. Not many applicants bother with this and it will keep you at the front of an interviewer's mind.

45. Don't pester an interviewer

Waiting to hear back after an interview can be stressful but resist the temptation to bombard your potential employer with e-mails and phone calls. Let the process run its natural course.

46. Take the long view

Get in touch with your old college. Find out whether it has an alumni job-placement scheme. "If you're serious about finding work you should leave no stone unturned," De Grunwald says.

47. Take some classes

"You need to show you wants to learn new things," Corfield says. "Practical skills can increase confidence, languages can widen your world and academic subjects will boost your CV."

48. Think about the future

"Some industries are likely to have huge demands for jobs in future," Roan says. "Do your research to find out where these vacancies will be and if you would be interested in working for."

49. Create your own job

Consider starting your own business, either consulting for your present field or doing something new.

50. Don't give up

"Remember you are not alone," Roan says. "Many people have been where you are. Believe in yourself, be clear on what you want and keep going."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jaguh Kampung, A Personal Perspective on Business Outside Malaysian Shores

by Tun Daim Zainuddin

Since my second retirement in 2001, I have accepted only one invitation to speak in Malaysia and that was in 2004.

So to accept this invitation, it took some serious thinking on my part. I have spoken many times overseas but at home I think people may be tired of hearing me talk all the time so as a retiree I should just keep quiet!

“I accepted this invitation because I have great faith in our young people. For us as a nation to grow and succeed in the future we need good leaders and you here are our leaders of tomorrow.

So, thank you Tengku Zafrul Aziz for inviting me. The topic you chose is interesting – Jaguh Kampung, A Personal Perspective on Business Outside Malaysian Shores.

Nowadays, the term Jaguh Kampung seems to suggest our failures. It dismisses our achievements and local successes. It portrays us as a failure overseas. It looks down upon us. It used to refer to sports, now it encompasses business.

I do not see anything derogatory about being a Jaguh Kampung, for how can you succeed globally if you have not achieved success even at home. It is here that you hone your skills, know of your strengths and weakness, make your mistakes and learn from them; it is here that you plant the seed of your success overseas. It is only negative when you are successful at home yet not able to translate the same success abroad. Why?

It has been argued that Malaysians are far too comfortable at home and therefore cannot stand the competition outside. For the Malays particularly it is said that we do not have the history of migrants who came in junks and sampans to make a new life in a new land; that we have no history of doing business and that there is no NEP overseas.

I don’t subscribe to such an argument. Many non-Malays fail too. Many non-Malays who have succeeded here with Government help have failed overseas. It has nothing to do with race and everything to do with ourselves. We have to see our own strengths and weakness to know why we succeed and why we fail. I have no sociological or anthropological thesis on this but I can tell you of my personal experience to illustrate, if that is of any help.

So, I guess I shall start from the beginning. I come from a small place called Lorong Kampong Padang in Kota Tanah, Seberang Perak, Kedah. Growing up I was confused, we had no padang, no kota (fort), no perak (silver)! It was a small kampong where everyone knew everyone. Yet this village produced 3 doctors, 2 veterinary surgeons, a dentist and may top civil servants. As far as I knew, they were no lawyers, yet my father kept urging me “Grow up to be a lawyer”.

Two of the three doctors were Dr Mahathir who married another doctor, and Dr Bakar who married Tan Sri Dr Salmah, the first female Malay doctor in the country. Amongst my schoolmates and seniors were Tan Sri Hanafiah Ahmad of Tabung Haji, Tan Sri Hanafiah Hussein, the first Malay Chartered Accountant, and Tan Sri Bakar Hamid, Head of Income tax. The list goes on.

The late Tun Zahir (Speaker of Parliament) helped me with my admission to Lincoln’s Inn. In London I was friends with other students some of whom went on to become Judges, Chief Justices, President of the Ct. of Appeal, Lord Presidents, top Civil Servants etc. I learnt politics from the likes of Syed Albar and even when back in Kuala Lumpur he would come to my house weekends and drive me around Kuala Lumpur introducing me to the whos who of Malay politics. Hussein Onn would tell me Malayan political history.

When I moved to Kelantan I got to know the various political leaders in PAS like Asri, Zulkifli and Wan Mustapha. In fact PAS was the first to offer me to stand for election. When I joined the Legal Service, I served in Johor and Perak and built up further my network of friends.

When I was in private practice I represented the Governor of Sarawak in the case of Stephen Kalong Ningkan. I was in Allen & Gledhill then and a very junior lawyer too but the senior partner asked me to do it as he thought that I was able to handle it as he considered me well read and thorough in my work plus he knew that I was well versed in the politics of the day. It was during this case that I got to know Tun Razak, Tun Rahman Yakob and Tan Sri Taib Mahmmud. At 28, I attended my first Cabinet meeting to brief the Cabinet on the case. I never thought that 18 years later I would be attending it weekly.

Tengku Razaleigh and Manan Othman for reasons known to themselves, recommended to Hussein Onn that I be appointed a Senator. Suddenly people wanted to find out who this Daim was. Manan when he was Minister of Public Enterprise, put me on Board of UDA as I was recognized as a successful property developer then and later made me chairman of Peremba. When Tun Mahathir became PM, he appointed me as Chairman of Fleet Group. Tan Sri Sanusi made me Chairman of Rakyat First Merchant Bank. In 1984, Tun Mahathir made me Minister of Finance.

It is from all these people that I learnt so much and who had in some way or the other helped me in my professional, business and political life.

I was also a busy body and had an opinion on everything. I was there when Tan Chee Koon, Lim Chong Eu and Syed Hussein formed Parti Gerakan. I took part in the debate on the issue of Bahasa Kebangsaan and had friends who alerted me that I was to be arrested under the ISA on the issue. I wrote letters to the Prime Ministers in office, offering them my 2 cents worth, the advice unasked and often ignored but that did not deter me.

I started my private practice with some savings and a RM60k loan from MARA. I furnished my office frugally and spent the rest on the stock market. When May 13 came I almost lost the shirt on my back. I learnt there and then that the stock market is not a casino for me to gamble in but that investment has to be made through informed choices. Later when I decided to go back to the market I only invested in quality and strategic stocks.

Before I could invest in these quality stocks I had to make money to pay off my debts. Luckily I had my practice; but the need to succeed was too strong for me to remain purely a lawyer. Not one to give up, I decided to go into business. I invested in a salt making business – everyone needs salt right? well, an unseasonal storm washed that away! I went into many businesses that didn’t do too well, until I decided to go into property development. I approached Dato Harun Idris then MB of Selangor for a piece of an abandoned, disused mining land. I paid the premium for it and finally was on the road to success. It was not easy going. It would have been easier if it was a piece of flat estate land, instead I had manylakes to be filled before I can build.

But if it had been easy then I’m not sure I would have learnt the lessons that failure teaches you. Failure is a great teacher if you are willing to learn. My tenacity was my strength. I never gave up. As Churchill said “Success is not final and failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts”. I stumbled, picked myself up and continued.

By the time I was in my mid thirties I was a millionaire. With the money I made I went looking for my strategic stakes not only in the stock market but also in properties. By the time I join the Cabinet I was the shareholder of Raleigh Bhd (a name famous worldwide for its bicycle, made since 1887) Raleigh had shares in Prudential and had landed properties and another listed company. I bought into UEP which had a 1,400 acre land bank which I later reversed into SIME for shares, making me the single largest shareholder of SIME then. I also had a Joint Venture with the State Government of Kedah to develop 2,000 acres of converted land. Maluri also JV’ed with PNB to develop 600 acres of land in Kajang. I had a housing estate in Malacca. My land bank was massive. I was also a founding shareholder and chairman of TV3. I was also the largest individual shareholder in Nestle, and in Jaya Jusco. I had 4 factories in Malacca producing cast iron, plastic, packaging and preserved foods. I also invested in a haulage company. I also had a stake in UMBC Bank. I’m telling you all this not to show off and impress you but to share with you my journey.

When I was asked by Dr Mahathir to join the Government I had to think very carefully. I knew it will be a sacrifice on my part to take the offer but then this would not be the first time I have been asked to sacrifice in the name of national interest. When I had the opportunity to increase my share in SIME to 30% Dr. Mahathir heard about it and asked me not to take it up as it would be better to be given to PNB. When UMNO youth objected to MCA buying shares in UMBC, MCA approached me to exchange my controlling shares in Malaysian French Bank for a non controlling stake in UMBC. I was not keen to give up control in one for non-controlling in another, further I had to borrow as I was buying into a bigger bank, but the government insisted on the exchange for economic and political stability. By the time the deal was completed I was made MoF and later had to sell my stake. The government insisted that I can only sell to a Bumi or Bumi company and at cost too! I had much higher offers from non Bumis and could have made money on this sale but I have no choice. On top of it all, I had to pay tax on the sale too!

As I said earlier, it was a sacrifice on my part. Joining the Government also meant that I would have to give up my business. I was rich and answered to no one. I was carefree and wanted to enjoy the fruits of my labour. I had my privacy which I value highly. It was a difficult decision to make. I took more than a month to think it over. Whilst I would sacrifice a life of greater wealth, there is more to life than making money and more money. At some point you have to look beyond material wealth and personal interest. In the end the call to serve was made, partially because growing up my father had always drummed it into my head that there was no better calling than to be serving the government. That to be of service is an honour. And he also thought that I should be Prime Minister. In fact when I was appointed MoF and I told him, he replied “bukan PM?”!! Obviously he thought very highly of me.

There has been bouquets and brickbats, but I did not take the job to win a popularity contest. National interest comes first and in the end, you have to do what you think is best for the nation. Joining the government has brought me immense satisfaction to see the economy succeed from an agrarian economy to an industrialised economy. If I had not joined the government I would have been far richer in wealth but so much poorer in experience. If there is any regret, it is regret for the loss of my privacy.

I couldn’t have done all this on my own. The friends I knew, the network I built was very useful. You cannot be successful if you are a hermit staying in your house watching TV after work. Whether its through school, work or sports, there is always an opportunity to meet people. Networking, building relationships, what the Chinese called “quan xi”, is important in business – you never know who you meet may be your guardian angel in disguise. Of course I’m not suggesting that you make friends for an ulterior motive – if you are not sincere, people can see through you. If you use people, it can only work once or twice before you lose your reputation and that, if once lost cannot be recovered.

Whenever I travel and meet people I would always write to them, to thank them, to keep in touch, to invite them over etc. So wherever I went I always knew someone or the other. But mix with like minded people. Your so called friends can lead you astray. As I have said earlier,networking is very important but is of no use when all you do with your network of friends is to “omong-omong kosong”.

Saudara, Saudari / Ladies and Gentlemen

After retirement I had no ministry and no company to run. All my life I have been active and staying home doing gardening and playing golf did not appeal to me. So I went to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. I spent my time reading, meeting people, attending lectures. After a few months I was restless. I reassessed my situation – do I restart in Malaysia? If I did, and succeeded, my success would be questioned as I still had friends and contacts both in and out of Government. I had nothing to prove but I thought if I could succeed in Malaysia, maybe I could do so overseas. As I’ve said earlier Malays have been criticised that they can only succeed because of the NEP, I thought that I owe it to the Malays to prove otherwise.

In the course of my work as MoF I travelled and engaged with various people, government and non-government everywhere. I had visited Eastern Europe and was convinced that Russia could not hold on to them for very long.

In 1994 I started my banks in Republic of Czech and then Hungary, Albania, Bosnia. Whatever we may say of Russia, it left behind a very good education system and excellent infrastructure. Still, it was tough to do business there. There is the question of language and there was no experience of market economy. It was not easy to get Malaysians to work there and the locals were used to working for the government. We had to motivate them to work for profit, to understand that we go into business to make profit, profit to pay salaries, bonuses and to expand.

If Eastern Europe was tough, Africa was tougher. Why Africa? Its too long to go into but if you are interested I’ve given my reasons in a separate paper. Its with Tengku Zafrul. It was not easy for us to start in Africa. We were not Citibank or HSBC or Standard Chartered. Whilst most of the Governments in Africa knew me when I was MoF and I was involved in both the Smart Partnership and South-South Cooperation, nobody knew the Bank. Tun Dr. Mahathir’s name carries a lot of weight and Malaysia under him was held in high esteem. All these helped but we still had to prove ourselves and further we had to carry the burden of maintaining Malaysia’s good name. Failure was not an option.

Africa was tough. There was little discipline, most do not have the expertise nor the experience. The better ones had left and were in Europe or America. The pool to draw staff was small. If it was difficult to entice Malaysians to Eastern Europe, you can imagine what it was like to ask them to go to Africa!

We started from scratch. Fortunately for me, I had an excellent team who understood and shared my vision. The team you build is critical. You cannot do it alone.

My team were as determined as me to succeed. We had put our money there and our reputation and the country’s reputation were at stake. My team were motivated and prepared to sacrifice the comforts of home to blaze a trail there. It was pure team work and dedication that made it. Without a good team, no way would we be where we are today. Our banks have won many awards, particularly Euromoney’s Bank of the Year awards, some of them repeatedly. I am very proud of them. And I must add that we have a good reputation in Africa. Wherever I go and I meet Presidents, Prime Ministers, MoF, Governors of Central Bank of countries where we operate and where we don’t, they now know us and of us and are happy with us. They see that we have been fair and honest. We treat them as partners and equals. We train the locals and it is a measure of our success that our local staff are always in demand and poached by other financial institutions. We get a lot of requests to open up in their countries but we are limited by our resources. We cannot over-stretch ourselves and end up with quantity but not quality. Quality is of the utmost importance.

Today we have a presence in 10 countries in Africa and have also expanded our reach into Asia; Indonesia, Bangladesh, Laos, and are looking at other neighbouring countries. People must think that you have to be immensely rich to be in Europe, Africa and Asia, but that is not true. When we first started, the paid up for each bank was only US$2 million. Today a European bank’s paid up must be at least Euro 5 million, in Yemen for example, US$20 million, and in Nigeria US$100 million. With that kind of requirement, we had to reassess our business plans. We sold off Europe and with the proceeds decided to go to Asia.

In every business you start with a plan but the plan has to re evaluated, reassessed, and reconsidered at every turn. What works today may not necessarily work tomorrow. Facts change, operating conditions change and we must change with them. Business is not static and we cannot run on the spot.

I know I have gone on too much, boring you with my personal history. I should have just quoted my son’s one paragraph biography he wrote of me when he was in primary school: “My father was born in Kedah. He studied law and became a lawyer, then a businessman, then MoF twice. He is now retired and runs banks and does charitable work. He is a good father because he plays football with me.”

Seriously, though, what distinguish one who succeeds from one who fails? Everyone I’m sure starts out wanting success, but it has been said that success usually comes to those who were too busy to look for it. It is a sacrifice. You will have to defer immediate gratification and forgo leisure. You have to be the first to arrive and the last to leave. It really is hard work and nothing else. There is just no substitute for hard work. But you cannot work hard stupidly. You have to plan, execute the plan, change the plan when necessary to suit changing situations. As was said by Darwin – “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is most adaptable to change”. How do you know that the situation changes? You have to read, read and read. Read all the time. Be curious about the world around you. Try to keep up with the latest in technology and business, the latest trends and the geo political changes too. As an example, when I read that the French Government was nationalising its banks I realised that it would have to sell its bank in Malaysia as Malaysia then did not allow government owned banks to operate in Malaysia. I saw an opportunity here and decided to contact the French Government to take over the Indo-Suez Bank which I later renamed the Malaysian French Bank. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

It is also important that you take the opportunity to work in and learn from businesses that have been successful. It is no embarrassment to say you don’t know and to be aware of your own limitations. Never be too proud to learn from others. But on the other hand, do not follow blindly. If someone is successful at one thing it does not mean that you can too. You have to know yourself. It helps if you can do something that you love. As Confucius said “Choose a job that you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. You have to be hands-on. No one is interested in your success except you. Its your money, and in most cases, borrowed money. You have to ensure your own success. You are your own best asset and the master of your own destiny, to make your own future. You have a choice to either work hard, remain committed, diligent, determined and disciplined or just buy a lottery ticket and hope to get rich overnight!

For the Malays particularly I say this to you – do not be afraid of competition. We are used to competing – we have other races to measure against, so there is no reason why we can’t succeed. Don’t believe in handouts, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Handouts do not test you and when faced with adversity, the price of that handout is failure.

For the Non-Malays, I say this to you – Do not accept any discrimination or perceived discrimination as an excuse for failure. See it as an obstacle to overcome and an opportunity to strengthen your resolve.
Do not fear the fear of failure. Do not fear to take chances. Do not fear of making mistakes that will shatter your confidence and fill you with doubts. You have to take a chance on life. When one door closes another opens but you have to look for that open door and not remain fixated on the closed door. Move on, you have done what you can. Learn from it and that will give you confidence in the next venture.

In your quest for success, be wary of making compromises; your values and beliefs will be tested. Have a clear conscience in what you do as you have to face the mirror everyday. Do not let praise go to you head nor criticism weigh you down. Have faith in yourself and faith in God. He will not let you down.

When you have achieved material successes, live simply and shun extravagance and arrogance. Do not lose all that you have achieved because you were resting on your laurels. What happens when that laurel wilts? Be humble and reach out to those less fortunate than you. Your success is an obligation and a responsibility to your society and it is only when you give back to society that you are truly successful.

Ladies and Gentlemen/ Saudara, Saudari

Be brave to leave your ‘kampung’ and go anywhere in the world to claim your future. I wish you well.

Thank you.