Wednesday, September 27, 2006
a visit to yasukuni shrine
Went to visit yasukuni shrine with my Japanese collegue on 13th September 06 during a couple of days stopover in Tokyo. Just missed the (ex) Japanese prime minister junichiro kaizumi’s visit only by three days - he visited the place on the 16th…his last and pointedly belligerent action that ignored china’s displeasure in the last month of his prime ministership….
Mine was nothing of the kind…just wanted to see what the shrine is like…not trying to think too much about politics …though quite aware that most likely some of the war criminals enshrined there were also responsible for the sacking of Malaya…in fact the first place the Japanese landed in the malay peninsula was on the beach just a about a mile from my parents’ house….my father used to tell stories that way before the japs landed as an occupying force the village was visited by several friendly Japanese cycling all over the place…nobody ever suspected anything and quite ignorant that these were really spies mapping up the place for the landing…and some people say that the gurkhas defending the beach behind my house were actually chained by their master the british to make sure that they didn’t run away (but, gurkhas running away?)……and when I told this to one of my british friends he became quite miffed as he said the brits were not that cruel…well, the japs were also not terribly cruel to people in my village …perhaps because all the people were malays…and we know that japs were primarily hunting for the brits and Chinese…even in Malaya…the most I heard from my father was that they used to force the villagers to climb up and pluck coconuts for them…and stole chickens… even my grand father one time used to be one of the jap tough guys doing a lot worse to his own villagers than the japs themselves…but I did not hear that he ever killed or tortured anybody…and luckily for some reasons he quit being a jap lackey after just a short while…
Oh, my beach has seen a lot of going ons… some people even say that a long time ago the famous arab traveler ibn batutta actually stopped here for a short while and recorded and concluded that the place had no significance whatsoever and he was quite right…it is a complete backwater now… and nobody here amount to anything …but thirty or so years ago the beach was the most popular place in the state for weekenders…
Many people from the state capital and other towns came here for picnics and the randy young ones to have a snog under the low branches of the casuarina trees and when they got a bit more excited they moved further away and had a quick and dirty sex among the mangrove trees during low tide (the beach used to have sparking white sand)…favorite pastime for many young boys in the village was to go peeping and one time one of these guys was so excited watching a couple making love that he just crept up to the couple, kicked the boy and he tried to rape the girl but the boyfriend fought back and the poor randy peeping tom got the worse of it and had to take to his heels…didn’t know whether this couple resumed the love making for the story ended there when the tom ran away… why, in fact I (yes ME) even stopped a potential rape there one time quite a long while back…
I was never in my village for most of my life as I studied away but I always come to this beach whenever I came back for holidays…and one night I was having a dinner in one crappy restaurant on the beach with a friend when suddenly this boy came barging into the restaurant and screaming that his girl was being raped, Where? In the mangrove!. What the fuck are you doing there at this time of the night? Oh please sir, go help my girlfriend! So off we went (without thinking of the potential danger) and I found seven or ten boys surrounding a girl and so happened that the ring leader was a boy that I KNOW…so I said … stop this, you boys wanna go to jail? come bring me the girl… some protested but in the end they relented…the funny thing was the girl didn’t even say thank you to me..just giggled like an idiot…can’t recall her face because it was so dark… and they went off may be to go and have sex at the other end of the beach…I don’t know…but this kind of things happened all the time here…on and off we got to hear reports of rapes …and the worst thing was during the Vietnamese boat people period in the early eighties… the nearest point between the southern Vietnam and Malaysia is this beach and my village and we got a lot of boat people landing here…the moment they landed either the police were already waiting to take them away to the nearby detention area or sometimes a horde of randy village boys came first picking young girls and women folks for forced sex before letting them go or calling the police to send them to the detention area….
But fortunately all these are things of the past now….for the last fifteen years or so this beach has been battered and eroded to such an extent that more than a mile of the beach has been claimed by the sea…there is nothing left now…in fact today’s NST headline story claimed that this beach is the worst affected beach in the whole of Malaysia…so my village has quite a story and all for the wrong reasons…I ought to write something about it one of these days may be…
But hell’s bells…there I go digressing like an old codger again… and as I was saying I went to yasukuni shrine with my Japanese friend and I love Shinto shrines …criminals or no criminal being enshrined there notwithstanding…they all looked so serene… kind of poignant to think that all these thousands and thousands of souls are homed there…so I mentioned to my friend he can go and say his prayer if he likes and he gave a small bow of thank you and went up to the main hall , gave a bow and clapped twice (a symbol to wake up the spirits of the dead) and said a short prayer… everything so touching…and after that we walked under the plum trees and watched the carps in the rather gloomy Japanese garden at the back…
Saturday, September 23, 2006
the grandeur of delusion
It is no coincidence that these writings highly critical of islam and religion per se appear at this point in time as the world has markedly become more dangerous now and a large part of the blame has to do with how people view and use religions for all kind of reasons…stands to reason that an equal and opposite reaction follows suit…
the world sees Islamic militancy as the main cause of all this and conveniently forgetting that in almost all cases the Islamic militancy and extremism is merely a REACTION (mostly justified and others misplaced) to the injustice (real and perceived) perpetrated on the muslims…although I’ve always known that some bad sectors of the US -the so called bible belt - is full of bible thumping crazies I’m still quite surprised to read in one recent survey that a huge majority of the US citizens (92%) believed in god … always thought that the US is a fairly godless country (except the bad sector in the bible belt) …but looks like I am wrong again,(too much watching holywood movies I guess)…stands to reason that bush is lead by the nose by all those Christian fundamentalists who are impervious to the sufferings in iraq, Afghanistan etc and even perhaps rubbing their hands with glee at the havoc they created as this only means one thing to their warped mind -their fucked up idea of Christian prophesy is slowly unfolding and coming to fruitation….the end is near!…
and although I’m not an atheist I don’t feel offended by the publications of these new books…and although I get easily worked up and turn talibanistic when i perceive insults to my religion and me as a muslim (as the pope did ) I always welcome erudite and responsible discussion on religions and matters of faith…so when Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion is published I’m genuinely looking forward to go and buy it… I have a couple of his other books looking sorry and dusty in my library unread, but never mind…. I’ll get to them one of these days…
That reminds me, a few years ago I read ‘the moriscoes of spain’ an account of the prosecution of the last muslims who remained in Spain and practise their religion in secrecy and subjected to forced conversion on pain of death and the notorious Spanish inquisition they were subjected to…it was a very sad read and I could manage a third of the book…in the light of the pope’s comment I guess I’ll dust the book again and continue reading it a bit more….
Thursday, September 21, 2006
the good coup
Thailand probably hold a record of having the most coups in the last 50 years and with most successes too and this latest certainly is one of the most successful of them all . not only that it is a bloodless coup but also seems to get the support of everybody including the king . Apart from the initial news /tv blackouts including the bbc (but for some reason not cnn) in the morning, Bangkok is completely normal! Everybody goes about doing normal things, all the naughty places blaze away happily like there’s no tomorrow like usual…
What a day, a coup in Bangkok, ahmadinejad giving a speech at the UN rubbishing bush and usa and to top it all hugo chevez of Venezuela calling bush the ‘real terrorist’ and the devil!....and on the wall at the urinal in novotel men’s toilet on the ground floor there was a v good newspaper article highly critical of the latest pope stupid remarks …I spent around ten minutes reading it while happily pissing away….all in all…not a bad day ….
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Fucking pope and popes fucking
(These were not the Pope's words, but those of an obscure Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologos, back in the 14th century quoted by him)….
One day after September 11 5th year ‘anniversary’ when the US went troppo marking this sad event with all kinds of memorial services ( and conveniently forgetting the 180,000 dead in the aftermath and reaction to this event …and still counting…) the current catholic top dog chose to make his mark by pissing on the lamp post with the stupidest and incendiary remark that ever come out from a top religious leader in recent years that doesn’t help to mend fences (whatever fence is left) with the muslims…
It’s not only a stupid statement quoted from some obscure emperor who by any standard was most likely just a simple bastard who was quite ignorant about Islam ….but any simple googling the internet will show that the statement showed outright ignorance about Prophet Muhammad’s mission and what Islam is all about…
My theory is that this guy has too much gunk gone to his head…celibacy can do crazy things to you and my advice is …if he is not willing to follow the examples of some of his own priests who happily sodomise young boys or the many popes who screw around and sired numerous bastards over the ages the least he could do is to jerk off once in a while just to get his head clear a bit… incidently the amazon editorial review for sex lives of the popes described the popes as quite a randy lot… “In the last 2,000 years, the Holy See has seen lechers, pornographers, womanizers, adulterers, and more… A lively exposé of papal promiscuity…” Not bad for people that supposedly practise celibacy…
his name sake Benedict IX was a right bloody bastard by any standard but his personal foibles (sodomy and bestiality among others) was less dangerous than the current pope’s stand towards Islam which can perpetuate more hatred and ideological divide between the muslims and the west…
he may have apologized and showed contrition but the damage is done…lets hope that we all can forgive and forget and the prejudice would not perpetuate but we continue to learn and understand each other ...lets mend fences...
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
…and when the planes slammed into the twin tower on september 11 2001 I was in another Hilton, this time in Jakarta…and like everyone else I found it unbelievable that this could really happened…I just sat there watching cnn transfixed by the events that were unfolding and perhaps like most people, thought … ‘the world will never be the same again’.
…and sometimes in late 2002 I had the opportunity to go to the US again and made another stopover in NYC and this time stayed in a small hotel on 5th avenue. I made a point to visit what was left of the twin towers but found out that the last subway stop was a few stations away and you had to walk to the place which was still under guard at that time. I found this out from a lady sitting beside me on the subway and I mentioned that I wanted to go there to say sorry …as a common average muslim…and she got glassy eyed and said…’oww…that’s very nice of you, but that’s ok..it’s not your people’s fault…it’s done by BAD people who could be from anywhere’… and from the last stop I had to walk quite a distance and just near the place I found this small Indian muslim restaurant still with some cracked and dusty window panes and went in and had a nice curry like we have in mamak restaurants here…I asked the owner if she had any problem immediately after the event and she mentioned that not at all, in fact there were some volunteers from some church group or other that came to guard the restaurant just in case there were any trouble…
…and from here you could not miss ground zero as along the road the place was boarded by simple plywood walls filled with all kind of memorials from loved ones…pictures, pieces of cloths with all kinds of poetry, snippets of messages, flowers and the walls were full of writings…I didn’t stop because even looking at these I felt my throat started to constrict and I got a bit teary eyed…and passed the guard I came to ground zero…it was entirely cleaned up by then, the only thing I could see was this deep hole that looked like one massive construction site that you see everywhere in KL…it was quite early in the morning and I only saw a handful of people and they all came away wiping their tears …I only stayed there for a few minutes,…I remembered feeling NOTHING, my mind just went blank…asked the policeman to snap my picture and I quickly went away …walked to millennium Hilton and saw that the place was still closed, some floors showed cracked glass walls and went away feeling hungry and finally had a big Korean noodle somewhere just to forget it all…
but can we forget?… we can never forget but we must also remember and understand why it happened…and we know what happened after September 11…more tears…more misery…
…in spring 2002 Granta vol 77 issue was devoted to one main topic…what we think of America…some well known and not so famous writers wrote what they felt or earliest memory about America… orhan pamuk wrote a lovely piece about his childhood days staying in an apartment in Istanbul where they had an American family on the floor above and coveting the porcelain marbles that the American boy had and which he dropped one at a time and silently watching the poor Turkish boys fighting each other to grab it down below…an appropriate metaphor of what American is doing to the world at arge now . Our Malaysian karim raslan was also featured and he chose to write about his memory of reading encyclopedia Britannica and watching lassie, bewitched and high chapparal…there were others…ivan klima, david malouf etc…but two striking ones to me came from doris lessing and Harold pinter…
Harold pinter’s piece was almost a rant …here’s an excerpt…
Arrogant, indifferent, contemptuous of International Law, both dismissive and manipulative of the United Nations: this is now the most dangerous power the world has ever known –the authentic ‘rogue state’, but a ‘rouge state’ of colossal military and economic might…
....These remarks seem to me even more valid now than when I made them on September 10. The ‘rouge state’ has – without pause for reflection , without a moment of doubt, let alone shame - confirmed that it is a fully- fledged, award-winning, gold plated monster. It has effectively declared war on the world . It knows only one language – bombs and death. ‘And still they smiled and still the horror grew’.
And here is what doris lessing says…
The reaction to the events of 11 September – terrible as they were-seems excessive to outsiders, and we have to say this to our American friends, although they have become so touchy, and ready to break off relations with accusations of hard-heartedness. The United States is in the grip of a patriotic fever which reminds me of the Second World War . They seem to themselves as unique, alone, misunderstood, beleaguered, and they see any criticism as treachery.
The judgement ‘they had it coming’, so angrily resented, is perhaps misunderstood. What people felt was that Americans had at last learned that they are like everyone else, vulnerable to the snakes of Envy and Revenge, to bombs exploding on a street corner (as in Belfast) , or in a hotel housing a government (as in Brighton) . They say themselves that they have been expelled from their Eden. How strange they should ever have thought they have a right to one.
I’m not sure if Madame Lessing and Mr Pinter still hold the same view five years on but to me their statements in the aftermath of September 11 still ring true.
And lastly I’d like to quote an excerpt from CAT’s CRADLE by my favorite American science fiction writer and satirist Kurt Vonnegut: (which I already quoted in my post on 25 Dec 2004)
from the chapter "Why Americans are Hated"
Claire Minton's letter to the Times was published during the worst of the era of Senator McCarthy, and her husband was fired twelve hours after the letter was printed.
"What was so awful about the letter?" I asked.
"The highest form of treason," said Minton, "is to say that Americans aren't loved wherever they go, whatever they do. Claire tried to make the point that American foreign policy should recognize hate rather than imagine love."
"I guess Americans are hated a lot of places."
And that was written in 1962...
Thursday, September 07, 2006
junk bookstore, kl
this is the kind of bookstore I like… small, personal and quite specialized and they have stacks of dusty old second hand books faded into sepia colored pages emitting that lovely old book smell and hardly touched by anybody for years. They even have some volumes of Apollo art magazines from 1960s and I may buy these one of these days if she lowers the price a bit…they have been sitting there for years without anybody giving a second glance…skoobs at jalan othman is similar in ambience and crappiness and another one of my favorites …
and yes, we used to have rows of bookstalls mostly owned by Indian booksellers along mcAlister road in Penang in the 1980s, selling mainly second hand fictions imported from India and I guess some coming from those Aussie soldiers stationed in butterworth…but they are now gone of course… but penang city council made what I considered one of the stupidest decisions imaginable… sometimes in early 90s they decided to rid of this street of the rows of book stalls and housed the booksellers in the second floor of the dirty chowrastra market among the cloth merchants and shops selling cheap clothing , hand bags shoes and other leather goods and trinkets…and now we have durian sellers, Chinese hawkers selling yong tau foo and the like instead of book stalls along mcalister road…what stupidity, what tragedy…
If I have one complain about the junk bookstore , it’s the price… even the old and crappy paperbacks are sold at a rather high price and I fear that one day they will be pushed out of business by the new secondhand upstarts like PAYLESS… but the lady don’t feel payless would be any threat for ‘they mostly stock American books’ as she put it…and perhaps that’s quite true… for junk bookstore have much better selections of good fictions , a mix of british, american , european & latin american translations and others… I ended buying a couple of books (1) Penguin Classics “Fourteen Byzantine Rulers” an 11th century book by Micheal Psellus and (2) “Belle du Seigneur” by albert cohen. A penguin 20th century classic series and winner of 1996 Scott Moncrieff Prize for Translation ( from French to English)
I don’t know anything about this jewish writer but what caught my attention was the blurb ….set in Geneva in the 1930s, albert cohen’s endlessly inventive satire of middle-class manners and ambitions revolves around Solal, a man of remarkable gifts and disappointed ideals….
And the distinctive lempicka’s painting on the cover is very attractive… if you go to ho chi minh city… you’ll see many art studios selling copies of famous and not so famous paintings…and lempickas are some of the most copied paintings on sales….i wonder who buy these…I did buy some copies but I steer away from the really well known impressionists and all those van goghs… I chose 17th century dutch/Flemish still lifes and vanitas…and I have one copy of chardin…
Monday, September 04, 2006
the bad jews
i am basically race and color blind and nobody can say that i'm a jew hater and a kike basher. On December 18 2005 I had a post titled 'loving jews' and again On the fourth of july 06 I wrote a blog post titled ‘the good jews’. This is my reaction to the early days of Israeli incursion into Gaza. The subsequent horrific events in Southern Lebanon make this occupation and rape of Gaza look rather pale in comparison… or perhaps I should not be too quick to make a judgement since whereas southern Lebanon has seen the end of active fighting and we are now witnessing some form of closure, the poor Palestinians of Gaza are still under great deprivation, living without water and electricity (as the southern lebanese are ) but unlike the tenacious and well trained hezbollah the hamas are no match to the might of the israeli army and bereft of any efficient support like the hezbollah humanitarian supports in southern Lebanon, and largely ignored by the impotent surrounding sunni arab nations the people of gaza are likely to suffer more than the southern Lebanese in the long run…
But even then… the atrocities carried out by the Israelis in southern lebanon is too painful to contemplate even after the ‘worst’ seems to be over and even at this far distance and passage of time…but it warms my heart to discover tonight while bloghopping, in the literary saloon & to read this fine opinion piece “ God’s chosen people” by Jostein Gaarder , a Norwegian author that I only know through his marvelous book “sophie’s world” that I read several years back… it is ironic that one of the best recent writings critical of Israel come from a non muslim rather than muslim writers (if there are any I sure haven’t found them anywhere…)…this piece apparently created quite a storm in his native country so much so that he needed to write another follow up article to clarify his original piece…and we didn’t even hear a squeak in this Islamic nation of ours…and here is the translation by sirocco…
God’s chosen people
Jostein Gaarder, Aftenposten 05.08.06
From the Norwegian by Sirocco
There is no turning back. It is time to learn a new lesson: We do no longer recognize the state of Israel. We could not recognize the South African apartheid regime, nor did we recognize the Afghan Taliban regime. Then there were many who did not recognize Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or the Serbs’ ethnic cleansing. We must now get used to the idea: The state of Israel in its current form is history.
We do not believe in the notion of God’s chosen people. We laugh at this people’s fancies and weep over its misdeeds. To act as God’s chosen people is not only stupid and arrogant, but a crime against humanity. We call it racism.
Limits to tolerance
There are limits to our patience, and there are limits to our tolerance. We do not believe in divine promises as justification for occupation and apartheid. We have left the Middle Ages behind. We laugh uneasily at those who still believe that the God of flora, fauna, and galaxies has selected one people in particular as his favorite and given it funny stone tablets, burning bushes, and a license to kill.
We call child murderers ‘child murderers’ and will never accept that such have a divine or historic mandate excusing their outrages. We say but this: Shame on all apartheid, shame on ethnic cleansing, shame on every terrorist strike against civilians, be it carried out by Hamas, Hizballah, or the state of Israel!
Unscrupulous art of war
We acknowledge and pay heed to Europe’s deep responsibility for the plight of the Jews, for the disgraceful harassment, the pogroms, and the Holocaust. It was historically and morally necessary for Jews to get their own home. However, the state of Israel, with its unscrupulous art of war and its disgusting weapons, has massacred its own legitimacy. It has systematically flouted International Law, international conventions, and countless UN resolutions, and it can no longer expect protection from same. It has carpet bombed the recognition of the world. But fear not! The time of trouble shall soon be over. The state of Israel has seen its Soweto.
We are now at the watershed. There is no turning back. The state of Israel has raped the recognition of the world and shall have no peace until it lays down its arms.
Without defense, without skin
May spirit and word sweep away the apartheid walls of Israel. The state of Israel does not exist. It is now without defense, without skin. May the world therefore have mercy on the civilian population. For it is not civilian individuals at whom our doomsaying is directed.
We wish the people of Israel well, nothing but well, but we reserve the right not to eat Jaffa oranges as long as they taste foul and are poisonous. It was endurable to live some years without the blue grapes of apartheid.
They celebrate their triumphs
We do not believe that Israel mourns forty killed Lebanese children more than it for over three thousand years has lamented forty years in the desert. We note that many Israelis celebrate such triumphs like they once cheered the scourges of the Lord as “fitting punishment” for the people of Egypt. (In that tale, the Lord, God of Israel, appears as an insatiable sadist.) We query whether most Israelis think that one Israeli life is worth more than forty Palestinian or Lebanese lives.
For we have seen pictures of little Israeli girls writing hateful greetings on the bombs to be dropped on the civilian population of Lebanon and Palestine. Little Israeli girls are not cute when they strut with glee at death and torment across the fronts.
The retribution of blood vengeance
We do not recognize the rhetoric of the state of Israel. We do not recognize the spiral of retribution of the blood vengeance with “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” We do not recognize the principle of one or a thousand Arab eyes for one Israeli eye. We do not recognize collective punishment or population-wide diets as political weapons. Two thousand years have passed since a Jewish rabbi criticized the ancient doctrine of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
He said: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” We do not recognize a state founded on antihumanistic principles and on the ruins of an archaic national and war religion. Or as Albert Schweitzer expressed it: “Humanitarianism consists in never sacrificing a human being to a purpose.”
Compassion and forgiveness
We do not recognize the old Kingdom of David as a model for the 21st century map of the Middle East. The Jewish rabbi claimed two thousand years ago that the Kingdom of God is not a martial restoration of the Kingdom of David, but that the Kingdom of God is within us and among us. The Kingdom of God is compassion and forgiveness.
Two thousand years have passed since the Jewish rabbi disarmed and humanized the old rhetoric of war. Even in his time, the first Zionist terrorists were operating.
Israel does not listen
For two thousand years, we have rehearsed the syllabus of humanism, but Israel does not listen. It was not the Pharisee that helped the man who lay by the wayside, having fallen prey to robbers. It was a Samaritan; today we would say, a Palestinian. For we are human first of all — then Christian, Muslim, or Jewish. Or as the Jewish rabbi said: “And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others?” We do not accept the abduction of soldiers. But nor do we accept the deportation of whole populations or the abduction of legally elected parliamentarians and government ministers.
We recognize the state of Israel of 1948, but not the one of 1967. It is the state of Israel that fails to recognize, respect, or defer to the internationally lawful Israeli state of 1948. Israel wants more; more water and more villages. To obtain this, there are those who want, with God’s assistance, a final solution to the Palestinian problem. The Palestinians have so many other countries, certain Israeli politicians have argued; we have only one.
The USA or the world?
Or as the highest protector of the state of Israel puts it: “May God continue to bless America.” A little child took note of that. She turned to her mother, saying: “Why does the President always end his speeches with ‘God bless America’? Why not, ‘God bless the world’?”
Then there was a Norwegian poet who let out this childlike sigh of the heart: “Why doth Humanity so slowly progress?” It was he that wrote so beautifully of the Jew and the Jewess. But he rejected the notion of God’s chosen people. He personally liked to call himself a Muhammedan.
Calm and mercy
We do not recognize the state of Israel. Not today, not as of this writing, not in the hour of grief and wrath. If the entire Israeli nation should fall to its own devices and parts of the population have to flee the occupied areas into another diaspora, then we say: May the surroundings stay calm and show them mercy. It is forever a crime without mitigation to lay hand on refugees and stateless people.
Peace and free passage for the evacuating civilian population no longer protected by a state. Fire not at the fugitives! Take not aim at them! They are vulnerable now like snails without shells, vulnerable like slow caravans of Palestinian and Lebanese refugees, defenseless like women and children and the old in Qana, Gaza, Sabra, and Chatilla. Give the Israeli refugees shelter, give them milk and honey!
Let not one Israeli child be deprived of life. Far too many children and civilians have already been murdered.