Unmasking The Muslims.

It appears very much that the muslim world is once again up in arms over depictions and caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.  Of course when I say ‘up in arms’ I am using a figure of speech.  There are however many amongst my muslim brethren that do not use such a phrase lightly and are ready to use arms against those they deem responsible for such uncalled and unfair acts upon a beloved such as him, peace be upon him.  Angered as we may be over the callous portrayal of whom the Holy Quran refers to as the most beautiful of examples for mankind, I still do not feel that armed retribution is the proper method to get our wrath across, nor is it that any way to go about enlightening those responsible to the error of their ways.  And my stand is not a matter of adherence to scriptures or hadiths and sunnah.  That’s because I have yet to come across anything in the Holy Quran or in any of the Prophet’s sayings or ways that advocates such a course of action when an assault, abuse or injustice is done onto the person of the Prophet, peace be upon him.

“He is not strong and powerful who throweth people down; but he is strong who witholdeth himself from anger”

We muslims know that the Prophet, peace be upon him, never took any retribution nor even shown any anger over attacks onto his person.  All he showed was remorse and disappointment and even that was towards all the negativity against the message he was bringing.  And he was subject to all sorts of vicious abuse in his lifetime including attempts on his life by a gift of food laced with poison and even by the lethal attempt to drop an object onto him from a roof.  But he always stood his ground and maintained his steadfastness.  For his was all about the message and not the person.

We muslims also know that whatever fueled the motives to portray the Prophet in person as such can only be derived through ignorance.  Their actions indicate that they could not have given the Holy Quran a fair and objective understanding, nor did they allow for themselves a charitable reading of the broad spectrum of hadiths and sunnahs of the Prophet, peace be upon him.  They could not have known of the many shades and tones of the Prophet’s traits when he carried out his mission nor of his natural disposition which was very much suited for him to be referred to as the most beautiful of examples for mankind.  They would have been oblivious to the simplest fact that here was one who says that the smile is the simplest of gifts a person could give, and never failed to do so himself.

“Do not consider any act of kindness insignificant, even meeting your brother with a cheerful face.”

So if they do not know much of him, then what are their depictions and caricatures based on?  How did they get their image of the Prophet, peace be upon him?  What inspired them to think of him in the way they do, if they truly had no idea or got it all wrong?  Well, from what I’ve seen of these supposed images of the Prophet, peace be upon him, the illustrations actually look nothing like what has been known of him.  Like all the other prophets before, peace upon them all, no image exists of their respective persons.  We know that the image of Eesa or Jesus, peace be upon him, is not the actual image but a romanticized Caucasian’s portrayal of him.  But there are related descriptions of the Prophet’s appearances and by these accounts, those depictions or caricatures that they have made bears absolutely no resemblance to him at all.

So if caricatures are the art or style of exaggerated representations of a person in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated, then who are these caricatures representing if there is no image of the person?  The illustrations that I have seen are turbaned, sharp featured, heavy browed, wide eyed and forever in a grimace.  That definitely does not bear any familiarity with the countenance of the Prophet that I have come to know, peace be upon him.  So where did they get the impetus to have come up with such an impression?  The caricatures however, more closely resemble the faces of more recent day mullahs, sheikhs and imams who have been widely known for their fatwas, decrees and ordinances.  And for someone for whom smiling came naturally even before he was a prophet, a grimace would not have been an accurate representation of the Prophet, peace be upon him.

Achmed, The Dead Terrorist. A muslim figure in popular western culture.

And what of the notion that he was a war monger, forever armed and ready to do battle with those who disagreed with him?  We muslims know that it took a long while and untold carnage against personal rights and property before he relented to fight against the jahilliyahs of Makkah, years after he had absconded to Madinah himself.  And he was not even building up an army during his sanctuary in Madinah as the troops that faced the Makkans at Badr was made primarily of the average denizens and were hardly battle savvy nor even ready.  His ever willingness to make written pacts and agreements is consistent with his decree of the pen being mightier than the sword.

“The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr”

And never forget that it is he who sought forgiveness from the Allmighty SWT, for those who have wronged and sought to injure him and his followers, pleading that they are only doing that which they know not of.  Such is the aesthetics behind the most beautiful of examples for mankind, peace be upon him!

The inspiration behind the caricatures that depicted him as a war monger seemed to be more akin to what we have come to recognise as present day jihadist – those who have come to believe it an act of the highest salvation to give their lives up in order to avenge any wrong done towards the Prophet, peace be upon him, or his ummah regardless of who is actually harmed in that act.  This is most definitely inconsistent with the Prophet’s request that no women, children, ‘men working in the fields’ or even trees be harmed during battle, and that the fighting only be directed at those who are doing battle against you.

It is not to be taken lightly that muslims in certain countries are suffering everyday at the hands of the callous and the conniving who use their intelligence to serve evil means and ends.  And this has driven many muslims to give up their patience and perseverance and chosen weapons over wits in order to overcome.  The Prophet, peace be upon him, was an intelligent and brilliant strategist to have won the many battles against him and his ummah.  But there doesn’t seem to be much in terms of intelligence let alone civility when it comes to the course of actions of the jihadist and their advocates.

“Shedding of blood will be the first matter about which judgment will be given on the Day of Resurrection.”

The recent failed attempt to cause damage and harm in Times Square of New York city was by a person who used fertiliser that could only burn but not explode and who was eventually outed by ubiquitous surveillance cameras.  More recently, a key Al-Qaeda figure accidentally blew himself up while messing with a bomb.   Then there was the embarrassing incident of the muslims who tried to use an SUV as a destructive missile by driving it into Glasgow International Airport only to be foiled by bollards.

Bollards

One of the protagonists even wound up in a position to get certain highly sensitive parts of him kicked by a local cab driver.

First the bollards, then the balls. Definitely not having a nice day.

And all this was after their first attempt was thwarted by their initial vehicle of mass destruction being simply towed away.

And many more of such embarrassing failures of those who have come to believe that salvation is to be gotten in such ways.  I wonder how soon will it be before these jihadist who have been prosecuted or perished will be replaced from amongst those who immediately raise their hands up when asked out loud for whom from amongst us are willing to die for the cause of Allah SWT.  As much as I can comprehend, the Prophet, peace be upon him, only called for the ummah to fight for that cause and not to just merely die for it.

“The most excellent Jihad is that for the conquest of self”

So it seems that our anger towards the so-called cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, might have been slightly misplaced.  It is not their depiction of him that should anger us, because they were nowhere near capable of representing his true person; nor could they distort his impeccable character because they were too ignorant of it to know what there was to corrupt.  But it is actually their depiction based on what they have come to be familiar about some present day muslims – and that they were besmirching the Prophet’s good name when they use it as a label for them – is why we should be livid all over.  In other words, the caricatures were actually cartoons of their general impression of us muslims, but they misplaced the Prophet, peace be upon him, to be a symbol for us despite many of us being far detached and remote from all that the Prophet Muhammad exemplified and stood for, peace be upon him.   After all, some of us go around assuring that Islam is of peace and harmony, while others go around threatening to kill those who disagree.

“It was said to the Rasul, ‘O Messenger of God! Curse the infidels.’ Muhammad said, ‘I am not sent for this; nor was I sent but as mercy to mankind.’”

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The Nitwits of Neurosis

I believe I’ve come to the point in my life where I now choose not to suffer neurotics any longer.  The variety of neurosis that I will no longer allow to irk me are those with folks who are overly and unnecessarily sensitive, obsessive, constantly tense and anxious, and take everything personally.  If you express an opinion they’ll take it as if you are contesting theirs.  If you share an idea they’ll find it necessary to challenge it in case it appears that they have none – which after awhile manifests itself clearly they really had and have none.  If you express a disgruntlement they’ll get their knickers in a twist as if they were included in your dissatisfaction.  Essentially, they’ll always find the need to engage their defense mechanisms even though there was no indication or intention of an attack.

Now here's a man who neurosis I can bear.

I have a maid that encapsulates neurosis not only by taking things personally but also has a personality steeped in self-pity.  Talk about double trouble!.  If I ask her about things missing she’ll get into sad-frail-pitiful-old-lady mode and make it like I’m accusing her for being responsible for the item’s disappearance – which if it were true would mean that I have actually once accused a frail old lady of consuming a box of imported cigars.

No, that's not my maid.

But that neurosis I’ll have to bear for the sake of laundry and a clean home.  It is the neurosis of others that can be just so exasperating.  A notable annoyance is when you share a thought about something, and they question that thought with an alternative, but if you ask what it is about that alternative, they’ll say that they don’t know.  It means that they will  not agree with you by means of a contradictory stand of which they have no idea about.  Here’s an example of what that means based on a situation that actually happened.  I stated that I do not know any credible local intellectuals.  The immediate response was, what about Professor Ungku Aziz.  I reiterate that since I do not know Professor Ungku Aziz hence it’s consistent with what I said that I do not know any local intellectuals, but I was intrigued so I asked about him.  But the answer I got was, the person did not know anything about the professor either.  So what was that?  You disagree with someone based on something you do not know yourself? Why disagree at all?  Why the immediate negative response?  And how did that conversation continue after that?  Well, it didn’t, because since I do not know about that professor than my original statement is not valid despite the person not knowing about him either.  End of conversation.

That’s happened often enough and it’s such a killjoy because it inhibits any potential for an interesting conversation.  You throw out a thought to talk about, but instead of exchanging on that thought, neurotics find the need to challenge it immediately even if they have no or minuscule knowledge of it.  It’s as if, if they could not contribute or expand on it, they would rather not be engaged in it due to their neurosis in the fear of any sign that would indicate inferiority on their part.

Even if such neurotics agree with you, it can get just as tiresome.  If you have points of which they think they’re familiar with, they will take over those points into situations about themselves and the conversation from then onwards will be about them and those points.  If you had an underlying objective for bringing up those points, forget it.  They’ll soon go off into tangents about those points till you end up no wiser than when you brought it all up.  For instance, let’s say I bring up this topic of neurosis in conversation.  Rather than take the charitable approach of grasping the points first of what I’m bringing up, they’ll just launch as soon as they can into a tirade of how they know what I’m talking about by association with their own experiences, followed by the exclusivity of said experiences which means that they’ve known it all along and no one can touch them on the matter thus they are above those with neurosis, and they will then run in overdrive into areas that have absolutely no bearing with your intentions for bringing it up in the first place.

Which reminds me, what really is the underlying objective for me to bring this whole matter up in the first place?  Oh yes, it’s to make it known that, if you find me no longer sharing thoughts or avoiding any engaging conversations with you, then chances are you are one of those with the neurosis I’m going on about.

In which case, sorry.  As we all say, life’s too short.

Neurosis no more, s'il vous plait.

Old Folks’ Lies

I don't believe that's due to arthritis.

I’ve always been suspicious of old folks for as long as I can remember.  I never start off intending to but I find myself not being readily capable of believing or accepting a lot of the things they say.  I never immediately question their intentions though; it’s just the way they carry their intentions out verbally that always seems dubious.  The things they say just don’t seem to make much sense and I could never really figure out where they’re coming from.  That’s always seem to be the way things are with old folks even as I grow older.  Now that I have become one myself I’m still suspicious of old folks.  So now that I am an old folk, let me check if I know enough to understand what’s behind it all; especially to ensure that I am not doing myself that which I doubt.  Consider this an inside scoop on old folks’ lies.

They don’t lie outright.  If you were to bluntly bring out what they say as lies you would genuinely hurt them.  So never do that if they are loved ones.  That’s because I don’t believe that they mean or even know that they’re lying.  Theirs is not about mere untruths, but more about the delusion of truth.  Let me try to put this into a list on what I have come to understand about the whys and the hows of Old Folks’ Lies.

  1. Old folks know best.
    The human mind always need to make sense of life and the world around.  That’s why we constantly find ourselves trying to understand and having opinions and making conclusions on things.  During darker ages when there was not much access to knowledge or even actual knowledge itself, folks based their conclusions of things through much simpler means.  For instance, that’s how superstitions are born; when there are no answers through logic, folks from the past came up with mythological, mystical and supernatural explanations to things.

    Some still believe that this is what happens when you can't move in your sleep.

    And for a long while, these simplistic views will be the ways to explain the various phenomena around life and the world. As knowledge increases and become more accessible, not all minds are willing to accept intellectual enlightenment if they find that it requires rigorous mental energy and agility, especially if it means questioning what they were told by the elders before, especially the loved ones.  Hence, things become cast in stone, never to be changed for all times even if the level of enquiry at later times have managed to falsify them without too much effort.

    For folks who have aged with this attitude, with an unwillingness to question or rediscover what they were told by the old folks before them, they will tell you things which would not have much logic or make much sense anymore.  Their unwillingness would also drive them to insist that there is only one way to view things and since they have stuck to that oneness and got to reach where they are with it, you should too regardless of whether it suits your condition or circumstances.  You just have to accept that they know best, even if you find them to be untrue.

  2. The bogeyman

    Mothers used to warn their daughters about men like this.

    I’ve had my share of spook stories growing up.  These were the spooky things that I could expect to appear or happen as a consequence of my chosen path of behaviour.  This greatly contributed to my earlier fear of the dark and constant vigilance for the devil’s minions, demons, bloodsuckers, restless souls and even dead relatives.  Due to having an unrelenting enquiring mind, I discovered that these were just ways of old folks dealing with the unbridled energy of youth without having to exert too much energy themselves.  It was so much easier for them to dispense these horrors to scare the young ‘uns from doing what would have taken too much energy from them to prevent physically.

    This was probably my first indication that the old folks were lying because I’ve played hide and seek at dusk and have never been captured, kidnapped and smothered by the ghost with enormous breasts.  Nor have I experienced that snake that is suppose to appear each time an umbrella is open in the house.

    There never was a Hantu Kopek when you wanted one

    Essentially, what this illustrates is that old folks are quick to point out to you the outcome of your actions, regardless of how ridiculous those outcomes sound.

  3. Those were the days.
    Old folks always like falling back to their past for lessons to be extracted from.  When they do that they always make it sound so rosy and much more brighter than the present. I always thought that their past was in black and white or warm sepia tones.

    This was how families moved before the Econovan, right?

    But of course the past would have been much better folks, simply by the simple fact that it has already happened.  The unpredictability and the unknown of what consequences would be has already been removed when recollecting past events.  Even if you could remember the harshest points in your past, you already know now the outcome of those moments; even though at the time you would have the anxiety due to the fact that you cannot imagine what the end result could be.  So it’s pointless to bring the past up as equal to present events because the present still has in it the unpredictability and unknownability of how things could end up.  Only a pathological moron would insist that what will happen now will be exactly the same as in the past.

    What makes us anxious about the present is the unknowable results of where it could lead to or end up– which explains why some of us need to believe in astrology or have our fortune told.  Even if we quote fate and destiny, none of us could actually say what the ultimate fate or destiny is.

    And here's someone who can tell if you'll be smothered by enormous breasts in the future.

    So blindly referring back to the past in order to appease for the present is hardly an act of wisdom.  It’s simply the comfort of sentimentality for those who have lived it, which is hardly useful for us who did not live it then but have to live in our present.

  4. Fetish for fallacies.
    If you were to approach an old folk with a truth, and you find that it does not concur with theirs, you could find yourself walking away thinking that you were wrong all along and that they are irrevocably correct; only to find out later that you were right all along and they were irrevocably wrong.  So what gives, how were you suckered as such?  That’s because they use certain facets of fallacious argument techniques against you with the intended result of bringing you to their point of view not by any sense of logic but more often than not, by sheer guilt. Favourites amongst the fallacies in arguments used by old folks are:

    1. Argumentum ad verecundiam [Appealing to authority] – They pull rank by sheer fact that they’re older than you, therefore they’ve lived longer, experienced more, know more, so you should not doubt anything they have to say, even in circumstances you’ve never known them to be in before.
    2. A priori fallacies – this relates to point one on this list where all things that have been accepted before shall be true for all times.  So whatever they tell you is what they’ve been told so you should just accept it unquestioningly.
    3. Argumentum ad baculinum – If you don’t agree with them they’ll get medieval on your ass or put a hex on you, or fail you, or something to that effect.

      "and if you don't believe me...."

    4. Argumentum ad hominem – Simply put, you have not lived as long as they have, nor experienced as much as them, nor know as much, hence you young ‘uns just can’t be right.  In other words you are wrong simply by virtue of your age.
    5. Argumentum ad ignorantiam – If you do not know something as much as they do not know of the same thing, then it just can’t be true.  That means if old folks don’t know it, therefore it can’t be true.
    6. Argumentum ad misericordiam – This one just sucks you into a vortex of self pity by reminding that you are disagreeing with a much more old and frail soul that is going to die soon, with complete disregard to your own logic or mortality.
    7. Non sequiturs – You bring something up of your own and they take it over with something of their own, and it goes further and further from where you intended in the first place.  It’s like you bring something up about school and they go on about their schooldays during the war and finish with how the Japanese surrendered to the British.

      "I only asked if I can have more money for the tuckshop.."

And the list could go on and on, but I reiterate, them old folks are not intending to lie to us.  It’s just that they believe their version of the truth is the only correct one.  That’s understandable if you think about it as being ingrained within them throughout the years and carried them through their lives, or so they make themselves believe.

So, say that you go to them for advise because you believe that wisdom comes with age – there will be either genuine care and concern to help you out, or narcissist enjoyment on the egotistical fact that they are indispensible to others, especially the young ‘uns.  Either way, they will still dispense what they can with the best of intentions.  I have no doubt of that.  And it is definitely uncalled for to call them liars simply by the negative connotation of that word which does not apply to them by virtue of the sincerity of their intentions.  That means old folks may lie, but they are not liars

Therefore, if only liars lie that can only mean that they don’t, hence you will just accept everything they say as truth until such time you mature into your senses and realise that it was not  truth all along, and that is where you begin to see the fakery – the flimsy wooden props behind the monolith.

And sadly enough, there were those amongst us who just kick those props away to let the monolith come crashing down onto them, simply because they could not see the point in scaling it anymore.

For Joanne.

The Decimation Of One Malaysia

“The basic ideology of an exposition is that the packaging is more important than the product, meaning that the building and the objects in it should communicate the value of a culture, the image of a civilization.”
– ‘How An Exposition Exposes Itself’, Umberto Eco.

The Malaysian Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010

Our multi-cultural generations have gone through 52 years of independence by progressing through no less than 10 national economic plans to fuel our collective drive for a progressively better quality of life. We are constantly embracing the latest technologies in our quest for industrialization, vigilantly gearing up for a placement within globalization. Our formscapes and skylines are constantly evolving as testimonials to our ascension. No trend or fashion could obliterate our culture or customs but instead will find themselves enhanced by infusion. We have come to be bold and confident enough to stage our country up as backdrop for international events to be seen by the world. Even when we bicker and squabble amongst ourselves it’s only because we each believe we can do better than the other for the betterment of all.

However, despite the well deserved bravado that we have earned for ourselves through our development together as a nation, it’s unfathomable that there are those in position from amongst us that could be oblivious or ignorant of it when putting up our national pavilion currently standing within the Shanghai Expo 2010. What was selected for that highly anticipated international event is shamelessly belittling our achievements and aspirations.

Despite the world class infrastructure and facilities that we have put up in our country for trade, the pavilion seems to prefer to attract trade with the image of a glorified sweatshop. If tourism is its point of attraction, the pavilion merely offers precognition of a shopping haven for cheap and tacky productions. If it is heritage that we are trying to intrigue visitors with, the pavilion is hardly a representation but is instead a disrespectful imitation of it; we appear not even able to imitate our own heritage well. But if the pavilion simply wants to boast the numbers of visitors to itself, it probably would succeed with a design that would give the impression to the crowds that it is where the public conveniences are.

The choice for the Malaysian Pavilion is an affront to the efforts, achievements and ambitions of national registration identity card holders of this country. There is another, though by no means final, reading of the pavilion and that it also appears to be done simply for the sake of selfish personal profit by some numbers amongst us with complete disregard of the potential and potency of such a pavilion for the people. In that were the case, the only benefit thus would be the lesson to be learned that the product of any number that has minus itself from One Malaysia, would and could only bring about a negative value.