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Malaysian Insider Closes – but genie is out of bottle

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A piece I wrote for Aliran on the shutdown of Malaysian Insider and why it’s not the time to mourn but to do something about it.

The Malaysian Insider started its life at a time when Malaysia was experiencing a spring tide in democracy when the ruling party was deprived of its customary two-thirds majority in Parliament at the 2008 general election.

More importantly, 2008 witnessed the mushrooming of alternative media on the internet (news portals). These provided Malaysians with alternative news about the state of affairs in the country. In so doing, these news portals have enlarged the country’s restricted media space that had stifled the public sphere, so vital for democracy to flourish.

You can read the the whole article here.

Christianity and the Malaysian Middle Class

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A sociological exercise on faith and the middle class. Part of a larger work, i.e. my PhD thesis, which was extracted for a smaller essay. It’s published in Business of Faith website. I want to thank Dina Zaman (Director of Imam Research) who edited the larger work which subsequently became this essay.

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Is local theological discourse anaemic?

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In the past few days, I been revisiting Benjamin’s “On the Concept of History” where I was struck by his imagery of theology. In the first thesis, Benjamin stated:

The story is told of an automaton constructed in such a way that it could play a winning game of chess, answering each move of an opponent with a countermove. A puppet in Turkish attire and with a hookah in its mouth sat before a chessboard placed on a large table. A system of mirrors created the illusion that this table was transparent from all sides. Actually, a little hunchback who was an expert chess player sat inside and guided the puppet’s hand by means of strings. One can imagine a philosophical counterpart to this device. The puppet called ‘historical materialism’ is to win all the time. It can easily be a match for anyone if it enlists the services of theology, which today, as we know, is wizened and has to keep out of sight. 

Here, theology is described as “wizened and has to keep out of sight”. This imagery struck a chord with me because despite the political and social changes that is taking place in society, local theological discourse is very anaemic with regards to such changes.

It seems that the focus is on the personal and the spiritual without much work being done to engage with the wider society. With the exception of one or two local theologians, I find myself wishing more will come forward to take the challenge of making local theological discourse more vibrant and contemporary by reflecting on public issues that affect the faith community as citizens of a nation.

This, as I see it, is the challenge for our theologians.  

 

On Liberalism

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Recently the word liberalism have gotten a lot of bad press. From the public statements made by certain public figures, it’s the scourge of all social and political ills in the country. The problem here, at least for me, is they never define what is liberalism.

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A tribute to the Tiger of Jelutong

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A piece I wrote in Aliran as a tribute to the late Karpal Singh:

The unexpected passing of Karpal Singh, the legendary lawyer and politician, have left a void in Malaysia. Karpal, also known by his moniker ‘The Tiger of Jelutong’, was in the forefront of many battles in Parliament and the courts in the quest to bring about a better Malaysia for all.

Guided by principles of justice and truth, Karpal the lawyer was in the forefront of the struggle to safeguard the constitutional rights of all Malaysians. His clients ranged from his one time political foe Anwar Ibrahim to a teenager sentenced to death for possessing firearms in a politically explosive case. 

Karpal also contributed to the nation-building process as a politician. His efforts provided the necessary checks and balances while deepening the democratic process in the country.

Indeed so great were his contributions to the nation that people from all walks of life paid tribute, either through articles or paying last respect at his funeral, to the man who have touched their lives in some ways. 

In his own words, the Tiger of Jelutong gave us a clue as to the legacy which he wishes to leave behind, “The fight goes on. You knock out one Karpal Singh, a hundred Karpal Singhs will rise.” The Tiger roars no more but let a hundred tigers roar!

Berdialog dengan Gereja (Dialoguing with the Church): A book review

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CHRISTIAN-Muslim relations in the past few years have been sorely tested over the Allah controversy. Into this breach comes the unlikely figure of Mujahid Rawa. Since 2010, the Member of Parliament (Paris Buntar) has been involved in a series of dialogues with churches in an attempt to heal strained relations between both faith communities. Coming from PAS with its Islamist credentials, he comes across as a surprising agent of reconciliation.  More

Why Mills and Orwell matter: Reflections on the Allah judgement

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Today I decided to write because I’m upset. I’m upset because the Appeals Court have ruled that the Catholic newspaper, The Herald, have no right to use the Malay word “Allah” in the Malay section of the paper (you can read the news here and the background to this sorry mess here). 

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