We are already in a final week of Ramadan. Where did the three weeks of Ramadan go? I almost forgot that Hari Raya will be this week when I was at the halal store at Haymarket on Friday to get some fresh sardines when I saw chickens were flying off the shelves so fast. When my brain made a 'click' noise all the good boneless chicken were gone. Dang!!! Perhaps I'll make beef rendang this year. They still have plenty of beef.
The first two weeks of puasa was a challenge because the temperature had been between 90F-94F. And riding a bicycle in 90+ degree in bulan puasa is no joke.
On Hari Raya morning (Friday) I woke up at 4:45 a.m, put on Takbir Raya on low mode and had a video call on skype with my sister, KakNgah in Pokok Asam, Taiping. It was 4:45 p.m in Malaysia. Our alone quiet chat lasted for about an hour when my brother Abang, three years my senior who lives next door walked into KakNgah living room and saw KakNgah and I were on the skype. He hollerred his wife. They live next door.
A few minutes later, my second younger brother, Man and his wife Yah with their five kids returned from their Hari Raya open house trip. Man flipped his cell phone and called Tan, my first younger brother who lives a few houses away from KakNgah with his wife Non and their six kids.
Within an hour KakNgah's living room was packed with my two brothers, two sister-in-laws and 11 nieces and nephews waiting for their turn to talk with with me. The children and their parents were standing, squatting and leaning to KakNgah, elbowing each other waiting for their turns. I sat on my couch, my emotion ran high and low, loved and missed, watching the younger ones stuffing their face with kueh raya and ketupat while the older kids teased and poked their younger cousins, brothers and sisters.
At that moment I made up my mind I want to visit them next year. No if no but. InsyaAllah.
By eight fifteen I talked with all of them even Nani who was three years old when the last time I saw her. I felt so good. I felt wonderful. I felt blessed.
I wanted to post this entry on Saturday, but somehow it went missing momentarily.
I wasn't realize I was singing the whole Kasih as I ran on the beach this morning until I blasted its chorus,
Kasih dengarlah hatiku berkata,
Aku cinta kepada diri mu sayang,
Kasih percayalah kepada diriku
Hidup matiku hanya untuk mu.......
At the same time I was trying to side stepped hundreds of jelly fish glittering like diamonds on the sand.
I used to have Hetty's keroncong tape a few years back, but I wore it out by rewinding too many times on Kasih until one day, the tape gave up on me. I wasn't be able to get a cd every time I went back to visit my family. There were so many things to do, getting Hetty's Kasih cd became less important. Now, I wish I had made more effort to get it.
I wonder if anybody remember many years ago when Kasih was a hit, an imam made a comment about the lyric. I don't remember exactly the whole content of his comment, but he clearly said that singing the song could derail a person's faith, hidup matiku hanya untuk mu. The next day there were more talks about the lyric and somebody wrote that Hetty Koes Endang should say shahadah as she had repeatedly sang Kasih in various shows.
How did they know she sang Kasih for a man? What if among her missing her lover, heartbreaks and heartaches songs, she poured her heart out to and for her Creator?
What is it about us that makes us think we have the right to pass judgement? to make hateful comments? a snide remarks, make fun of others, exclude individiuals who don't share the same ideas and belief with us?
If only we make more effort to READ instead of TO LISTEN, we could learn more about ourselves, to have more compassion instead of hatred.
We like to tell the world, Islam is this, Islam is that, so what is in heaven name the Muslims blowing up each other?
Two Wednesdays ago I traveled to Lowell to attend a one day workshop. I arrived at North Station 40 minutes before a boarding time. With a fresh brewed cup of Dunkin Donut coffee in my hand, I sat on a wide wooden bench in a waiting area and continued to read Standing Alone by Asra Q. Nomani. As I turned to the next page, a smell of stale cigarettes and man cologne shot up into my nostrils. It was so strong the smell didn't stop in my nostrils, but it traveled all the way up to my head. For a short nano second I thought the smell could crushed my skull.
I peek at a pair of red Nike Jordan sneakers a foot away from the bench. My eyes traveled up to the owner of the Jordan sneakers. A man in brown worn out leather jacket, curly black hair and a pair of tired eyes shot back at me.
He nodded at me and sat on my left. I scoot a bit to give him more space. I went back to my book.
"You're wasting your time reading that trash."
I turned to my left, a young Hispanic woman was feeding her toddler a yogurt. She made a funny face, she meowed and she mooed him to take another spoonful. I turned to my right.
I thought I didn't hear him correctly. I asked him to repeat what he had just said.
"You waste your time reading that book." His eyes fell on the book in my hand.
"Is that right?" I continued reading. I hate making small talk when I was reading.
Reading is an intimate act. I run, I walk, I stroll up and down the paths along with the characters. I fly across the horizons, roam the sky looking down at the faces in the pages. I swim in their heads trying to understand their actions and their feelings, their hatred,their miseries, their pains and their joys.I smile, I laugh, I cry, my heart twitches, jumps and beats. I like to be left alone when I read.
"She is a bad Muslim, she really is, you know that? She and that Manji woman and all that types of people who work with infidels will go straight to hell. A sense of satisfaction shoot out from every pore of his face. "They will be in hell for a long, long time." With a sneer he slammed down his judge hammer after he read his verdict.
"Wow..." I emptied my cup and put away the book in my backpack. I wanted to ask him the same questions I've always asked the individuals that I've met all these years who share the same mentality as this man.
What kind of satisfaction do you get when you make an accusation to strangers you hardly know?
Do you get an extra points or sort of bonus that credited to your pahala account when you call names, predict their after life events?
Really, did I miss some clues or hints during those years when I was in Ugama Islam classes, or during Quran classes (including tajwid, fiqh and such).
Did your teacher pulled you aside and told you a secret? "Listen, this is what you should do when you see people who are not like you, when you meet people who do not share the same ideas with you.
But I didn't.
I'm a learner myself. What do I know?
I excused myself when the boarding time was announced. He looked disappointed.
"Where are you going?"
I picked up my backpack and adjusted my scarf.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"How long have you been in hell?"
"I'm sorry, I got to go."
"Hey, hey, wait, wait."
I kept walking, but I raised my left hand as a good bye.
FOR every 100 women who are not married in Malaysia, there are 130 unmarried men. It is men who are surplus goods on the marriage market in this country, not women.
So how does nikah misyar as proposed by certain quarters help to solve the purported social problem of unmarried women and divorcees? This is a solution in search of a problem.
Check the 2000 survey on never married population aged 15 years and above issued by the Statistics Department. The problem in Malaysia is not just a surplus of unmarried men. The bigger problem is likely to be that many of these unmarried men are actually unmarriageable.
The misrepresentation of social problems to justify men’s lust for multiple sexual partners is not a new tactic. This reminds me of a similar ruckus some 10 years ago when certain religious figures justified polygamy because there were purportedly 14 women to every one man in Malaysia! Yet another misconceived social ill that needed to be solved by extending men’s privileges.
Any right thinking person would immediately conclude this as an impossibility unless Malaysia practised male infanticide or sex-selective abortion as in certain Asian countries against female foetuses. The Statistics Department corrected this gross error. And yet the media, and radio DJs for years, went on quoting this statistic to justify polygamy. And it even spread to Indonesia with advocates of polygamy there using the same women to men ratio!
The fact is there are slightly more men than women in Malaysia, and this is considered normal. Women exceed men only in the 65 years and above age group because women live longer. So if sex ratio is the justification for polygamy, then men should only be allowed to marry the surplus women in that age group.
The bigger concern in Malaysia is the seriously disproportionate sex ratio of unmarried citizens. Almost a third of men are surplus goods on the marriage market. This is not difficult to explain. A country that practises polygyny (one husband, many wives) will skew the marriage market. All things being equal, when one man marries two women, he deprives another man of a chance at marriage. When he marries three women, two other men are deprived; when he marries four, three other men do not marry.
So the problem does not lie with women, but with men who want to marry more than one wife in order to legitimise their lust for multiple sexual partners. It is not just women, but other men are also discriminated in the hazardous practice of polygyny.
The problem in Malaysia is compounded because we are still a traditional patriarchal society where women are expected to marry up. Thus men with money, education and skills will get their choice of women. Men with little money, education and skills are more likely to remain unmarried because society disapproves of women who marry men "beneath" them, and some of our religious leaders believe it is haram for men to be househusbands.
Unless this social value changes given the reality that women are increasingly better educated than men, and that there are men who are happy and willing to be househusbands, the opportunities for marriage for men, and women, will decrease further.
We all know what happens in societies where men outnumber women disproportionately; where unmarried men are actually unmarriageable because they are poor, unskilled and uneducated. They form an underclass with no strong social bonds who are more likely than other males to turn to vice and violence.
So if the logic of misyar marriage is to be offered as a solution, then the specific problem that it should address is really the surplus of unmarried and unmarriageable men. The outcome then is to legitimise sex among single men and women who for whatever reason are not able to marry, not because they don’t want to — but because they cannot afford it, because the women earn more than men and therefore are not sekufu (of the same class and background), because it is haram for men to be househusbands. It could be a workable, satisfying relationship between two willing partners who could still choose to marry when circumstances change.
But of course we know that in practice, misyar marriage more often than not leads to abuse and exploitation of women. In many cases, it is nothing more than legitimised prostitution.
In poverty stricken Muslim communities, rich Gulf Arab men are known to fly in, contract a misyar marriage in order to have legitimate sex with young girls, pay money to the girls, or more likely to the parents who sold their daughters to these old men, and then fly out until the next visit, and the process repeats itself. Indonesia is already one target country of such marriages.
The practice actually allows men to have sex with women without feeling guilty that they have committed the sin of zina. In research done in some Arab countries, most of the men in misyar marriages are already married. Often they are men on vacation or are working abroad, or in a different city, who have left their wives and children behind.
Is it any wonder that women and many fair-minded men are up in arms against the legitimisation of this practice? It reeks of deceit and adultery, two ingredients that will doom a marriage.
The discussion on misyar marriage raises the issue why society goes into a panic over unmarried women. Why not over unmarried men? Has anyone done a survey comparing the socio-economic status of unmarried men and women and their levels of well-being?
Look at the single women around you. They are more likely to be better educated, financially independent, happier, responsible citizens and loving family members than unmarried men.
If you put together the statistics of young unmarried men in drug rehabilitation centres, juvenile homes, prisons, criminal gangs and those out in the streets aimlessly, you get a vivid picture of the underclass being formed. The solution is not to get such men married off, but how do we change our upbringing and education of boys to turn them into responsible citizens and caring family members, and attractive to women.
If our society continues to believe that polygamy is a man’s right, that men must always be leaders and be superior to women, men must always be providers, that being a househusband is haram, then the statistic for an underclass of unmarriageable men in this country is likely to grow.
In the past, women needed to marry in order to survive. But today, when women are educated and financially independent, being a wife is no longer the one ticket to happiness and well-being. You can actually lead a full and happy life without marriage.
In fact, in a society where religion is used to justify a man’s right to four wives, to demand obedience, to beat his wife, to get sex on demand, to divorce his wife at will, marriage for many Muslim women, is an inherently high-risk and unstable institution. And now a proposal to legitimise illicit sex through legal action, specially for married men with unmarried women!
Is it any wonder that the divorce rate among Muslims is many times higher than non-Muslims? And yet our leaders wring their hands when women are marrying late or not at all, when they are having fewer children, or not at all. The criticism is always on women, as if the fault lies with them. The focus is on preserving marriage as an institution, no matter what, rather than building strong, happy, healthy and lasting relationships.
The reality is that increasing numbers of women, while still believing in marriage, reject the traditional model of the man being leader and provider to whom obedience is due, while the woman is the subservient and inferior other half who is on 24/7 duty as wife, mother, cook, cleaner, nurse… and for many, a co-provider as well, without whose income the family cannot survive.
We all believe in family. Let’s get real in analysing why families break down, why women marry late, if at all, why there are many more unmarried men than women, why men are unmarriageable, instead of offering unwanted solutions to misconceived problems.
The ironic with our society is when the women/girls choose to stay single to focus on continuing education/job/travel or to be selective, we would be branded as memilih- choosy. You're damn right we are choosy. It's our lives we are talking about. -anasalwa
PakIdrus is very kind to forward me an article by Marina Mahathir and a link to Zainah Anwar's article regarding the state of mind of some (most?) of us. Thank you PakIdrus.
MUSINGS By MARINA MAHATHIR A FRIEND was relating how after her daughter had read the Da Vinci Code, she had wanted to read the Bible. Which is not in itself a bad thing exceptthat she was concerned that an impressionable young mind would not be able to differentiate fact from fiction. Also it seemed that perhaps what was needed is a Da Vinci Code-type book for Muslims to spark off the same level of interest in young people in their own religion.
Except that if anyone tried to write a similar thriller based around Islam, they'd be hounded and pilloried and threatened with death, thousands wouldriot in protest and people who would never have been able to read the bookeither because they are illiterate or can't afford it would have died.
Such is the difference between our religions. While there are many Christians who are upset about the book and movie, they are countering it with seminars and other educational events to balance what is being said inthe book, even if the book is only fiction. There have not been Da Vinci Code-related riots or deaths thus far. Which speaks volumes for theadherents of the faith.
It would be nice if everyone could brush off similar challenges and say "weare strong enough to withstand any attack". Even if a book or a movie becomes a runaway hit, compared to the total number of any faith's followers, the numbers sold can never match it. Books are by nature, in a world where illiteracy is still common, a luxury item. As are American movies, no matter what arguments people make about cultural imperialism.
I remember when there were riots over Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses, President Benazir Bhutto commented wryly that the people who were dying over the book were those who would never have read it, or possibly even heard of it if someone hadn't whipped them into a frenzy. A similar situation arose with the cartoons. As insensitive as they were, they were still not worth dying over.
The point is that people's impressions of a religion are often related to the behaviour of its adherents. Some religions are thought of as simply kooky because its followers behave strangely. Some are viewed as benign andpeaceful because its followers resolutely will not harm a fly.
But when people, supposedly in the name of religion, riot, burn and kill, it can't help but give the impression of a religion that advocates this, nomatter how much we point out that nowhere in religious texts itself does it say you should do this. And unfortunately we get the whole spectrum, from men who publicly insult women on a daily basis without censure to the real crazies.
Recently in New York I had to suffer the embarrassment of having to listen to a Muslim man say to a non-Muslim woman at a forum, "Don't mess with Muslims, we have nuclear weapons!" There I was trying to dispel stereotypes about violence-prone Muslims and in one fell swoop, this nutcase confirmed every stereotype there was.
I think the only people who can dispel stereotypes about Muslims are women. While there are certainly some conservative women, even when these speak out they will naturally change perceptions because in a world where Muslim women are perceived to be perpetually hidden behind curtains, their sheer presence and articulateness will be noticed. What more if they are able to argue rationally in a calm manner.
Thus far there have been very few Muslim men in the international media who give a good impression. We might argue that the Western media selects who they interview in order to perpetuate stereotypes, which is true and that is a problem for all of us. A man or woman who looks like the archetypal wild-eyed conservative is far more telegenic than someone who looks like everyone else. Channel surfers are far more likely to stop at the sight of someone they think of as alien to their culture than if they see someone too similar to them. To stop this means having to make a concerted effort to come together as one community and decide on a sophisticated media strategy. But sadly coming together as one united community is a challenge in itself.
If we do manage as a global community to change other people's perceptions of us, the benefits would be many. Our own people might think more kindly of each other so peace would reign within. And because within ourselves, we respect diversity, we can do the same with others. Then peace would truly have a chance.
Somebody at the workshop asked me the other day what did I think about the riot over the caricatures published in Danish newspaper. I didn't know what he was up to, tried to pull me into some sort of debate or merely curious about my opinion.
I told him I love dancing but I wouldn't dance to the beat that I don't like. I cannot control over the type of music they play but I have the power to choose to listen and to dance to the music I enjoy.