Archive for August, 2011

Batal puasa in Machang

“We’re going to Godan, a place that is famous for people who aren’t fasting,” he turns to me and says in between giving directions to the driver.

There’s five of us in the car, driving through the streets of Machang. I look out the window and see a sign for a shop called Machang Fish Ball. The sign is quite basic with just a plain blue background, white lettering – in Latin, Chinese and Jawi characters – and on either side of ‘Machang Fish Ball’ there is a picture of a fish and a soccer ball.

“Just in front there with the Pepsi and Coca-cola sign,” my friend continues with the directions as we turn the corner and drive away from Machang Fish Ball and I see the Pepsi and Coca-Cola sign and the words ‘Restoran Aik Chin’.

We drive around the the corner to the front of the store. I look inside and see a few people, not too many, but relatively busy for a restaurant in Machang in the middle of Ramadan. I can’t get a good look but it seems, and I assume, that most of the people inside are Chinese.

My friend winds down his window and after he’s noticed by worker at the front of the restaurant, he does a quick count of the people in the car and yells out, “Ne!”.

“Ne?” the worker replied holding up six fingers.

“Ne,” replies my friend also holding up six fingers.

The driver begins driving off as I see the worker move toward the food table/cabinet and pick up a black plastic bag. We drive around the block and meet a friend outside a convenience store and he gets inside.

“Ne gapo?” I ask my friend’s brother, who is sitting next to me.

“Ne means six,” he replies.

“Yeah, I know ne is six, but six of what?”

“Oh shit, sorry,” my friend overhears us and turns around.


“I forgot to ask for vegetables.”

“I hate you!”

We wait outside the convenience store for a few moments then drive back around the block. When we reach the front of the restaurant the worker notices us and walks to the car holding two full black plastic bags. He passes them to my friend through the open window.

“Tigo pulo ria.”

We give him the money and drive away. I’m not sure where we’re driving too, but we head out of Machang town along the highway that leads back to my friend’s kampung.

The guy in the passenger seat, who I met a few night before in the car from KL to Machang but I don’t remember his name, takes out a bong that he’d just made and pulls a cone. The bong is a small plastic bottle with a papaya stalk sticking out of it. I’m fascinated by this distinctly “kampung” bong. In suburban Australia people cut off bits of garden hose for a bong, in a Malaysian kampung they cut off bits of papaya trees.

After packing another cone, he passes the bong to the driver. While still driving down the highway, he bends down a little lower beneath the dashboard and pulls the cone.

We turn off the main road and drive through my friend’s kampung, past his house to the end of the road where we park and get out. We walk along a walking track down a hill and after walking at least 50 metres from the road, the bags are opened and we all squat around them. One of the bags has six plastic bags of teh o ais and the other has six packets of food wrapped in brown paper and held together with a rubber band.

I open one of the bags of teh o ais and put a straw in it and watch my friend open the packets of food one by one. The first had rice, some curry gravy, a piece of chicken, a small fish and a few pieces of cucumber. The second had the same and he passed that it to one of the others who placed it on the ground in front of him and started eating. The third and forth also had the same contents. The fifth and six, instead of having a piece of chicken in them had a whole fish.

I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t hungry. I thought that it could possibly work but since it was only just after 2pm I knew that I probably wouldn’t have another chance to eat for about five hours. I finally gave in and picked up the last packet of food when one of the guys asked me why I wasn’t opening my food to eat with them.

I opened the packet and threw the two fish onto my friends piece of brown paper that was spread out on the ground in front of him. In return he picked up, one by one, the pieces of cucumber he’d collected from the other packets and put it in mine, which I held in one hand while I ate with the other.

We suddenly heard some movement from the top of the path at the road. Some of the guys quickly finished whatever food or drinks they were holding and threw their brown paper or plastic bag and straw into the bushes, followed by whatever other evidence was in front of them. One of the guys ran off further down the track and continued eating. I just sat where I was, eating my food. I figured if I was found eating my food it would just be more absurd than anything. Why would this white atheist kid, who is for some reason in some random kampung in rural Kelantan, go to the trouble of hiding in the bushes to eat some food?

I noticed that in all the chaos of people running off while still eating and throwing rubbish into bushes, the bong remained untouched, sitting out in the open, in the centre of the group.

Baybeats 2011 (Day 2) @ Singapore – 20/8/2011

Using Baybeats as a motivation/excuse to balik kampung Bedok last weekend, I left KL and held my breath, hoping that that I’d make it out to the other side of Kompleks Sultan Iskandar. Fortunately, no immigration troubles this time and as a result here’s some recordings I took wandering around the Esplanade on the second night of the Baybeats festival. And, probably the best part about it all, Baybeats was free.

Moscow Olympics
4 min 15 sec / 5.85 MB / 192kbps MP3
Band from the Philippines. Like indie-rock or shoegaze or something that I don’t really know anything about. I just know they had reverbs and delays and their beats weren’t slow but weren’t fast, just somewhere in the middle. I arrived during their set so only recorded one of their songs.

30 min 10 sec / 41.4 MB / 192kbps MP3
Band from Malaysia. For some reason I thought this band was more slow post-rock sounding but I think I got them confused with another band. Or maybe they played a different set of songs. This set still has a few of those parts here and there but mostly its in that poppy indie-rock kind of area with keyboards and trumpets and stuff. I managed to record their full set.

12 min 40 sec / 17.4 MB / 192kbps MP3
Band from Japan. I missed the start of their set because I was walking over from the stage Furniture had just played at. Their instrumental introduction thing sounded kind of nice and interesting. When I started recording and they started to get into their set I think it started to sound a bit different. Apparently, they’re also “indie-rock” whatever it is. I recorded three songs before heading over to check out Tenderfist on the Chillout ‘stage’.

5 min 49 sec / 7.99 MB / 192kbps MP3
Band from Malaysia. I’m not really sure what I think about Tenderfist. I don’t think I dislike them, but I don’t think I like them. I love love love their collaboration with Arabyrd and their collaboration with Flica, a lot. But I just can’t enjoy their own stuff so much. I decided to give them another chance and check them out. I stood around for a song and a bit before heading over to a different stage to wait for Pet Conspiracy.

Pet Conspiracy
39 min 50 sec / 54.7 MB / 192kbps MP3
Band from China. The internet says words like electro and disco and house and punk a lot. They seem to be good enough words. I think the idea behind Pet Conspiracy is not to sit at the back really tired and holding a recording device but be at the front dancing and being silly. I’ll just have to dance and go silly in my bedroom instead. I recorded the whole set including the part in between when everyone was yelling for one more song.

It would seem I didn’t record any Singaporean bands.

Caution: Songkok-wearers crossing

(Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands)

Watch out for Muslims. Run over kafirs.

Knob It! @ The Actors Studio, KL – 6/8/2011

Last time I went to a show at The Actors Studio there was a three-tiered ticket system and the cheapest tickets were the best, in my opinion. The cheapest tickets were “stage” tickets. Which means, yes, you were pretty much sitting on the stage. The Actors Studio’s main reason for existence is to cater for “theatre” stuff so it has a really big stage, big enough for a band and at least 30 other people.

However, for this event, the equipment was moved right up to the front of the stage so everyone was seated in the areas that actually had seats – not the stage. And there was no elaborate ticket system this time. Also, for some reason there were a lot less people there too. Maybe “electronic music” doesn’t market as well as “post-rock”. Or maybe people were crying over not being able to eat laksa to open their fast (is that the proper English phrase or am I just direct translating now?).

Anyway, these recordings sound much better than my last ones. The Actor’s Studio has a really good sound system.

4 min 32 sec / 6.23 MB / 192kbps MP3
Acoustic guitar plus ridiculous and funny lyrics. I walked in half way through so only ended up recording the last song or two. Basically, I started recording when everyone started talking about Yuna. Not sure if I managed to record the punny song about not wanting happiness.

34 min 56 sec / 47.99 MB / 192kbps MP3
Electronica. Hip Hop. Breakbeats broken up. That sort of thing. Not much else to say, just listen and close your eyes or something.

Tears For Alaska
31 min 06 sec / 42.72 MB / 192kbps MP3
Or was it Tears for A Laksa? Hilarious improvised songs constructed out of anything that can be hit in front of a microphone running through a kaoss pad plus guitar, synth, freestyle “poetry” and an AM/FM radio. Jangan nangis kalau tak boleh berbuka puasa makan laksa!

Like Silver
27 min 47 sec / 38.16 MB / 192kbps MP3
They seemed to cover a lot of sounds or just reminded me of lots of sounds. A bit Nine Inch Nails, a bit Bjork, a bit Placebo, a bit dubstep with gratuitous midrange wobble, and a bit of some other things too. Includes a few minutes in the middle where the laptop died and had to be restarted.

Puasa & Quran Diary: Day Zero.

Yes, I know I’m a week late. I know Ramadan already started last Monday. Tomorrow I will fast, or puasa, or whatever word you like to use to describe it. Well, sort of, maybe. I will fast in the sense that I won’t eat any food or drink any drinks. I won’t smoke, but I might passive smoke. But I reserve my right as a kafir to break any other hukum Shariah I wish and cancel my fast at any time (or ikut Sabah).

I keep saying I’m going to read the Quran. To myself and to friends and to people who I might not know well enough to consider friends but I’ve told them I will read the Quran anyway. I learnt a bit about this Quran book in ISEU3310 Islamic Historiography and IXEH1101 Introduction to Shariah and I’m always complaining about some hukum and other Islamic concepts, I should probably actually give it a read. So I figured why not do it in Ramadan? Since that’s the month it was first revealed and therefore it’s meant to have more significance.

But why fast? Well, I’m going to give the Quran a better chance of getting to me, a bit of a helping hand, just because that’s the kind of person I am. We need food for nourishment and they say that during fasting, since you aren’t getting nourishment from food, that’s when the Quran steps in and fills the role of nourisher. Going by that logic, its meant to be more productive to studying it. I don’t know, it seems a bit counter-intuitive to me, when I’m hungry I usually find it a lot harder to concentrate on study. I’ll give it a try though but, as I said, I reserve my right as a kafir to cancel my fast at any time if hunger is becoming counterproductive to the reading.

So, I’ll be reading a pdf of the Quran (Saheeh International Translation) from and in case I’m not near my computer I’ll be reading The Koran translated by M.H. Shakir and published by Goodword Books. The version includes M. Mawdudi’s surah introductions as well as a lot of footnote annotations. If I need more annotations, I’ll be checking out two tafsir (commentaries of Quran). The first is Mawdudi’s Tafhim al-Quran, the same publication that the surah introductions are taken from. And since, all this studying of Quran is meant to be nourishing and I’ve been brought up to believe in the whole ‘balanced diet’ thing I’ll also be checking out The Skeptic’s Annotated Quran.

For those who wish to read along, I found that the Quran is often separated into 30 parts to be read over the 30 days of Ramadan. Since I’m started seven days late, maybe I’ll need to double up on a few, or maybe I’ll just go into overtime. Maybe I’ll just give up after a few days, but I’ll try not to do that.

This is a list of the 30 sections (or juz):

  • Juz’ 1- Al Fatiha (The Opening) 1 – Al Baqarah (The Cow) 141
  • Juz’ 2 – Al Baqarah (The Cow) 142 – Al Baqarah (The Cow) 252
  • Juz’ 3 – Al Baqarah (The Cow) 253 – Al Imran (Family of Imran) 92
  • Juz’ 4 – Al Imran (Family of Imran) 93 – An Nisaa (The Women) 23
  • Juz’ 5 – An Nisaa (The Women) 24 – An Nisaa (The Women) 147
  • Juz’ 6 – An Nisaa (The Women) 148 – Al Ma’idah (The Table) 81
  • Juz’ 7 – Al Ma’idah (The Table) 82 – Al An’am (The Grazing Livestock) 110
  • Juz’ 8 – Al An’am (The Grazing Livestock) 111 – Al A’raf (The Elevations) 87
  • Juz’ 9 – Al A’raf (The Elevations) 88 – Al Anfal (The Spoils of War) 40
  • Juz’ 10 – Al Anfal (The Spoils of War) 41 – At Tauba (Repentance) 92
  • Juz’ 11 – At Tauba (Repentance) 93 – Hud (Hud) 5
  • Juz’ 12 – Hud (Hud) 6 – Yusuf (Joseph) 52
  • Juz’ 13 – Yusuf (Joseph) 53 – Ibrahim (Abraham) 52
  • Juz’ 14 – Al Hijr (The Valley of Stone) 1 – An Nahl (The Bee) 128
  • Juz’ 15 – Al Isra (The Night Journey) 1 – Al Kahf (The Cave) 74
  • Juz’ 16 – Al Kahf (The Cave) 75 – Ta Ha (Ta Ha) 135
  • Juz’ 17 – Al Anbiyaa (The Prophets) 1 – Al Hajj (The Pilgrimage) 78
  • Juz’ 18 – Al Muminum (The Believers) 1 – Al Furqan (The Criterion) 20
  • Juz’ 19 – Al Furqan (The Criterion) 21 – An Naml (The Ants) 55
  • Juz’ 20 – An Naml (The Ants) 56 – Al Ankabut (The Spider) 45
  • Juz’ 21 – Al Ankabut (The Spider) 46 – Al Azhab (The Confederates) 30
  • Juz’ 22 – Al Azhab (The Confederates) 31 – Ya Sin (Ya Sin) 27
  • Juz’ 23 – Ya Sin 28 (Ya Sin) – Az Zumar (The Groups) 31
  • Juz’ 24 – Az Zumar (The Groups) 32 – Fussilat (Presented in Detail) 46
  • Juz’ 25 – Fussilat (Presented in Detail) 47 – Al Jathiya (Kneeling) 37
  • Juz’ 26 – Al Ahqaf (The Sand Dunes) 1 – Az Zariyat (The Scattering Winds) 30
  • Juz’ 27 – Az Zariyat (The Scattering Winds) 31 – Al Hadid (Iron) 29
  • Juz’ 28 – Al Mujadila (The Contention) 1 – At Tahrim (Prohibition) 12
  • Juz’ 29 – Al Mulk (Dominion) 1 – Al Mursalat (Those Sent Forth) 50
  • Juz’ 30 – An Nabaa (The News) 1 – An Nas (Mankind) 6

Ok, let’s read Quran together! I will probably post things most days. Please feel free to argue with me (yes, I’m aware that they say you can’t “argue” during Ramadan), explain things to me and share extra readings with me. And invite me to buka puasa (waktu KL or waktu Sabah, I don’t mind either).

“For non-Muslims only”

When I started last semester at University of Malaya I met a Korean girl. Actually, I met many Koreans but this Korean girl was the only Korean to invite me to a Korean culture night at a nearby church or church hall in Taman Jaya. So I guess there would probably have been some sort of blessing or speech or something Christ-related alongside the Korean food, K-pop, dancing and Taekwondo. She gave me a flyer for the event which had all the usual event flyer information. At the bottom of the page, however, it said the event was for non-Muslims only. I’m not sure the exact wording but that was the message. “Wow, these people are a bit up front with their prejudices,” I thought.

Seven months later, I’m tidying my desk and come across an advertisement a friend had cut out of May 28 2011’s edition of The Star. It was an advertisement by the Australasian Bible Society, in response to the Harold Camping’s predictions for the end of the world, claiming to “have Correspondence Notes that will clarify what the Bible actually says” regarding the return of “Lord Jesus”. At the bottom of the advertisement were the words “For non-Muslims only”. There it was again! But this time I reacted a little differently. There must be a reason for these Christian groups putting these words on their advertisements, I thought. And I guess I’ve learnt a few things about Malaysia since January.

In Malaysia, although it is legal (and in cases such as certain inter-racial marriages, required) for a non-Muslim to convert/revert to Islam, it is more or less illegal for a Muslim to convert to another religion or renounce belief in God altogether. It is also illegal for members of other faiths to proselytise to Muslims. So I came up with these two hypotheses:

  • The words “For non-Muslims only” are a tactic used by non-Muslim faith groups taken by their own initiative to guard themselves against any accusation of attempting to convert Muslims.
  • The word “For non-Muslims only” are actually a requirement imposed on non-Muslim faith groups. To remind the non-Muslims the boundaries of their proselytising and to remind Muslims not to even consider leaving the path of Islam and deter Muslims from engaging in the ideas of other faiths.

So with my hypotheses I headed straight to the nearest centres of research – Google and Wikipedia. Here’s what I found.

The Wikipedia page for Freedom of Religion in Malaysia, under the Proselytising sub-heading, states that proselytisation of Muslims by non-Muslims is not necessarily prohibited by federal law, it is prohibited in 10 out of 13 states – all states except Penang, Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territories. ‘Most Christian and a few other religious groups in Malaysia put a standard disclaimer on literature and advertisements stating “For non-Muslims only”.’

It would seem that not only Christian events are “For non-Muslims only”.  Back in 2009, the Black Eyed Peas had a concert that was deemed for non-Muslims only by the Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture. See: The Malaysian Insider (Aug 27).

Earlier this year there was a big isssue (and maybe it still is) in which the Malaysian Government had confiscated a shipment of Malay translations of the Christian Bible printed in Indonesia and said they will be released on the condition they be stamped with “For Christians only” (in line with a 1982 Gazette under the Internal Security Act) and a serial number. On March 17, MalaysiaKini posted a collection of interesting quotes in response to the issue. Geronimo makes a really good point: “If the Bible is so offensive to you, why not remove the ‘Injil’ from the Holy Quran?” The Injil being the parts of the Quran that make reference to the Gospels. Maybe I’m missing something but considering Christianity and Islam are part of the same lineage and Jesus/Isa is considered a major prophet in Islam, wouldn’t it also make sense for Muslims to at least have some knowledge of the Gospels as they are printed in the Christian New Testament?

Back to the Australasian Bible Society, they are offering their “Correspondence Notes” free of charge – all you’d have to do is email or post them a letter. I’m wondering, what would they do if they received an email from a Muslim (or just someone with a “Muslim” name) asking for these free “Correspondence Notes”?