Archive for category Azly Rahman

‘Pendatang’ and other manufactured crises

By Azly Rahman
Oct 24, 2014

Again, this question of migration has bored us to the point of death and dying and Sartrean nausea (see Jean Paul Sartre’s play La Nausee on the meaninglessness of concepts). Aren’t we all here in this land now, whether you like it or not? We just need to be good thinking and moral citizens and uphold the ideals of the constitution and live by the spirit of it. We don’t need to keep on manufacturing crises to sustain conflicts and produce new ones.

Why fight over whose grandpa or grandma was here first? Who knows what these interpretations of the history of migration should mean, but what is clear is one’s legal status and citizenship and what all of us have contributed and will contribute to the betterment of each other if not for this ‘imagined community’ and ‘nation-state’ of Malaysia.

I fear that these arguments about ‘pendatang’ will turn into us calling each other ‘binatang’, ‘menatang’, and ‘menate’ (as in Kelantan dialect). Not good for human progress.

Each citizen, lawful citizen, must be given the equal rights and privileges as Malaysian citizens, whether they have been a citizen yesterday or 10,000 days ago. There should be no discrimination in educational opportunity, welfare services, housing, or anything – these must come with the reward for loyalty. I hope we have read Rousseau’s idea of social contract, or at least understand how airlines give free miles as rewards.

So, let us quit arguing and move on. To those still producing these over-used and abused arguments, as if there are no intelligent things to argue about, I must say this: You are all wrong in framing your argument and asking the right questions. Read the rest of this entry »

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Address terrorism, not flimsy sedition

By Azly Rahman
Sep 19, 2014

‘Dewan ulama delegate pays tribute to slain militant, saying he was a martyr’ – The Malaysian Insider

That was what I read yesterday – a most dangerous symbolic act Malaysia is seeing from an influential political party- the romanticising of diabolism, and if a political party can do this, imagine what we will be facing in these immediate years to come – home grown ISIS!

We ought to be afraid and to be very afraid – when the modus operandi of ISIS is to strike global fear through the broadcasting of beheadings, rape, mayhem, murder. My question to the government is, what are you going to do about this celebration of martyrdom and diabolism?

What is martyrdom or “shahidism in jihadism…”? I am still grappling with these words. Read the rest of this entry »

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Teluk Intan and all that jazz

Azly Rahman
May 30, 2014

What is promised to our youth in this by-election that is pitching the old versus the young? What do we need to see radically changed in our society? Here are my thoughts, especially today.

I am very sad today, reading about rape cases involving minors – gang-rape, to be exact, of ten, twelve, thirty young kids destroying each other! Madness. No-nonsense parenting is key here, folks.

Just when I had finished writing this first draft for this column, I read about a two year-old girl taken away from a shopping mall and later found with her head severed and her body dumped near the Klang River. Madness.

Days earlier we read about the early morning robbery of two nuns in Seremban, of which one of them died of serious head injuries. Almost daily we still read about snatch thefts resulting in the victims injured. An endless cycle of violence we are living in. Madness.

Back to what is happening to our youth. Read the rest of this entry »

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Are we brewing another May 13, 1969?

By Azly Rahman

This is serious, if you ask me about the latest events concerning Umno and DAP: those revolving around name-calling, storming of the Penang state legislature and the latest, on the threat to burn down the headquarters of the DAP.

Is this a prelude to something bigger as we approach the 14th general election? Irrationality will rule and will be rationalised. Is the climax to a potentially explosive racial conflict going to be built up and the two parties involved in a showdown? Go back to the prelude to May 13, 1969, if we wish to process the brewing of mass violence.

I hope we are all sane enough to diffuse these kinds of situation and quickly make peace and for all to be patient, to exercise restrain, and to not provoke those who are irrational. We will make it as Malaysians. We have come a long way through our hard work in building bridges and to continue to call ourselves Malaysians.

But crises will be manufactured and we will never know the truth of any conflict that will bring chaos to the country.

Let us use whatever medium of peace-making and peace-building at our disposal to make peace with ourselves and with others. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chaos, karma and MH370

Azly Rahman
Mar 20, 2014

Waking up this morning I wrote this, concerning the fate of MH370:

in karma there is chaos
in kudrat there is iradat
in qada’ there is qadar
in randomness there is order
in silence there are screams no one will ever hear
in the falling of a tree in a forest there is no sound heard
in seeds of hope there are microbes of destructive forces
in memory there is forgetfulness
in history there is fractal geometry
in the rustle of language there is the violence of semantics

in 1414 these were not made to manifest
because the protagonist of the story and the antagonist are one
in the longest story told
whilst the white noise
of chaos
plays in the background…

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Enron-ising Malaysia

by Azly Rahman
Feb 22, 2014

Malaysia’s monopoly corporate crony capitalism, framed and flourishing ethnocentrically and laced with economic fascism continue to take root, fashioned after the ethos and eerie-ness of America’s Enron Corporation which was said to be too big to fail yet fell like a house of cards that turned into ashes after an internal combustion of a self-immolation.

It also brought down one of one of the world’s biggest accounting fraudsters and master of creative accounting – Arthur Anderson. This is a feature of the many a Wall Street-fashioned American corporation – grow bigger with bigger lies with the help of world-class lying accounting firms.

What will Malaysia see decades after the seeds of destruction have germinated out of the three-pronged policies of Malaysian-styled Reaganomics and Thatcherism and Marcos-Mugabeism of Malaysia Incorporated, Look East Policy, and Privatisation Policies. Or have we not seen the impact of these policies in terms of the growth of big businesses whose survival also lie in the political-economic patronage of race-based political parties? Read the rest of this entry »

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On the eve of the Teachers’ Spring?

Azly Rahman
Feb 14, 2014

“School-based assessment”, “Data-driven decision-making”, “Professional Learning Communities”, “Systems-based schooling”, “Authentic-based assessment”.

All these are nice words for Malaysian schools to have but alien to teachers driven to death by administrative work to even understand let alone enculturalise scientific thinking in teaching and learning and in managing student progress.

We have a society with scientific buzz-word and sloganism governing, but not yet a society whose members value scientific and rational thinking. That is why we have tribal practices in schools, of:

*Magic pills administered for students taking tests;

*Magic and miracle water drank to increase intelligence;

*Strange sounding pills sold to enhance brain power;

*Teachers punishing students to eat grass, asking them to go back to where they belong, and all kinds of methods used to punish children not skilled in memorising facts that will become obsolete.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Needed – Kajang Declaration on Sanity

Azly Rahman
Feb 7, 2014

Blatant racism, religious bigotry, school culture degenerating, public display of hatred, urging this or that kind of jihad at times for reasons unknown, the vigilantes taking over when law and order seem to be at a critical breaking point, mass feeding of the public with stories that hath no educational value and even devoid of moral sensitivity, frequent public protests plagued with character assassinations rather that the focusing on issues to be collectively addressed as a nation, parang-wielding robberies in broad daylight on an almost weekly basis, rising number of cases of children missing, political moves crafted and executed in desperation that weaken due process in democratic culture sorely in need of sane progression, politicians producing statements in arrogance on pressing devoid of intellectual depths, the intensification of effort by fascist groups to incite violence progressively in hope that the bloody riots of May 13, 1969 is to be re-enacted on a larger scale perhaps.

The media as a technology of consciousness shaper both at the level of Grand and Subaltern Narratives have been successful in playing the role of creator of peace and destroyer of it, as if there is no difference between good and evil in the way we use the materials to build this nation. Read the rest of this entry »

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What a waste of a good generation

Azly Rahman
Jan 25, 2014

Are we addicted to testing the child in school? Tests, tests, and more tests. Test anything that moves.

But what is the child’s mind and how to understand it to make Malaysian schools more than just training camps for dull young minds?

The mind is all these: active, ready to learn new things, always hungry for knowledge, for deeply engaging environment of exploration that can be offered by the system.

The mind is not a place to be made idle, or a temple of boredom, or a funnel to shove in mere facts, useless information that has no relevance to the idea of meaning and learning, or have no sense of connection to the child’s experience.

The mind has to always be in a mode of higher order thinking, of the excitement generated in the upper brain or the corpus callosum and not be placed in the reptilian mode of “fight or flight”, where the body is to be caned and punished for not memorising by teachers who wish to impose their own understanding of things, or by those who think they have the answers to everything, or for teachers afraid of children’s questions.

Learning that is not active will certainly activate the mode of resistance in the child’s consciousness. The more the child is bored, the more he/she will rebel – silently or violently – because his intelligence is not respected, nurtured, or challenged to greater heights. Read the rest of this entry »

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Will liberalism cure malaise-ism?

Dr Azly Rahman | 6:00PM Jan 11, 2014

What we are seeing in Malaysia these days is a path towards destruction unfolding as a red carpet of a Hollywood show of a movie called ‘Wolves of Putrajaya’. We are seeing hell freezing over – of our own American polar vortex of the failure of our educational, cultural, and political system to mediate dangerous contradictions which may bring us down, tsunamied by the acts of those paid to search and destroy this imagined community of peace-loving Malaysians.

Borrowing a Socrates maxim, at the core of the issue is ignorance and the will to be stubborn to remain ignorant.

We need a multi-culturalist, multi-vocalic, multi-accepting, and multi-diverse brand of liberal democracy to save us. We need the entire nation to embrace what many are fearful of: liberalism. Liberalism will remove the glass coconut shell that has become a comfort zone, especially for the Malays and particularly of the Malay Muslims.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Megatrends of madness, Part I

Azly Rahman
Apr 8, 2013

We are at a critical juncture – at a dangerous crossroad of either a peaceful transfer of power or a descent into utter chaos. These few weeks we will see more drama unfolding – the ultimate aim is to win and win and win and kill and kill and overkill our critical sensibility.

We have not recovered from the shock of a Sulu incursion and we are ill-prepared for a general election that is plagued with all kinds of issues from many angles and manifesting in all kinds of dimensions. This is our megatrend of madness.


We have perfected Machiavellianism that lives in our world of Oriental Despotism. We live in a mediated world – of truth no longer can be discerned, in a world of perception management wherein politics is so complex yet cannibalistic.

In our society lies Italy’s Mussolini and Germany’s Hitler and Japan’s Tojo; of hegemonisers, of annihilators, and Asian-looking imperators. In these three-in-one deadly concoction of cultural contradictions lies the icing of the one-dimensionality of Malaysiana and that sloganism of ‘Truly Asia’. The show goes on. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malay politics and Ramleeology

Azly Rahman
Feb 2, 2013

“Alif-Mim-Nun-Wau… sarkis!” – said a character in P Ramlee’s movie Pendekar Bujang Lapok.

Of late I have been hit by nostalgia, reminiscing and even romanticising the 60s, 70s and the early 80s before Mahathirism took root.

My last column on Malaysia in the 70s was an enjoyable piece of journaling and from the numerous comments I read from all the blogs that carry it – my own blog Between Cybernetics and Existentialism, my Facebook page, Malaysia Today, etc – I feel that there was a time when a good Malaysian spirit was about to be forged.

This was that sense of a historical block, until May 13, 1969 came, of course; whether it was orchestrated or a victory campaign that went wrong we are beginning to find out, as alternative accounts of it continue to be written.

After languishing in sweet memories of the 70s, I next thought of the 60s; the time when I was growing up in Johor Baru and how the kampong and the city and the school I went to became my “global classrooms”.

My fond memories always go back to a “multicultural Malaysia I knew – especially how I owed my interest in learning and insatiable urge to acquire knowledge through the selfless work of my teachers – Malay, Chinese, Indians, Sikhs, and even my Peace Corps American teachers.

Without them, I would not have been able to write honestly about the need not just to “tolerate” other cultures but to learn from each one of them, embrace the dynamics of each, and to bring out the universality of the values, and next to design good learning systems and environments that will nurture these differences into commonalities and to hybridise the wisdom we will acquire.

This is what has been lacking in our education system – critical sensibility and the embracing of the idea of “cultural action for freedom”, as the Brazilian educational philosopher Paulo Freire would say. Read the rest of this entry »

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Our Malaysia of the 70s

by Azly Rahman
Jan 25, 2013

With the state of racial and religious things entire in our beloved Malaysia today – rumours of a festival of Bible-burning, continuing humiliation of the Malaysian Indians especially, the death of critical sensibility in our public universities, the devastating revelations of the ‘Sabah IC-gate’ plot, the issue of ‘stateless Indians’ and the criminalisation of children not able to be schooled because they were born ‘stateless’ and a host of other issues Malaysian-ly unbecoming.

I have decided to travel down the path of nostalgia. I am quite sure many of you reading this column would agree that the late sixties and early seventies presented a good frame of reference of what it means to be Malaysian and what ‘national identity’ could be about. Names upon names came back to me as I conjure fond memories.

There was a certain kind of magic, innocence, and sincerity to foster a Malaysian identity, back then. It didn’t matter what race you were one could love to one’s heart’s content folks like these: P Ramlee, AR Tompel, Aziz Sattar, Saloma, Siput Sarawak, Ayappan, Lim Goh Poh, Andre Goh, Kartina Dahari, Orchid Abdullah, soccer players like V Arumugam the ‘Spider Man’, Soh Chin Aun ‘The Towkay’, Shaharuddin Abdullah the cool guy, Mokhtar Dahari ‘Super Mokh’, Santokh Singh, and many other great names that helped make Malaysian Malaysia proud.

One could laugh at the comedian-ventriloquist Jamali Shadat’s jokes, remember names such a V Sambanthan, Khir Johari, the great statesman Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, Tan Siew Sin, Temenggung Jugah (the man with a really cool haircut I so wanted one… ), Aishah Ghani, and of course the reluctant but down-to-earth and benevolent multiculturalist-statesman Tunku Abdul Rahman (right) with his famous uncontrollable blurting of Malay curse words and his philosophy of “oil and water can never mix”. A simple, yet profound life was back then…

Those were the days before today… when hell is breaking loose. What happened to the ethos of that genre, I wonder.

Growing up in the early 70s, different words to describe reality, practices, and possibilities were dancing happily around me. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lesson from ‘listen, listen, listen’

by Azly Rahman
Jan 17, 2012

As a student of Cultural-Philosophical Studies with a passion in radical educational change framed within the context of cybernating-hypermodern societies such as Malaysia, I see the “Bawani-Zohra Affair” as emblematic of a nation gone berserk on the issue of freedom of speech and the culture of dialogue and public discourse.

We are in an ‘amuck-latah’ mood. The nation, at least in cyberspace, is furious (amuck) of what happened, and the protagonist of the propaganda machine fumbled big-time (latah) assuming that the teaching techniques of the “top-down, humiliate-first, no-apologies later” of many a Biro Tata Negara speaker can still be deployed unreservedly onto university students at the time when amateur videos can go viral, when tweets can flow like a tsunami, and when Facebook pages can be created in a fraction of seconds.

That’s the mistaken assumption – that the Frankenstein called “social media technology” will also not run amuck helping those silenced to have their poetic justice, and those humiliated to become an honourable being raised to the level of stardom, overnight.

It is said that at times, you do not need to find the revolution – for the revolution will find you. The revolution found both Bawani and Zohra in such an ‘absurd’ way, such as in many of the plots of French surrealist dramas like Eugene Ionesco’s rhinoceros running wild on the city streets, and Kafka’s character moving from desolation to awareness in “Metamorphosis”.

The timing was perfect, like that storm brewing right after the almost-a-million Malaysian march to take over Putrajaya; after the Deepak drama which was over-played, overdosing even the older folks; after the successes of all those Bersih rallies, and many other watersheds upon watersheds of consciousness-raising events, and ultimately, after the last hurrah circa GE13 – all these ripened the relevance of the fateful “Bawani-Zohra” rendezvous.

Hence, Malaysians saw not only an explosion of anger, but one that fuelled tremendous amounts of creative products, mainly in the realm of multimedia (music videos, Facebook and Internet posters, audio and video materials, and the production of other forms of creative artifacts inspired by the mantra “listen-listen-listen…”). Read the rest of this entry »

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49,000 youngest drop-outs?

by Azly Rahman
12:22PM Jan 4, 2013

If it is indeed true, as recently reported by Malaysiakini that 49,000 ‘stateless children’ are not going to school because they do not have identity cards, then something must be done to immediately address this issue of fundamental human rights. They must be allowed to go to school by any means necessary as the government resolves the issue of their ‘stateless parents’.

This ruling regime will be committing an act of the worst form of mental slavery should these children not be allowed to have the basic education and the right to be intelligent. If, as alleged, this regime can grant identity cards to newly-arrived immigrants in prepration for the coming elections, we must insist it to be able to do this for these children.

You, in the government, will be called a ‘pariah regime’ if this is not done for those children. The implications of not having those children schooled will be devastating; a reaffirmation of the vicious cycle of poverty, alienation, dehumanisation, and the fast-track way to build Malaysia’s prison-industrial complex. These children are already ‘drop-outs’ even before they enter schools!

What is wrong with our education system when we are now seeing a ruder apartheid-isation of schools? We continue to see the growth of a hideous class and caste structure in schools, from smart schools for the children of the rich to ‘pariah schools’ for the children of the abject poor. And now in the case of the ‘children of stateless parents’, we even have no schools for children of the abyss of the underclass, especially Malaysians of Tamil origin. Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Allah’ a journey, not controversy

By Azly Rahman
Malaysiakini | Dec 28, 2012

Only in Malaysia is the world perhaps witnessing a raging debate on who has the patent to the word ‘Allah’; simply translated as ‘the/that god.’ It seems to be a seasonal debate to get the political parties to wrestle over the linguistic or semiotic of the word; one that connotes and denotes ‘the Force of Divinity’ that Man has attempted to understand, revere, love, and fear yet can never comprehend.

This is simply because we are in a matrix of truth and representation, and in a prison-house of language unable to see what the Ultimate Reality looks like.

What’s in a name? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. And even more so this Shakespearean “a rose is a rose” type of problematique seems relevant in a world of political manipulations such as in Malaysia when race and religion are the twin determinants of political evolution.

The debate on the origin of the word ‘Allah’ is obviously interesting as a topic of dissertation or as an inquiry theme in fields such as bio-semantics, bio-semiotics, linguistic philosophy, philology, or the study of the transcultural flow of language as yours truly embarked upon on the origin of the words ‘Cyberjaya’ and ‘Putrajaya’ in a dissertation submitted to Columbia University, a few years back. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Yellow Mellow tomorrow

an instant poem to be shared quite urgently
by Azly Rahman

I told you already
of the fate of this country
that has moved so fast
and now we have another BERSIH rally
yellow mellow what will it be like tomorrow?
we all won’t know until we wear yellow

I have advised the country already
to go to the national square and treat it like a samba party
why aggravate the authorities when they too wish to join in the party?
they are all lonely and want to be clean and happy
in their hearts they powers that be want to be corrupt-free

what then must we do
for a yellow mellow hot potato tomorrow? Read the rest of this entry »

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Beyond the ‘Dong Zong issue’

by Azly Rahman
Mar 28, 2012

I read with interest about ongoing governmental discrimination against Chinese schools, as highlighted by Dong Zong.

Why are quality teachers and an abundance of resources still channeled only to Malay-dominated schools? Why are children in Chinese schools criminalised by the ‘sanction on teaching staff” which will ultimately deprive students of a good mother-tongue education?

What actually is our illness with regard to denial of the students’ right to their own language? Do policy makers actually understand the relationship between culture, cognition, consciousness and citizenship?

What does nationalism mean these days, and how do we understand it vis-a-viz use of language in schools? Whose brand of nationalism is being made dominant and what should an inclusive one look like?

What is the real issue behind the age-old request for the Chinese schools to have more teachers? How are the children criminalised by all this? Where is the peaceful path to this gentle profession called education? Read the rest of this entry »

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Sin City, Jay Bee – a tribute to Johor Bahru

by Azly Rahman

Where have all those memories gone
Of the city that never sleeps
Sin-filled you are
… Offering life’s panorama
A pandora box of a lushness of emotions

Jay Bee
You may be called a city of filth
Of gang wars and transvestite agalore
Of rock kapak geniuses conceived immaculately
From the womb of Papa Rock
Ahhh New Johor … New York you may want to be
Thou shall never attain that notoriety Read the rest of this entry »

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Education in multicultural Malaysia

by Azly Rahman
Mar 9, 11

Q: Being a multicultural society that Malaysia is, how should our education system be designed? Or, should it be designed at all?

A: Education is a deliberate attempt to construct human beings who will participate in society as productive citizens. The question whether our education system should be designed or not is quite irrelevant when education, schooling, training, indoctrination, and the spectrum of ways by which the child is “schooled” are all based on intentional design.

Schooling is the most contested terrain in any society; it is a battlefield or a conveyor belt for the creation of human beings. We go back one step before the question of design. In a multicultural society, who should be entrusted to design schooling – politicians or philosophers of education trained in the study of political economy and anthropology and alternative historicising?

Are those designing our schooling system equipped with the varieties of philosophical perspectives in education? We have essentialism, progressivism, romanticism, cultural rejuvenation, social reconstructionism, spiritual capitalism, technicism… or even cultural revolution.

These philosophies call for a different perspective of what a human being is and how to draw out the potentials in each and every human being. Hence the Latin word “educare”, from which education comes from, meaning “drawing out”.

My question for all of you: What philosophy of education will be suitable for a multicultural society such as Malaysia? And how do we translate such a philosophy into praxis (Paulo Freire, “Cultural action for freedom”). Read the rest of this entry »

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