GE 14: Five Talking Points

GE14: Five Talking Points

  1. Where was religion?
Najib’s 2013 campaign was colored with anti-Christian and anti-Syiah rhetoric, so much so that it was called the ‘politics of fear.’ This went on well into 2015 as Hudud and Kalimah Allah led to polarizing debates that saw the opposition branded as ‘liberals.’ This eventually forced PAS to leave the coalition to assert its Islamic identity. Religion was also brought up this time around, though it had little to no effect. Mahathir’s Memali slip was as close as it got though that too faded quickly after his apology. The chorus of support for Pakatan drowned any attempts to divide the momentum along identity lines. BN’s politics of fear in GE 13, in hindsight, appear far less as an ideological commitment so much as an attempt to divide liberals from Islamists, though its absence in GE14 shows how little of it actually works when it matters the most.
  1. Rural-urban divide?
An election on Wednesday angered everyone, forcing millions back to their hometowns to make sure they made it for the midweek date. As we saw, this had the effect of further enthusing an already-unhappy and anxious electorate to vote. The subtext of that mass return is that the rural-urban gap is far less of a political divide that one thinks. Eric Thompson, sociologist at the National University of Singapore, has made the point, for quite some time now, that Malay rural-urban interactions is one of constant migration, where urban alienation informs rural discontent and vice versa. It is indeed a political sensibility that can be described full well with liberal catch-terms. The rural-Malay vote is conservative but ‘fluid’ and in ‘constant negotiation’ with context. Engaging with the distinct tenor of that negotiation should be the democratic task from now on, especially given the potentials in Pakatan’s victory. Urban-liberal discourse has understandably been frustrated with ‘rural Malay voters’ for some time now, though this prejudice is worsened by baseless claims of their racism, political naiveté and gullibility. Pakatan’s victory should signal a much needed rethinking of these biases, though this would not be aided with urban chauvinism’s implicit (and let’s face it, often racist) attitudes towards rural Malays.
  1. Mahathir: Old and New
Because while it is true that Mahathir was in fact the familiar face that tilted Malay voters against BN, it was certainly not because he was the Mahathir of old. Among other things, he corrected his own prejudices against DAP, ensured Anwar’s pardon while campaigning without an Islamic or Bumiputera-rights agenda. His final campaign address instead appealed to a shared vision of an inclusive Malaysia. His methods and rhetoric revealed a Mahathir a Malaysian politics had never seen. It is too early to speculate on how much of this new sensibility will remain given the system’s fixed ways but the openness to adapt is evident. But this is not simply a statement about Mahathir but also the Malay electorate which his appeal very much depended on.
  1. What opposition?
BN’s 60-year-old grip over the system will not end overnight but hegemony also needs leaders. None of the ‘inner circle’ that would have been expected to lead the party flattered at the polls. In addition to the major losses, speculations on how well or badly KJ, Zahid and Hisham did went on well past 11 pm on May 9th. Moreover, cleaning up the party would also require clean leaders. What’s worse than an unreformed UMNO is one that kicks and screams as it tries to hold on to whatever vestiges of power it may have left, thinking of nothing more than to rain on the victory parade. This appears to be the likeliest scenario in the immediate months to come, given the lack of a properly articulated vision of reform. Democracy has less to do with a particular party or personality in power than whether the system can stabilize while it also adapts to unexpected challenges and shocks. A vibrant opposition, which also understands the stakes of caring for a healthy democracy, would offer much towards that goal though it looks like we won’t be seeing that anytime soon. Meanwhile one would hope for smaller independent parties (such as Parti Sosialis Malaysia, where my own sympathies lie) to engage with the widening democratic opportunities to build its own capacity for the longer term.
  1. Two Sudirmans 
Barisan Nasional’s campaign was at least honest in its pessimism. Consider the video that sees Khairy Jamaluddin acting alongside Vanida Imran. It shows a conversation about which side to vote, boiled down to a cost benefit logic that equated change with uncertainty, mixed with the usual excuse that while BN is not perfect it has done some good. Their lack of confidence is most telling in Najib’s final speech. He baited fence sitters, doubling BR1M and dangling five days of no toll during Raya. He had in mind a victory that could just be bought. His speech concluded furthermore with a fittingly poignant song. He left the stage to Warisan by Sudirman, a song about a hesitant hero resigned to loss (“andai aku disingkirkan … Kemana harusku semaikan cinta ini … aku bukanlah seorang perwira”). There was also, to be sure, an air of resignation to Mahathir’s final speech where Sudirman also made an appearance. He picked Salam Terakhir, which sings of asking and granting forgiveness before a moment of truth, in recognition of time’s passage and life’s fragility (“KepadaNya ku memohon keampunan MelaluiNya ku beri kemaafan Kepadamu”). This reiterated the 93 year old’s message all along, a chance to right the wrong, and that too in two years until a proper transition. All of which suggest a finality underlining the new beginning. The uncertainties Malaysia faces (and Sabah is still rumbling as I write this) leaves much to fear and be excited about. Recall how Najib’s defeat was soon followed by widespread murmurs on whether Malay royalties would support or slow down Mahathir’s second swearing in. It was palpable enough to merit a response from the Agung himself, after the Sultan of Johor had to also clarify his position. But uncertainty has always been the hallmark of true change, where the usual answers no longer work. People power – felt in votes that led to change, recorded and shared worldwide for all to see and remember – grew upon the ruins of a corrupting regime that could no longer believe in itself.         Ahmad Fuad Rahmat researches Melancholic Malay Men at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, Semenyih. While running Projek Dialog he also hosts Night School and Digital Desires on BFM Radio.    ]]>

[Reviu] Forum Hindusime 101 – Pengenalan Kepada Sastera Hindu

Saudara Uthaya menerangkan istilah-istilah dalam Hinduisme kepada para hadirin[/caption]   Pada 30 April bersamaan dengan hari Isnin, Projek Dialog telah mengadakan forum Hinduisme 101 – Pengenalan Kepada Sastera Hindu dengan kerjasama pembicara undangan, Saudara Uthaya Sankar SB yang berlangsung dari jam 8 malam ke 10 malam. Forum tersebut telah dihadiri oleh lebih kurang 5 orang tetapi oleh kerana kegiatan sesi soal jawab yang aktif dari para hadirin, forum tersebut dilanjutkan hingga jam 11 malam.   Pertama sekali, Saudara Uthaya memperkenalkan para hadirin kepada istilah-istilah yang berkaitan dengan Sastera Hinduisme. Istilah ‘Sanadana Dharma’ merupakan maksud ajaran Hinduisme iaitu Kebenaran (Sanadana) Abadi (Dharma). ‘Jikalau ia benar, bermakna ia benar selama-lamanya’ merupakan kepercayaan asas untuk agama Hinduisme. Hinduisme juga diterangkan sebagai sebuah agama yang mencari Tuhan dan bukan daripada Tuhan ke pengikutnya. Kandungan ajaran Hinduisme bukanlah bedasarkan ‘wayhu’ atau ajaran dari Tuhan akan tetapi merupakan idea-idea manusia setelah mencari ‘pencerahan’ semasa meditasi.   Hinduisme juga bermaksud ‘Vaidika Dharma’ yang wujud lagi dari zaman kitab-kitab Veda. Istilah ini berasal daripada bahasa Sanskrit. Saudara Uthaya mengatakan bahawa Sanskrit merupakan bahasa kuno akan tetapi terdapat beberapa usaha yang dilakukan oleh segelintir golongan masyarakat di India and Jerman yang ingin menghidupkan semula bahasa tersebut. Panggilan orang yang berkaitan dengan ajaran Hindu adalah Veda Murthi. Murthi bermaksud ‘pakar dan ketua’. Istilah ‘Veda Murthi’ merupakan seseorang yang arif dengan ajaran kitab-kitab Veda. Veda Murthi juga berkata bahawa mereka tidak mendapat idea-idea dari Tuhan tetapi dari ‘Apaurusheya’ yang bermaksud ‘pengetahuan ilahi’ ataupun pengetahuan melebihi kefahaman manusia.   Istilah penting yang berkaitan dengan kewujudan dan penyebaran Hinduisme adalah ‘Sruti’ dan ‘Smrti’. Sruti [sur-ti] bermaksud ‘dengar’ manakala Smrti bermaksud ‘ingat’. ‘Saya dengar, oleh itu saya ingat’. Apabila golongan Veda Murthi ingin menyampaikan ajaran Veda kepada rakyat jelata yang biasa (mereka tidak mempunyai taraf pendidikan yang tinggi), mereka memilih untuk meringkaskan ajaran-ajaran daripada Kitab-kitab Vedas melalui Sruti dan Smrti.   Perkara penting mengenai Sruti dan Smrti ialah Sruti adalah pengalaman langsung (berhubung terus dari pendengar dan pencerita) manakala Smrti adalah amalan yang dibawa turun dari nenek moyang (bukan berhubung terus, hanya apa yang boleh diingat dari generasi terkini akan generasi sebelumnya). Ini kerana pada zaman dahulu, penulisan hanya diamalkan oleh segelintir golongan Istana dan ajaran dan sejarah disampaikan secara lisan. Kepentingan Sruti adalah untuk menyebarkan ajaran menggunakan cara ringkas, tepat dan senang untuk diingati hatta penyebaran agama yang paling berkesan kepada semua golongan rakyat kerana penyebaran berlaku melalui pendengaran.   Dalam agama Hindu, bunyi memainkan peranan yang amat penting kerana getaran yang dihasilkan daripada bunyi tersebut. Banyak mantera bermula dengan ‘Ohm’ dan berakhir dengan kata penutup mantera iaitu ‘Svaha’ (bermaksud ‘Saya tunduk kepada anda’) dan setiap suku kata ada kuasa getaran sendiri. Ia bersamaan dengan Zikir (dalam Islam) dan ‘Aum’ untuk ajaran Buddhisme. Mantera-mantera ini dikumpul dan kemudian dibukukan kepada Kitab-kitab Vedas. Ia dikatakan bahawa pengarang bernama Vyasha adalah nama dibelakang penulisan Kitab-kitab Veda tetapi ia juga dikatakan bahawa Vyasha ini merupakan panggilan untuk orang-orang yang berbeza.   Kitab-kitab Vedas terdiri daripada 4 kitab iaitu Kitab Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda dan Atharvaveda. Rigveda mempunyai 10,250 ayat, Yajurveda mempunyai 6,000 ayat, Samaveda mempunyai 1875 ayat dan Atharvaveda mempunyai 2,000 ayat dan setiap Kitab merangkumi ajaran yang meliputi segala aspek kehidupan. Dalam setiap mantera terkandungnya tenaga yang positif oleh sebab mantera yang bukan sahaja untuk memuja Tuhan tapi untuk mendoakan kesejahteraan semua yang hidup dalam alam sekitar. Kandungannya amat terperinci kerana ia merangkumi segala aspek kehidupan dari jenis-jenis perkahwinan yang dibenarkan atau diharamkan sehinggalah garis panduan, butiran kelayakan dan senarai tanggung-jawab untuk memperoleh anak angkat dalam hal ehwal keluarga.   Kitab-kitab Vedas iaitu Kitab Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda dan Atharvaveda kemudiannya diringkaskan kepada beberapa peringkat mengikut peredaran zaman iaitu :

  1. Veda (kitab-kitab Vedas terawal)
  2. Dharma sastra
  3. Dharma sutra
  4. Smrti
  5. Nibanda
  6. Purana
  7. Epik (terakhir)
  • Dharma sastera mempunyai 3 kandungan; ‘Acara’ iaitu kod etika dan pendidikan moral perihal isu keluarga, ‘Ayuhara’ iaitu perihal mengenai fungsi dan tanggungjawab masyarakat, serta ‘Prayacita’ iaitu cara-cara penebusan dosa besar atau kecil yang dilaksanakan untuk orang yang ingin bertaubat dari kesalahannya.
  • Gerenasi berikutnya mengeluarkan Dharma Sutra iaitu versi ringkas dari Dharma Sastera.
  • Smrti iaitu cara paling senang kerana melalui cara lisan. Nama bukunya ialah Manusmriti tetapi orang yang meringkaskannya bernama Manu…yang juga merupakan asalnya Manusia dalam Bahasa Melayu.
  • Nibanda – Satu generasi seterusnya lagi, Manusmriti diringkaskan dan dibahagikan kepada bab-bab tertentu mengikut kefahaman mereka. Sebagai contoh, buku cerita kanak-kanak dibahagikan kepada bahagian ‘Remaja’ dan ‘Kanak-kanak’ hanya pada tahun 80-an, kerana pembahagiaan tersebut dilakukan mengikut lapisan umur dan tahap pemikiran mereka yang berbeza. Nibanda juga mempunyai garis panduan dalam pentadbiran kerajaan seperti tatatertib pemberian hadiah diantara Raja dan bangsanya, prosedur mahkamah dan lain-lain.
  • Purana wujud untuk mempermudahkan lagi isi kandungan Nibanda. Purana juga memfokuskan pada cerita dewa dan dewi yang mempunyai pengajaran nilai-nilai moral yang tersirat kerana Purana kerap diceritakan pada golongan kanak-kanak. Dalam setiap Purana yang mempunyai dewa/dewi berbeza, dewa/dewi tersebut akan memainkan watak protagonis atau hero dalam jalan cerita mereka masing-masing.
  • Epik adalah cerita orang awam. Seperti Epik Ramayana, terdapat beberapa watak yang di-inspirasikan atau penjelmaan daripada dewa dewi Hindu seperti Vishnu yang menjelma kepada watak Rama, Lakshmi yang menjelma kepada watak Sita, Shiva yang menjelma menjadi Hanuman, dan lain-lain. Ini adalah untuk mengekalkan hubungan cerita Epik Ramayana dengan ajaran Hindu.
  Sastera Mahabarata merupakan sebuah cerita yang melibatkan Krishna sebagai diri-Nya dan Arjuna (seorang manusia dalam penjelmakan Vishnu) dalam perang besar di Bharata selama 6 hari. Krishna merupakan panduan rohani Arjuna apabila beliau dalam keraguan untuk memerangi musuh iaitu ahli keluarganya sendiri. Krishna membimbingnya demi Kebenaran (Dharma) dan apabila Arjuna ingin memulakan perang tersebut, lalu berlakunya bab perang iaitu bab yang dipanggil ‘Bhagavad Gita’. Perkataan Bhagavad berasal dari Bhagavan iaitu bermaksud ‘Lagu Tuhan’. dan dalam Bhagavad Gita, terdapatnya watak-watak lain seperti Bishma (jelmaan Dewa Hanuman) yang memainkan peranan sebagai watak sampingan.   Saudara Uthaya juga menerangkan istilah Vignaya, Karma, Upasana, dan Gyan:
  1. Vignaya merupakan mantera untuk mengenali Tuhan
  2. Karma merupakan konsep yang menggalakkan manusia berbuat baik demi mendapat balasan yang baik demi persediaan Akhirat.
  3. Upasana merupakan koleksi doa-doa yang berlandaskan sifat menyeluruhi ataupun ‘universal’. Upasana baik dibaca dalam Bahasa Sanskrit dan doa-doa akan ditujukan untuk semua seperti keamanan untuk semua manusia tanpa pilih kasih pada golongan manusia.
  4. Gyan merupakan ilmu atau cerita mengenai alam semesta.
  Akhirnya, Saudara Uthaya menenkankan bahawa agama Hinduisme adalah agama yang mempercayai 1 Tuhan sahaja dan seperti ajaran Islam, Orang Islam mempercayai bahawa Allah s.w.t mempunyai 99 nama terpuji, Hinduisme juga mempunyai nama-nama lain yang tiada nombor hadnya untuk Tuhan kerana mereka mempercayai bahawa Tuhan tidak mempunyai apa-apa bentuk fizikal yang nyata. Tetapi berbeza dari agama lain, Hinduisme menggalakkan penganutnya untuk menggambarkan dan membayangkan Tuhan menggunakan kreativiti mereka dan juga untuk menyoal dan mencari jawapan sekiranya kepercayaan/pendapat mereka bercanggah dengan apa yang telah disampaikan.        ]]>

[Previu] : Hinduisme 101 – Pengenalan Kepada Sastera Hindu

Speaker undangan, Saudara Uthaya Sankar. Untuk mengetahui dengan lebih lanjut mengenainya, silalah ke pautan ini

  Forum ini merupakan kesinambungan pada Forum Hinduisme 101 yang telah diadakan pada tahun 2017 dan sebelumnya. Projek Dialog dengan sukacitanya ingin menjemput semua untuk menghadiri forum ini pada 30 haribulan April (Isnin) dari 8pm-10pm di Projek Dialog. Forum ini akan dibentangkan oleh saudara Uthaya Sankar SB (seorang kolumnis dan penulis esei) dan beliau akan menerangkan kepada semua akan sastera-sastera Hindu yang terdapat secara asas dalam Hinduisme.  

Topik-topik yang akan dibentangkan dalam forum Isnin depan.

  Untuk pengetahuan semua, ini akan merupakan forum ke-3 mengenai Hinduisme yang dianjurkan oleh Projek Dialog. Sila tekan Pautan ini untuk membaca Reviu forum pertama dan kedua yang telah diadakan sebelum ini. Forum Pertama Hinduisme 101 –…/agama-hindu-101-menolak-ster…/ Forum Kedua Hinduisme 101 –   Kami juga ingin mengalu-alukan apa-apa cadangan topik untuk dibentangkan dalam sesi Hinduisme 101 yang seterusnya. Sila email atau mesej kami di laman Sosial Media kami dalam Facebook, Twitter dan Instagram jika anda berminat untuk mengetahui apa-apa isu mengenai ajaran Hinduisme.      ]]>

Selamat Hari Kartini

Photo credit : Janko Ferlic ([/caption] Oleh Afiq M. Noor

Pakaian merupakan hak asasi setiap orang tanpa kecuali. Peri pentingnya pakaian kepada manusia sehingga Allah S.W.T menggambarkan ikatan perkahwinan antara seorang isteri dengan suami sebagai – “..mereka (isteri) adalah pakaian bagimu (suami) dan kamu (suami) adalah pakaian bagi mereka (isteri)..” (Quran 2:187). Kenapa Al Quran memilih untuk mengumpamakan hubungan kudus antara isteri dan suami dengan pakaian? Sudah pastilah kerana pakaian mempunyai signifikan yang sangat penting dengan manusia. Selain untuk menutup keaiban agar tidak dilihat oleh orang kebanyakan, pakaian juga mencerminkan identiti si pemakai. Jika si pemakai itu berkebaya, bersarung batik, berkonde dan menutup kepalanya dengan selendang sudah pasti kita mengetahui bahawa dia perempuan nusantara yang bangga dengan identiti nusantaranya. Jika si pemakai itu berabaya hitam dengan tenunan berwarna keemasan di lengannya dan bercadar sudah hampir pasti si pemakai itu perempuan dari Tanah Arab yang senang sekali dengan identiti arabnya.


Setiap manusia pasti memilih pakaian yang bukan sahaja selesa di pakai tapi lebih dari itu sebagai cerminan identiti, maruah dan political/religious statement yang diimaninya. Sebagai contoh, Sheikh Al Azhar, Dr. Abdul Halim Mahmud (1978), sepulangnya dari Sorbone University di Perancis beliau mengenakan pakaian ala barat dan mengajar di Universiti Al Azhar. Namun apabila Presiden Mesir Gamal Abdul Nassir mengkritik dan merendah-rendahkan ulama di Al Azhar beliau menunjukkan protes dan kemarahannya dengan menanggalkan pakaian ala barat yang lazim dipakainya dan memakai pakaian rasmi Al Azhar – jubah dan imamah hitam dan merah. Beliau juga menganjurkan para alumni Al Azhar untuk mengenakan pakaian rasmi Al Azhar untuk menunjukkan bantahan dan ketidaksetujuannya dengan kritikan Presiden Mesir ketika itu. Begitu juga para santri di Indonesia dan Nahdhatul Ulama’ mereka begitu identik dengan sarung dan peci (songkok) sebagai identiti mereka sehingga mereka di gelar sebagai kaum sarungan dan bangga dengan identiti tersebut. Nah, begitulah serba sedikit tentang politik identiti dalam pemilihan pakaian atau fesyen.


Manusia berpakaian juga tidak lain, untuk dilihat cantik. Siapa sahaja yang tidak suka kelihatan cantik dan elegan dengan busana yang melekat di tubuhnya? Namun, tidak jatuh kafir jika saya katakan industri fesyen menempatkan posisi perempuan jika tidak setara, hampir sama dengan agama. Hubungan perempuan dengan agama dan hubungan perempuan dengan fesyen juga hampir sama polanya. Terlalu menyakitkan.


Jahiz, seorang sastrawan Iraq pernah berkata- “Aku dan orang yang berfikiran rasional tidak akan pernah mengatakan bahawa status perempuan itu di bawah lelaki, setingkat, dua tingkat atau lebih..Namun aku melihat begitu ramai orang yang merendahkan, mengekspoitasi dan mengurangi hak-hak mereka..”


Begitulah perempuan, mereka bukan sekadar di atur-atur hidupnya oleh agamawan dengan aturan-aturan yang tidak masuk akal dan domestifikasi dirinya dari ruang publik sekaligus mengurangi harkat dan martabatnya. Perempuan juga di kurangkan statusnya kerana bentuk tubuh badannya oleh tuhan-tuhan kecil industri fesyen. Wahyu dan sabda tuhan-tuhan kecil ini menginginkan perempuan itu harusnya begini dan begitu dengan tidak ada tawar menawar. Maka hiduplah sekali lagi perempuan dengan tidak bebas menjadi dirinya sendiri. Hidup atas kata orang lain.


Mengambil berkat Hari Kartini yang jatuh pada tanggal 21 haribulan April setiap tahun, berilah perempuan peluang untuk hidup sebagai diri mereka sendiri tanpa perlu menurut kata-kata orang lain selain diri mereka. Biarlah para perempuan mengatur hidupnya sendiri. Patriarki tidak hanya ada dalam teks-teks dan tafsiran keagamaan tapi juga dalam semua lapangan kehidupan (termasuk tuhan-tuhan kecil industri fesyen).


Perempuan nusantara harus berani berubah atas kemahuan dirinya sendiri, atas kesedaran dirinya sendiri. Jangan biar dirimu dibuli oleh sesiapa sahaja. Jadilah dirimu sendiri dan jangan biar hidupmu di atur oleh orang lain. Saya akhiri warkah pendek saya dengan kutipan dari Ibu Kartini – “Tetapi sekarang ini, kami tidak mencari penglipurlara hati pada manusia, kami berpegang teguh-teguh pada tangan-Nya. Maka hari gelap gulita pun menjadi terang dan angina ribut pun menjadi sepoi-sepoi..” Semoga saja kartini-kartini di luar juga berani melawan dan mengatakan TIDAK kepada para penindas hidupmu. Hidup Perempuan (yang bebas dan menjadi dirinya sendiri)! Selamat Hari Kartini.



[Review] Male Feminists : A Roundtable Discussion

From left to right : Rizal Rozhan, Kelvin Ang, Victoria Cheng, Netusha Naidu, Saran Anandan, Neda Al-Asedi Projek Dialog has successfully arranged ‘Male Feminists : A Roundtable Discussion’ which was held on the 11th of April 2018 at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus under a collaboration with PHIR-Nott (a student society under the School of International Relations). More than 40 people have attended the forum alongside the Moderator, Victoria Cheng from Projek Dialog and the invited panel of speakers. The panel consists of Rizal Rozhan from Empower, Kelvin Ang from Women’s Aid Organisation, Netusha Naidu from Imagined Malaysia (also a fellow student of University of Nottingham), Saran Anandan and Neda Al-Asedi representing themselves from the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. This forum was initially intended to be held one year ago but was cancelled due to the university’s administrative restrictions. Thankfully, the forum was granted approval and it was received positively by the audience consisting mostly of the university students themselves. Victoria began the forum by thanking the Liyana Nadhirah, the President of PHIR NOTT, for its dedication in organising the event and then proceeded to ask the panel of speakers to introduce themselves. Victoria kickstarted the roundtable with the first question for Kelvin – What are the statistics of gender-based violence and how would his work impact the community. Kelvin decided to drop the audience a crash course on domestic violence starting from a figure for them to ponder upon: Around 5000 cases were reported by PDRM this year and it continues to grow steadily. Nonetheless, he confessed that the figure was low as there are indeed more unreported cases of domestic violence in the country. ⅔ of the cases were reported by women and ⅓ were by men. He emphasized that the source of domestic violence is related to power within a relationship and that the gender component is also a key factor in the gender of the abuser. In the PDRM report mentioned, PDRM managed to breakdown not only the gender of the abuser, but also the relationship of the abuser with the victim in a household such as ‘husband to wife’ or even ‘father to son’. Kelvin pinpointed the origins of victimhood and that it began in childhood – Whether the child was conditioned to perform a role based on gender, and how victims have remain trapped in the same cycle in later life. He later expressed his disappointment towards the authorities’ lack of seriousness in protecting victims because they assume domestic violence to be a petty domestic affair. This is where Women’s Aid Organisation would come in – they help victims access resources that are available in terms of physical, emotional, sexual, social, and financial means. Lastly, he added that Marital Rape has not been classified as a crime in Malaysia (yet!) and how his organisation is formulating an Anti-Stalking Law which is currently in the works. Kelvin discussing WAO’s services and importance to the crowd Victoria then turned to Rizal for a 2-part question: “How can we succeed in including women in more decision-making roles” and “Is it true that women do not like to be leaders?”. Rizal answered that we would need an overhaul or a systemic change in the way society thinks about women and leadership. This ties in with EMPOWER’s mission statement – ‘The belief that every woman is a Leader’ through advocating gender education in schools. Rizal also talked about the workshops that EMPOWER does with men to educate them to better understand and support gender equality. He expressed a feeling of defeat when he retold his encounters with many groups of women and girls who are too used to internalized patriarchy; they believe that women should not lead in society. Stereotypes such as menstruation being an obstacle in leadership is deeply engrossed in society that such attitudes have impaired women to move up the ladder and causes them to fall behind in socio-economic development. Netusha was then put on the spotlight as Victoria asked her about the hidden aspects of Malaysian history focusing on women or the queer community which are not made available in Malaysian textbooks. Netusha began by informing the audience of the importance of her work in providing an alternative historical narrative of Malaysia in order to address gaps in narratives that are reflective of Malaysia’s socio-political terrain. She shared a few articles from her archive such as news clippings on women leading a demonstration against the Malayan Union, Angkatan Wanita Sedar and how they played a part in the Malay Left-wing nationalist movement, an article written in Jawi which debated feminism’s alleged incompatibility with the teachings of Islam, as well as a photo of a 19th century ceramic artifact which depicts the normalcy of both heterosexual and homosexual intimate relations in Malaysian society that is not publicly known today. Netusha presenting an article from The News Straits Times on the projector screen Before Victoria opened the floor for questions from the students, she raised a question to them regarding the #metoo and #timesup movements that have recently went viral worldwide. She then asked Neda on her thoughts of the movement and what she would like to see more of. Neda points out that the hashtag movement had sparked a wave of following in the west but did not have much following locally. She stressed that the movement was a universal movement because of the common purpose it provides to everyone regardless of nationality, age, gender, race or religion. Neda hopes that everyone, including men or male allies will speak out more about sexual harassment and women’s rights because it is also important for men to talk about it in as the movement is for everyone, not just women. She highlighted the dilemma some men and male feminists feel – they want to say things on the issue but are afraid to overshadow women’s voices or take up too much space. She points out that men should definitely talk about feminism so that it would help other men to better understand feminism. Audience enjoying the exchange of dialogues between themselves with the invited speakers Victoria then asked Saran about his thoughts on Neda’s answers – Is it more harmful or helpful for men to be feminists, and how can men avoid ‘taking up too much space’ while being responsive and participatory? Saran acknowledges the importance of men to speak up more because he believes that feminism is about equality in opportunity and treatment. He added that by speaking up, men will also have the opportunity to reflect on toxic masculinity and how patriarchy harms them as well. He mentioned that men do not reflect much on such topics due to fear of being labelled an attention-seeker or as someone who seeks validation. “You’re talking about it because you want people to like you.”, he said. He suggested for men to become better listeners and to be spatially aware when they speak so that they don’t end up taking up space within the circle. For the 2nd part of the forum, Victoria asked the audience to pitch their own understanding of toxic masculinity. One of the audience members replied, “I think toxic masculinity is a set of standards men feel they need to meet. What happens to other men who cannot meet these expectations? When we think about feminism, some people think of it as a fight between men and women when in reality some men are ostracized due to the patriarchal expectations set out for them.” Netusha added there were also portrayals of toxic femininity other than toxic masculinity in the media that we needed to start questioning. These portrayals are repackaged by capitalism which feeds onto our general insecurities. Rizal interjected by adding that men lacked self-reflection as they perceive it as time-wasting. He confided that his own male friends questioned him when he expressed self-reflection on social issues. He concluded that the problem lies in people favouring an alternate reality and believes that men should start asking themselves more questions about their prevailing attitudes, behaviour and mentality. Another audience member remarked that men do not view self-reflection as time-wasting but rather as unnecessary. She believes that men never had to face oppression like women do therefore they never found self-reflecting to be necessary in the first place – especially if they were cisgendered and heterosexual. Going back to Netusha, she once again drew attention to the relationship between capitalism and toxic masculinity by linking the two with patriarchy and vice versa. Based on her historical perspective, Neo-colonialism is the point of reference as the era approaches modernisation. This era highlights the starting point of capitalism because affluent white men were in power and decided on the code of societal norms that men must fulfill in order to be successful. Audience members were quick to express their individual thoughts and opinions regarding toxic masculinity Lastly, as Victoria opened the floor for the Questions and Answers session, one of the attendees asked the panel of speakers for their thoughts on what being a ‘Bad Feminist’ means. Neda points out that there is a public misconception of feminists based on the actions of the individuals who harbour hatred towards men and how that misbehaviour has tainted the general reputation and overall feminist movement. In her opinion, Netusha said feminists who lack kindness and tolerance would be considered to be a bad feminist. From her personal experience, bad feminists from different backgrounds whether it is academic or non-profit can display intolerance towards other feminists with different perspectives or personal convictions. The other feminists perceived to be ‘inexperienced’ would then be judged for not being ‘feminist’ enough. She gave an example of how a more senior feminist would utilize their influence and position as an activist to delegitimize another feminists’ stance. It stretched to a point where some of them projected negativity due to feeling threatened instead of becoming empowered by other feminists. However, Rizal felt that the label ‘bad feminist’ carried a negative connotation as it is often used to dismiss the whole feminist movement comprising of both good and bad events that make up the movement. He emphasized how there is a lot of different interpretations of feminism. He theorized that in order to create change and to ‘shake up’ the environment, it is best to do it slow and steady to avoid being dismissed easily by naysayers. As the forum reached its end, Victoria summed up the session with a closing statement on how anyone who considers themselves as feminists have at one point or many times in their lives, did or said something that would warrant being called a “bad feminist”, due to human error and personal or individual shortcomings. This is not something that is defeatist, in fact it is more empowering to know how human each and everyone is. It could actually be the common binding element that can solidify the collective growth of feminists all round the world. A group photo of the speakers with the audience]]>


Is feminism for men, or does it make victims of men? With the recent #metoo and #timesup movements spreading across the globe, and the women’s march in Kuala Lumpur gaining momentum, what is the role of a man in all this? Can the world be a better place if men were to stand up with women and fight systemic oppression together? How do we talk about this without robbing the spaces and voices of women? Come find out if the gender pay gap is a myth, how rape culture is perpetrated, and learn about toxic masculinity, while unlearning it at the same time. Let us delve into this layered discussion together with Kelvin Ang, an Advocacy Officer from WAO; Rizal Rozhan, a women’s rights activist from EMPOWER; Netusha Naidu, the founder of Imagined Malaysia; Saran Anandan, and Neda Al-Asedi, who are brilliant and thoughtful students from UNMC.]]>

Merata Suara: A Journey Through The Margins

From Left to Right: Suzy, Victoria, Eleanor, Okui, Yana, Poodien and Fuad[/caption]

The prime objective of the project is to offer a platform for the voices of marginalized communities in which each artist is partnered with a location partner as such:

  • Eleanor representing Malaysian Borneo’s indigenous people

  • Okui with the Indonesian migrant worker community ‘Serantau’

  • Poodien with Lydia Anak Botek from the Orang Asal community in Kampung Gebok, Negeri Sembilan

  • Victoria with Madam Norzihah Kasim, a silat teacher from Gurun, Kedah

  • Yana with Madam Jane, Kwei Ling and Lean Thai who were the ex-communist guerillas of the 1970s.

The project has produced 4 installations and 1 performance which highlighted the respective communities through the marginal narratives within Malaysia’s social-political terrain. The exhibition name ‘Merata Suara’ is derived from a wordplay in Malay which can mean “to spread voices” or “to even out the voices” both of which speak to democratic aspirations; a gesture that greatly reflects the core values of this project. In the words of the Curator, “Understandably, marginal narratives exist because the grand narratives are buttressed in place. Grand narratives that catapult a national identity can only succeed by suppressing other narratives and creating a “margin” by demarcating arbitrary boundaries and drawing up territorial lines to separate us.”

[caption id="attachment_18015" align="alignleft" width="640"] ‘Welder’s Flash’ (pictured on frame below) and a live performative exhibition created by Okui Lala in collaboration with members of SERANTAU. “Perjalanan bersama Desi” (A Journey with Desi) was part of the collaborative work process between Desi and Okui, where dialogues played a key role in the process of understanding one another. 3 dialogues were recorded from this process: between Desi and Okui; Desi and Nasrikah (Leader of Serantau); Desi and Sofi (a young factory worker). Each dialogue differed in accordance with their background and relationships to each other.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_18016" align="alignleft" width="640"] Eleanor, the Artist-Activist behind this art installation which focuses on East Malaysians and their historic significance through her bead work and tapestry.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_18017" align="alignleft" width="640"] Yana Rizal’s ‘Rujukan Terlarang’ (Forbidden References), a part of ‘Komuni[s]kasi’ art installation which displayed numerous written articles and literary materials that touches on the topic of Communism that are kept hidden from the public eye until now, and a projection of interviews done with the location partners.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_18018" align="alignleft" width="640"] Poodien’s artwork which focuses on the women of an indigenous community in Kampung Gebok, Mantin, Negeri Sembilan displayed in a circular position as part of the Merata Suara exhibition.[/caption]
  • The two month-long exhibition featured an array of sessions;
  • 9th Feb – Opening Ceremony of Merata Suara

  • 10th Feb – Launch Day

  • 11th Feb – East Malaysia Artists Talk + Beading Workshop with Eleanor Goroh

  • 14th Feb – Erika Tan: Archival Turns/Transnational Returns

  • 21st Feb – A Brief History of Malaysian Queerness with Dorian and Dina

  • 24th Feb – Silat-Tru Rahim! Silat Performance and poetry recital with Kak Ji, Cikgu Salleh and Victoria

  • 25th Feb – Hari Bersama Serantau (featuring Okui Lala)

  • 28th Feb – Performance Lecture by Lawrence Ross: Malay Performing Arts and the Body Politic

  • 3rd Mar – A World to Win: Conversations with History (featuring Aunty Jane, Kwei Ling, Lean Thai and Yana)

  • 4th Mar – Bengkel Rap Anak Muda (Youth Rap Workshop) with Edry Faizal and Stories from Kampung Gebok with Kak Lydia and Poodien

During the ‘East Malaysia Talks!’ forum, Eleanor poured her heart out concerning the unequal distribution of wealth and how East Malaysia still relies on funding from West Malaysia despite producing most of the natural resources. Interdependence between the East and the West is considered a new approach and a crucial step towards building awareness amongst Malaysians regarding the rights and contributions of East Malaysians and its importance for the development of the East. Sonia added her frustrations on how the West Malaysians’ denial of East Malaysian identity is a reflection of the government’s failure to educate the West and elevate the status of the East alongside the West.

Merata Suara’s highest viewed dialogue session was ‘The Brief History of Malaysian Queerness’ with Ms Dina Pattinson and Mr Dorian Wilde. Forum attendance was amazing and we easily had about 50 people in a small space. During the session, Dorian explained and touched on numerous topics which consisted of gender identity, sexual orientation, sex, and gender expression. He also talked about attitudes towards transgender communities in precolonial Malaysian society, queer identities which existed in different states of the country, and precolonial records of homosexuality and trans-masculinity in the region. Modern-day cases were highlighted, such as the progression of conservatism and Mukhayyam programs as well as arrests and detention as the LGBT community has entered Malaysia’s mainstream consciousness. Dorian noted that gender diversity and interrelations between genders were more flexible and there were also equal relationships between men and women, with the women given more autonomy and social mobility in the Asean region, all before colonisation. There are many ways the institution can exploit the law, especially Islamic law, for the purposes of moral policing as Dorian broke down the evolution of Malaysian law from 1985 onwards. Dina, who memorized historical narratives regarding the ‘Mak Nyah’ community, added that the traditions, customs and the folklore saga of the Bugis, Javanese and other communities in the Malay Archipelago have long embraced and respected the LGBT community. Despite the historical testament, “It is difficult to reclaim because religious authorities have labelled the Bissu as syirik or khurafat. There is a conservative Islamic dimension to contend with.”, Dina answered when an audience member asked whether the Trans-women in the past were much better or happier with their positions in the past or would they seek something more given their roles to play back then.

The combination of a powerful Silat performance by Kak Ji synchronized together with a moving poetry recital from Cikgu Salleh make a spectacle which expresses the struggles in the pursuit of female ambition into the Male-dominated world of Silat. After the performance, Victoria and the performing duo sat down with the audience to further engage and exchange personal experiences while working together for their art, and finding connections through historical and cultural narratives while giving us a fun little glimpse into ‘Feminine’ martial arts such as the art of ‘Cindai’ found in Silat Gayong using merely a Sarong as the main weapon.

[caption id="attachment_18076" align="alignleft" width="640"] From Left to Right ; Aunty Jane, Aunty Kwei Ling and Aunty Foo Ting posing with Asiaweek’s copy featuring the Malayan Communist Party on the magazine cover.[/caption]

During ‘A World to Win: Conversations with History’ session, Aunty Kwei Ling, Aunty Foo Ting and Aunty Jane recounted their personal experience in being part of the Communist army and how their deprived socio-economic upbringing have played the deciding factor in their choice of joining the army.

Aunty Jane talked about how it was like to live and fight Guerilla-style – and how they had to sleep in cemeteries to evade arrest and capture while Aunty Foo Ting recounted her tales of working in a factory where she’d work in producing kitchen utensils by day and studying by night before becoming a guerrilla fighter for the army. Aunty Kwei Ling spoke of how they would spend their leisurely hours learning Marxism and Leninism or playing table tennis in the past. They talked about how during her service in the army, they have successfully helped raise 4 villages in the border of Hatyai which consists of 2 Malay and 2 Chinese villages. She even revealed how they used to defend the safety of the villages located on the border of Thailand as it was under the attack of robbers during the time.

“If it was so bad at the time, why would the Sultan of Perak even want to see these people in the first place?”, Yana, the Artist-Activist in collaboration with Aunty Jane, Kwei Ling and Foo Ting analysed how racial tensions were the centre of the historical narratives reported instead of Communism which happened between 1946 and 1970s. “What is also not in the media is the amount of community work the communists do for the poor and for the Orang Asli. They have picked up languages that are not their own, and are also very familiar with the culture and way of life of others.”

Aunty Jane’s words resonated throughout the room, “Keep in mind that our voices were not in the media back then. Others were speaking for us whether it is true or not. There was also a lot of fabrication about things like communist soldiers murdering people senselessly.”

‘Stories from Kampung Gebok’ with Kak Lydia and Poodien. Kak Lydia is one of the women of the Temuan Indigenous tribes located in Mantin, Negeri Sembilan and her community has been resisting and fighting off outsiders which threatened to exploit their ancestral land. She explained how recently, her community is pressured to accept outsiders coming into their land to grab resources for the purposes of mining and how the authorities did not provide the support needed to stop the problem.

“In our village, the women have as much rights to voice out their opinions as much as the men. Together we learned how to use the GPS, to study and measure land so that we could conduct a community mapping of our land. JAKOA only measured our land to 38 acres only but we managed to obtain a total figure of 257.5 hectares of land.”

[caption id="attachment_18078" align="alignleft" width="640"] Kak Emma teaching the participants how to prepare and make ‘Rojak’[/caption] [caption id="attachment_18079" align="alignleft" width="640"] Kak Ningrum performing the ‘Jaipong’, a traditional dance originating from Sunda, Indonesia as an opening act for the dialogue session with KBRI Kuala Lumpur (Malaysian Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia)[/caption]

For ‘Hari Bersama Serantau’ session, we experienced one whole day filled with fun and educational activities which consisted of an Indonesian cuisine cooking workshop, Jaipong dance and poetry recitals as well as exchanges on the dialogue session between the migrant workers and KBRI Kuala Lumpur (Malaysian Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia).

The dialogue session was primarily conducted in Bahasa Indonesia and the session mainly revolved around the issue of migrant workers suffering from abuse and exploitation due to their lack of awareness of their rights as well as the lack of law enforcement from the authorities expected to serve and uphold their rights. In November 2017, there was an inquiry into laws and regulations which protects migrant workers upon their work confirmation; it lists the abilities and responsibilities of KBRI in defending domestic help in Malaysia, the status of the Memorandum of Understanding between Malaysia and Indonesia and how it will affect migrant workers, the role of BPJS (Social security administrator), as well as a recent case – an Indonesian maid named Adelina who was abused to death – and the steps and solutions to be taken to avoid or minimalize similar incidents from happening again.

Merata Suara is an exhibition to be experienced and celebrated amongst everyone as it creates multiple bridges connecting with the ‘invisible’ communities we often hear of and perhaps encounter, but are rarely involved with. Merata Suara as a whole has created a dynamic and inclusive space to encourage the blurring of boundaries between people with differences in cultural backgrounds. The Merata Suara exhibition is currently available for public viewing on weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) from 11 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. until the 25th of March. Gallery admission is free for all.