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Lemmings, Hamsters, Countrymen

I've only ever finished two Lemmings games in my life, and those were the first two original Lemmings games: Lemmings! and Oh, No! More Lemmings! I was fascinated but boggled by Lemmings II: The Tribes. The medal award system made me want to play it for weeks (gotta grab 'em all! gotta grab 'em all!), but I was eventually thwarted because I was lousy with at least the Egyptian tribe, and I am still sore from never having finished the thing. Lemmings 3D just scared me too much to play it. I was about a few years behind my peers to pick up that whole 3D gaming thing, and I'm still very bad at it.

I am horribly fond of the Lemmings.

By way of looking for other things, I came upon the Wiki on the Status of Religious Freedom in Malaysia. It is a very well-written article, surprisingly well balanced in tone, which covers some of the more important basic ideas of laws governing religion in Malaysia, and some of the basic issues surrounding the laws. Some of the articles raised I found a bit peculiar, in that they are trivial and even kind of domestic. Like the Azan being a nuisance to non-Muslim neighbours. It's a nuisance to Muslims too -- though that's usually overlooked because Muslims are supposed to wake up at 5AM for dawn prayers anyway. I used to live behind a mosque. It's very annoying. I think people put up with it because, well, it's small. But that's really a Malaysian thing. I find that my country habitually is domestic and fond of picking at the small stuff. It's not a slight on my part for saying so -- I imagine my country as a bit of a lemming, the small, relatively harmless creature that digs little trenches into walls and brolly off cliff faces towards the next exit. Lemmings are harmless and nice. They're also focused on very specific goals, in very specific directions. When you have enough of them together, they can be a bit scary. But then, they fall off a cliff together.

And by the same search for something completely different, I found this article the Political and Legal Status of Women in Malaysia. It's very dated, since it indicates that gender-based discrimination was not covered by the Malaysian Constitution. The Malaysian Constitution was amended in 2001 to explicitly prevent gender-based discrimination. But it's a fascinating, if very numerical, primer on its subject. For example, I was not aware half our magistrate and session court judges were women. Or that one-third of our lawyers were women. Items like the Employment Act have changed since the article was written to be more equalized. A good primer on some of the changes that have happened since the article was written can be found here, labelled The Progress of Gender Mainstreaming in Malaysia and Problems to be Solved. You might also want to read the wiki on Islam in Malaysia for its article on Cultural Roles. It should be noted that women in the Cabinet (I'm not sure about this, but I am tempted to believe this is also true for most of the women holding ministerial positions) have not yet been known to adopt the headscarf in our 50 years of establishment, and this is a very good indicator of the way moderation is tightly sealed into the public face of Malaysian politics at all costs. It could also just indicate that the women in question are moderate and not hung up on the actually foreign form of Islam (specifically Saudi Arabian) that demands Muslims practice a "shown" version of the religion involving quite a lot of practices at face value. (The wiki mentions the foreignness of Wahabbism.) Given the very real possibilities of the other end of the spectrum, I do not generally disagree with the hardcore moderation that gets jammed down our throats there.

The same wiki on Islam in Malaysia also mentions the definition of bumiputra as being Muslim. I find this a bit boggling, since I was always led to believe that people with bumiputra (indigenous) status also included the vast minority of ethnic tribes that practised animism and shamanistic traditions. Not all bumiputra are Muslim. I'm pretty sure I know a few bumiputra who are of ethnic tribal origin who aren't Muslim. So that was kind of strange to read.

And again, by virtue of clicking around, I found this. I am not fond of its tone. Scratch that. I am extremely irked by its tone. Don't get me wrong. I think the cases and points it raises are worth raising and should be raised. But the article could've been written without at least the last paragraph's insult. I also very strongly believe that the moderation touted by the government of Malaysia is not so much a lie as it is a very embattled policy being undermined by increasing representation of the conservative right in government. I think that our government had good reasons for enforcing moderation with so much force in our early history, and continue to have good reasons for doing so. I don't personally agree with this idea from the standpoint that it stifles our intellectual, philsophical and emotional growth as a nation, but I can nonetheless see the rationale and history behind the policy. And so long our government is democratically elected by the majority (who do appear to be, by the way, mostly conservative-moderate), under which case we assume the policies of the democratically elected government therefore represent the majority of the people, I don't see any good reason why the voice of the apostate few (including myself) would need to be raised for the purpose of halting it. Cautioning against it, definitely. Halt, no, not unless the majority really wants it, because fobbing on the ideas of the few upon the nation is dangerously undemocratic. Democracy respects the majority. Freedom of speech respects that people have different views, even if and especially so when those different views seem to really suck.

I don't think people should be taken to court and dragged through public-funded counselling to change their religion. That seems like a horrific waste of public funds. Affirmative action programs against gender and racial discrimination, or even programs towards better interfaith dialogues aren't swimming in money. I very strongly believe one's religion does not define one's capacity to act as a citizen either. My personal belief is that religion addles politics and should keep the hell away from it. That's my basic long-term hope for my country, in a nutshell. That the basic secularism our Constitution was designed to uphold under the compromise of having an official religion remains upheld. Which I think will happen, since Muslims, even including the noisy ones, are only 60%-ish of the Malaysian population. That's not much of a majority. And if we factor in the idea that the All Malays are Muslims policy hasn't actually worked for years (very likely since it began half a century ago), or even all the same kind of Muslims, well, those aren't great numbers for the conservative right to keep winning by. So it's just a matter of time.