North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Malaysia as destination for climbers and refugees

Malaysia has crept into the news the past few weeks - first as a destination for desperate refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar - and second as the scene of an earthquake on its highest mountain, Mt Kinabalu.

Malaysia, with a population of 30 million has two parts, East and West, separated by 400 miles of open sea. (Talk about borders being arbitrary from legacy governance ..., but to its credit, Malaysia has made it work.) Graphic from

Refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar have worked hard to enter this country by any means. By and large, the arrival of Muslim Rohingya of Myanmar have been quietly tolerated in this Muslim country over the years. But with the number of boat people doubling in the first three months of 2015 compared to 2014 (25,000 as a broad estimate), Malaysia has said enough.

Still, how has Malaysia become a beacon? From nationsencyclopedia we read, "Since 1970, the Malaysian government has actively implemented social policies aimed at the elimination of poverty and social inequality, and the development of a social welfare system . The communal unrest of 1969 prompted the Malaysian government to introduce the New Economic Policy (NEP). This 20-year program established state support of poor communities and access to education and social benefits for Malays and indigenous people (the Bumiputera ). This latter aspect included the establishment of privileged access to public services, the granting of land rights, preference in education and training, and job quotas in the public sector. In the 1980s, Malaysia's leadership envisioned the formation of the Malay Baru (New Malays), a better-educated, politically and socially active people able to live in harmony with other communities. In the early 1990s the government relaxed some privileges and reduced some quotas for Bumiputera, making the social welfare system more inclusive and accessible to a wider range of people than it had been before."

Malaysia has been characterized as a moderate Muslim nation, yet, like Turkey, has recently shown some inclination to the siren call of Islamic fundamentalism.

Along with its commendable initiatives to address poverty and inequality, Malaysia has long exhibited a moderate version of Islam. Its constitution is secular, though Sharia law acknowledged as adjunct. Unfortunately, its current Prime Minister has recently tolerated or ignored growing comments among his administration that promote a harsher, "purer" adherence to Islamic principles.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been criticised for openly praising Islamic State militants. AFP: Nicholas Kamm

Malaysian academic and writer Farouk Peru is one of two dozen leading Malaysian voices that, back in December 14, wrote an open letter to the government, expressing their concern about the direction of the country's religious inclinations. In an interview, he stated, "I myself wrote an article in the Malaysian Insider saying that Najib does not exactly know what he's saying," he said. "I really believe this because I do not believe that Najib is of a fundamentalist bent, but what I do believe is that there is an infiltration of Islamo-fascist elements within the prime minister's department and you can see that coming from his department, all sorts of things which are ridiculous.

"Yesterday we had someone say that liberalism and pluralism are deviations against Islam ... I mean this kind of stuff never came out before but I think Najib is too complacent and he doesn't realise really what the implications are."

Farouk Peru, a Malaysian intellectual, and self described "human being in the world, blogging my existence." He is currently a Phd Candidate in Islam and Postmodernism and teaches Islamic Studies at King's College, London. An essay or two to get a flavor of this Muslim thinking and writing about his faith. The second essay is a reflection on the Charlie Hebdo massacre that occurred in France in January, 2015. Photo at

Before the refugee crisis, the disappearance of a Malaysian jetliner brought the country into the spotlight of western media, and now, the latest is the detainment and deportation of young Western yahoos who decided to climb a revered mountain in East Malaysia, take off their clothes and take selfies of themselves on May 30.

That alone probably would have not become a story with any reach, but unfortunately, "by coincidence" there was an earthquake five days later which killed 18 people including children, and leaving hundreds more stranded. With rumors subsequently connecting the two events, East Malaysian authorities stepped in and detained the Western tourists. No flogging however, just the roundup, detainment, a fine, followed by sending them packing back to their homelands.

From CNN, "Four foreign hikers who posed naked on Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia were freed Friday after they were fined and sentenced to time served. The backpackers -- from Britain, Canada and the Netherlands -- were arrested after stripping naked May 30 and posing for photos on the mountaintop, the nation's Bernama news agency reported. The mountain is considered sacred in Malaysia. They had pleaded guilty to "committing an obscene act."

At 13,435' (4,095 m), Mount Kinabalu has snow, is considered sacred, where ancestors spirits dwell, and up which tens of thousands climb each year due to its relative accessibility. Photo from

So, a glimpse at Malaysia.

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