Friday, August 26, 2011

The Somali Famine: Hunger And Power by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar

Once again, the world is witness to a horrendous catastrophe in Somalia and in other parts of the Horn of Africa which some journalists now describe as “The Horn of Hunger.”

The famine that has hit the region has already claimed the lives of 29,000 Somali children under 5 years in the past three months. 12 million people need food aid. The UN has requested 2.4 billion US dollars from member states. It has raised only half that amount so far.

We can all do much more to help the people of Somalia and the region. Rich countries in particular have a moral obligation to assist the starving and suffering Somalis. For wealthy Muslims, the pain and ordeal of the Somalis --- who are mostly Muslims--- carries a special message since this is the month of Ramadan when Muslims all over the world observe the dawn to dusk annual fast. If one of the purposes of the fast is to develop empathy for the poor and hungry, the catastrophe in Somalia offers an opportunity for the wealthy to donate generously to the UN’s food aid programme.

In this regard, it is significant that ordinary individuals and communities have responded to the Somali catastrophe in a spirit of solidarity that is most touching. An 11 year-old schoolboy in Ghana, Andrew Adansi-Bonnah, has launched a campaign to raise 20 million Ghanaian cedis (about 13 million dollars) to “Save Somali Children from Hunger.” A charity in Gaza, Palestine has named its campaign, “ From Gaza: hand in hand to save the children of Somalia.” When a people with such limited means of sustenance who are amongst the most dispossessed on earth, are ever ready to sacrifice for a people who are in an even worse situation than them, it gives hope to humanity.

While we demonstrate our commitment to the plight of the Somali people, we should also try to understand the root causes of the famine. The drought, highlighted by the media, is undoubtedly a cause. But it is not the only cause. Somalia does not have a functioning government. For the better part of the last 20 years since the ouster of President Said Barre, it has seen nothing but lawlessness and anarchy. If it had a government that exercised authority and power, there may not be any mass starvation. In the mid-seventies, there was also a prolonged drought in Somalia but it did not lead to widespread hunger because there was a government that acted quickly.

Read more on this article

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reviving our winning ways by Shad Saleem Faruqi - The STAR

As a nation, we will be celebrating our 54 years of independence. But, regrettably, the enslavement of our mind still continues despite the coloniser having long gone back home.

HARI Raya is approaching and so is National Day. It is time to seek solace in prayer and renew our resolve to overcome some persistent problems that are straining the social fabric.

Among these are the deterioration of inter-ethnic relations and the ascendancy of some shrill voices of discord that trumpet all that divides us as well as trivialise much that unites us.

However, on a positive note, this is the season to count our blessings, which indeed are many.

First, is the area of constitutionalism.

Though the cup is not full to the brim, it is not empty.

There is enough in it to relish, cherish, protect and preserve.

The Constitution has survived the vicissitudes of race and religious politics.

Despite many political and economic crises that could have torn other societies asunder, our Constitution has endured.

It has provided a firm foundation for political stability, social harmony and economic prosperity.

Second is the wondrous durabi-lity of political cooperation among the country’s racial and religious groups.

The coalition of 14 disparate political parties under a sometimes shaky, but nevertheless enduring, political alliance is perhaps the world’s longest surviving political arrangement.

In 1955, two years before Merdeka, it was built on a spirit of accommodation, a moderation of spirit, an absence of the kind of passions, zeal and ideological convictions that in other plural societies have left a heritage of bitterness and violence.

A similar rainbow coalition is emerging on the other side of the political fence and this raises hope for the eventual emergence of issue-based rather than race-based politics.

Read more on this article

Minimum RM 1mil to retire in KL

In our recent Gathering of Youth for Unity, we talked about managing money for the future and how to save for retirement. We are glad that The Star published this article on Sunday on how a ‘minimum one million ringgit’ may be what it takes to retire comfortably nowadays

A million ringgit nest egg – THE STAR By RASHVINJEET S.BEDI

A minimum one million ringgit may be just what one needs to retire comfortably these days.

FOR 30 years, Mazlan Ahmad worked as a technician in a factory. When he retired at 55, he had RM155,000 in EPF savings and about RM20,000 in the bank.

In the first year upon retiring, he spent about RM30,000 of that total. At the rate he was going, Mazlan, 57, knew the money would not last long. So he decided to go back to work for his former company last year.

“Luckily I don't have anything to pay off such as my house or car. Also, my children are all grown up,” says Mazlan, who feels that he can only retire if he has RM1mil in savings.

For the lower income group, RM1mil may seem beyond reach but to others, especially those living in the cities where cost of living is much higher, it may just be the minimum amount one would need to have in the kitty before thinking of retiring.

According to the Global Ageing Report by The Nielsen Company released in February this year, about 56% of Malaysians retire, or express their wish to retire, before turning 60.

However, only 21% believe they are financially ready to retire. Another 44% are unsure while 35% are currently not financially set for retirement, according to the report.

For instance, many have yet to settle their housing loans or they live in rented accommodation. With prices of fuel and food spiralling, it is not an easy ride for retirees who also have to worry about medical expenses.

Given that the average life expectancy of a Malaysian is 74 years, retirees have about 20 years of living without income to “worry” about. This is after taking into account that they have settled their mortgages and car loans and do not have to worry about their children's education.

Rajen Devadason, a Securities Commission-licensed financial planner with MAAKL Mutual Bhd, estimates that between 80% and 90% of middle-aged urban Malaysians will need between RM500,000 and RM5mil to retire well in the next three decades.

Read more on this article.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Religion and Unity by Chandra Muzaffar

Is religion in multi-religious Malaysia a force for unity --- or disunity? This is an important question to ask at this juncture since religion has assumed tremendous significance in the public arena in recent times.

In the first decade and a half of our Independence, religion was not perceived as a hindrance to national unity. The Malaysian Constitution recognised Islam as the religion of the Federation. It was an affirmation of the identity of the new nation which had evolved from Muslim Sultanates. If this identity was not acknowledged, the Malay-Muslim populace would have felt that the Malaysian state had not taken cognisance of their identity as a people.

The Islamic identity of the land expressed itself through both ceremony and substance in the early years of Merdeka. The recital of the doa at official functions was an example of the former; state funding for the building of mosques and Islamic religious instruction in national schools were examples of the latter. Ceremony and substance continue to feature in the expression of Malaysia’s Islamic identity.

The non-Muslim communities were not unhappy about the status and practise of Islam. By and large the nation’s Islamic identity did not impinge upon their rights. In fact, the Constitution, then and now, protects their right to profess and practise their religion, to manage their own religious affairs, “to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes; and “to acquire and own property and hold and administer it in accordance with law.” It is a truism that Buddhist Viharas, Hindu temples, and Christian Churches are integral to the landscape of a nation where more than 60% of the population is Muslim. The religious festivals of communities which constitute less than even 10% of the total are celebrated as public holidays, and have become etched in the people’s collective psyche.

However, the relatively tension free coexistence among the majority and minority religious communities of the first 15 years, began to witness some strains from the eighties onwards. Rapid Malay urbanisation since the seventies has created a situation in which Muslims todayshare physical and cultural space with people of other faiths as never before.The consequent interaction has resulted in an increase in inter-religious marriages and divorces, and the attendant problems of conversion especially of minors, custody of children, the abandonment of one’s religion, the religious status of the deceased, and so on.

Often, in situations like this where interaction gives rise to friction, segments within a religious community become more conscious of religious boundaries. Any breach of what is sometimes an artificially constructed boundary arouses passions and heightens tensions. The controversy over the use of the term “Allah” by non-Muslims is a case in point.

To overcome this and other controversies, there has to be a fundamental change in the mindset of the influential stratum of Muslim society. There will be no solution to controversies such as child conversion as long as one accords primacy to religious injunctions that have developed over time rather than the perennial values and principles of the Qur’an. Our religious establishment, religious teachers at all levels and the media will have to be imbued with a more enlightened and dynamic outlook on the meaning and practice of faith in a multi-religious society grappling with contemporary challenges.

In this regard, it is important to emphasise that while this conservative, sometimes atavistic, mindset that confronts us transcends party affiliations, the dogma associated with it is more closely aligned to PAS than UMNO. This is why it is PAS that sought to introduce hudud—the emblem of this dogma--- in Kelantan andTrengganu, something which no UMNO-led state or federal government has done in the last 54 years.

If a certain mindset within a segment of the Muslim population is a barrier to national unity, so is a certain movement within the growing Christian community. Evangelical Christians determined to spread Christianity are becoming more zealous. Non-Muslim communities are their main targets in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak. But there is increasing evidence to suggest that Malays are also being approached --- in spite of the constitutional provision that restricts “the propagation ofany religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.”

The evangelical push in Malaysia and other parts of the world has a lot to do with the rise of what is broadly described as the Christian Right in the United States. For the Christian Right exporting their brand of the religion serves to strengthen the global hegemonic power of the US. As Iain Buchannan shows in his superb academic study of this movement entitled The Armies of God,converting Muslims to Christianity is one of the evangelist’s cherished goals. Since Muslims worldwide have always resisted conversion, the tactics employed are more subtle and sophisticated.

Many Christian groups in Malaysia and other countries are opposed to this sort of evangelism. They know that it is not only a betrayal of the essence of Jesus’ message of love, compassion and justice but also inimical to harmonious relations among different religious communities. They emphasise universal values shared by Christianity, Islam and other religions.

It is these shared values that should be the fount of unity in a multi-religious society. They underscore our common humanity. If religions through the deeds of their adherents bring forth our common humanity, they will help forge unity in this land that we call our home.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Yayasan 1Malaysia and Professor of Global Studies, UniversitiSains Malaysia.

Petaling Jaya.

22 August 2011.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Why Business People (and those working with them) Go To Heaven

This is the transcript of my TEDxKL Talk this afternoon for those who did not managed to be there. Will upload the video once available

Why Business People (and those working with them) Go To Heaven

Peace, I am Anas Zubedy.

Question ...Why do Business People and those working with them, Go To Heaven?

Let’s start with a conceptual framework.

This entire talk is based upon the premise that there is a Merciful God.

There is One MERCIFUL GOD ...

When I was a little boy I was constantly taught that there is a God who is Most Gracious and Most Merciful. Each time before I eat, I was asked to say,


that is, “In the name of God, Most Gracious, and Most Merciful”.

I was to say this as I step out of the house, as I step on the bus, step into class, and ride my bicycle and everything else right to nightfall as I close my eyes to sleep.

I was to say, “Bismillahirrahmanirrahim”, In the name of God Most Gracious, and Most Merciful.

In fact, it is a norm to see my late grand dad even say it as he was simply getting up from a chair! It is like our lives are interwoven with a Merciful and Gracious God.

But, when I became a teenager, I got confused.

I was told by some that to make God happy, I have a set of specific tasks, specific rituals that I must do, or the promise is Hell.

The action that is needed to get a ticket to Heaven is very definite and very clear-cut. If you fail to follow these, they say,... too bad for you and those like you.

You simply have to kiss Heaven goodbye.

And, these definite and clear-cut rituals are the monopoly of a certain group of people, none else have the formula, none else can book a place in Heaven. is an exclusive club.

Suddenly, the promise of Hell is more real than the promise of Heaven.

I got truly worried. Terribly, terribly worried.

For many of those who are dear to me will fail the task.

What will happen to Uncle Ali Rahman my Dad’s good friend who was a wonderful person but did not practice those rituals?

How about Uncle Veerasingam who treated me kindly?

What will happen to Apek Lim the ice cream man who was kind enough to cut me a piece of ice cream potong for free, knowing that I could not afford to buy one on my own?

What will happen to all these wonderful souls?

So, in my late teens at high school and early twenties at Universiti Malaya, I spent many silent moments talking and communicating with my Merciful God and reading his scriptures.

And behold, I discovered a Secret.

And today, I want to share with you this Secret.


The Secret is that a merciful God will make things easy for us.

Whatever which is important to us, he will give us easy access, both for life on earth and including the ticket to Heaven.

If not, how could He be Merciful? Put us here and make it difficult? What? A God with a mischievous twist, laughing to himself, hehehe ... placing billions of souls on earth with the idea of sending them to HELL anyway?

C’mon ?

A merciful God will make it easy for us. So that His billions of creation will make it to Heaven.

I am not saying there will be no tests ...there will be tests on a daily basis, if not life will not be exciting, and we would all be robots ... no challenge, life would be so boring...

But, to make it easy, his tests must be connected to those things that we would do everyday anyway, to live in this world call earth. The rituals of daily living. Those are the rituals that count.

I repeat, the test must be connected to those things that we would do everyday anyway.

Like caring for your loved ones, engaging with people, attending TED Talks, keeping the garden trimmed, working, cycling to keep fit, etc etc etc.

Mind you, many are not aware of this secret.

Many are not aware... so they fail to see the significance and benefits from it.

Let me explain by using a simple example. Keeping Fit.

It is important that we keep fit. So he makes it easy. He gave us the best Gymnasium in the world.

It has enough exercise mechanisms and tools that can keep us in shape and healthy; our own body weight and our callisthenic abilities – working out using your own weight. and I can work out anywhere, anytime.

But many are blind to this gift thus complain and complain that we cannot afford to go to the gym, or we have no time to exercise or ... something like that.

As the more perceptive among you ...would have noticed by now, I do not belong to this group of lost souls.

This brings us to another important understanding. That WHATEVER WE HAVE TODAY IS ENOUGH.


Yes, the here and the now, the present – WHATEVER WE HAVE IS ENOUGH. Your job, your home, your friends, your husband, your wife.. yes your salary too is enough to take you very far.

Whatever we have today is enough to propel us forward. Another gift from the Merciful God.

From where we are, we can realise our potentials. Be you a clerk in a big organization, a business owner, a salesman or an executive.

Whether you work for Mr TED or Mr TOAD, it does not matter.

Whether you are in a third world, a developing nation or an advanced economy; Yes, the here and the now, the present – WHATEVER WE HAVE IS ENOUGH.

In short, from where we are, we can definitely design a better future.

If only ... we learn and know how to reorganise what we already have, our thoughts, our actions and our spirit.

Our THOUGHTS, Our Action and Our Spirit, the most neglected resources in the world, because many do not recognise the Merciful God and fail to realise that, HE HAS GIVEN US ENOUGH.

Let me continue ...

When I graduated I joined a multinational and five years later I set up my own business. Since then, each day I can see clearly that The Merciful God’s invisible hands is making it easy for us all to go to heaven.

Let me unpack this for you.

How many of you here are working for a business organization?

How many of you here are business owners?

Do I have good news for you?

Peter Drucker nailed it right by suggesting that the one and only one purpose of business is to CREATE A CUSTOMER.

Our job in the business world is to CREATE CUSTOMERS.

You and I, our job as we step out to work, rest on one and only one purpose, to create a customer.

It is through the creation of customers that we in business ADD VALUE to society. When we create a customer we set out a chain reaction that provide jobs, organise resources, and make the world go round.

We generate salaries to take home to our families and when we spend our money, we start the ball rolling again as customers to others.

The multiplier effect is beyond calculation, it is mindboggling, and it is in the infinite. Each time we create customers, the system creates more customers; we put more money and as such more power of purchase for families to buy food, beverages, homes, education, holidays, ice creams and toys for children.

We create laughter... we create hope ... and we create the joy of living.

Now ... can you see where I am getting at? Why we are going to heaven?

Drucker suggests a business organisation creates customers through four main activities; INNOVATION, SELLING, ADVERTISING and CREDIT.

Take this hand-phone that I am holding.

In the 80s someone innovated the mass production of mobile phones. In the early 90s only a few people’s life were dependent on this device we call the hand-phone.

Today, millions and millions of livelihoods are directly or indirectly connected to this device. The person who innovated this hand-phone will go to Heaven.

You may clap now...

Please understand it is not just this hand-phone innovation which creates a mobile phone user. To make this hand-phone we created jobs for those who produce metal, plastic, circuitry, chip, wires, software, distribution, marketing, manufacturing, warehousing and God knows what not in a million series of interrelated events.

Now you tell me, will a Merciful God not take into account the ‘amal’ or ‘the deed’, the contribution of this innovator and others alike?

What about SELLING?

A salesperson’s job from morning till night is to create a customer. They go house to house, organisation to organisation, walk in the hot sun, talk, convince, get pushed away, and they persist and persist and persist until they make a new customer.

Once they close a sale, they create a customer. And, the chain reaction starts all over again.

How many of you here are in sales?

Every moment of your sales life, every single second you work hard to bring in those sales, you are getting the best incentives that MONEY CANNOT BUY.

You are buying an ETERNAL INCENTIVE TRIP to heaven!!!


Now, you wake up on a lazy Saturday morning ... or for some of us, lazy Saturday afternoon... and you have no plans at hand. You flip the newspapers and voila you saw an advertisement about a good movie.

You dress up, get into your car and go see the movie.

That advertisement created a customer. And, the chain effect takes place again.

Anyone here working in advertising? Can you please stop bitching about your job and the advertising industry? I know you guys love to bitch about your job...and your customers too. Stop it. Stop it immediately. Your job ... this industry... is helping you go to heaven!!!!

Drucker’s 4th engine of customer’s creation is CREDIT.

Can you imagine a world without credit? How many of us here can afford a car or a home without credit? How many? Can we have a show of hands?

How many businesses could start and maintain their activities without credit?

Take housing, can you imagine the kind of activities and multiplier effect just one house can generate? How many customers can one house create and recreate and recreate, recreate and recreate ... ( Echo effect) ?

Any of you here work in a financial institution?

I thank you, thank you, thank you! about those who are not in innovation, not in sales, not advertising or credit?

Are you worried now? Will you have a place in heaven?

Oh my God, Oh my God, I need to ask for transfer tomorrow I need to jump into sales or something... I should have taken that sales job last year...

Nope. Not to worry. Anyone who works for a business organization has a good chance to go to heaven ... let me explain.

At zubedy, my organization, we suggest that to be efficient in creating customers, a business organization must do four vital functions well – INNOVATION, MARKETING, DUPLICATION and GENERAL MANAGEMENT, in short I.M.D.G.

INNOVATION is the act of translating new ideas into usable products, services and practices that create wealth and adds value to society.

Innovation is the first step that makes a business organization different, special and competitive in the market place. We have dealt with INNOVATION earlier.

The second vital function is MARKETING ...

Marketing satisfies your customers’ wants and creates a profit for your organization. This is the heart of your business, the function that makes your organization succeed in the market place. Without marketing, innovation is immaterial.

Marketing ensures that only innovative offerings that customers WANT... go to market. So that we do, create customers.

When we allow creative innovators to run wild with their ideas they may create products or services that satisfy their intellectual desires but not create customers; that is a no go!

So innovators work with marketers. Marketers go to heaven too...Thank God I am a Marketing man ... phew !

The third vital function is DUPLICATION.

Duplication is reproducing innovative offering efficiently and consistently.

This ensures that we provide opportunity for more to become customers. Making products and services affordable. One of the most obvious acts of innovation is manufacturing.

Having an innovative proto-type hand-phone is not enough. We need to duplicate and duplicate and duplicate.

Through manufacturing, a business organization help make a simple production worker an extraordinary human being. ...

Take Mrs Agnes Medona, a retiree who worked for a multinational producing chips in Malaysia.

Her simple job not only,

1. Provides income to bring up her child – those in the picture are her grandchildren. She becomes a customer and by so doing she creates other customers.

2. The chips that she helps to produced are used by fellow humans from all over the world.

3. Through her dedication and those like her, her organization makes a profit and pays taxes. Through the taxes, the government builds schools, hospitals, roads and other things that the public needs.

4. While she may be a simple worker in an organization of 5000 people, through her job, she becomes extraordinary… touching the lives of millions and booking a ticket to heaven.

Yes millions in manufacturing in Asia, Europe and across the globe are heaven bound too...


Management is the backbone of your business.

Management puts innovation, marketing and duplication together and makes things happen.

Management clarifies goals and defines performance, allocating resources, talent and time accordingly.

It plans, organizes, directs and measures innovation, marketing and duplication.

Human resources, legal people, people in operations, quality controllers, admin people, Top management, Middle managers, executives and supervisors...yes we all who play a role in customer creation can earn a place in heaven too..

Yes, fortunately or unfortunately, your bosses are likely going to heaven too! You may bump into them in the corridors of heaven or at the gate.

It is only fair for me to say a little about those who will have a hard time going to heaven.

Those of you who are lazy bastards, and those who earn a dishonest living, come to work late and laze around and make it difficult for companies to create a customer – you guys are in trouble, I suggest you guys repent ....

I want to end by sharing, one of the verses that inspires me to reach this conclusion, that a Merciful God will make it easy for us, and help the billions in the business world purchase a ticket to heaven ...

He that doeth good shall have ten times as much to his credit: He that doeth evil shall only be recompensed according to his evil: no wrong shall be done unto (any of) them.

Quran chapter 6, verse 160

Brothers and sisters, please ponder how your job is connected to people, to society and to God.

Know that you are touching people’s lives, that whatever you have is enough to make you special, and that there is a merciful God, ....Be motivated, do a good honest day’s job, and book your ticket to Heaven.

In The Name of God Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Thank you.