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Author: Zurairi AR

Zurairi AR is a journalist and columnist for Malay Mail Online. He is an advocate of humanism and scepticism.

Mahershala Ali’s win shines a light on Ahmadis’ plight

Published in Malay Mail Online

Earlier this week, American actor Mahershala Ali bagged the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his critically-acclaimed role in 2016’s Moonlight.

Immediately he was celebrated across the world as “the first Muslim to win an Oscar.”

But not everybody saw it that way. As covered by several news outlets, there were scores of Muslims online who denounced the honour.

Their reason? Ali is a member of the Ahmadiyya community, a much maligned religious movement that mainstream Muslims count as infidels and apostates. Ali, to them, is not a real Muslim.

The most public of this response was by the Pakistani envoy to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi, who deleted her tweet moments after she wrote “That’s a first” celebrating Ali’s win.

Lodhi was perhaps only protecting her reputation. After all, despite having the largest population of Ahmadis in the world, Pakistan is perhaps their worst hell. In 1984, Pakistan implemented Ordinance XX, effectively barring Ahmadis from practising their faith.

The ordinance kicked off decades of persecution against Ahmadis, and forced the community to move its headquarters to London in exile.

Public hospitals don’t stock every kind of medicine — here’s why

Published in Malay Mail Online

By Zurairi AR and Kamles Kumar

KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 — The unexpected termination of an online dispensary system earlier this week caused alarm among hundreds of thousands of federal government pensioners who had been using it since 2012 to collect their free medicines and medical supplies from private hospitals.

The government responded quickly to assuage their fears that they can now get their prescriptions filled out at medical facilities managed by the Ministry of Health (MOH). But one question arose: why couldn’t they have got them all from public hospitals in the first place?

The answer is not as simple as one would expect, as we found out after speaking to several doctors familiar with the issue.

What is Sinar Project and why we should care if it lives or dies

Published in Malay Mail Online

By Zurairi AR

SUBANG JAYA, Feb 20 ― Located on the sixth floor of a building, the only thing distinguishing Sinar Project’s front door from the other nondescript grey doors on this long corridor are the myriad feisty stickers ― in support of net neutrality, privacy, free press and speech ― on it.

Inside, you are immediately greeted by shelves of computer programming textbooks ― from Java to Rails. On the desks its members share are scattered Nanoblock toys and a giant 3D puzzle of Moscow’s St Basil Cathedral.

“Swee Meng always has to tinker with something,” Sinar Project’s co-ordinator Khairil Yusof said apologetically, referring to the group’s chief technologist and his long-time friend.

But they are not all toys. One particular miniature gizmo is actually a circuit to measure the office’s air quality, which the group hopes can be a prototype for a network of data-gathering monitors placed across the country.

The 400-square feet studio-turned-office is home to the country’s sole specialists in open data, government transparency and digital rights, but Sinar Project might not even survive the end of this year due to dwindling funds for its niche non-profit work.

Dispelling the RUU355 strawmen

Published in Malay Mail Online in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2

This article was written from Kelantan, a few nights before the Himpunan 355 rally in support of PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s private member’s Bill for harsher punishments by Shariah courts.

If party propaganda is to be believed, the rally is a much-anticipated major event, with several billboards advertising it erected across Kota Baru, calling Kelantan citizens to head down to the capital.

In fact, Sunday (today) has even been declared a holiday by the PAS state government so Kelantan folks can attend the rally supporting the party. This is in an action that comes close to either gross abuse of power, or just sheer narcissism.

But talk to the Kelantan grassroots and you find that some are not even aware what RUU355 means; the Malay acronym used for the Bill, named after Act 355 which it aims to amend — the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965.

For some who claim to understand, know it by one point only: hudud, the controversial Islamic penal code that has become the elusive holy grail of the Islamist party.

There has been no proper survey done on the Bill, but it is easy to imagine that knowledge and insight about what the Bill and the Act do is insufficient among Malaysians, even the Malay-Muslims. And part of this has been a result of its proponents deliberately out to obfuscate the public, in order to justify and garner support for the Bill to be passed.

Rapists among us

Published in Malay Mail Online

The return of convicted serial rapist Selva Kumar Subbiah following deportation from Canada has opened up a can of worms about the way Malaysian men deal with the issue of rape.

While Malaysian women were understandably worried, some of their male counterparts, most of them youths, had instead showed their ugly faces as rape apologists.

A few comments made on social media mocked women for their worry, claiming they have no right to complain about rape when they themselves choose to dress sexily and act sluttily.

Some claimed that even fathers will be drawn to rape their own sexy daughters. Others admitted they themselves are capable of rape against sexy women.

Some were baffled that women complained of rape when they themselves commit illicit sexual acts. Do you not enjoy rape too? they asked.

Many think that Selva Kumar’s return is a blessing so that women will now cover themselves up and be more careful for fear of getting raped.

Surely by now many of you readers understand how this is problematic. But I believe that in reality, many of our youths do not see this as such and that is the real problem.

Holding up a cloudy mirror

Published in Malay Mail Online

After the havoc President Donald Trump has wreaked in his two weeks in office, it is hard not to feel schadenfreude for the superpower that has always acted like it knows what is best for the world. Apparently it does not even know what is best for itself.

Trump has not only antagonised journalists, but seems to be on a warpath against the institution. His strategist Steve Bannon — whom many have now taken to mockingly calling President Bannon — has attacked journalists by labelling them the “opposition party”, demanding the institution just “keep its mouth shut.”

Funny how Trump’s White House was so hell-bent on “correcting” the attendance numbers at his inauguration, with blatantly false information given by the White House press secretary Sean Spicer himself; this was later defended as “alternative facts.”

And Trump’s family members just cannot stay away from his administration, as much as Trump just cannot stay away from his business interests. His daughter Ivanka Trump is reportedly playing a quasi-First Lady role, replacing Melania Trump. Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner is serving as senior adviser to the president.

Then, Trump fired attorney general Sally Yates who had defied him, calling her act a “betrayal.”

To the rest of the world, the actions of Trump’s first few days were mighty repugnant. But to some Malaysians, it was just like looking into a cloudy mirror. Such a familiar sight, but much dirtier.