Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Save Sakineh! Act now to prevent her execution.

Last July, a global outcry saved an Iranian woman from death by stoning. Now there are reports that she could be executed within 24 hours. The case against Sakineh is riddled with holes.

Read more about on and the International Committee Against Stoning.

Sign a petition that will be sent to leaders of countries that might be able to influence Iran to prevent the execution.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ayodhya Verdict and Rama’s Birthplace

How did we get so obsessed with the exact spot where Lord Rama may or may not have been born? If he is God incarnate, what is the significance of birth and death?

Is God born? And does God die?

If not, then every spot on earth is just another spot on earth; sacred if you believe it to be part of God's creation and infused with God's presence; just as little or as much as the next spot. And no place on earth then is a place for disharmony and killing.

Background: A High Court in India ruled recently that land that once held a 16th Century mosque, demolished in 1992 by a Hindu mob, should be split three ways between "Hindus," "Muslims" and the Nirmohi Akhara (a Hindu organization). The Allahabad High Court found the Babri Masjid (mosque) had been built – back in the 16th century – over a site held by Hindus to be the birthplace of Lord Rama, believed by Hindus to be an incarnation of God.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Letter to Aftab

Yo, Aftab, how's life up there, buddy? Hey, Sunshine, in earth years you would be 30 tomorrow – all grown up and even more adult-like than the last time we met, in Jan 2001. We're having a family lunch for you down here tomorrow, complete with tehri and all. I'm planning a surprise dish – broccoli!! Ha ha ha ha ha. You laughing too?

Been thinking about you – then and now. In a sense, energy then and energy now. Warm and cuddly, then and now. Fun and laughing – same. When I think of you, I find myself feeling fuzzy-wuzzy warm and smiling to myself. And to you. Love you, my Affykins.

One of my abiding memories of you as a baby is you snuggled up against me in that baby harness – whatever it's called. Warm and fuzzy, usually asleep. Taking you on the bus like that and eating my salad with a fork and knife with you still asleep. And an old man walking up to us and saying, "Pas coupez la tete!" Funny. But what I meant to say was, you were always this warm, loving and fun energy to me – and you still are.

Another memory is rocking you to sleep at night to the music of The Police. And then you phoning me 15 years later from Montreux to say you had just listened to my favourite singer (Sting). Your voice smiling all the way down the line to Jakarta or wherever it was I was. Life moves in circles, doesn't it? Let's see where this loop takes us.




Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Dalai Lama is 75

July 6, 2010.

Some recent teachings by His Holiness:

The purpose of our life needs to be positive. We weren't born with the purpose of causing trouble, harming others. For our life to be of value, I think we must develop basic good human qualities – warmth, kindness, compassion. Then our life becomes meaningful and more peaceful – happier.

Although the world's religions may differ fundamentally from one other in their metaphysical views, when it comes to their teachings on the actual practice of ethics, there is great convergence. All the faith traditions emphasize a virtuous way of being, the purification of the mind from negative thoughts and impulses, the doing of good deeds, and living a meaningful life.

Peace does not mean no more conflict among humanity. Conflict is bound to happen, so in order to keep peace in spite of conflict, the only realistic method is the spirit of dialogue, respecting the other side and understanding their viewpoint. We need to try and solve problems in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood, in a spirit of reconciliation and compromise.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Old People’s Home in Bukit Timah Road

This morning I officially declared my house an old people's home. My 85-year-old parents have been living with us in our home for a month and a half, definitely raising the average age of the household. Then yesterday I discovered that my husband and I, having turned 50 last year, are eligible for a senior citizen's discount at Guardian, Singapore's major chain of pharmacies. And then my 85-year-old mother-in-law arrived for a visit this morning. That leaves only one young person in our home, that being our helper. (And wow, does she ever have her work cut out for her!)

First morning at the newly-declared Home was quite good fun. There is a general fascination for internal body functions and no subject is taboo. As we sat down to breakfast, my father complained of gas. My Ma-in-law said, rather philosophically, "Gas will go away." She advised him to walk it off, so he started walking up and down the dining room. (He couldn't go outside because it was raining.) Meanwhile, Ma-in-law promised us a special treat in the form of a "sad but very interesting story." Being wise to her meal-time anecdotes, I quickly consumed my toast, gulped down my coffee and settled down to listen to whatever might come. My husband was not so wise.

Ma-in-law now proceeded to tell us, in some detail, about the rotting body of a distant relative discovered three days after his death. My husband gave me a plaintive look, hand-with-toast frozen half-way to his mouth. I – having received my morning sustenance – smiled serenely and told him it was a new diet designed to turn him off his feed.

Lesson from Day 1 at the Home – As we grow older, we apparently shed a lot of our inhibitions, including those related to "polite conversation." I look forward to more "interesting" but hopefully not sad insights in the days ahead. I'm off to Nepal for 10 days tomorrow, but will resume the Journal of the Old People's Home in Bukit Timah Road later in the month. Watch this space, as they say. J

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Maureen Dowd on Religious Institutions that Marginalize Women

Negating women lies at the heart of the abuse of children by Catholic priests, writes Maureen Dowd in the New Year Times. In a hard hitting article, published April 10, the columnist notes that the Church appears to have been more concerned with its own reputation than with protecting children.

In Worlds Without Women, Dowd pulls no punches in her criticism of religious groups that marginalize women in defiance of the teachings of their prophets.

Read the full article here.

Some excerpts from Worlds Without Women:

To circumscribe women, Saudi Arabia took Islam's moral codes and orthodoxy to extremes not outlined by Muhammad; the Catholic Church took its moral codes and orthodoxy to extremes not outlined by Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus is surrounded by strong women and never advocates that any woman — whether she's his mother or a prostitute — be treated as a second-class citizen.

Negating women is at the heart of the church's hideous — and criminal — indifference to the welfare of boys and girls in its priests' care.


As in so many other cases, the primary concern seemed to be shielding the church from scandal. Chillingly, outrageously, the future pope told the Oakland bishop to consider the "good of the universal church" before granting the priest's own request to give up the collar — even though the bishop had advised Rome that the scandal would likely be greater if the priest were not punished.

The Vatican must realize that the church's belligerent, resentful and paranoid response to the global scandal is not working because it now says it will cooperate with secular justice systems and that the pope will have more meetings with victims. It is too little, too late.

The church that through the ages taught me and other children right from wrong did not know right from wrong when it came to children. Crimes were swept under the rectory rug, and molesters were protected to molest again for the "good of the universal church." And that is bad, very bad — a mortal sin.

The church has had theological schisms. This is an emotional schism. The pope is morally compromised. Take it from a sister.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Guest Post: N. Jayaram on Jafar Panahi, jailed Iranian film director

N. Jayaram writes from Hong Kong:

I hope film personalities and writers attending the 34th HKIFF under way since Sunday (March 21 Over 100 screenings at film fest sold out) will voice solidarity with Jafar Panahi, the renowned Iranian director, now jailed in Tehran. His films, including The White Balloon, The Circle, Crimson Gold and Offside, proved most popular with HKIFF audiences over the past decade. He has taken top prizes in prestigious film festivals, including in Cannes, Berlin and Venice.

Mr Panahi, under arrest since March 1 without any charges, attended the festival twice – in 2001 and 2007– and has a large number of fans in Iran and abroad, including in Hong Kong, among film buffs. His incarceration has spread over Navroz, the Iranian new year, which began on March 21.

The irrepressible director has not only been a thorn in the side of his country's authoritarian rulers but has criticized China and the United States for having sought to bar entry to him. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime has been hounding not only dissidents but even prominent film-makers. Of the most famous directors, Mohsen Makhmalbaf has already left Iran. The films of Abbas Kiarostami are no longer being shown in his own country.

Human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch and International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran have called for Mr Panahi's immediate release, as have some Western governments. The European Film Academy, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival, the International Film Festival Rotterdam and the Toronto Film Critics Association have joined in condemning the Tehran regime and calling for his release.

Film personalities and critics attending HKIFF owe it to themselves and to a star director to take a stand against the persecution of filmmakers everywhere in the world, including in Asia.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Allah by any other name...

The so-called Allah controversy in Malaysia is one of the more ridiculous ones even in these polarized and increasingly intolerant times.

In a nutshell, this is the dispute: certain right-wing Muslim politicians feel Malaysian Christians should not refer to God as "Allah," even in Bahasa Malaysia (the Malay language as spoken in Malaysia) - even though this is today the usual word for God in this language.

Does anyone imagine that God cares what word we use to address him or refer to him? Does God believe we should attack places of worship to fight over a devotee's right to address God in his or her own language?

Allah is a pre-Islamic Arabic word for God (or, in pre-Islamic days, for the highest deity). Over the past few decades it has made its way into Bahasa Malaysia along with many, many other words of Arabic origin. It has now, apparently, become the commonly used word for God in Malaysia.

But certain Malay "leaders" (read cynical politicians) have now decided that Allah is a word to be used only by Muslims. Does the Holy Qoran not tell us that there in no God but Allah? Why then do we need to look for other names for God? Surely none of us believe that each religion has a separate God holding court up in Heaven?

It is illogical and incorrect to ban non-Muslims from using a word in the language of their country that means God. On the other hand, now that this has become such a divisive issue, is there no other way around it?

Islam became an important Malaysian religion in the early 14th century when King Parameswaran accepted this faith, brought to his country by Arab and Indian traders. (He then also changed his name to Iskandar Shah).

But God and the Malay language had both been present in the Malayan peninsula long before that. So there must surely have been a word for God before the more recent import from the Arabic. How about using that original Malay word (or those words if there was more than one)?

It might also be interesting to check what happens in neighbouring Indonesia, which has a much larger Muslim population - both in number and as a proportion of total population - but also has a thriving Christian community? The language, once again, is Malay, although here called Bahasa Indonesia and with a few differences from Bahasa Malaysia. Much more than Malaysia, the 200 million people of Indonesia speak Malay. (Malaysia has two other languages spoken by its largest minorities: Chinese and Tamil.)

Indonesia has not banned the use of the word Allah to denote God and this is probably how most Indonesians commonly refer to God. At the same time, Christians also use another Malay word for God - literally, apparently, it means "Lord." And there is no burning of places of worship over this issue.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Love and loss

Nine years ago today, I lost my 20-year-old nephew. Thousands of families lost loved ones that day in a horrific earthquake in western India, so we weren't the only ones to suffer loss. But each family deals with tragedy in its own way.

Please visit Terataii Reiki and Counselling to read what I have learnt from my own sense of loss.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Idiot terrorist sets his own ass on fire

Being a former journalist, I'm usually quite defensive about criticism of the media. But this – probably tongue-in-cheek – letter in Newsweek got me thinking. Why doesn't the press report in this spirit, even if not in these exact words? Here's the letter from Eileen McHenry from Brighton, Michigan (Newsweek, January 18, 2010):

Whenever an act of terrorism occurs, we respond just the way the terrorist wants: worried discussions about whether America is safe. When we respond with fear, we finish the job the terrorist started. A better way to cover the story would be with commentary like: "A fool would-be terrorist set his own keister on fire on a plane approaching Detroit Metro Airport. He was easily subdued by passengers and his rear end extinguished by a flight attendant. He is now being treated at taxpayer expense. America is laughing at Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab."

Brilliant reporting, Eileen. And I absolutely agree that we only play into the terrorists' hands when we react with fear to every stupid attempt at an attack.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A new year move

A very happy new year to all my readers.

I began 2010 by moving from the Philippines to Singapore. It is a familiar city since I have lived here before, but it's a new phase of my life as I put down a few roots here once again, catch up with old friends, allow myself to be horrified by the rise in prices while I've been away...

A quite nice mix of old and new. I already have a few close friends in Singapore, which is fantastic. No doubt I will make some new friends as well. I will continue with some of the work I was doing in Manila (mostly writing and editing, which can be done anywhere). And I hope to carry on with my counselling and Reiki healing too. But in this new environment it will play out a little differently, I'm sure. Perhaps a different mix of counselling, healing and teaching.

So, I look forward to learning and experiencing a few new things while still enjoying the comfort of being close to good friends in a familiar setting. What more could one ask for? I am thankful for such an easy and yet interesting transition in my life.