Revising The Islamic Education Syllabus. It’s High Time.

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Recently my Facebook newsfeed exploded with a piece of controversial news involving Ministry of Education (again. Hahha). Some keyboard warriors among netizens have lambasted Teo Nie Ching, our Deputy Minister of Education, for allegedly sticking her nose into the Islamic Syllabus of Muslim students in Malaysia. Racial slurs could be read in every other comments on Facebook, it was positively nauseating.

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To those who are still in the dark regarding what has been going on, let me just give you a short update of the matter just to give you guys a heads-up (please google the news further for more details).

The Ministry of Education, via the National Education Advisory Council (Majlis Penasihat Pendidikan Kebangsaan /MPPK)  had launched a national survey to revise and upgrade the Islamic Education Syllabus for Muslim students in Malaysia. Our Deputy Minister of Education, Teo Nie Ching, had then innocently shared the link to the news via her social media. Suddenly, the netizens blew the matter out of proportion by accusing her, a non-Muslim, of trying to stick her nose into the Islamic Education. The UMNO/PAS politicians and supporters started to politicize the matter with religious and racial themes in their fear-mongering campaign against PH.

Maszlee Malik defended his deputy by saying that “Kaji selidik tersebut dikeluarkan di laman web Kementerian Pendidikan, kemudian Nie Ching kongsikan maklumat tersebut di media sosial beliau. Ada orang tangkap layar dari media sosial beliau dan timbulkan isu bahawa timbalan menteri mahu campur tangan isu Pendidikan Islam, itu tidak benar dan tidak timbul isu campur tangan,”

In other words, Teo Nie Ching was only sharing on her social media of the latest initiative by her ministry (because she works there, okay?). It just so happens that the latest initiative by the ministry (in which she is THE DEPUTY MINISTER) is about our Islamic Education. However, because she is a non-Muslim, she was accused of sticking her nose into the Islamic education of Muslims. *sigh* 

There haven’t been many occasions in which I was supportive of the Ministry of Education. But in the matter of revising the Islamic Syllabus for Muslim students in Malaysia, I am all cheers! I think, it is high time we have a deep and conscientious thought about what sort of Muslims we want to produce in this country.

I have said it before, and I will say it again now. I learned MUCH MORE and in GREATER DEPTH about Islam when I was in Australia (by my own initiative and with my seniors in usrah) than what I had learned in 11 years of FORMAL Islamic education in school. Our Islamic Education syllabus in Malaysia is very superficial, focussing more on ritual than it focusses on creed (akidah); emphasizing more on superficial memorization than in-depth understanding; rewarding shallow knowledge than higher-order-thinking skills (HOTS/KBAT).

11 years!! of formal education was wasted on me! I found it so difficult to question things that I didn’t understand in the religion because it was so taboo to appear to doubt what was taught to you. Because it was a tacit understanding that questioning things that you don’t understand would somehow reflect badly on the strength of your iman. So, I just performed the rituals of prayers and fasting without any real “penghayatan” about what being a Muslim meant.

Want to know what I mean? Read on!

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Question #1: Who creates God?

Don’t kid yourself! Don’t deny it! Everyone – including YOU, my dear readers – MUST have thought about this question at some point in their lives. But most of us swallowed it and brushed it off, didn’t we? Because some of us were told “Kalau kita tanya banyak sangat perkara-perkara ghaib, iman kita tak kuat. Benda ni kena percaya sebab rukun iman.” And then we were told to mengucap and say astaghfirullah for having doubts.  I had asked this question to adults since I was 8 years old.

But could the adults in my life answer my question to my satisfaction? Not really.  They would say something like “Mestilah Allah tak diciptakan. Kalau Allah tu diciptakan, Allah bukan Tuhan lah.”

Oh ok… so you are answering my question based on YOUR DEFINITION of God. I see.

But I wasn’t satisfied. You told me only JUST NOW that “semua benda di dunia ini diciptakan.” So, wasn’t it natural for me to just ask, “Jadi siapa cipta Tuhan? Kan semua benda di dunia ini diciptakan. You just told me that!” And now? You couldn’t answer it yourself! Or you think your previous answer satisfied me? Well, it didn’t! But because I could sense your discomfort and your disapproval, so I put off questioning you further.

I learned eventually to brush it off and bury my doubt deep inside my heart. Even when I was just a child.

But how long could I bury it? On and off it would bother me again and again. And I said astaghfirullah again and again! (And I believe this is the case for many Muslim kids as well. I was not alone, here. But because I am the ruminating, over-thinking type, hahha… it bothered me more than others, perhaps. I certainly knew that even my Kak Long had wondered the same thing and I had discussed this with her as a kid, and then later as a young adult. So jangan kata aku sorang yang tertanya-tanya benda ni! Mustahil aku sorang yang wonder pasal benda ni. This is basic akidah yang FORMAL EDUCATION di sekolah TAK MAMPU address dengan baik! Basic akidah, weh!)

Until at one point, I couldn’t bury the question anymore. After my friend passed away at the age of 18 from a car accident, I was so shocked to the core that I felt like I could not postpone answering this question any longer. It MUST stop bothering me once and for all.

So I did my research and somehow (Alhamdulillah) I happened to pick up a book by Harun Yahya entitled Timelessness And The Reality of Fate and I devoured the book in 2 days. From the very first few chapters of the book, I got the answer already. The answer that I had been wondering about since I was 8 years old… it was hidden in this 97-pages-thin, ordinary-looking  book! Amazing! The best, most-worthy book purchase I have ever made in my entire life to date!

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I couldn’t recall the specific words of the explanation but it basically goes something like this:

“In order for anything to be created, it must be in the system of time. ‘Before and After’ only exists in the system of time. The system of time itself is created by God. God is not bound by the system of time. So, it is scientifically impossible by the law of physics to ask a question of who creates God because the system of time existed after God had created it. In fact, the question is unscientific and irrelevant.”

See? The book even talked about the science of physics when it discussed the system of time. Siap dengan quotes by famous scientist and physicist of the world! Barulah convincing! It makes sense! I could accept it easily enough! Think about it! Malam dan siang adalah masa kan? Macam mana nak wujud malam dan siang kalau matahari dan bumi pun tak wujud lagi. Planet, bintang-bintang dan matahari pun tak wujud lagi, macam mana bumi nak beredar untuk menghasilkan peredaran masa atau malam dan siang itu? So, everything must be in place first (the whole universe, the planets and the stars, must be created by God first! The system of time must be there first before you can ask who creates what! The creator exists BEFORE the creation. The creation exists AFTER the creator. But BEFORE and AFTER are the terms in the system of TIME. And the system of TIME did not exist until God created the universe, including the earth and the sun. This is what we mean when we say God is beyond creation. That is why when you ask who creates God, the question is unscientific! Your question is unscientific because that is THE LIMIT of the science of creation in this physical world.)

Now, ask yourself: Boleh ke ustazah sekolah rendah dan sekolah menengah ajar macam ni? Can they explain as comprehensively and thoroughly as above? Boleh tak depa address BASIC matters of akidah sampai student puas hati? Mana mungkin boleh kalau ustaz/ustazah sendiri jahil fakta sains! Lepas tu membuat ‘insinuations’ yang orang yang bertanya itu yang kurang iman! Padahal, mungkin mereka yang tidak pandai jawab! (Sorry if I sound emotional. This is a raw topic for me! Sampai sekarang, aku tak boleh terima orang-orang agama yang jahil kemudian berlindung dengan imej agama untuk MEMBULI orang yang hanya bertanya untuk kepastian. Tiba-tiba dijawabnya kita kurang iman!)

 

Question #2: How do we know Islam is the right religion? 

Again, don’t lie to yourself. I am sure EVERYONE must have thought about this at some point in their lives!

In fact, inilah caranya orang-orang dari agama lain boleh menemui jalan untuk memeluk Islam. Sebab mereka sendiri bertanya dalam diri mereka sendiri, is my religion the real truth? And then they did their research until they come across Islam.

Ini adalah NALURI (instinct!) yang Allah kurniakan kepada SEMUA manusia supaya manusia mengenali diri-NYA. Just because you are born as a Muslim, DO NOT EVER THINK that you have real faith! Your faith doesn’t mean a thing if it was never challenged. Your faith may not be true  if you’ve never had  to answer the challenge and come to your own conclusion. That’s why we are tested in this life… to TRIGGER us to seek REAL CONVICTION and REAL BELIEF (the death of my friend was MY trigger. I have met people whose trigger would be different. It might be ‘divorce’… it might be ‘cancer’… it might be bankruptcy…. it might be ANYTHING) Kalau kita hanya mengikut arus just because we were born into Islam (but we were never really convinced in the first place) what good is that belief? Apa beza kita dengan orang-orang yang dilahirkan dalam agama lain? Kita pun hanya mengikut agama nenek moyang juga kan (it just so happens yang agama nenek moyang kita Islam)…. sedangkan belum tentu kita betul-betul percaya.

Allah tests us until we can find Him. So regardless of what religion you were born with, you are not given a free ticket to Paradise. You WILL BE TESTED as a proof TO YOURSELF whether or not you have put in the effort to come to real faith. You yourself will know whether or not you truly believe or if you are simply following the tide of societal pressure! You will know what is in your own heart and you are accountable for it!  Allah says in Surah Al-Ankabut: 2-3 “Do the people think that they will be left to say “we believe” and they will not be tried? But we have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful and He will surely make evident the liars.”

I guess the verse is asking… Adakah kamu berfikir kamu hanya akan dibiarkan menyatakan “Aku orang Islam” sedangkan belum tentu hati kamu betul-betul percaya? Sebab kamu tak pernah jawab apa yang bermain di fikiran kamu! You brushed off your doubts! And you think everyone is supposed to blindly believe like you?

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Jadi semua ujian yang datang dalam hidup kita adalah untuk TRIGGER kita bermuhasabah dan menjawab the important questions in our lives! Please take the opportunity to answer those questions!

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There is NO PLACE for blind belief in Islam! We are asked to do inductive reasoning when we are learning the religion! This is Quranic method in pondering the questions of faith! Al-Quran encourages us to question stuff! So jangan kau pula pandai-pandai nak menghalang orang lain bertanya kalau kau sendiri tak pandai jawab! Siap nak label orang yang bertanya tak kuat iman!

So, how do we know that Islam is the right religion? Well, by studying comparative religion! Of course! There is always a course of Comparative Religion / World Religion/ Theology in any university, even in the Western countries! If you can spend YEARS studying to become a doctor to complete your dunya, can’t you spend one semester of learning comparative religion for your akhirat? Sometimes, you can even do it informally by reading books on world religion during your free time. Tak payah pun nak masuk formal class bagai. Learn about other religions and compare between them! Sheikh Ahmed Deedat had done such a splendid job when it comes to comparing Islam and Christianity! In fact, that was how I had come to be convinced of Islam as the religion intended by God for his slaves. I read The Choice by Ahmed Deedat when I was 18 years old.

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You yourself must go through this journey of discovery. No one could do it for you. Every one of us has their own unique journey in discovering faith and spirituality. This is why one of my favourite YOU TUBE videos are conversion stories. My personal favourite was the conversion story of Yusha Evans and I recommend it to all my readers.

Now ask yourself: could any ustazah/ustaz in your previous school tell you in details regarding why Islam is the right religion compared to Christianity? Were you convinced? Or did the ustaz or ustazah never really answer your question? Or perhaps, you yourself never question it? Again… this is BASIC CREED. Kalau benda tu pun tak settle, no wonder lah kita asyik takut anak-anak kita murtad. Isu penggunaan nama Allah di kalangan Kristian di Sabah/Sarawak jadi havoc sampai pecah alam. Padahal memang kat Middle East orang Kristian guna nama Allah juga. Kita kat sini sibuk-sibuk nak halang orang Kristian guna nama Allah…sebab takut anak-anak kita cepat keliru!

Macam mana SEBELAS TAHUN belajar akidah  di sekolah, masih boleh keliru? Allah itu satu VS Allah itu tiga! Beza kan?? Apa yang nak kelirunya?? Yang kelirunya adalah sebab ORANG DEWASA pun keliru tak reti nak ajaq anak-anak depa! Tu pasallah takut sangat! In fact, kita sepatutnya fikir yang orang Kristianlah yang keliru! The WHOLE WORLD associates the word ‘Allah’ with Islam… orang Kristian di Malaysia la yang patut lebih keliru bila nama Tuhan mereka adalah sama macam Tuhan orang Islam.

Bila kita lokek ilmu dan lokek hujah, kita akan sentiasa rasa takut dan terancam! Dan bila kita lokek ilmu dan lokek hujah, semua pertanyaan tiada jawapan. Alih-alih suruh orang lain jangan tanya dan tuduh orang yang bertanya tak kuat iman! *facepalm*

Did you know that in the Quran, we are taught to do inductive reasoning? Allah always asks us to look at specific examples in order to reach a conclusion. He asks us to look at the moon. Look at the sun! Look at the mountains and the seas. Look at the signs in the human embryology. 

Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) did inductive reasoning before concluding that his GOD was NOT the sun, the moon or the stars. He had explored one option after another and then another before he finally arrived to his conclusion. Just like our revert brothers and sisters had  to go through one religion after another and then another before arriving to Islam. 

“Those who listen to all statements, and then follow the best of it. These are the ones whom God has guided, and these are the ones possessed of minds.” (39:18)

Question #3: Why Is Quran Considered As A Miracle? 

This question was one of my struggles in understanding the religion.

Your ustaz or ustazah would ask you to memorize a few ‘skema jawapan’ talking about language style of the Quran which ‘proves’ that Quran is a miracle.

And in my mind, I was like “Kat mana yang hebat sangat bahasa Quran ni sampai jadi miracle dan mukjizat? Boleh tak bagi contoh? Ayat mana dalam Al-Quran yang miracle sangat ni sampai penyair-penyair Qurays boleh terpaku dan speechless? Awat aku tak rasa apa pun? Boleh tak elaborate dan bagi contoh?! Convince me, please!” 

Your ustaz would also teach you to write “Al-Quran ini mukjizat kerana ia tidak boleh ditiru. Ramai orang yang tidak berjaya menandingi gaya bahasa Al-Quran walaupun telah dicabar untuk melakukannya.” And then, the answer stops there. Adoi!!

I was like, “Okay…. boleh tak bagi contoh siapa orangnya yang cuba attempt nak bertanding dengan gaya bahasa Al-Quran? Is it Ka’ab Bin Malik? Abdullah Bin Rawahah? Both of them were great poets, right? Apa ayat yang diorang produce? Kat celah mana yang diorang kalah? What is the criteria yang diorang kalah tu bila dibandingkan dengan Al-Quran? Ada hakim ke yang dilantik untuk judge gaya bahasa siapa yang menang?” 

Faham tak? Look at how I overthink stuff? hahha. Jadi adakah aku akan puas hati dengan jawapan-jawapan one-liners yang superficial macam tu? Sedangkan banyak lagi soalan tak terjawab dalam kepala otak aku ni. Hahha.

Do you get it? There is just NO DEPTH!! in our learning of the religion! I was a student who DID NOT UNDERSTAND in which part of the Quran yang kau cakap gaya bahasa hebat sangat ni? Aku baca translation of the Quran dan aku rasa macam biasa saja. (I have since come to know how difficult it is for translations to convey the beauty of a text’s original language. For example, can anyone translate a Malay pantun into English while maintaining all the rhymes and the rhythms? No, right? The beauty of any language will be lost in translation. The language miracle of the Quran can only be appreciated in its original Arabic language. But there are other aspects of miracles in the Quran. For example, there are medical and scientific aspects of the Quran too!) 

As a student at that time, pelajaran agama adalah pelajaran SURE DAPAT GRED A punyalah! Because so simplistic punya skema jawapan, anyone can get an A in it! We students devoted MORE TIME for Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Add Math because they were more complicated and interesting dan belum tentu dapat A. Hahha.

But with pelajaran agama, hafal sikit-sikit, pakai common sense sikit-sikit… terus dapat A. Mudah macam makan kacang! When the fact is, learning arts (including religion/theology, history, political science and philosophy) requires inductive and exploratory reasoning involving the understanding of contexts, nuances and depth! BUKAN simple one liners!

But after years of learning to brush off my doubts, I followed the tide of peer pressure by simply burying my questions deep inside my mind!

So when did I FINALLY find the answer?

Well, I found the answer regarding why Quran is a miracle at the age of 20+ when I was listening to the lecture of Nouman Ali Khan in You Tube about The Miracles of The Quran. The video clip only lasted for two hours! Two hours! And that was enough to answer YEARS of wondering to myself about the miracles of the Quran! Below, is one of the examples of the video produced by Nouman Ali Khan’s team regarding the language miracles of the Quran. If you have time, you can watch the lecture yourself. It is very good, (better than the one I listened to years ago) because this one is illustrated.

I also learned about the Quran from books like Medical Miracles of The Quran written by Dr. Sharif Kaf Al-Ghazal.

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So, can you see HOW PATHETIC is the Islamic syllabus in our formal education?? How unhelpful the syllabus was in perfecting my aqeedah and my understanding of basic Islamic principles!

Perfect the Aqeedah FIRST! Simultaneously, you can also learn the technical stuff of ibadah, muammalat, munakahat, syariah etc etc. But the Aqeedah is always a priority!

Look, there’s a reason why the Prophet PBUH spent 13 years perfecting the Aqeedah alone in Makkah! Because that is the most important thing! Only in Madinah did the Prophet proceeded with the teaching of the Syariah! Once your aqeedah is settled, the rest would be easy!

 

Question #4: All the questions I had about illogical Israilyat stories that were told to me. 

I had talked about this so many times in the past! About the fake story of Hassan Al-Basri & A Beautiful Woman and also about the bogus tale of Siti Mutiah! Hahha. So, I am just not going to elaborate on this further. But it highlights my point that MOST ustaz/ustazah are not equipped with enough knowledge to soothe our thirst for real conviction. They do not address our confusion and our sense of incredulousness.

If you are going to be ‘guru agama yang mengajar budak-budak aliran sains’, you better know how to present your content! Science students are taught to QUESTION stuff!

If you are passionate teachers, your target SHOULD NOT be to finish the syllabus cincai bocai! Your target is to make sure your students understand and are convinced by your presentation. (Tu pun kalau kau memang nak jadi a great teacher lah! Otherwise, no use for me to elaborate further). You must encourage questions among your students and you must equip yourself with knowledge too! Teach beyond the syllabus! Read stuff! Relate your religious contents with current issues and scientific phenomenas! Buatlah homework sikit…. you are teaching the religion! How much pahala will you get if because of YOU, your students attain real faith that goes beyond getting an A in Pendidikan Islam!

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So, below are my ideas of how religious syllabus should be revised.

1)Ask students to do a critical essay on any topic of aqeedah. An essay! A CRITICAL ESSAY! NOT simple one liners! 

2)Give them reading tasks that requires them to summarize, review and state their own opinion. 

-suggested topics for their reading tasks include comparative religion, theory of evolution, Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion.

2) Review You Tube videos of comparative religion and encourage voicing out of questions and doubts. 

3) Invite doctors, engineers, professors and physicists to talk about verses in the Quran that relate to their respective specialty! Show the students that religion is NOT SEPARATE from the practical aspects of worldly life! Show your students that religion is RELEVANT and PRACTICAL! 

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Examples of exam questions and assignments at the secondary school level could be something like these:

Question 1:

It has been a widely popularized propaganda that Islam was spread through the edge of the sword. By using your knowledge of the Quran, your knowledge of the world history and the Islamic History, write a CONVINCING commentary to dispute this preposterous libel.   (Not less than 2000 words)

-this question requires the student not only to know the Quran alone, or the history alone. It requires the student to know BOTH;  and then to integrate those different knowledge and connect them together to produce a good essay. They must provide evidence and quotes by historians and ulama as well to get an A. 

 

Question 2:

By using your knowledge of The Quran, The Bible and the History of Pre- and Post- Council of Nicaea, discuss the concept of trinity in Christianity.

-The question makes it clear that the students need to know some basic knowledge regarding what trinity is all about; what the Quran says about Trinity (this requires the student to know specific Quranic verses that talk about trinity); what the Bible says about Trinity (that means the student must memorize some biblical quotations allegedly alluding to trinity); and what happened during Council of Nicaea.

-After knowing the basic knowledge, the students then need to apply those knowledge and try to connect them together and arrange them into points of natural sequence so that the essay would look good and professional.

-In short, it requires application of knowledge and critical thinking! KBAT at its best! Not simply memorize and vomit the memory into paper. Takkan matematik dan sains saja nak KBAT! Adakah pelajaran agama tak penting untuk KBAT??

 

Question 3:

An Atheist came to you and declared his conviction that there is no life after death. How do you convince this atheist to the contrary? You are allowed to use your knowledge of The Evolution Theory, your knowledge of biological science and your knowledge of philosophy to produce your argument in not less than 1000 words.

-Whoa. Imagine if religion is being taught this way at school! The ustaz/ustazah will give you this question for homework with next week as a deadline. So, students are required to do proper research into Evolution, other aspects of biology as well as philosophy….and the challenge is how to connect all these knowledge into a religious article. The students actually have to put serious hard work and energy in researching and then thinking about these topics in order to produce a good essay.

-The ustazah can discuss the answers to this essay in a very interesting lesson.  For example, she may invite the school biology teacher or a philosophy lecturer from outside to sit in the class and discuss all the points together.

-How INTERACTIVE and INTERESTING Pendidikan Islam would be if it is being taught this way, can you imagine?

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We have to revolutionize our education system of memorizing without thinking. It is imperative for Muslims to recognize that we should change and it has to be done from NOW, starting from the teaching of our youngsters at school.

After going to Australia and experiencing a dramatic change in how knowledge is supposed to be taught, I must admit that I became HYPERCRITICAL at our education system and I have a tendency to always question first whatever is being told to me if it sounds dodgy to me. I have promised myself many years ago that I will NEVER AGAIN believe in something that sounds weird regardless of who says it until I do my own research. Which is kind of why, even in learning psychiatry, I prefer to explore knowledge by myself rather than going through the master system. It might be harder, it might take longer, I might have to spend some of my own hard-earned money…. but I still prefer it that way. (I was asked by one of my colleagues while discussing psychiatry “Afiza, kau kena psychoanalyze kenapa kau tak suka psychodynamic.” I didn’t answer anything but in my mind I was like…. aku tak perlu nak psychoanalyze kenapa aku tak suka psychodynamic. Aku dah tau kenapa aku tak suka. Because some of the dodgy-sounding stuff in Freud’s psychodydnamic REMINDS me of the same dodgy stuff I had to swallow as a child because I was told it was part of the religion and part of being a good Muslim. And then it turned out that actually, they were wrong! And now you are trying to sell to me that accepting some of the ridiculous theories in psychodynamic is part of being a good psychiatrist?! Come on! Don’t kid yourself! There are MANY psychiatrists who DO NOT BELIEVE in psychodynamic, themselves. In fact,  Dr. Jeffrey A. Lieberman, the President of American Association of Psychiatry from 2013-2014 had written a SCATHINGLY CRITICAL analysis of the history of psychodynamic in America in his book “Shrink: The Untold Story of Psychiatry”. He wrote about how the theories WERE FORCED UPON THEM by their previous seniors and anyone who even attempted to question psychodynamic at that time was being bullied into submission rather than being given a proper well-thought out answers! Sebiji macam apa yang berlaku dalam pelajaran agama di sekolah! So, aku tak payah pun nak psychoanalyze kenapa aku tak suka psychodynamic! Aku dah tau pun! Hahah. One day, in a separate post, I will Insya-Allah write further regarding how I developed transference reaction towards psychodynamic. Hahah) 

It’s time we begin a much-needed paradigm shift. 

And I hope Dr. Maszlee and the National Education Advisory Council will deliver an exciting change in the teaching of Islamic Education in Malaysian schools. May Allah guide us all.

I leave you guys with a very famous video of Muslim spoken words regarding the meaning of life. Another one of my all-time favourite You Tube videos. I especially love the final part of the video that says, “If you disbelieve, READ!” I myself found real conviction through reading the books that I had mentioned above. This is why I always advocate for people to READ! In fact, I find it VERY LOGICAL that the first verse of the Quran that was revealed to the Prophet PBUH was Iqra’! Read! This is one aspect of the Quran that is so appealing to a reader like me.

So, enjoy the video, guys! Until next time. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.

Addendum:

P/S: I just had a phone conversation with my Kak Long about this particular issue. She told me that just a few days ago, Aayra, my 5 year old niece had asked her the exact same question of who creates Allah! Kind of proves my point that this question is a natural progression of a growing mind and it will come to every one of us, sooner or later. My Kak Long tried to answer the question to Aayra’s satisfaction but she could see that Aayra was not convinced even though Aayra did not ask further. One day, I will lend my Kak Long the book Timelessness And The Reality of Fate. And her task is to simplify the answer to Aayra in a way that would make Aayra understand.

Truly Non-Partisan

Last year, while I was working as a PACA for PH, one of my batch-mates had jokingly said, “Afiza, kau ni kalau Tok Det kentut pun kau cakap merdu.” in our batch’s Whatsapp’s group.

I laughed inwardly. I admit, that I was pro-Mahathir ever since I was in primary school. Everybody who knows me, knows that! I read books about him “Mahathir Di Sebalik Tabir” when I was only 12 years old. I have since read many versions of his biography. And I have also read his autobiography “Doctor In The House”.  I haven’t read the book “Dr. Mahathir’s Selected Letters To World Leaders” yet, but I am planning to. I have a lot of other books about him at my bedside, waiting to be read. And Insya Allah, I will get to it, now that the exam is over.  So, yes, I freely admit that I am his fan.

But I am not blind to all his faults. I just happen to think that he is the smartest leader Malaysia has ever had, and if I am to take any chances, I am gonna root for Dr. M rather than Najib, UMNO and PAS.

That’s all.

And believe me, even if Dr. M was never in the picture during GE14, I would have voted for PH rather than Najib. Dr. M had NOTHING to do with me supporting PH. I hated Najib long before Bersatu was formed. To me, Najib was an evil kleptocrat who had abused his power shamelessly and openly. Nothing would ever induce me to support BN at that time, with or without Dr. M opposing Najib.

But the involvement of Dr. M in PH just strengthened my resolve to work harder for PH to win.

That’s all.

And after reading the book Billion Dollar Whale excellently written by the journalists Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, I am even more convinced that I had made the right choice in GE 14. May 9 2018 is still gonna be one of Malaysian’s greatest success story, just like The Dawn Raid saga.

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When I just got back from Australia, my father had registered my name into Puteri UMNO. I wasn’t keen to be a member of any political party. After going to Australia, I had developed more critical thinking in how I think about politics and I had stopped supporting UMNO or any particular political party. Instead, I prefer to look at issues and debate them in my mind, looking at the merits of the issue itself…. and not from which party the issue comes from. But as a, ehem, filial daughter I obeyed his wish and registered myself into Puteri UMNO. In fact, all my sisters did. (But we managed to avoid attending meetings and such even as my father sometimes wanted us to. Hahha. I have perfect excuses because as a house officer, I was too busy to attend political meeting anyway.)

My father has always been very “bersemangat” about politics, about patriotism and about fighting to increase the socioeconomic status of the Malays. Talks about politics and economy is our small talk in the family, (believe it or not) because my father has his own business and my brother-in-law is an entrepreneur. So, in the business world, people talk about politics a lot! They know stuff about government deals that had gone wrong and fishy things that ordinary people like us don’t really know. We also like to talk about education because my elder sister is a lecturer and my two younger sisters are passionate teachers. (So you bet that I have very strong opinions about our education system. In this blog I wrote about education quite a bit!) Otherwise, we will talk about medicine and health because I am a doctor, my youngest sister is a dentist and my own beloved mother is a retired staff nurse. Or else, my siblings and I will talk about the latest fiction we had read. (This explains why I am not good at small talk. Even my small talk is serious. Hahha. This is why I have a blog. I have a lot of opinions. And my opinions are strong ones too… not exactly suitable for a nice, relaxing dinner conversation in a social setting. So, my blog is where I write them all. And yes, I write them on Facebook as well. Because I believe, social media is a good place to advocate for causes we believe in. And I use Facebook a lot when it comes to political advocacy. I used to want to become a journalist, and writing in blog or on Facebook feels natural to me when I feel strongly about something.)

After my father got fed up with the blatant corruption in UMNO, he quitted UMNO and joined Parti Peribumi Bersatu. Again, he encouraged all of us to join the party. But this time, none of us did.

My father is the sort of person who believes that we must belong in some ‘society’ or ‘party’ in order to fight for issues we believe in. “Kalau tak, kita fight pun tak ke mana sebab kita tak kuat.”

Well, he has a point.

But, I still don’t want to belong to any party. I stuck by my decision to ONLY support anything or anyone based on the merits of their arguments rather than because “aku ahli parti tu. So aku kena setia pada parti.” 

Look, I am a loyal person. But I am loyal to the truth. I don’t want any kind of ‘artificial’ sense of obligation that ties my hands from saying what I really think.

So, these days, when I started to post in Facebook about certain government policies I disagree with, some people started to say, “Tu la… dulu kau undi PH sangat. Siap jadi PACA lagi. Sekarang, baru tau yang UMNO tu lebih banyak memberi manfaat kepada orang Melayu.”

Ugh! Gosh, penat cakap dengan orang macam ni sebenarnya. They just didn’t get it! They fail basic critical thinking.

I worked for PH during GE 14 (even when I was NOT a member of any of their party components) because I was ANGRY at Najib and at those spineless, coward UMNO politicians who did not dare to throw Najib out of leadership when his corruption was so obvious! I cannot condone that kind of evil kleptocracy to continue indefinitely in Malaysia. To me, regardless of the perceived incompetence of the current government at the moment, I would not do it any other way even if I could turn back time. UMNO must lose the election in order to uproot all the corruptions in the government and clean the system. In the next GE 15, if PH did not govern well, we can vote for BN again. In fact, I would rather we change government every single term so that any kind of corruption would be quickly uprooted every 5 years. When one party becomes too arrogant  for having been in power for too long, the rakyats will suffer. Monopoly in ANY sector is a fertile breeding for corruption and abuse of power. If we change people in power often, and there is no monopoly in who gets to be the government, they would know that their position is NOT secure and they will be more careful about making unjust policies and bullying the rakyats in the future. Because they know Malaysians now vote not based on political party and races, but based on the merit of the issues and policies. So, they will work harder to come up with good policies if they want to stay relevant!

Please understand that just because I was a PH PACA that doesn’t mean I am going to support PH no matter what the issue is! So there is no need for you to say annoying things like, “Tu la…. sokong lagi PH.” What the heck? Why is it so hard for them to understand? In politics, we choose the lesser of two evils by evaluating the information that we possess at THAT PARTICULAR POINT IN TIME. Susah sangat ke nak faham? When the election is over, there will always be issues and we continue to use our GOD-GIVEN BRAIN to evaluate those issues and come up with our own opinion. Get it?

I am not the sort of person who would stick to one party. I am non-partisan. Tolonglah merdekakan fikiran dari politik kepartian. Free your mind and use your intellect to evaluate on any issue instead of blindly supporting people just because they come from your own race or your own party.

***

The truth is, lately I have been quite disappointed with Dr. M and ALSO with Dr. Maszlee in particular. And with Dr. Mujahid… Gosh the kekanda is not even worth mentioning! And let’s not even mention Kesavan Subramaniam, the Sungai Siput MP, who is now facing the accusation of having sexually harassed one of his political aide. This is so sick!

Let me enumerate below what are the issues I have been feeling upset about for the past few weeks.

1)Dr. M labelled Dr. MAZA as ‘pekak’

I was upset when Dr. M labelled Dr. MAZA as ‘pekak’ just because Dr. MAZA had said that Islam is being threatened under PH. Look, whether or not it is true that Islam is being threatened under PH, there is absolutely no call for you to label someone as ‘pekak’. If you disagree with someone, you rebut their points one by one! Simply labelling people when you disagree with them is a form of cheating…. it shows that you are too lazy to come up with a counter-argument and simply take an easy way out! I hate that in anyone! And to think that Dr. M did this, I was so disappointed.

If you listen to the clip above, Dr. MAZA came up with a lot of reasonable arguments regarding the unjust treatment subjected to Ustaz Zamri Vinoth. Therefore, if Dr. M disagrees with Dr. MAZA, he should have just answered on the issue without resorting to labelling Dr. MAZA as pekak! I expect more from Dr. M than this!

Below is my frustrated Facebook rants against Tun M.

Screenshot 2019-05-19 18.52.10

2) A DAP Senator  suggested for Malaysia to open an embassy in Israel. 

Nga Hock Cheh, a DAP senator, had – out of the blue – suggested that Malaysia should open an embassy in Israel, knowing full well that we don’t have ANY diplomatic relation with Israel.

What a stupid political move! Do you really want to be ‘kerajaan satu penggal, oh wahai PH? Malay Muslims will never vote PH again if you say something like this multiple times. Our patience has been stretched thin already! Prioritize your agenda! How does opening an embassy in Israel would advance you, politically? Are you so eager to alienate your Malay supporters? Do so at your own peril, I tell you.

GE 14 has shown that the rakyats can topple down the government that has overstep their boundaries. The Israel issue is a clear, indisputable boundary!

Nasib baik kau cepat sedar dan tarik balik kenyataan tu! Perhaps, you are trying to test the water, hmm? Don’t bother. When it comes to the issue of Israel and Palestine, our stand is CLEAR and it will NOT budge!

Screenshot 2019-05-19 18.53.08

3) There was also another nonsense suggestion to erase the status of religion in our IC. (For WHAT?!)

Some factions in DAP believe that stating your religion in IC is the cause of disunity in the country! Hahaha. What a joke.

You want to know what cause disunity in this country? YOUR insistence to maintain the existence of vernacular school is the MAIN reason Malaysians are not united. It is the main reason Chinese patients always request for Chinese doctors… because they can’t speak in Malay or English despite being born in this country! It is the main reason why some insensitive Chinese can have the audacity and the temerity to speak in their mother tongue when there are Indians and Malays in the group too. It is the main reason why Malay and Indian HOs in Penang had complained that their rude consultant had spoken in Chinese and effectively alienating HOs of other races in teaching rounds! This is why a lot of doctors in Penang GH had said that Chinese doctors (not all) in Penang are mostly racists!

Screenshot 2019-05-19 18.53.34

4)Questionable move by Youth And Sport Ministry to bring BTS into the country.

This is something I just cannot understand. Previously, mere days after winning the GE 14, Nurul Izzah had said that she wanted to bring Radiohead into Malaysia. (I don’t even know who is Radiohead, by the way). And now, Syed Saddiq wants to bring BTS (a Korean group) for a concert in Malaysia in an effort to promote the country.

Look, I am the sort of person who are not into anything Korean. Never really into their dramas or their songs or their culture in general. I seriously don’t know ONE SINGLE name of their actors or actresses.

Until the BTS issue came up in the social media.

I wrote a very lengthy Facebook post about this too. My stand is clear. I don’t think government should be seen to be so eager in supporting trivial, ‘picisan’ stuff! As a government, we should be seen to be focussing on serious stuff! Let the commercial people and the free market decide whether or not BTS should come to Malaysia. Kerajaan tak payah nak beriya-iya support. Doing that is such a stupid political move… the conservative Malays would not vote you anymore! Get it?

You shouldn’t make any statement supporting ‘lagha’ stuff happening in the country because it just looks, oh, so BAD when a politician is seen to be behaving like a fanatic enthusiast of foreign artists! Just be neutral and let the entertainment people bring them in if there is market for it! BUT YOU! MUST! STAY! CLEAR! OF TRIVIAL, PICISAN STUFF! Think about your credibility as a leader, PLEASE!

Screenshot 2019-05-19 20.55.36

5)The Education Ministry Is Just Not Doing A Good Job! 

From the very beginning, I had expected the Education Ministry to ABOLISH vernacular schools, reform the education system and gradually phase out the Bumiputera quota once vernacular schools are abolished. We need our future generation to be UNITED by one similar common background before we can talk about stopping the quota system.

Instead, among the first crazy thing we heard upon winning GE 14 was for the government to recognize a Taiwan-based UEC qualification! This is like throwing more confusion into an already chaotic education system!

I also had my own opinion about the move that Tahap 1 students not having to take exams because apparently, it is better to focus on manners and akhlak first. As though they cannot be learned simultaneously! But that’s just me. Maybe a lot of people out there prefer for their kids not to have exams. But I am the sort of person who wants some sort of benchmark to gauge the students’ understanding of the syllabus. So, I basically disapprove of this backward move because I don’t think learning manners and akhlak cannot be done simultaneously with academic learning. But I am not going to hold this against Education Ministry because I know how polarized the opinions on this are.

But to my dismay, from the very beginning the Education Ministry was seen to be focussing on trivial stuff. Like the wearing of black socks and shoes. Like the implementation of cashless business interaction at school. WHY???? Por que?? Aku tak faham! Why do the kids need to be cashless in school when outside the school, they NEED TO LEARN TO USE MONEY anyway! Where is the rationale in this action? (And my cynical brain is also asking, whose company benefits from this system? Who is the company who will be installing the machine necessary for cashless business interaction at schools?) 

Screenshot 2019-05-19 21.17.47

Nowadays, Dr. Maszlee has received criticism right, left and centre! He has nothing to lose if he just says “We will abolish vernacular schools. The standard 1 batch who first enters the new education system will no longer be subjected to any quota system when they are applying for matriculation, 10-11 years from now.” 

Two things will happen when he says that:

1)The kiasu Chinese (baca elok-elok. Aku cakap pasal Chinese yang kiasu sahaja. Bukan semua Chinese, ok? But kiasu Chinese.) will no longer dare to ask for quota to be abolished because THEY ARE NOT READY TO GIVE UP THEIR VERNACULAR SCHOOLS either.

2) He puts himself in a strong position to bargain for a quid pro quo. He comes across as someone who is interested in the unity of the people and willing to sacrifice the quota pula tu! He would seem reasonable and smart and willing to compromise for the future good of the nation! And when THEY insist not to abolish vernacular schools but at the same time still demanding for abolishment of the quota system, they would seem selfish and uninterested in national unity!

But what did he do instead? He said  something to the effect of “Quota should be there because even job openings are discriminatory. Private companies only hire mandarin-speaking candidates.” Gosh! Is he saying that one act of discrimination justifies the use of another act of discrimination?! “Oh sebab hangpa discriminate kami dalam pekerjaan, so kami discriminate korang dengan quota lah.” OMG…. no wise politician will say something like that!

Politicians should have basic debating skills, in my opinion.  Rather than comparing quota with job discrimination, you should compare quota with vernacular schools…. because the existence of quota is part of Hak Bumiputera. And if Bumiputera have to sacrifice their rights, then the non-bumiputera must also sacrifice their vernacular schools. Barulah comparable kat situ, faham tak? Barulah kau tak kena bash! Dan kalau kau kena bash pun, at least it will be for a WORTHY statement and a WORTHY move!

Now people are bashing him so badly in the comments section in Facebook and most of them are Chinese. See, YB? You are already unpopular as it is. Alang-alang dah tak popular dan masih asyik kena bash, might as well you simply take the most unpopular action of all by abolishing vernacular schools. Tak perlu nak jaga hati sesiapa… kau memang dah tetap tak popular di kalangan kiasu Chinese.

In fact, being unpopular now is a form of freedom for you. You can do what you believe as right because you know that catering and pandering to people is useless anyway. They still won’t like you. So chin up, and be firm! Just execute!

 

Screenshot 2019-05-19 18.58.01

***

If I had become a journalist, I am sure I will be the kind hated by politicians in BOTH the opposition and the government. Because I am TRULY NON-PARTISAN.

I will applaud your good move. But I will also scrutinize all your mistakes and crucify you in my article. It’s a good thing that I am not a journalist. It makes for a more peaceful life.

As a doctor, I am exactly the same. There are times when I will keep my opinion to myself because it’s just not worth it to argue over something trivial. But I do have my red buttons. Push them at your own peril! Most of the time, aku tak ada masa nak gaduh dengan orang. I have fictions to read, book reviews to write, studying to do, housechores to complete and I have a blog to update and articles to pen. And I also have to socialize and catch up with friends, reply Whatsapp messages and emails… so that they don’t think that I have forgotten them. Aku banyak kerja… tak ada masa nak cari gaduh.

But I have pet peeves. Okay?

And I have certain issues I am not willing to compromise. I don’t like discrimination within medical field. If you discriminate certain groups with your snide ‘budget bagus’ remarks, I will retaliate on their behalves or on my own behalf. I don’t like it if you try to discriminate my psychiatry department by sending us staff of questionable calibre, hiding behind ridiculous easily shredded reasoning! If you try to justify the bullying of HOs, I will get back at you and break your arguments point by point. If you try to ‘sound alim’ by telling people to ‘redha’ in order to cover up your own cowardice to fight on issues, I will make sure you know exactly what I think about it! Sebab aku paling pantang orang budget alim dan bagi bad impression tentang agama, padahal kau pengecut dan kau tak reti langsung nak berbahas secara ilmiah! If you are unjust in your statement (like Dr. M was towards Dr. MAZA), I will give you a taste of your own medicine so that in the future, you will think twice before giving out such statements.

And another of my pet peeves…. is of course, politicians and their crappy statements!

And my favourite topics are books, comparative religion, philosophy, cats, education, psychiatry practice and the health system.

So any issue that touch on any of these things, I will talk or write about them. If I had touched someone’s nerves when I talk or write about any of these topics…. well, oops, sorry! Lain kali kalau nak cakap, fikir dulu yang ada orang macam aku yang boleh membalas dan menjawab. Jangan ingat semua orang malu-malu kucing nak face you off.

Otherwise, I am content to mind my own business and just read a book! So please, give a wise comment when you talk about things like these with me. For your own well-being, please use a bit of your own critical thinking when talking about politics to anyone. Because if you happen to talk to me, I will scrutinize and rebut your argument point by point if I think your stand is wrong. If you cannot have a free mind, then you can NEVER understand people who DO HAVE a free mind and do not support any particular party just because it comes from any particular race. We generally avoid people like you. But if you are the ones who come to us criticizing our political stand… that’s ok, you can do that. But expect my rebuttals because I don’t keep my silence.

I leave you guys with a video by Dr. MAZA regarding how a Muslim must make a stand in their lives. We are committed to what is true and what is just. Anything less than that is not acceptable if we are a Muslim.

 

P/S: Alhamdulillah I fulfilled my promise to come up with 2 blog posts in May. Haha. 😉

Heartbreaking News In New Zealand

NZ

When I first found out that there was an ACT OF TERRORISM being committed at two mosques in Christchurch New Zealand on Friday resulting in 49 Muslims killed and many others injured, I was devastated.

I had  to stop my studying for awhile and just devoured the news that were spreading like bushfire in my Facebook newsfeed. I wanted to cry. But I couldn’t. My eyes just refused to cooperate to tear up. So, I was left with deep heaviness in my chest instead. I know that the heaviness will go away if I just cry. (This is my problem. It is always difficult for me to cry. I think if I could just cry, I can relieve this ache in my chest.)

I have been to Christchurch when I was a medical student. I went there  with my housemates for a holiday during the first semester break of my 4th year of medical school. We enjoyed our New Zealand trip very much because New Zealand is just such a beautiful country. I never thought that this tragedy could happen in New Zealand because my impression was New Zealanders were much more tolerant towards ‘other’ people compared to their Australian counterparts. They are more progressive in terms of giving their indigenous people (the Maoris) their rights and privileges. The rights of the Maoris in New Zealand are better preserved and protected than the rights of the Aboriginals in Australia.

So when something heartbreaking like this happened in Christchurch, I just could not process it!

And then I found out that the evil perpetrator behind this massacre was an Australian who has a Neo-Nazi political leaning.

Well…. I love Australian people. Most of them are lovely and kind. But some of them can be such racist rednecks! Five years in Australia taught me all I need to know about white supremacy and racism. My experience in Australia shaped me into the kind of person I have become now. I am a person who is super-sensitive to any form of racism or supremacy or ‘budget bagus’ group. You can judge anyone as an individual if you are so inclined. But don’t overgeneralize the whole group because of any mistake done by some individuals in that group. I COULD NOT tolerate that EVER. Muslims living in the West post 9/11 would understand the kind of suffering we had to endure when we were all painted with the same brush. To them, either we were evil terrorists or oppressed Muslim women! Either way, we were treated with suspicions and being looked at as inferior just because we wore the hijab outside the house.

I remember how I felt like I had to prove myself as a Muslim medical student in Australia. I had to do MORE to get the same kind of respect or esteem that the Australians effortlessly enjoyed. As an introvert, it took some adjustment for me to push myself to be extra-friendly, to be outspoken in tutorials, to join group discussions, to mingle with people (now doing these things is much easier for me these days… especially the outspoken part. Haha)  I had to do all these extra efforts in an attempt to contradict the degrading narrative of what being a Muslim woman was perceived to be (when actually, I really preferred to keep quiet and just went home and read my books). Whenever I couldn’t answer any question in the tutorial group, I felt so embarrassed (more embarrassed than I would have been if I were in Malaysia) because I felt like I was feeding the stereotype that Muslim women are stupid by my inability to come up with a sensible answer. I felt like I had to say something (anything!) in the tutorial even when I had nothing to say. I felt like I had to fill up my speech quota of the day in order to appear fully switched on and involved in the tutorial discussion. I felt that way after finding out that some tutors had complained to the admin that “the Malaysian students are too quiet and not participating in the tutorial discussion”. So during each tutorial session, I doubled my effort to appear extrovert because apparently, the more you talk, the more intelligent people think you are. *rolled eyes* (And yes, Australians are very extrovert! And so, people who are too quiet would be thought of as less intelligent or less capable) So, I strove harder in order to contradict the stereotyped image of what being a Muslim woman was. My sweetest moment was when my assignment on Health Equity Selective was being put up on my uni website (in our students blackboard page) as an example to the juniors in the batch below mine on how to write a Health Equity Selective project in the category of Psychiatry.  Me, an International student whose English is only a second language, got the opportunity to display my assignment as a guidance for the juniors to emulate when doing their psychiatry Health Equity Selective… I was over the moon! (Yup, I had chosen Psychiatry for my Health Equity Selective project. I have been interested in Psychiatry since I was a medical student and had chosen that field for my elective.) I was over the moon because I felt like I had proven a point. It was like, I was saying “See… a Muslim student is not that stupid. If we don’t talk as much in our tutorial session, it is because some of the things are obvious already… that it is not even worth mentioning. And English is our second language… it takes more energy for us to come up with any sort of conversation compared to you guys. If we are a bit slow in articulating our thoughts, that is only to be expected, isn’t it? Besides, we just don’t feel the need to stand out all the time.”

My Malaysian juniors were like “Kami bangga sangat tengok Health Equity Selective Kak Afiza masuk dalam blackboard. Malaysia boleh gitu!”

I laughed.

I am proud of my juniors too. I was proud whenever I see my Malaysian juniors were more well-adjusted and had assimilated better with other Australian students compared to us, the seniors. The juniors learned from our own mistakes and put more effort in making Australian friends. They experienced less criticism that “the Malaysian students do not mingle with people. They like  to keep  to themselves and don’t put in any effort to assimilate with the whole batch”.  As the years progressed and we started getting more Malaysian students among our junior batches, I thought, we were doing such a good job of portraying that Muslims were not as bad as what were shown in the media. Slowly but surely, I felt like the stereotype against Malaysian students were eroding. My heart burst out with pride when I saw how Malaysians were very heavily involved in our university Islamic Society (I myself was the treasurer of University of Newcastle Islamic Society at one time) and we were always the front-liners when it came to interacting with non-Muslims at the Islamic booth during Islamic Awareness Week. Compared to the Saudi or other Middle Eastern Muslims, Malaysian leadership shone bright in the Islamic Society. (Perhaps because our command in English was better than them). We could answer controversial questions about Islam quite well while guarding the booth. All in all, we were making pretty good progress.

But it could get pretty tiring. Always having to prove yourself over and over again is tiring. Whenever there were new incidents of terrorism and bombings in the Western world, I felt like all our hard work to prove that Muslims are good people were completely undone. And we had to do it all over again. Prove ourselves all over again. It was exhausting. Mentally and physically draining.

But I never regret any of it! Because the struggle that I had gone through made me who I am today. There is beauty in the struggle that we have to face in order to live up to our Muslim identity and Muslim ideals when we are living in a non-Muslim country. Looking back, I was my best self in spirituality when I was a medical student in Australia. Because of the struggle I had to face in Australia, I was more conscious of God and more connected to my religion than I ever was in Malaysia. I invested more time to learn about Islam properly (partly because I had to prepare answers for the questions that non-Muslims liked to ask). I was my most patient self when I was in Australia… because I was carrying the image of a Muslim and I did not want my bad behaviour to tarnish the name of my religion. In Australia, I had a purpose GREATER than my own self because I had to be a small ambassador to my religion! So despite all the struggles and the difficulties, I was very motivated. Our social support were the usrah-attending seniors who kept reminding us to be good, to do good, to strive for the hereafter and not just the dunya. (This is the part of myself that I miss the most, now that I am in Malaysia. I miss the Afiza who was nice. Because the current Afiza is not so nice! Hahah. Somehow, after coming back from Australia, I have retained my outspokenness but have not retained being nice. Perhaps because Malaysians are not always nice too….they are not always ethical…they don’t have values of respect or punctuality or cleanliness or efficiency…. they can be lazy…  they can trample on your rights… and if I am too nice and not outspoken enough, I will be oppressed. And I don’t want that.)

***

Allah had planned my life so beautifully, Alhamdulillah.

At 18 years old, I was grieving the death of my friend. Looking back, maybe I had an existential crisis at that time because I was so shocked by the fragility of life. That my friend could die at such a young age! I wondered, what was this life all about? For two years, I was wondering to myself about existential stuff, but afraid to vocalize them out for fear that they would label me “tak kuat iman”. And then Allah sent me to Australia where I met religious people who could answer all my questions. Alhamdulillah, my existential crisis resolved then. I became a firm believer. I came across someone in Melbourne who answered my questions patiently, systematically… scientifically, even! Suddenly, I felt a sense of spiritual awakening that I had never experienced before that summer, which was my first summer in Australia. I knew then that Islam is logical; that it makes sense! If things do not make sense, you must double-check whether it is truly religious in the first place. I was ecstatic and grateful for all that I had learned that summer.  It is nice to have real faith!  (I was so relieved! Finally, the horror of the Israilyat stories I had to swallow in KMB can be vomited out once and for all without feeling any guilt. That’s why I will always love Australia, the place where I had experienced an exponential growth, mentally and spiritually! There would never be a time when I think of Australia without a sense of nostalgia. It’s just not possible. Some of the things I had learned in Australia STILL influence my behaviour until now!)

I believe, some Muslims would have an existential crisis after witnessing this current heartbreaking incident. Some of the family members of the deceased might experience what I had experienced during the period of grieving. They would start questioning… why are there so many dreadfulness in this world? Why do people do evil things? Why didn’t God do something about it? Why didn’t He intervene? Why is this world so unfair? Why was I even created? What am I supposed to do in this life? Is Islam really the right religion? How do I know that? What if I am in the wrong faith… what will happen to me when I die, then?

They might have all these questions as they deal with the death of their loved ones. And hopefully, they will go through the cognitive process of finding the answers… and finally be at peace in their faith. You cannot bury these questions and silence your conscience. Repressing your doubts will not help you find peace. You must actively engage with your intellect and answer the questions that you have about the religion, about faith, about life after death. Otherwise, you will always be in doubt. And it won’t be real iman. You will not experience true peace that comes with firm belief. You will not feel confident to take any action, to speak up, to do what you believe is right… because you are not even REALLY sure if God is real and that He will help you out of any trouble.

So, don’t bury your internal existential crisis or your philosophical conflict. Answer them! Seek and you shall find! And believe me, what you find will be beautiful and priceless!

1771957-Yasmin-Mogahed-Quote-Your-life-is-nothing-more-than-a-love-story

 

***

Screenshot 2019-03-16 22.45.22
My Facebook status on the act of terrorism at the two mosques in Christchurch.

I have been busy preparing for my CASC exam these days. As usual, I am at my most neurotic self while preparing for exams, LOL. I would start thinking about how much money will be lost if I fail my exam. I would start thinking about “ah, aku dah tak larat nak study! I just want to be a chronic MO.” Hahha.

Sometimes, I mourn my lack of time for fiction reading. It is ridiculous how much I sweat the small stuff.

I forgot that there are other more important things in life other than being a nerd and passing your exam. I forgot that my fiction-reading are trivial, picisan stuff! Stuff of amusements and ‘main-main’.

Siapa yang melaksanakan kewajiban, mereka diberi PAHALA, dan bag

In other parts of the world, people are fighting for their lives!

On the same day that the mosques in  Christchurch were attacked, Israel had also launched series of airstrikes across Gaza! We have thousands, if not millions, of our Muslim brothers and sisters in various parts of the world undergoing physical and mental suffering… all at the same time! And I am worried about exams? And about reading fiction? Gosh, Afiza… you are preposterous!

Screenshot 2019-03-17 08.22.45

Sometimes, I have to admit, I can be really stupidly ridiculous. I am done worrying about trivial stuff! Because there’s more to life.

For as long as I can remember… everytime I was overwhelmed by my study, some sort of tragedy would be breaking news and made me realize that my struggle was not significant at all in the general scheme of things. For example, in 2010, while I was preparing for my final General Medicine exam, the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which was a civilian ship bringing aid to the Palestinians, was attacked by the Israel Navy in May 2010. The attack by the Israel Navy was bravely resisted by the civilians on the ship; nine activists died and many were wounded. I was worried sick about my exam at that time. But after reading about what had befallen the Mavi Marmara ship, I had felt similarly ridiculous as I am feeling now for being too worried over small stuff when people are fighting for something greater than even their own lives!

I composed a poem for Mavi Marmara at that time entitled FORGIVE MY SCOWL which I had uploaded into the poetry section in this blog. I composed that poem after taking a pause from studying my General Medicine notes in order to clear my muddled head and to lift up the overwhelming heaviness in my chest.

This is also why I am taking a pause from my CASC studying and writing this post today. To clear my head. To lift up the heaviness in my chest. Because I just couldn’t cry. Because to compose a poem, it would take a much greater mental strength than I possess. Because I am too mentally exhausted by all the bloodshed.

I pray, that all Muslims would unite together and peacefully respond to this sad calamity in a positive way. I hope, there will be no revenge bombing by Muslims because it would only make matters worse for our brothers and sisters in the West. Trust me, I had enough experience of how terrible it is to be in the West when so-called Muslims commit an act of terrorism somewhere. (Nak masuk lecture hall keesokan hari pun rasa nervous! Rasa malu! Belum lagi rasa takut kena attack bila terpaksa jalan berseorangan.) Please, no revenge bombing targeting innocent people, be it Muslims or non-Muslims. Please, no more bloodshed.

***

I leave all my readers with a reminder to live in this world like a traveler or a stranger. Because, really… isn’t that what we are? Until we reach our final destination, we are only a traveler along the path of life. Hopefully, we will find something precious and beautiful along the way.

stranger

#PaluSulawesi Reflection: A Spiritual Journey

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Flying for #Palu #Sulawesi. The view from the window of my flight journey towards humanity.

There are times when I sit back, to wonder and reflect on what I have done to deserve so much blessings in my life. Whenever I feel like life has become a little too mundane, a little too predictable or a little too comfortable (until I could feel my soul withering away in the midst of the same repetitive routine) God will send me a new experience to waken up my soul and rejuvenate my spirit. He didn’t let me continue being heedless and ignorant, comfortable in what little, insignificant things I have done in this life. He guided me to search for something MORE in life that would make my existence meaningful again… colourful again… hopeful again.

 

If God were to let me continue being the old me without any wonderful experience for personal and spiritual growth, I don’t know where I would be at this moment. Perhaps, I would be bored and disillusioned with life by now. But Alhamdulillah, every now and then He would send me to a #life #BootCamp to beat the disillusionment out of my soul and thrash the cynicism out of my heart.

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The Sierra Delta Team!

Relief Mission: Imaret4Sulawesi

I believe that the year 2018 is my year for volunteerism. And it so happens that 2018 was not my exam year (unlike the two previous years) and I could devote more time on social issues that I believe in. (God has perfect timing and perfect planning in the timeline he has created for the plot in my life story. Thank You, God.)

 

I volunteered to be a PACA in April/May 2018. I remember how MUCH I learned just by mingling with people of different background than me. Just by being involved in the process of election, I gained a lot of insight regarding the political arena in our country. Those are the knowledge I could not get simply by doing my favourite pastime of reading. Though it pains me to say this, I must admit that reading is not ALWAYS enough (I stupidly used to feel like I can pick up any book to learn on any subject without having to get out of my house. LOL). Reading only provides you a certain level of intellectual insight on any particular subject but it would not provide you with emotional insight, nuances, perspectives, reflections and most importantly #SpiritualGrowth and #PersonalMaturity which you can only gain by being in the field. It doesn’t even BEGIN to compare! Deductive learning (by reading) is great…. but inductive learning (experience in the field) is almost always superior!

 

When the news of earthquake and tsunami in Palu hit the media, I was devastated by the heartbreaking destruction and the numbers of life lost. My friend and I registered our names to several NGOs to volunteer to help, either as a medical/psychological team or just general aspect of volunteerism (food and basic needs distribution/cleaning crews / setting up tents). At last after 3 weeks of waiting with no response by any NGO, IMARET answered our application to volunteer as part of a medical team in which our tasks would include giving general health service as well as #PsychologicalFirstAid (PFA) to survivors. I can still recall how ecstatic me and Dr. H were to be called upon to serve in this relief mission by IMARET. Thank you, IMARET for giving us this opportunity to experience relief mission abroad. It was an experience of a lifetime that will never be forgotten, Insya Allah.

 

IMARET has slowly but surely gaining recognition for all their good humanitarian works which had first begun in December 2014. Just recently, IMARET had received the Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (IMSHA) in the category of Disaster Relief NGO. The IMARET tagline of “Charity Begins with You” conveys the principle that ANYONE can contribute to humanity in whatever capacity we can. There are many categories of volunteerism including arts, social services, health services, community empowerment, public safety, environmental protection, and disaster relief. If you are not a doctor but you are passionate about the environment for example, then join the relevant NGOs like Environmental Protection Society Malaysia or Malaysian Nature Society.

 

Personally, as a doctor, I joined MERCY, Islamic Relief and IMARET as platforms for my volunteerism. But I also joined other NGOs related to writing/arts. There is always something you can contribute to the society regardless of your career or your lifestyle. You just need to find it and take the leap. (For someone who is very skeptical to join any organization unnecessarily, I am all in when it comes to organizations involving volunteerism. I am not even a member of Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), see? But when it comes to volunteerism, I would join without a second thought.)

 

Let me share with my readers a certain insight I gained a few years ago about life. Most people think that volunteers are very altruistic and noble-hearted, who do all these charity because of the nature of their good hearts. While I am sure that those are, of course, true, to a certain extent, but it doesn’t explain the whole picture. As a psychiatry MO, I believe that behavior is sustained when it is rewarded. I don’t think of myself as kind, altruistic or noble by any stretch of the imagination (hahah! Really! Those who knew me KNEW that Afiza garang… mana ada dia nak baik hati tak pasal-pasal. Soft-spoken pun tidak. Mother Theresa jauh sekali bagai langit dengan bumi. Haha). But I volunteered anyway because the act in itself is rewarding to me. I have my own selfish reason for volunteering. For example, I gained immense satisfaction, pleasure and euphoria when I witnessed the previous government was brought down and replaced by PH when I volunteered to become a PACA. I volunteered then not because I was so noble… but because I was so angry and because I had things in life I cared about and I wanted to champion those issues! Not really because I was that good, or that nice or that altruistic who would sacrifice all pleasures in life for the sake of others. I am too practical and too realistic to ever achieve the kind of nobility and altruism that are usually associated with volunteerism. Seriously, Mother Theresa, I am NOT.

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This is the truth! You gain more than you give every time you decide to do something charitable. It is like Sunnahtullah!

So why did I volunteer to go to #PaluSulawesi recently? Again, not because I was that self-sacrificing or that altruistic with no self-interest whatsoever. Volunteering is addictive, you see. I did it FOR MYSELF! I did it for the experience it would give me. I did it for the knowledge and the wisdom I could gain. I did it to know how people cope with trauma and to experience the effect of their resilience on my own soul. It cleansed me in ways I could not even properly describe and explain. It must be experienced and felt. And that’s why I encourage all my readers to volunteer for a cause that you guys truly believe in… experience that feeling and that emotion first… go inductive… and come back and tell me whether or not you can describe yourself as altruistic when you decide to volunteer again and again and again. Once you have tasted it, you would KNOW that you volunteer for YOU! For the benefit that it gives YOU! For the wisdom and insight it gives YOU! Things you can never get by staying home and doing the same old thing over and over again. So, volunteerism actually benefits YOU! That’s the reward that sustains the behaviour. Really, for your own private reasons, you actually volunteer for yourself MOSTLY… not just for others!

 

So yeah, I volunteered to Palu because I remember how it had felt while volunteering previously… and I wanted to experience the emotional fulfilment and the cleansing of the soul and the mindful reflection that would come with the experience. Those are the rewards I gain by my volunteering. See? As I said, behavior is sustained when it is rewarded. The Sunnahtullah is such that charity benefits the giver more than the receiver. And that’s the truth.

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Hanging out with teachers!
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PFA with kids!
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Kids saying goodbye to me!

The Wonderful Colours Of Diversity

In this mission, I have met a journalist and a full-time Humanitarian worker. It was great to get to know people of different career background than me. For the first time in many years, I made non-doctor friends with whom I can hit it off immediately.

 

Usually, it would be quite difficult for me to feel at ease with people who did not have any common ground with me. Because, really… what would we talk about? I am not really a people person. When I talk to someone, there must be a reason for that communication to happen. I don’t seek interaction just for the sake of interacting… it would not be enjoyable to me.

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Arrival at Jakarta Airport. First day kenal team mates.
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In Palu Airport. Last Day of mission.
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With Dr. J at Puskesmas Nokilalaki.
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With BSMI team!
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The boys having fun at kolam air panas after a hard day of work.
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How we had our dinner every day.

 

But while being on a mission when you have to share the same limited space in the car for hours to reach a very deserted area where all the unmet needs are, you get to know each other better. You get to know their habits, their life philosophy, what makes them tick…. those are points of learning you wouldn’t get by interacting with people of the same background. Nothing challenges your preconceived ideas more than when you had to hang out with someone of a different background than yours. And boy… we had numerous conversations that challenged each others’s preconceived ideas and belief system. It was heated but it was fun. We didn’t always agree with each other but we reflected on each other’s points and it opened up our minds.

I guess, in that 10 days I felt young and youthful again. We could even argue over songs and lyrics played on the radio in the car… thinking that each other’s interpretation was somehow less accurate than our own. Haha. It was silly but still it was intellectually stimulating… a conversation I haven’t had with many people since I joined medical school.

When I was in MRSM Langkawi, my friends were those who wrote poetries, composed short stories and read literatures. We talked about books all the time. We talked about social issues and politics even when we were just secondary school students. My ambition then was to be a lawyer or a writer or a journalist…. things involving social sciences rather than pure sciences. But alas, my scholarship was in medicine and nowadays I found myself surrounded by people who are mostly clinical rather than creative. I still read and write…. But I no longer have the same type of friends who share my interest and with whom I can talk about books and social or political issues that used to fire my soul when I was younger. (One of the reason I fought so hard to get into psychiatry was because this field has the closest resemblance to social sciences compared to other specialties).

I guess, for that short 10 days I felt young because I was learning and absorbing knowledge like a new baby being thrusted into the world for the first time. Just like a baby whose world shifted from that of the mother’s womb to that of the planet earth, MY world shifted from the cocoon of all that is medicine to the larger concept of what humanitarian is all about. THAT is the difference between volunteering in an NGO than in MOH… you get a taste of a different flavor. A forgotten flavor that I used to taste and now fully remember. And it was refreshing.

When you hang out with a journalist or a humanitarian worker, they told you of their experiences covering news and volunteering in war zones. The conversation was new, novel and interesting. They told you stuff that you only read from your thriller novels all these while… of international intelligence network, of humanitarian issues, of battles and conflicts that you could only see on TV.

They taught me and Dr. H the concept of having a ‘grab bag’. They said that as non-civilians, their grab bags are something that would always be with them wherever they go. They have been trained that way…to always be ready to run and leave everything behind with only their grab bag in hand. Since then, me and Dr. H created our own grab bag… a much simpler version of their own grab bags. Ours only contained our purse, phone and passports. Theirs contained money, phone or any other mode of communication, passports, laptop or any gadget required for them to complete their mission, change of clothes and survival necessities (water/ simple energizing food).

Listening to their stories, looking at their inspiring Instagram pictures of all their previous missions… I felt a certain amount of poignancy and nostalgia. Suddenly, the poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost knocked my mind. I wondered then, how my life would be if I had said no to my medicine scholarship.

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With the journalist (the one in a yellow scarf). He wrote about #PsychologicalFirstAid and submitted his article in Kosmo. Our names were mentioned in his article as part of the PFA team bringing Upin Ipin into Sulawesi. We were so excited when we read his article. Haha!
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My facebook status… telling all my facebook friends that my name was mentioned in Kosmo. hahaha. Childish, MUCH?

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This is a screenshot of the particular part of the Kosmo article where my name and the names of my teammates were mentioned. We all couldn’t stop gushing over the article 😀 and we thanked the journalist profusely LOL.

People Who Touched Your Heart

And then there were the survivors… fellow human beings who touched your heart with their beautiful resilience and amazing coping mechanism.

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At Puskesmas Nokilalaki with Ibu Muznah and my team mates.

We met survivors who had continued working at Puskesmas (Pusat Kesihatan Masyarakat) while dealing with their own loss and grief. Their welcoming smiles totally warmed my heart. It embarrassed me when they thanked me over something that I felt so small and insignificant. We were at Puskesmas seeing cases in the general clinic and never expected to be given lunch or anything. We brought our own breakfast bars for lunch. But look at what they provided for us every day we were there! Great yummy lunch that we never expected to get while on a mission! We felt like our own small effort is nothing compared to their own acceptance of our presence. It was a truly humbling experience. It is amazing how you can develop closeness quite effortlessly but deeply just because all of you have the same mission and the same goal!

 

 

In that 10 days in Palu, there were times when I surprised myself by thinking “Now, I know why relationship is important. Why networking is vital in a mission! It makes your work process so much easier!” I used to feel like “I can sacrifice relationship over my version of truth, my principles and what I believe as right. You either follow me or you don’t. But I am gonna do it and there is nothing you can do to stop me!” I am even like that with my own parents and my family… and they have learned to accept that part of me so selflessly all these years and I never thought a thing about it. I took it all for granted. To a certain extent, I STILL believe that truth and justice should always trump everything else in life. But these days, I started thinking that maybe there are ways I can have my principles/truth/justice and still maintain heartwarming relationships with people and mind their feelings a little bit. Well, I don’t know. Cognitive dissonance is hard to detangle.

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At Puskesmas Banpres with the staff!
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One last picture on our last day at Puskesmas Banpres

And the kids! They were entertained by the simplest of things. It was so easy to coax laughter out of them. Look, I am not great with kids, in general. I am not entertaining enough and I don’t know how to act all adorable and silly with kids. I mean… heck, I am a serious person most of the time. My jovial side can only be accessed by someone I am already close to and even then, I am not all that humorous, LOL. But when you are on a mission, you have no choice but to strengthen your free-traits and put aside your biogenic traits for awhile. So that’s what I did. Performing and conducting one class full of kids every day are hard work, guys! At the end of each session…. I was drained and exhausted. But it was a good kind of exhaustion! The best kind!

 

Theme Song

Towards the end of our mission, we the Sierra Delta group members (the 4th group sent by IMARET to Sulawesi) had experienced hardships and joy, tears and laughter, quarrels and reconciliation. I would say, we knew each other’s characters and annoying habits quite well at the end. Hahaha. (I know, I can be annoying. LOL. Tabik spring to them for their kind tolerance).

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Our last meal in Indonesia at Jakarta Airport.We left Palu bringing back beautifully poignant memories. 

After all our numerous daily talk and conversation about songs, one of my group members could already predict what sort of songs I would like or dislike. One day, he just told me to find this particular song on YOU TUBE that he was sure would be my type of song. I was very skeptical about it initially. But I clicked on the song anyway for the whole Sierra Delta group to listen to. And what a surprise… I was immediately in love with that song. The title of the song is Menimbang Rasa by an Indonesian singer, Oslan Hussein.  I was so amazed that he could predict my taste in songs so well! Haha.

We played that song while being on a journey to various deserted areas to conduct PFA sessions and I have come to think of that song as a theme song of our experience in Palu Sulawesi. Our group song!

Until now, I keep putting the song on repeat. Haha. This is what I call as  #CannotMoveOnSyndrome. 

Have a listen and let me know if you love the song like I do. 😉

I end my reflection of my experience in #PaluSulawesi here, my dear readers.  Until next time, I remain, your humble blogger.

P/S:

My next post would InsyaAllah be on the details of the actual mission itself. And there were a lot of details to write about but it would be too cramped to share everything in one post. So if you are interested in humanitarian mission and would like to know the mental and physical preparation required, the actual work involved and everything else, stay tuned!

My GE 14 Saga With Invoke (Illustrated By My Facebook Status)

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“Kak Ngah, careful what you write on facebook. Kak Ngah tu penjawat awam.” My mom admonished me one day when I went back to my parents’ house for a visit.

“Kenapa pula, mak? Kerajaan dah bubar. La ni mana ada kerajaan. Time ni lah nak berkempen, nak cakap apa pun.” As usual, I was being my obstinate self.

So, my mother left me to my own devices.

 

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The truth is, I use social media to advocate for what I believe in… not really to connect with friends or acquaintances. With real friends, I would just call, or whatsapp or simply meet them face-to-face.

I use facebook to read interesting articles shared by friends, to follow pages of political parties,  NGOs or associations, to follow the news by BBC/Al-Jazeera/CNN… well basically, just to be in the know. And just to update my store of general knowledge. I think Facebook revolutionized the rate of news acquisition and the variety of general knowledge we can be au courant in. That’s why I usually approve most of my friend requests by Facebook even when I don’t really know the person requesting to follow me. These people will share their own news and articles of their liking, and therefore I get to read and learn something new other than my own existing interest. At the same time, the more people reading my Facebook status, the more people I get to reach to share ideas and beliefs with. Facebook is great for social advocacy, if you care about that sort of thing. (But I make sure my instagram followers are real friends that I have actually met and like. haha. I post a lot of silly pictures on instagram, so I am pretty particular about who I am friends with on instagram. My silliness  are reserved for certain people only.)

In the days leading to the historical GE 14, I was very, very active on Facebook. I shared article upon article from many sources that I came across. All those articles had one important thing in common; they all condemned the BN government. My parents were getting pretty worried about how transparent I have made of my opinion about the government.

But to me, if not now, when?

Are we supposed to keep silent when something clearly evil and unjust are happening around us just because we are too selfish to jeopardize our position? Even at the stake of the nation?

So how are we different from the people around Najib whom we labeled as “spineless, corrupted and brainless” in their blind support of Najib. People were always wondering “Kenapalah orang-orang sekeliling Najib ni tak tegur dia? Kenapa diorang tak cuba perbetulkan apa yang salah? Don’t they have the balls to fight for the rakyat?”

Wow! Pandai kita nak suruh orang lawan Perdana Menteri! *clap clap* Well, ask yourself why you couldn’t even speak up for something right even in your own small department! If we ourselves are a ‘yes-boss’ man, then we have no rights to criticize the ministers around Najib! Kita yang lebih bacul! Pengecut di medan kampung! I have no respect for any type of cowardice. These sort of people will never earn my respect or admiration. They hide their weakness and cowardice behind the mask of diplomacy… when the truth is, they are cowards… fighting is just too hard for them… so they just go with the flow. Selfishly, ruthlessly uncaring of the subordinate’s or the rakyat’s plight. Shameless! Shameless! Shameless!

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My facebook status, sharing Tun M’s open letter to all UMNO members! One really powerful letter! I am sure ramai ahli UMNO sendiri undi PH!

List of Oppression committed by Najib (and the list is NOT exhaustive)

-Dropping Abdul Ghani as AG and replacing him with Apandi

-Removal of two MACC directors for investigating 1MDB (Datuk Bahri Mohd Zin and Datuk Rohaizad Yaakob)

-Removal of Bank Negara Governor (Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar)

-Sacking of Muhyiddin Yassin and Shafie Apdal

-Removing of Mukhriz as Kedah MB

-Unfair election tactics in which the Election Committee was basically under Najib’s thumb-

– gerrymandering

-election day set on a weekday 

-unfair anti fake-news law

-Registrar of Society refusing to recognise Pakatan Harapan 

-the banning of Tun M’s face in campaign posters

-the rule of 10 days notice to campaign in other constituencies.

All these resulted in an unlevelled playing field between BN and PH in the GE 14. These are Najib’s obvious attempt to steal an election. 

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I was getting heartily sick of the oppressive cruelty of BN, to the point that I have made some mental plans to migrate to Brunei or Singapore or the UK when I have finished my final exam. I remember thinking “Thank God, I took the MRCPSYCH pathway, so that my qualification is recognized everywhere in the world. I can just pack up and get out!” And I was not the only one who had made plans. Some of my Chinese friends wanted to migrate to Australia… and I didn’t blame them. They have kids whose future are their primary concern, enough said.

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A few days after the dissolution of the parliament, I saw the status in the INVOKE Facebook page about how they needed 20,000 volunteers for the election. And they only had 4000 so far. That piece of news came across as very alarming to me. That was 16,000 volunteers short of what they actually needed!

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I started calling for other people to join INVOKE when I found out that they only had 4000 volunteers at that time.

I wanted Najib and BN to lose… but how could I expect PH to win when they were the underdog fighting against the bully in an unlevelled playing field that seemed to  favour the bully?

PH did not have as much funds as BN to help them campaign and win the election. They didn’t have much funds to entice people to act as their polling agent and counting agent. All they had were their ideals and their integrity and their sincere desire to rebuild the nation.

Guys, I am not the sort of person who like to do any sort of work that involves having to meet and socialize with complete strangers. I don’t enjoy being placed in a situation of discomfort involving getting to know people in order to have to work with them.But it spoke volume of how much I loathed and despised Najib and the BN government that I could even overcome my dislike of meeting strangers and just registered my name online as an INVOKE volunteer. (It spoke volume of how much Mahathir and the opposition hate Najib when they could collaborate to topple him! I NEVER thought I would see Mahathir and Anwar team up again in my lifetime!)

I am the sort of person who love spending my free time reading and writing and surfing the internet for ideas and inspiration to write…that I have never done one single locum in my entire life! All my free time is for me and my hobbies and my family….I make sure my salary is enough for my lifestyle without any need to supplement my income in other ways. And now that I am furthering my study, my free time is even more precious because I get so little time to read now.

If the situation was not so dire, I would never willingly volunteer at INVOKE. I would just inconspicuously watch the progress of the election campaign while being an ardent supporter in the social media rather than actually having to be personally involved or having to come down to the Pusat Operasi Pilihanraya, or having to meet complete strangers and making small talk. In my mind…. doing all these is agony! 

But the situation was dire. It was critical. They needed volunteers and I could not ignore the Invoke’s call anymore. (I had ignored some of the INVOKE facebook status calling for volunteers in the past. I tried to silence my conscience by thinking that other people would step up soon and there was no need for me to volunteer.)

As I have mentioned before… I believe in effort. I really do. I believe God will help you if you are sincere and your effort is enough. The fact that you put in some effort is already a mark of sincerity. If you are just being wishful of a government change without really doing anything…. how really sincere is your wish for a government change?

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I took the opportunity to attend a MEGA PACA course when it was held on the 13th of April at Dewan Lip Seang Khor in Sungai Petani, which was quite convenient for me as I live in Alor Setar. I didn’t know anyone there. I went there and had to make conversation with a bunch of older ladies because I sat with them at the same table. But despite all the social discomfort, I learned a lot at this course. It was packed with knowledge regarding the election process, the important roles played by PACA as the last defense against a rigged election process, what we have to do if there were some hanky panky (blackouts, anyone? haha). And I noticed how utterly prepared the PH people were this time around. For example, we were provided with the number of lawyers near our area who we could contact should we need them to come to us for any legal issues that might have taken place in each saluran.

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I guess, many people were like me. We were all so alarmed by the small number of volunteers… so we volunteered ramai-ramai and within a week, the number of volunteers increased from 4000 to 17,594 PACAs!

 

Within a few days after registering online to be an INVOKE volunteer, I was added into INVOKE Kedah Whatsapp group. And later, I was added into Parlimen Pokok Sena Whatsapp group,… and then later I was added in DUN Bukit Pinang Whatsapp Group… and then I was added in Hutan Kampung Whatsapp Group (because that was the polling centre where I would be doing my PACA duty).  Yupp… so many whatsapp groups. My whatsapp traffic had never been so busy before the days leading to the GE14. These whatsapp groups contained political hot news and latest information, but sometimes also rumours and hearsay. I was inundated with political datas! But it was up to my judgment how much I wanted to believe them.

When I first went to Pusat Operasi Pilihanraya DUN Bukit Pinang, I met Kak N (the DUN candidate’s agent) who proceeded to brief me regarding my PACA duties and the area I would be assigned to. We went straight into business without much unnecessary small talk (Thank God). I was asked to sign Borang Sumpah Kerahsiaan (Borang A) that all polling agents must sign.  Then, I was immediately made comfortable when we talked politics and our common aspirations for Malaysia and our dissatisfaction towards PAS (the PAS topic will be in my next post, insyaAllah)

I tried to avoid telling the people in the pusat operasi about my job as a doctor. I really didn’t think it was that relevant to what I was volunteering to do. But they kept on asking where I was working, and then which department… and what exactly did I do in that department… they were relentless in pursuing all my vague answers. They were so surprised to have a doctor volunteering as PACA. All these while they had people of a lower socioeconomic status volunteering to do these sort of work… and mostly for the allowance money (which was not even that much. Only RM 50).

It was like PKSN (program khidmat sosial negara) all over again. I was the only one from MRSM school who volunteered to attend PKSN… and had to make new friends with people of different background from me. Intelligent students don’t seem to care much about volunteering… they are less patriotic… they care only about studies and the number of As they could obtain. After SPM, they will go travel overseas, and get a driving license… they care about themselves and things they can do to advance themselves. If their names come up for PLKN training, they rush to see a doctor to get the doctor’s confirmation of how unfit they are to be a PLKN trainee.  I wonder sometimes, do these intelligent people have any higher ideals in their lives beyond their own day-to-day life? Don’t you care about the country? 

I guess, doctors and professionals are just too busy to be volunteering. But wait a minute… my Chinese friend who is also a doctor had volunteered as PACA too (but at a different DUN than mine). Most of my Chinese friends do a lot of volunteer works for Tzu Chi. My doctor friends from Australia do a lot volunteer works too. Volunteerism is like a way of life. Intelligent people in other places and within other races will volunteer because they have ideals they want to champion!

It is not so among Malay professionals, though. What we like to do is simply to become keyboard warriors and just ineffectively vent out our frustrations with each other (but not in front of the boss. Hahaha! See?) Anyone who is too vocal or too blunt is considered an anathema. This is something in the Malay culture that is so rotten that it stinks so bad. The Malay attitude of  “berdiplomasi, hormat tak kena tempat,” is the very reason BN could get away with daylight robberies and blatant oppression all these years. They KNEW the Malays’ anger  “tak ke mana”. Maybe we had deserved the sort of government we had had all these while.

The day before the election, I came down to Pusat Operasi again to take my SPRM name tags as a counting agent and a polling agent. I realized that our situation was so dishearteningly sad. I was quite worried, to be honest, when I compared the PH’s resources to that of BN and even PAS. Other parties had many agents, so they could do a duty roster consisting of 3-4 shifts, allowing their polling agents to rotate duties frequently. And they had different people to be the polling agents and the counting agents. Whereas for us, our duty as a polling agent was continuous with our duty as the counting agent too. We only had two shifts as polling agents from 7.30 am until 5 pm. From 7.30 until 12.30, the first polling agent would be on duty (while the second polling agent went to vote). From 12.30 to 5.00 pm, the second polling agent would take over from the first polling agent (to allow the first polling agent the opportunity to cast his own vote)  Because I was the second polling agent, I had to negotiate with my first polling agent to allow me to pray my Zohor prayer first before I took over from him. And after 5 pm, the first polling agent will return and join the second polling agent at the saluran, but this time, both of the polling agents would switch their ‘polling agents tags’ to ‘counting agents tags’. 

See? That’s why I was given two tags: polling agent and counting agent! We were so short of staff. We could only watch as other PACAs from other parties came and went and rotated multiple times for toilet breaks, lunch time and even ‘rokok time’. 

 

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And while other parties sent two polling agents each shift (one for the DUN candidate and one for the Parliamentary candidate), we could only send one agent. So I was the polling agent for both DUN and Parliament candidates. Double the work…. double Borang 13 to be filled, double Borang 14 to be filled. And it was also my first time doing all these! I was such a novice and was simply learning everything on the go. Thank God the PACAs from PAS were quite helpful. PH agents and PAS agents formed a kind of team, helping each other… we didn’t talk to  the BN agents as much. Haha. 

The polling and counting process in my saluran was quite smooth-sailing. Our presiding officer (ketua tempat mengundi/KTM) was quite cooperative and very reasonable. After all the paperwork was done, and all the numbers tallied nicely, my Borang 14 which contained the formal result for each saluran was signed without any hassle. I snapped the picture of Borang 14 and sent it through the Whatsapp Group. And then all the PACAs and SPRM officers said our goodbyes and our apologies for any offences caused.  I went out of the polling center at 8.00 pm and managed to submit my Borang 14 at the Pusat Operasi around 10 minutes past 8.00. People in the Pusat Operasi asked me to join them hanging around but I politely excused myself. My duty was done and I needed to withdraw to my own familiar environment.

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My facebook status after I have submitted my Borang 14 to the Pusat Operasi, which meant that my PACA duty was done and dusted. Alhamdulillah.

I rushed to my parents’ house for Maghrib prayer and Isha prayer and then I came down to be with the whole family in the living room to watch Astro Awani on TV (even though we ended up following the results through the internet because the election results on TV was so slow). I have never been THIS excited in following the election results before. This time, I was directly involved in the process, directly involved in the making of history.

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This was my facebook status while awaiting the results of the election. I was alarmed when I heard that in some places in Sabah, KTM had refused to sign the Borang 14.  My friends in my various Whatsapp  asked me whether everything was ok at my saluran. I reassured them that everything was smooth and fine at my saluran. And they made their usual joke about me “Berani KTM nak buat pasal kat tempat Afiza jaga”. Hahha. But actually, the more experienced PAS PACA was much more vigilant than I was. I only followed what they did and supported all their objections. LOL.

I only slept at 4.00 a.m when I was reasonably sure that PH had won. I could never sleep before knowing for sure who was the winning party. The whole family was jubilant! We had dreamed of this… but we didn’t dare to dream hard because it felt like a battle between David and Goliath! In that historical battle, David had won, of course. But how sure were we that PH could replicate David’s epic win against all odds? It felt too far-fetched…too good to be true… too much of a fairy tale. We toiled and persevered to  the end, of course… but we didn’t dare to hope too much, lest we would be too disappointed.

But miracualously, Alhamdulillah, PH had won against all odds too! What do you know, huh? See? Dreams do come true, sometimes. 

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Haha! Nampak tak merah menyala status Mak Ngah! Merah itu kemarahan rakyat terhadap kleptokrat! Dan merah itu juga semangat juang dan semangat kemenangan rakyat!

I felt like all my effort and my exhaustion and my emotional investment in the whole thing had paid off. I played a very small role in this election, I only did what I could… but it accumulated into a big collective effort. Our role as PACAs and as responsible Malaysian voters paid off! We had grasped in our hands a resounding success!

Thank You, Allah, for always reminding me repeatedly that efforts are required for us to receive YOUR help… even when it felt like it was against all odds. YOU had allowed me to experience the same Sunnahtullah again and again. That I should always “Tie my camel, then trust in Allah.” Don’t bother about the odds. Just do your part!

Allah said that He is what His slave expects Him to be.

The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Allah the Most High said, ‘I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’”

So expect that Allah will grant you your dreams when you do your part! And you yourself will channel your effort according to your expectations. Expectation is a powerful thing! We work in accordance to our own expectation and ideals about ourselves and others. And if we set a low standard in how we should behave, then that’s it! We won’t volunteer, we won’t fight, we won’t lift a finger, we won’t speak up… we will just be cowards!

I am sure the GE14 saga will be made into a political case study in political science courses around the world. Our election was closely followed by International media the world over. How a small nation can topple a kleptocratic government without shedding even one drop of blood! That’s gloriously inspirational! That’s something Malaysians should be proud of!

The peaceful Malaysian Spring bloomed hopeful flowers rather than burned building and damaged bridges! May 13 tragedy has been overshadowed by May 9 victory. People won’t talk about May 13 without also talking about May 9 to the future generation next time. This is the power of the rakyats who came together for their love of Malaysia, putting their racial consideration aside! Look how far we could achieve when we fight hard enough.

For now, I leave you guys with more pictures of the election day and some of my FB status throughout the election day.  Here they are!

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Screenshot 2018-05-24 09.09.07

 

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I put up this status the day after the election day! I was so happy that PH won! Alhamdulillah.

Everyone played a small part… even the postal voters did what they could in their own limited capacity! But collectively, it made up into a gigantic effort that had succeeded in toppling the kleptocrats! This is our glorious Malaysian history!

And yes… oh yes… what a time to be alive!

 

 

The Grit of A Beloved Patriot

I grew up when Tun Mahathir was the prime minister of Malaysia.

My whole family adore this guy. Like, seriously.

It almost felt like I was indoctrinated to adore him. He was my Prime Minister throughout my whole schooling years. In school, the concept of ‘Wawasan 2020’ envisioned by Tun Mahathir never failed to grace the lyrics of our dikir barat or the sub-theme of our choral speaking. His famous words of ‘Leading By Example’ (Kepimpinan Melalui Tauladan) was used numerous times in our debate speech. His ‘Look East Policy’ (Dasar Pandang Ke Timur) was also a favourite theme in any elocution contest.

You see, the reason Tun M was very quotable was because he was very original and very visionary. And remember, in his student days he was a writer, writing scathingly against the British and Tun Abdul Rahman by using the pseudonym of CheDet. He is quotable because he is talented with words and know how to use them to describe his vision.

My admiration in him remained strong even after the Anwar scandal. It was made even sturdier after he successfully steered our country out of a painful financial crisis.

My father always talked about the brilliance of Tun M in bringing back Malaysia from the brim of disaster that was the 1997 financial crisis. We talked about how he defied the IMF formula in managing the financial crisis and how with great courage he did the unconventional thing and went counter-current by choosing to peg our Malaysian ringgit at 3.80 ringgit to 1 US Dollar. How he turned a deaf ear to all the uproar of criticism when he firmly stuck to his decision of ringgit pegging. He was so resolute. So determined.

 It took balls to ignore criticism and do it your way. And when it turned out to be the best way anyway, the sweetness of victory must taste like the manna of heaven.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying he is perfect in my eyes. Because no one is perfect.  But we cannot deny that during his leadership, our county made progress in leaps and bounds. His style of leadership was so different from the usual inefficient, timid ways of the Malays. He has the willingness to put forward unpopular strategies, the courage to be confrontational, the desire to instil discipline and introduce competition. He is gutsy! And I admire guts in anyone because that is something Malays are very lacking in.

I read a book written about him when I was in standard 6. I still remember the title of the book; ‘Mahathir Di Sebalik Tabir’.  The book was written by Zainuddin Maidin in the early 90s. I remember how proud I was when I read about The Dawn Raid (of The London Stock Exchange) and The Buy British Last Policy.  When the book was written, the financial crisis  did not yet happen. But I came across that book in Sekolah Rendah Asma school library when the financial crisis was ongoing. Reading that book gave me a glimpse of what kind of man Dr. Mahathir was and it gave me hope that he would be the man to turn the financial crisis around, God willing. I never doubted that SOMEHOW, SOMEWAY, Malaysia would get out of the crisis successfully in his premiership. It was at the age of 12 years old that I learned to really admire this patriot, thanks to the book ‘Mahathir Di Sebalik Tabir‘. I particularly enjoyed reading the episode of the Buy British Last Campaign which had ended with Lady Margaret Thatcher having to strike a deal with Dr. Mahathir to end the campaign. I particularly loved his firm witty words in his letter to Margaret Thatcher. At last our former colonizer had to acknowledge the power and sovereignty of a small developing country like Malaysia. That is a sweet victory!

A few years ago, I also bought his autobiography: A Doctor In The House, his famous memoir. I have finished reading all the 1000++ pages some time ago. But I found myself re-reading some of the chapters recently after I came across his HILARIOUS facebook status regarding the recently held Sinar Harian forum “Adakah Tun M terlalu tua untuk jadi PM.”

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He wrote in his facebook status “I am here guys. Say it to my face.” There was a picture of him sitting at the front, directly facing the stage where the panelists were talking about whether he was too old to be a PM. (Hahah. ROFL.) One panelist in particular was made uncomfortable by his presence. Such a stomach-tickling moment that one was.

That’s how you fight your enemies. Boldly seek them out. Go face-to-face. With bravery and a flash of humour.

Below is the you tube video of the whole forum session. The forum wasn’t that factually stimulating, in my opinion.  But I watched it anyway just to see the moment when pandemonium broke loose as  Tun M calmly sauntered into the room. Haha.

So funneh!!

Tun M reminded me of one of my favourite TED talk in YOU Tube about the power of grit. In the end, it wasn’t your IQ that made you stand out and succeed. It was grit. The not giving up. The persistence. Grit makes you try one more time. Do it again and again. Until you get it right. Until you attain what you wanted. Until you excel at things.

Listen to this 6 minutes TED talk, guys. It would totally inspire you, I promise.

Tun M, a 93 year old man, is surely one gritty man! A passionate patriot! A great sophisticated statesman.

I wish him luck in his political career at this age. And I hope he will win his parliamentary seat, wherever it is he will be contesting for the upcoming general election. Even if he is too old to be a prime minister (but if anyone could do it at this age, it is him, God willing), I don’t think he is too old to be an MP.

Tun M has my utmost admiration. Forever shall he be remembered as the best Prime Minister Malaysia has ever had.

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Inductive Learning Vs Deductive Learning

Whenever people ask me “how to be good in English?” I am really at a loss for how to answer the question. Because, I actually am not that good. And this is not false modesty. There are so many other brilliant English writers and speakers out there.

Trust me, I still make grammatical mistakes. I check, double check and then triple check my assignments/medical reports all the time just to make sure I don’t make simple grammatical mistakes (as opposed to complicated grammatical mistakes, in which case, I can still forgive myself because I am not a native English speaker, after all).

We all have different ways of learning. My way of learning might be different from yours. Some people learn deductively. Some people learn inductively.

Deductive and inductive reasoning are both a method of learning. But I would argue that in general, when you are studying science, you must primarily go deductive; otherwise you will learn very slowly via the inductive method because you need a mountain of evidence before your induction can be proven. (In science, there is an equally important place for both inductive and deductive reasoning. But we generally do deductive reasoning when conducting our systematic reviews/meta-analysis)

When you are studying arts/language/ religion, you must primarily go inductive, because deductive reasoning in arts/language/religion will not yield a comprehensive view of the matter! (But there is a place for deductive reasoning in arts/language/religion as well)

Let me explain.

In general, inductive reasoning uses a large number of specific observations to reach a general principle. (the bottom-up approach)

induction

 

Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, uses a premise (a general principle assumed as true) to decide what must be true in a specific case. (the top-down approach)

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Deductive Learning

Deductive Learning is simple. You have a hypothesis. You come up with premises/evidence that support your hypothesis. You then confirm your  hypothesis with your conclusion.

If A is B (premise 1) , and B is C (premise 2) , therefore, A is C (conclusion).

Hypothesis: All cats have hearts.

Premise 1: All cats are mammals. (general observation/evidence)

Premise 2: All mammals have hearts (another general observation/evidence)

Conclusion: All cats have hearts (specific confirmation that will only be true if the premises are true)

In science, we mostly use deductive reasoning to reach a conclusion. This is the method we use in quantitative study like systematic review and meta-analysis.

You gather all the premises pertaining to the subject, and then you analyse the premises, and then you come up with the conclusion.

The downside of this method is, if your premise is wrong, if your ‘evidence’ is manufactured/faulty/misleading, or if you have not finished examining ALL evidence out there, then your conclusion will be incomplete or actually wrong altogether! Khalas!

For example:

Premise 1: All birds can fly (false)

Premise 2: Ostrich is a bird (true)

Conclusion: Ostrich can fly (false)

 

Another example of deductive reasoning:

Premise 1: If God exists, there will be no disaster in this world (false)

Premise 2: There are many disasters in this world (true)

Conclusion: God doesn’t exist (false)

 

Inductive Reasoning

In inductive reasoning, you examine specific examples/options to get to a general conclusion. Say, you have Option A, Option B or Option C. How are you going to get a nice general conclusion (or make the best choice) out of these options? How to choose properly when you have not experienced each option individually, yet?

Inductive reasoning are more exploratory in nature. You are not trying to come up with general statements and narrow it down to a conclusion like in deductive reasoning. Instead you explore and keep on asking further questions and branch out into other related issues and keep on researching until there is nothing else to research (until you reach data saturation or theoretical saturation!) This is the method we use when we are doing qualitative study.

For example, you will start by asking specific questions (as opposed to general statements assumed to be true like in deductive reasoning): Does God exist? What are the evidence for it? What are the evidence against it? Why are there so many disasters in the world if God exist? But there are so many beautiful events as well. Maybe God exists but does not really play an active role in our lives? Is it possible to believe in God without having to follow any organized religion? Hmm… I wonder, what do other religions say about God?

Get it? See the difference between this type reasoning compared to the deductive one? This one is very deep, very exploratory. This is something you do when you are studying arts and philosophy! 

An atheist who suddenly wants to investigate the existence of God, for instance, would learn Buddhism first and will explore everything there is to know about Buddhism. When dissatisfied with Buddhism, he might go on to learn Christianity next. And if he fails to find the evidence of God in Christianity, he will then learn Judaism next. And then he might move on to Hinduism and then Islam. But each time he moves from one option to another, he would learn it thoroughly and experience it and live it. He will keep on exploring one option after another until he finally finds the one true religion (if he ever finds it).

So, in religion, you must do inductive reasoning in order to feel properly settled that you have come to the right one! You must explore! Explore all statements and experience all options. Go through the process!

Did you know that in the Quran, we are taught to do inductive reasoning? Allah always asks us to look at specific examples in order to reach a conclusion. He asks us to look at the moon. Look at the sun! Look at the mountains and the seas. Look at the signs in the human embryology.

“Those who listen to all statements, and then follow the best of it. These are the ones whom God has guided, and these are the ones possessed of minds.” (39:18)

 

These are the things that I learned in my philosophy class when I was doing IB. (I am sure IB kids like me still remember the torture of doing our Theory of Knowledge essay. It was such a pain but I am proud to say that Alhamdulillah I was among the few who had obtained full marks for it. I got the highest grade (Grade 7) for it, something not many students could obtain back then. Scientific medical students really hated Theory of Knowledge class…. but I was among the few in my batch who loved it. Because learning philosophy involves a lot of language play and involves exploring with facts. It feels like being involved in a mental debate.) Philosophy teaches you how to think. Not to follow people randomly but to know why you think the way you think. To a certain extent, this is what we do in psychiatry! We examine and we analyse… not just our own thoughts but also the thoughts of our patient.

So in arts/language/religion, if you want to be a good artist/linguist/religionist, you must have a lot of experience. You must try every method, and visit every possible conclusion and question the conclusion again and again until there is nothing else to question (until you reach data saturation). This is what we mean by “going through the process”. The process itself taught you. The process is your primary aim; your aim is not really the conclusion (but the conclusion is the by-product of having completed the process). This will broaden your horizon, and thus enable you to make the right choice that will beautify your craft and your art! As an artist, inductive learning gives you breadth of knowledge. It completes the arsenal of your skills so that you can choose and pick which one of your skills/knowledge to use when you are in the middle of creating something beautiful.

You need to go inductive when it comes to perfecting your arts! Otherwise with a limited experience, every problem will look like a nail if your only tool is a hammer!

if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problme as a nail copy
And this is ok, if you are a scientist who relies on precision, accuracy and reproducibility. Go ahead and use the hammer if that will give you the precise outcome that you want. (scientists are very particular about reproducibility of experiments. Experiments that are not reproducible are not scientific!) But this is thoroughly bad for an artist who relies on creativity and originality!

***

So, if you ask any enthusiastic reader of English books, they will probably agree that they become passably good (not excellently great, mind you. Just passably good. Or good enough) in English due to their extensive reading. Sure, English teachers at school help too… but come on, how many of us are passably good in English upon finishing high school? That is 11 years of formal education, folks (6 years in primary school and 5 years in secondary school). But how many of us are passably good at it? 11 years is a long time to learn English without being a real expert at it.

Now compare this to a Russian spy who must learn English in 6 months in order to pass herself off as an English clerk in the UK Embassy in Australia. How come they can learn that fast? The answer is simple… for that 6 months, they go inductive. Learn everything there is to learn about English. The books, the culture, the fashion, the phrases, the common expressions… go broad and go deep. They immerse themselves in the whole way of life as an English person. And after 6 months, they speak like the native and are ready to spy on the West and risk their own death for the sake of Mother Russia. Haha (Can you see the influence of my thriller reading here? I love spy stories)

Now, I am not saying that in order for you to be good in English, you must change your whole lifestyle and immerse yourself in their culture. After all, we are not aiming to be a spy, here. (Haha) Our aim is simply to be good in writing our assignments and to be just good enough to present our slides and posters. That’s all. So, what is the next easiest thing to do to be good in English without having to change your lifestyle?

Read a lot of books, of course!

Read fictions written in that language! That’s the best easiest thing for you to do in order to experience breadth and depth of a culture while simultaneously learning the language and their common expressions. By reading their fictions, depending on the protagonist of the book, you get to be a spy, a supermodel, a scientist, a professor, a wizard, a secretary, a handsome hero, a beautiful heroine, an ugly duckling, and an intelligent nerd, or a snobbish cheerleader. You get to experience being a teenager, a young adult, an elderly man/woman… you understand the culture broadly.

And by reading a lot of books, you learn ‘exceptions’ to the rules that were taught to you by your English teachers in class (in class, the teaching is deductive).

I give you an example.

Example 1: Root Verb Vs Gerund

Teachers would teach you that you MUST use root verb after the word ‘to’:

  • I loved to dance (not ‘danced’, even when it happens in the past. Not ‘dancing’… because we need to use ROOT verb.)
  • She liked to swim (not ’swam’ or ’swimming’, Because after ’to’, you must use the present form of the word, i.e the ROOT verb… even if the event is in the past).

 

But when you read a lot of books, you will notice how the author would write:

  • I am looking forward to dancing with you later. (What? I thought after ‘to’, you must use the present form. Why dancing instead of dance here?) (You will start to wonder)
  • When it comes to doing the right thing, she is totally unreliable. (again! After ‘to’, the author here uses the word ‘doing’ instead of the root verb ‘do’.) (You will wonder again)

 

You will then be triggered to ask, why there exists a discrepancy between the deductive rule taught to you by your teachers, and your inductive experience while reading many books?

You will notice many different patterns that were not taught to you in class. This is something you will never get in formal class, trust me!

Unless, your teacher is very good, (or the students are so good that they will ask about this discrepancy to ’the rule’ in the class) you might end up FOREVER writing : I am looking forward to dance with you, (and you think you are grammatically correct when you write that sentence and you might think other people are wrong when they write ‘looking forward to dancing…’. Hahah.) Even worse, you might mistakenly try to ‘correct’ other people’s sentences!

A good English teacher, while teaching the rule, would ALSO teach the exception! I repeat, a good English teacher while teaching the rule, would also teach the EXCEPTION.

But how many English teachers are that good out there? My younger sister Alida is a good one. I know that as a fact. Me and my siblings challenge each other’s language command often. That’s like our small talk during raya and get-together! We test each other and tease each other’s comprehension. But I have argued with a few of my English teachers in the past… so I should know that not all of them have comprehensive knowledge of the language (because even English teachers don’t read a lot, sadly).

A good English teacher would say, “Afiza, the word ‘to’ in ‘looking forward to’ and ‘comes to’ in those sentences function as a phrasal verb. After such phrasal verbs, you must use gerund, NOT root verb.

Then, she will explain to you what is phrasal verb and what is gerund. That is what a good English teacher would do without you even having to ask! (Ok, guys. If you don’t know, please google this yourself, because it is beyond the scope of this blog post. But if you google gerund and phrasal verb, you will get the answer easily)

 

Example 2: Subjunctive verb

We all know that the proper ‘verb to be’ for ‘I’ is ‘am’ (present tense) and ‘was’ (past tense).

  • I am dancing with the wind. (present continuous tense)
  • I was dancing with him. (past continuous tense)

We all know that the proper ‘verb to be’ for he/she is ‘is’ (present tense) and ‘was’ (past tense).

  • He/she dances to the music. (present tense)
  • He/she is dancing. (present continuous tense)
  • He/she was dancing. (past continuous tense)

We all know that the proper verb to be for you/they is ‘are’ (present tense) and ‘were’ (past tense).

  • You are adorable. (present tense)
  • They were so cruel (past tense)

 

That’s what English teachers in formal class will teach you (deductive learning).

But remember, you read a lot, right? So one day, you come across these sentences in the fiction that you read:

  • If he were to ask me to dance, I would have said yes. But he didn’t, so I went home with a broken heart. (why use ‘were’ here when the subject is a ‘he’?)
  • I know that if I were to get an A, I must study hard. (Why use ‘were’, when this is a present tense and the subject is “I”. Why not use ‘am’?)
  • She insists that he come (why not ‘comes’? Shouldn’t we use singular verb by adding an ‘s’? The subject is ‘he’; a singular subject, isn’t it?)
  • The board suggests that he join the company (why not ‘joins’? )

If you don’t read, you will never know to ask your teacher the next day regarding the discrepancy between what she taught you in class and what you had read in your books.

A good English teacher will tell you about subjunctive verb. She will tell you that in a ‘wishful’ situation or ‘hypothetical’ situation (denoted by the word ‘if’ in that sentence) we must use subjunctive verb ‘were’. And she will tell you that in a sentence structure involving  ‘that’ clauses (suggestion/recommendation/insistence/advisable + ‘that’), we must use the base of the word (come instead of comes, join instead of joins… even when the subject is singular) 

Now, imagine if you don’t have enough reading experience, and then you go around thinking that other people’s usage of subjunctive verb is a gross grammatical error! And imagine if you were an English teacher trying to “correct” your students’ usage of subjunctive verb. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing? Your well-read students would know that their English teacher is more ignorant than them. (That is why it is even more imperative for English teachers to read a lot!)

Like I said, a good teacher will teach the exception to the rule!

A good teacher will be able to anticipate!! the confusion that her students might come across later. (But a good student will learn more outside the class and then ask the right question to the teacher).

If you were a linguist, you would have come across the concept of “deductive and inductive grammar learning” (google this, guys. You will understand what I mean better). Sadly, a lot of English teachers during my time only apply the deductive type.

teaching-grammar-8-728

 

But my argument here is, the inductive type should be the PRIMARY method of learning English or any language!

If I were an English teacher (notice my subjunctive verb here? I use ‘were’ here), I will give a weekly reading task for my students and I will ask them to spot ‘exception to the rules’ in every reading text that I have assigned them. And I will discuss the exception with them. I will have a set of compulsory books and short stories that they must read and summarise and I will ask them to discuss characters and characterisation, themes and plots and conflicts and resolutions in the books that they read. That’s a more hands-on and inductive way of learning English. It will benefit them so much more.

***

When I was in Australia, I got to know a Malaysian family who had just arrived to Newcastle, following the career move of the head of the family. There were three children in the family around the age ranging from 4-10 years old. And they did not know much English when they first arrived in Australia.

But after 3 months of schooling, they spoke like the native Australians.

Imagine that!

Initially, they did not even know the rules of grammar. The 4 year old child did not even know what it means by subject, verb, subject complement, object. They didn’t know what are nouns, what are pronouns. They didn’t know what does adjective mean. They didn’t know what does adverb mean. Let alone subjunctive or phrasal verbs or gerunds. But they were able to speak like the native Australians without learning all these ‘deductive rules’ that were taught to us in class for 11 years!

Why? How?

Well, because they experienced it through inductive learning! They unconsciously absorbed the patterns and when they noticed that certain ‘language event’ did not fit what they previously observed, they then absorbed ‘the exception’ to the pattern.

And they wouldn’t even be able to explain it! Because they just experienced it. And they just knew! Without knowing how they knew.

Of course, we can talk about critical period of language development as well, and in human beings, the critical period is in childhood! You might want to argue that those children were good in English after 3 months due to them being in the critical period. I admit, adults are much slower in learning a new language compared to children. But the adults are still able to master the language better if they go out and experience the culture and just interact with people rather than exhaustively learning the grammatical rules in class without applying it somehow!

I had met an African lady in her 50s (way past the critical period for language development in human) who just came to Australia 3 months prior to work as a berry picker and she spoke much better English than a 17 year old Malaysian student who has been learning English for the past 11 years in Malaysian classroom! And that was because she had been interacting with international people who were picking berries with her at the local farm. (I was berry picking too and that was how I met her.)

This is why I said, when you want to learn language… go inductive! Experience the process! Get absorbed. Immerse yourself. Read fictions first. Listen to songs! Read poetry! Don’t try to understand the grammar yet! Forget the rules! Just read! Experience the rules (rather than knowing the rules), and then find the exception. In short, go inductive, folks! Go inductive! 

***

When I was not yet studying for my specialist exam, I had the time to proofread my (master student) friends’ case protocols. I will tell them why their sentences were wrong, and how the sentences could be improved.

They used to tell me “Afiza, you should turn your skill into an income. My friends actually pay someone else to check their case protocols. You can make a lot of money.”

And I was like, “But I am not a professional linguist. I cannot charge people for something I am not properly trained for. And I don’t think I know everything. I might miss something… and it wouldn’t be fair for me to charge them when I don’t have any professional qualification.”

And my friend said, “But these people who have been proofreading our case protocols are also not professional. They are doctors as well.”

Hmmm….I don’t know.

I still don’t think it is the right thing to do unless you have made sure that your clients know your lack of formal qualification and your limitation. The rate that you charge must be reasonable and must be less than that of the professional proofreader.

But imagine my shock when I read a Facebook status of a so-called “English proofreader” (with no formal qualification) and I could point out so many grammatical mistakes that she had made in that status (subjunctive and phrasal verbs mistakes were among the mistakes she had made!)

I am not the sort of person who go around correcting people’s language when they don’t ask for my correction. I am not a Grammar Nazi. We should encourage people to speak English even when they make mistakes, and correcting them with the purpose of embarrassing them in public doesn’t help them at all. English is not our native tongue, after all. So, do not expect perfection in non-native speakers and deliberately correct them in public. I too make a lot of mistakes, obvious or otherwise. That’s why I don’t charge people for my help! Language is just my hobby and if I can earn some pahala for something I like doing, why not, right? Easy pahala for me. (now, I don’t do this anymore because I am busy with my own studying and when I do have free time, I want to read for my own pleasure). But this so-called proofreader actually charges people for her service, which judging by her many mistakes in her Facebook status, she should have given her service for free. Gratis!!

I couldn’t believe it. Pity the students who had engaged her service in the past! How do we justify the fees that we charge when we are not professionally accredited or trained for the service that we are charging?

Isn’t it, like, unethical?

I love checking people’s grammar because I get to learn something myself in the course of trying to come up with an explanation for the grammatical mistake. Being a proofreader to my close friends’ essays has been my role since I was in MRSM Langkawi. I checked my friends’ grammar. In return, I get to copy their Add Maths solution. Haha (Quid pro quo! Symbiosis at its best! Smart partnership, isn’t it? Easy pahala for each other, right?)

In IB, I retained my role as an amateur proofreader. I didn’t mind doing this. Language is my strength. Maths is my weakness. So by offering them my service, I felt better whenever I had to ask them to help me with my Pure Maths. I am the sort of person who hates depending on other people without having my own bargaining chip. So when I had to ask for help, I would repay them with other favours. Kind of to balance the account, so to speak.

In my early years of amateurish proofreading, I would tell them that their sentences were wrong because they sounded weird to me. But I couldn’t tell them exactly why they were wrong. I would simply say, “Peliklah ayat ni.” What I mean was “I read a lot. If these sentences are correct, I would have come across them before. I knew they were wrong because of my experience in reading many different types of sentences.”

I have inductive experiences, but not the deductive theories. So I couldn’t explain it properly to them.

But I myself was not satisfied with the service that I gave. You see, I am the sort of person who wants to know your reasoning. “If you say I am wrong, you explain to me why. I want to know. You can’t just tell me that I am wrong without explaining to me why. How am I supposed to learn, then? Am I supposed to accept your word just because you said it? ” (People think I am rebellious because I refuse to listen to their advice. But the other side of the coin is, they haven’t convinced me.)

So, when I too couldn’t explain to my friends why their sentences were wrong (but I just knew it based on my inductive experience), I was not satisfied with myself.

My friends actually never wanted to know my explanation. Haha. They just wanted me to correct their assignments before the final submission to the IB examiner. They couldn’t care less what is the correct term for the mistake. But it was me… I didn’t like it when I couldn’t give them the reasoning. I was projecting my own tendency on them and felt like my friends might not feel satisfied with my corrective work. Because if I were in their shoes (notice my subjunctive verb here?), I would feel unsatisfied as well.

So that was how I came across subjunctive verb and gerund and syntax and phrasal verbs. I came across ‘the rules’ while trying to research for the proper explanation to give to my friends for why their sentences were wrong. Because just knowing that something is wrong without knowing why is not enough. It might be enough for your own self-application, but it is not enough when you want to justify it to others. You must be able to describe it and explain it!

An experienced chronic PSY MO might know psychosis when she sees one… but if he/she never learns clinical psychopathology, she wouldn’t know how to use the proper term to describe what she sees. Even I am not always ‘on point’ when describing what I see when I’m doing Mental State Examination (MSE). Some other doctors might be able to describe MSE much better than me because they have more appropriate vocabulary to complement their vast experience.

An experienced ED MO will know that a patient will deteriorate before the patient ACTUALLY deteriorates, even though at the moment the patient is actually looking quite ok. Her instinct would tell her to watch the patient closely. When the patient then does deteriorate, the ED MO would say “My instinct was right. Tak sedap hati dari tadi.” Because of her inductive experience, she just knew without being able to explain how. Her subconscious mind must have retained some obscure patterns that she didn’t know how to describe based on her many years of service. But because she never properly and formally learned it in post-graduate class (formal deductive teaching), she couldn’t describe it.

That was exactly me when I was in MRSM Langkawi. I just correct my friends’ sentences without telling them why they were wrong. In IB, I improved my language service to my friends by my ability to explain why certain sentences were wrong. Still, I didn’t always know everything back then.

Until now, I am still learning. It’s just that because language is my hobby, this learning is heaps more fun than learning psychiatry (which I also love, of course. Haha)

So, back to the original question, how to be good in English?

I would tell you, “If you really want to be good in English, just read. There is no short cut, guys! I wish there were short cuts, but nope! No short cuts… unless you want to migrate to an English-speaking country and interact with English-speaking people on a daily basis. Read! Listen to English songs! Sing! Copy common expression. Memorise quotes. Experience writing simple stories. Create silly poem. Or have a blog just for the sake of practicing your writing skill. Basically, you just go inductive! After you have gained your experience, then you go deductive! It would be easier that way. When you are learning the deductive rule AFTER having your inductive experience, you will understand the rule much more easily because your brain has been primed for it, and you have wondered about it in the course of your reading experience before. On the other hand, if you only learn the rule without having enough experience on how the rule is used, your learning will be much, much slower. Even 11 years won’t be enough!”

In my experience, a good artist always has a bit of a scientist in her.

And a good scientist, always has a bit of an artist in her.

You need both deductive and inductive reasoning in order to make sense of your knowledge, either in arts or in science. It’s just that one of them should be the PRIMARY method depending on what you are trying to learn.

And when it comes to learning language (notice my usage of gerund and phrasal verb here?), I propose that inductive grammar learning is much more efficient in the long run.

teach grammar

I hope, you guys have learned something from this post.

I leave you guys with a quote from the father of medicine, William Osler, which I think kind of explain inductive (experience) vs deductive (rule/formal learning) method of learning and why these methods complement each other.

Until next time, my dear readers.

Lots of love from yours truly.

William Osler