Friday, June 16, 2006


You have never heard of Rose Ismail.

If you log onto your ISP and browse the news, the headlines are concerned with others - war widows, folk-country has-beens, mermaids up trees, people famous for documentaries and documentaries from famous people. But you've never heard of Rose Ismail.

That's not surprising. None of the above celebrities have heard of her either. They're too busy protesting - brave dissent, as they are usually quick to point out themselves. It's the best kind of brave dissent, in fact: the kind that is neither brave nor contrary. It's all over the papers, leads most broadcasts, and spawns countless blogs. The subjects risk nothing, and find a large ready audience of approval, an audience that will even pay large fees to go to hear "the things they don't want you to hear."

(update - thanks to the Coalition, a recent demonstration.)

If I could ask you a favor, I'd rather that you hear this.

A joint Chinese New Year-Hari Raya gathering, where I would probably eat an orange, a handful of peanuts and a biscuit or two, should not turn me into a traitor of the religion.
But as it turns out, the ulamas are wringing their hands in worry that Muslims attending such events may go astray. ... It seems to suggest that our faith in God is so fundamentally fragile that, on the slightest pretext, we can be persuaded to jump ship.

That the ulamas consider events which promote friendship, respect and consideration for one another to be potentially damaging to the soul is most perplexing indeed.
Yet, the Quran emphatically says: “O mankind, we created you from a single pair of male and female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other, not that you may hate each other.” ...

Perhaps the ulamas are no longer confident in the religious lessons which almost all Malaysian Muslims would have had from young. [sic]
Perhaps, they realise that what they’ve taught us over the years has not adequately prepared us to face life’s thorny dilemmas?

Rose Ismail is not alone. It speaks well for Malaysia that a newspaper could run her comments, and run a poll whose results bear them out. You'll notice, if you go on to this article, that people are airing their concerns and exchanging ideas. No violence, no death threat. And there is also no sensational grandstanding by people concerned more about how the cause looks than about the cause itself.

In too many other places, nobody would say what Ms. Ismail has because their lives would be in peril. And in others, the brave dissenters would rather take stands in the crowd than support Ms. Ismail - and many of them are standing against those who are seeking to bring to millions the same freedom they and Ms. Ismail share.

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