Saturday, December 14, 2019

Portrait of a "Shoe-icide Bomber" (revisited)



Muntadhar al-Zaidi (Arabic: منتظر الزيدي‎ Muntaẓar al-Zayidī) is an Iraqi broadcast journalist who serves as a correspondent for Cairo-based, Iraqi-owned Al-Baghdadia TV. Al-Zaidi's reports often concerned the plight of widows, orphans, and children in the Iraq War.

During a press conference on December 14, 2008, at the Prime Minister's Palace in Baghdad, Iraq, al-Zaidi threw his shoes at United States President George W. Bush. Throwing shoes is an act of extreme disrespect in both the Arab and Islamic cultures.



"This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog," yelled al-Zaidi in Arabic as he threw his first shoe towards the U.S. president. "This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq," he shouted as he threw his second shoe. President Bush ducked twice, avoiding being hit by the shoes.


Al-Zaidi was then pulled to the floor by another journalist, before being grabbed by Prime Minister Maliki's guards, kicked, and rushed out of the room. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was hit in the face by a microphone boom sent flying by a presidential bodyguard resulting in a clearly visible black eye.

On December 15, 2008, thousands of Iraqis marched in Baghdad to demand the release of al-Zaidi. Crowds gathered in Sadr City district of Baghdad and called for "hero" Muntadhar al-Zaidi to be freed from custody. There were similar scenes in Najaf. The demonstrators in Sadr City and Najaf alluded to the shoes. Participants in Sadr City "waved shoes attached to long poles" and those in Najaf threw their shoes at a passing United States military convoy. The "vast majority" of viewers of al-Baghdadia who telephoned to the station in order to express their opinions said that they approved al-Zaidi's actions.

On December 15, 2008, al-Zaidi was given a bravery award by Libyan charity group Wa Attassimou, chaired by Ayesha Qaddafi. The group called for al-Zaidi's release. A shoe producer in Turkey claimed that it had made the shoes, and another producer in Lebanon suggested that it might have made them. Many shoes in Iraq are made in China. Al-Zaidi's brother stated, "One hundred percent they are Iraqi-made shoes" and that the shoes were made in Baghdad by a highly-reputed firm called Alaa Haddad. In Syria, al-Zaidi was "hailed as a hero."

A Saudi businessman has offered US$10 million to buy the shoes. "The shoes should be exhibited in a museum as they resemble a rocket that talks on behalf of all Iraqis," read a posting on website of Arabian Business magazine. The Lebanese television channel NTV offered a job to al-Zaidi. NTV said that if al-Zaidi accepted the job offer, that he would be paid "from the moment the first shoe was thrown." Al-Zaidi's family turned down an invitation by the Venezuelan President to come and live in the Latin American country. "We are grateful to President Hugo Chavez. However we are Iraqis, we live in Iraq," Oudai al-Zaidi said speaking on the behalf of his family. Al-Zaidi has also been offered a six-door Mercedes, had a song written about him, had his incident reconstructed in an Afghan comedy sketch, and been offered the hand of a man's 20-year-old daughter in marriage. The young woman Amal Saad Gumaa said she likes the idea of being attached to a man she finds so honorable.

In Lahore, Pakistan, around 150 journalists demonstrated outside a press club to demand the release of al-Zaidi. Al-Zaidi has also found much support on social websites such as Facebook, where he has groups dedicated to him called "I enjoyed watching that Shoe thrown at George Bush", "The Iraqi Journalist who threw his shoes at Bush is my new HERO!!!" The group has members from the Middle East, Europe, Africa and America. Inspired by al-Zaidi's actions, the anti-war group Code Pink pelted shoes at an effigy of U.S. president George W. Bush outside the White House on December 17, 2008.

[Extracted from Wikipedia]


Bush, to his credit, was able to shrug off this public humiliation minutes after the attack by quipping that he thought the shoes were size 10. Personally, I think it would have been much more effective if Muntadhar had flung his unwashed socks at Bush along with his shoes.

[Here's a classic song from 50 years ago to commemorate this outstanding event.]

[First posted 19 December 2008]



Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Illustrated Puns with a Timely Sense of Purpose

Now you know why police are called mata-mata (eyes) in Malay.
First there was Nothing. Then it exploded. Oh yeah?
Is there a link between the colonial impulse & colon cancer?
Some are a bit slow on the uptake.
Is Selangor state a feudalism, I wonder? Think I'll PAS on this one!
Some say this hat rack once belonged to Samuel Beckett.
Remember, there are always greater forces at work.
Don't the police have better things to do?
He even survived being grilled by a military tribunal.
An apt metaphor for our current state of political apathy.

Thanks to Olivia de Haulleville who forwarded the puns.  
I just chose the images & provided the captions.

[First posted 25 August 2014]

Monday, December 9, 2019

Winning Orang Asli Votes (updated)


Just before the by-election of April 2010 I received an email from the political secretary of one of the candidates asking me for suggestions on how to effectively campaign among the Orang Asli of Ulu Selangor. I was happy to provide an overview of how things stand with my indigenous kinfolk from the perspective of someone free of tribal imprints. The following is extracted from my email response...

Siama anak Penengah (died 2012)
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to delineate the key issues confronting the Orang Asli in general - and the Temuan community of Ulu Selangor in particular.

1. As with all indigenous peoples the most crucial issue is permanency of tenure on their ancestral lands. Without a sense of belonging to their tanah pesaka (customary lands), Orang Asli tend to become dispirited (and seek to numb themselves with spirits out of a bottle). An important case in point is Kampung Pertak, situated within a few kilometers of Gunung Raja, their sacred mountain which they call Pusat Negeri. In February 1965 the Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli and the Selangor state government approved for gazetting as a permanent Orang Asli Reserve close to 300 hectares of forest reserve, stretching from Gunung Raja to Sungai Luit which flows beside the present Kampung Pertak.

However, in 2004 the Land Office issued 99-year leases on an individual basis to the residents of Kg Pertak, effectively denying their claim to their tanah pesaka, and reducing their land holdings to a tiny fraction of what was promised them 45 years ago. [Dr Colin Nicholas of the Center for Orang Asli Concerns can supply you with the documentation for this.] Other Temuan settlements in Ulu Selangor are faced with different problems: those in Kg Tun Abdul Razak and Gerachi Jaya, for example, have been living in fear of being displaced by developers working in cahoots with the JHEOA and the Land Office. Kg Orang Asli Kolam Air, KKB, still has no electricity supply even though it is located less than half a kilometer from the nearest power line.

Amran @ Kuku
2. The feudalistic and patronizing attitude of the Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli (JHEOA) has effectively infantilized the Orang Asli, keeping them timid, intimidated and unsure of their rights. In Kg Pertak, for instance, the Batin doesn't have the authority to convene a majlis (village council) - only the JHEOA can call a meeting in the village. After more than half a century the JHEOA apparently has only three agendas: (i) forcing the Orang Asli to abandon their traditional ways by systematically destroying their forest habitat; (ii) cajoling them and offering them material incentives to embrace Islam; (iii) ensuring that the Orang Asli remain powerless and lacking in self-confidence so that the JHEOA can justify its continued existence.

What the Orang Asli urgently need are representatives in parliament and non-governmental agencies who can articulate their desires, bypassing the heavy-handed, short-sighted and self-serving JHEOA. Sincere and independent NGOs like COAC are underfunded and understaffed - but with regular funding and more staff they can do a far more effective job of bridging the gulf between the Orang Asli and the bureaucracy.

Koi
3. On several occasions I have helped Orang Asli widows, accident cases and the elderly to apply for financial support from the Welfare Department (Pejabat Kebajikan). In every instance I have been disgusted by the snail's pace at which the Welfare Dept staff operate. Sometimes it takes more than six months from the date of application for financial aid to be granted. Such a lackadaisical attitude cannot be tolerated as it can mean the difference between life and death for some Orang Asli.

What is urgently required is a special fund set up for the Orang Asli at the district level which can be used to provide immediate financial aid to those who cannot fend for themselves owing to unforeseen circumstances, e.g., accidents, ill health, old age, loss of family breadwinner. Red tape needs to be minimalized so the Orang Asli are not daunted by the process of requesting aid. This fund can also be utilized to help enterprising Orang Asli set up food stalls or build riverside chalets, so they can learn how to do business on a modest scale and remain their own bosses.


4. Before the construction of the Selangor Dam, a few Temuan from Kg Gerachi and Kg Pertak were earning good money working as river guides with whitewater rafting companies. Regular contact with tourists has made these Temuan conversant to a degree in English and their natural aptitude for the sport has given them a big boost in self-esteem. Unfortunately, the dam has severely impacted on the water level of the river, making whitewater rafting almost impossible. The Temuan river guides have repeatedly sought the cooperation of Splash Sdn Bhd (the dam operator) to release water every time they have rafting clients - but I'm told that Splash has simply ignored their petition. This is one instance where the JHEOA ought to take up their cause and negotiate with Splash, but the Orang Asli have long learnt not to bother asking for help from the JHEOA (whose officers tend to be malas and tidak peduli, unless there's money to be made, as in logging commissions).

Sibin Aus (died 2011)
5. After living among the Temuan since 1992, it has become obvious to me that the Orang Asli would swiftly regain their self-esteem if given the opportunity to excel in what they naturally do with ease, viz., "right-brained" activities like sports and the arts. I doubt the existing school curricula can encourage and foster such talents. What might be effective are informal programs to stimulate and inspire the youngsters on several fronts: (i) helping them access the Internet, thereby improving their language skills and exposing them to a far wider world of possibilities; (ii) providing them access to arts workshops (music, dance, acting, woodcarving, painting, and so on); and (iii) granting scholarships and sponsorships to Orang Asli kids who show promise in athletics and cultural activities.

A viable long-term project would be to fund individuals and NGOs who can set up regular learn-while-you-play programs in various villages to broaden the outlook and increase the knowledge pool among the youth (who tend to get into mischief when they are bored).

Apin
Recently I met a few Temuan in their mid-20s from Bukit Lanjan and other settlements around Selangor who impressed me with their excellent grasp of English and their facility with digital tech (they have their own websites and blogs and have been shooting and editing their own documentaries). At the same time these new generation Temuan displayed great pride in their own mythic traditions and have published books and comics in their own Temuan language.*

These are the way-showers and bridge-builders between the past and the future who will lead their people to a new era of self-respect and self-determination, free from the suffocating clutches of the JHEOA.

Antares
~^@^~

Note: Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli (JHEOA) was renamed Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli (JAKOA) in November 2010 - but apart from the change of logo, very little else has (apart from the disturbing fact that JAKOA appears to be working closely with Jakim to embed Muslim missionaries in every Orang Asli community).

*One of these Temuan youth, Shaq Koyok, has since made a dent in the art world and become a de facto cultural ambassador of the Orang Asli, receiving cultural awards and invitations to visit galleries and meet with other indigenous peoples around the world.

[First posted 29 January 2015]