June 14th, 2015

Riak siber dalam Facebook

TIDAK. Saya belum memutuskan untuk menamatkan akaun Facebook saya. Semalam ada rasa mahu berbuat demikian. Kelmarin pun ada. Tetapi hari ini, saya tahan dulu. Saya mahu merrepak perihal Facebook di sini.

Kenapa saya tidak merrepak di Facebook sahaja? Kan, ramai buat begitu. Maaf, ia tiada dalam Rancangan Malaysia Ke-11. Saya mengamalkan penyiaran pernyataan yang benar-benar saya rasa perlu sahaja. Maklumlah, saya bukan Generasi Y atau millenials. Terlalu asyik mahu kedapatan di alam siber, tidak menepati manifestasi privasi yang lebih mahal dari nilai sekantong emas.

Tidak juga saya mencemburui kenalan dalam Facebook yang masuk kategori prolifik. Selang sejam mesti ada yang diutusnya. Kalau bukan berbentuk perutusan pun, dia akan kongsi segala benda dari berita sahih hinggalah kepada jelmaan puntianak di Terowong Menora.

Ramai yang menekan butang LIKE. Kalau dapat berpuluh-puluh itu, terasa diri sangat popular. Ada ulasan lagi bagus. Boleh bersoal jawab, berpantun seloka sampai letih. Peduli apa kalau orang naik hairan, kalau sudah selang sejam mengutus di Facebook, bila masa dia buat kerja azalinya? Eh...saya tidak cemburu. Hairan sahaja. Tidak ajak berdebat pun.

Kalau tidak cemburu, apakah meluat? Bab ini saya berhati-hati. Perkataan "meluat" terlalu kuat kerana ia penuh konotasi benci dan bosan. Seandainya sudah mencapai tahap tersebut, bermakna saya sudah "gibab dan fedap" serta tidak mahu lagi "kipidap".

Berikut saya huraikan tujuh faktor mengapa timbul perasaan tidak senang saya dengan kandungan Facebook sekarang:

1. #riaksiber

Ini adalah hashtag yang kononnya menghalalkan sesiapa sahaja untuk menunjuk-nunjuk, riak dan takbur dalam Facebook. Bersama gambar lawatan ke Stadium Old Trafford, keterangan gambar ditulis #riaksiber. Kau ada?

Satu lagi semacam trend di Facebook ialah pergi Mekah pun boleh ambil selfie dalam Masjidil Haram. Banyak-banyak tempat, di Tanah Suci juga dibuatnya selfie. Apa salah? Ini cara dakwah mengajak awak turut sama ke sana. Sekarang diam.

2. Semakin banyak berita ditulis wartawan tidak bertauliah

Saya ini makan gaji sebagai wartawan. Ikut borang permohonan visa, kerjaya saya dikategorikan profesional media. Antara prinsip yang dipegang ialah kalau tiada kesahihan, jangan laporkan. Tetapi di Facebook, segala benda dilaporkan oleh wartawan bebas ini yang hanya menjunjung prinsip "kebebasan bersuara" tetapi menolak keperluan periksa kesahihan.

Kasihan melihat rakan-rakan yang terpengaruh, menempel berita dari wartawan bebas tersebut dan kemudian mengulas panjang-lebar. Walhal, ia palsu.

3. Ramai pakar agama yang bertaraf mi segera

Kita kongsi berita ahli sukan negara menang pingat emas. Di sebalik mengulas kemenangan yang sukar itu, mereka lebih cenderung jadi ustazah, ustaz Facebook. Bagus niat mahu memberi kesedaran. Tetapi buatlah tanpa mengakibatkan agama kita dimomokkan dek pendirian ekstrem mereka.

4. Sebilangan penulis blog yang diikuti, terlalu partisan

Sejak beberapa tahun ini, saya jadikan Facebook sebagai pusat sehenti untuk mendapatkan berita atau ulasan penulis blog. Sejak awal tahun ini, mereka bagaikan sudah hilang kompas. Sepatutnya kompas tunjuk utara. Tetapi makin kronik pula ke timur, ke barat. Kasihan.

5. Platform mudah sesiapa sahaja mengulas tentang agama orang lain

Apa sahaja berkaitan Islam, dijadikan berita oleh portal berita bukan kerajaan yang ada juga ditulis oleh wartawan mereka yang beragama Islam. Masalahnya mereka lebih cenderung mengutarakan sudut kontroversi, negatif dan liberal tentang Islam.

Memang ada dalam kalangan umat Islam di Malaysia yang liberal. Tidak kisah. Itu hal dia dan amalannya. Cuma kesan buruk ialah mereka ini mendorong bukan Islam untuk pantas mengulas hal Islam dalam cara kurang manis.

6. Rasa jengkel melihat individu tertentu berbahasa pasar

Ada sebilangan pemilik akaun Facebook merupakan nama besar di negara ini sama ada dalam disiplin kerjaya mereka atau pendirian politik mereka. Saya ikuti mereka. Tidak salah bercambah idea walaupun tidak semestinya setuju. Yang tidak sedap bila mereka berbahasa pasar dengan mencarut sembrono. Normal sangat.

7. Ketagih publisiti dengan menyiarkan pernyataan kontroversi, kononnya dialah paling liberal dan pintar.

Golongan ini tidak sama seperti orang di atas. Mereka belum popular dan belum cukup besar. Namun mereka mempunyai sasaran untuk mencapainya. Bagaimana? Dengan menyiar apa sahaja dan bantai sesuka hati. Kasihan juga.

Jadi bilakah agaknya saya akan menutup akaun Facebook? Belum hari ini. Esok pun belum tentu. Biarlah. Yang menyerupai tujuh faktor di atas, kita buat tidak nampak saja. - Johardy Ibrahim Utusan Malaysia Rencana 14 Jun 2015 12:58 AM

Inculcate the habit in the young

THE Programme for International Student Assessment 2012 is a survey of over half a million 15-year-olds in 64 countries on their levels of knowledge and skills in reading, mathematics, science and problem solving.

In terms of reading, Malaysia ranked 58 out of 64 countries. In comparison, Singapore is ranked third.  Therefore, Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s concern is understandable.

Something is not right in our education system. Instead of debating the concerns and pointing fingers, let us identify the areas to improve and implement workable solutions to correct the flaws.

The new Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 must identify and address the weaknesses effectively and avoid the pitfalls of the Blueprint 2006-2010.

The survey numbers must not result in our authorities going into frenzy mode, losing focus and wasting precious time in the process. In the case of reading, to be ranked that low has serious repercussions if one were to think about the future workforce the country is churning out today.

Reading is not a habit among the majority of Malaysians. We cannot blame the 15-year-olds exclusively. If we were to survey the adults, probably our ranking would be too shameful to be reported.

Therefore, is it any wonder that most of our teens are not into reading as well? Teaching by example is still the best education approach. It is the simplest form of passing on knowledge, and the most effective.

This is probably where we have failed in attempts to identify the root causes of the slide in our reading competency.

FIRSTLY, reading is a habit (let’s exclude illiteracy, in this instance) and it can’t be taught by rote. Instead, it needs to be inculcated and taught by example rather than through rigid systems or programmes. It is adopted organically, not mechanically. It is a form of culture and arts, not science.

Therefore, efforts to inculcate such habits have to focus on making shifts in our cultural habits.

Society must be made to embrace reading and understand its benefits inherently. It should not be portrayed as something mundane, boring and a waste of time or, worse, only as a requirement to pass examinations. We must re-ignite the reading habit and entrench it as part of our culture.

Our libraries should be more welcoming. The habit should be promoted persistently and not just for gimmick or temporary publicity;

SECONDLY, it should be obvious by now that the earlier perception that focusing on the mastery of the English language in the education system could jeopardise the national language is unfounded.

If society does not have the habit of reading, especially the younger generation, how then can we preserve any language?

Perhaps, too much preoccupation on principles has distracted us from the core factors necessary in seeking to empower society with a bigger aspect of progress, that is the accumulation of knowledge.

We take for granted the simple habit of having the literacy and culture of reading as the basic building blocks of acquiring knowledge, and as a result, deprive ourselves of the ability to compete.

Since the new Education Blueprint is in its kick-off phase, let us not fall into the rigid mindset of the past. Make changes and adjustments to the blueprint where necessary in order to align the efforts towards the correct objectives. Do not let bureaucracies bog or numb us into inaction; and,

THIRDLY, we must have the diligence to pursue effective execution. In many instances, our plans are worthy and sound, but the execution is where the deviation from the objective occurs. Some may say it is an obvious analysis, but regardless of how obvious it might be, the fact is, no matter how meticulous and holistic our plans are, if we screw up the execution, failure is inevitable.
Sugiman Sabri, Kulim, Kedah NST Letters to the Editors 12 June 2015

Pride in being ‘pendatang’

I REFER to the polemics on the word pendatang which were triggered by Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye in a letter to the newspaper last week. I don’t see anything wrong with the word pendatang, as indeed, we are all pendatang.

The Chinese are from China, Indians are from India and Malays from the Malay archipelago, which stretches from the Philippines to Madagascar.

Of late, we have the Rohingyas from Myanmar, Bangladeshis from Bangladesh, and a host of other ethnic groups from Africa, South America, Europe, Central Asia, Middle East, Southeast Asia, etc., who have chosen to make Malaysia their permanent home.

Once settled in Malaysia, we all adopt the Malaysian way of life. We tend to shed our pendatang image, but not our cultural heritage. Malaysia is thus a melting pot for all pendatang.

We should not take offence when we are called pendatang, which really means “immigrant” in English (and to immigrant-based countries like the United States). Instead, we should tell the so-called “locals” that it is the pendatang that contribute significantly to the phenomenal development of this country.

It was the British pendatang who laid the foundation of modern Malaysia. They left us a very good political, administrative and education system.

Above all, they gave us the greatest gift humans can give, the English language, which is now the universal language.

After the British pendatang left, with a few who decided to make Malaysia their home, the country was administered by local pendatang, comprising the various ethnic groups, which propel this country to greater heights.

As children of pendatang, we should be proud to tell others to their face that without the pendatang, Malaysia would not be where it is today.

The US is great because of the millions of pendatang who crossed the sea from all over Europe to make it home.

A country will not go far without pendatang. The infusion of new blood brings in new work culture. The pendatang, wherever they are on this planet, are actually the engine of growth.

Their survival instinct, plus their natural business acumen given by God, is what makes pendatang more than welcome by some countries.

The irritant is more to do with skin colour. When certain ethnic groups are the minority, it is only natural they are more seen to be pendatang.

This happens even in so-called liberal democracies like the US. But it is how the minorities make the adjustment and assimilation into the local culture and way of life that makes a difference.

For example, I recently met a British convert who has a Malaysian wife at an education forum recently.

Subconsciously, he knows that he is a pendatang by skin colour and belongs to the minority group. But he is able to adapt and adjust to local culture and he has no problem being a pendatang.

More important to him is his contribution to the enhancement of quality education through his company for the good of this country.

His children will bear the roots of a pendatang, but then they will be proud to know that their father was a good resident who has made significant contribution to the nation's growth.

There are other bigger issues that we should look into as Malaysians.
Hassan Talib, Gombak, Selangor NST Letters to the Editors 13 Jun 2015

We are our own moral guardian

THE Malay words “pendatang” and “binatang” are two different words with two different meanings that are not offensive if used with practical meaning. The former means immigrants and the latter animals.

The words may also be uttered in isolation with literal meaning. They could be very offensive if referred to a sensitive Malaysian, who is neither a “pendatang” nor an animal, but we often hear these words being used to refer to illegal immigrants (“pendatang haram”) these days.

Once, I heard the word “pendatang” being uttered in Parliament to refer to another Malaysian who was not a Malay, and the word offended him. This became a controversial issue not only in Parliament but also in public.



No government can police us in respecy of good behaviour

Some Malays would use the word “binatang” on another person who is ill-mannered, cruel, aggressive, violent, a wife beater, a bully, a rapist, etc, by uttering “Awak ini binatang”, or “Binatang punya orang”.

Most words in any language are meant to be good if they are used with good intention and with practical meaning, but could be offensive if used to hurt the feelings of others.

Today, these words are seldom heard or used any more, not because they were outlawed by the government but because people began to realise that it is morally wrong to degrade or insult other people.

Rukun Negara was introduced in 1970, and the government’s effort in uniting the people seems to be effective. Recently, the issue arose again in these pages when Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye urged the government to be tough and act against any Malaysian who calls a fellow Malaysian “pendatang”.

Name-calling among Malaysians is as common as a duck taking to water. It would be unethical for the government to take action against or outlaw any Malaysian who called another Malaysian a “pendatang”.

I strongly feel that if a Malaysian who was born and bred here abides by the principles of Rukun Negara, which, among others, emphasises the importance of good behaviour and morality, being loyal and patriotic to king and country, respecting the national anthem, flag, language, each other’s culture, customs and religion, and having the sense of belonging to one’s beloved country,

I am sure one will not be referred to as a “pendatang”. It is regrettable that not all Malaysians are doing this, or care. It is important to behave and differentiate between right and wrong.

We are our own moral guardian and no one or no government can police us in respect of good behaviour and morality.

Learning beyond the four walls

An English teacher shares how the language can be used in different situations to boost students’ proficiency.

LEARNING does not only take place within the four walls of the classroom and within the confines of the traditional school day.

As a matter of fact, learning can also occur outside school hours. Students can learn by trying out a new sport or joining a club, and this can result in the discovery of a new skill or talent that will lead to further personal development and greater self-esteem. Such activities fall under co-curricular or extra-curricular programmes. They are not a part of the regular academic curriculum but they support the academic missions of schools.

Co-curricular activities facilitate in the development of various domains of mind and personality such as intellectual development, emotional development, social development, moral development and aesthetic development. The outcomes of extra-curricular activities include creativity, enthusiasm and positive thinking among school-going children. They provide the learning labs, if you like, for valuable life lessons, character development and positive behaviour. So students should take the opportunity to sign up and take part in clubs and societies after school.

But just how do co-curricular activities help students improve language learning, particularly English?

In Malaysia, it is compulsory for all students to become members of a society or a club and a uniformed unit, as well as taking part in sport events or games. With regards to activities that promote English, the Education Ministry endorses the importance of English-related co-curricular activities as stipulated in a circular dated in 1999.

The guidelines given by the ministry included activities such as Bulletin Board, Jazz Chants, Choral Reading, Poetry Recital, Story-telling, Daily News Recap, Assembly Presentations, Air Waves, English Day or Week, Spelling Bee, Debate, English Quiz and others. Indeed there are many activities that teachers and the English Society can organise to encourage and enhance the use of English within the school community. The idea is to increase contact hour with English outside the classroom, particularly in the teaching of English as a second language (ESL) situation. All that is needed on the part of the teacher is a little creativity and organisation so that the different activities can be carried out systematically throughout the year.

With the numerous benefits students stand to gain, the English Panel and the English Language Society in school should work hand-in-hand to organise interesting activities for the students. The habit of training for competitions only when there are district and state level competitions taking place should be avoided. This is because organising activities at school level should take precedence to serve the needs of our students and to keep the society active and alive. To help run the activities, the English Panel has plenty of resources, and these include English panel members (English teachers), English Language Society, per capita grant allocation for English Panels, support from administration, resources from the Internet or printed media, parent-teacher association or students’ creativity waiting to be tapped!

There is a long list of activities that can promote students’ use of English in school. One programme carried out by my English Language Society (ELS) committee members in SMK Canossian Convent, Kluang, was called englishSMART.

This was a major programme that involved seven schools in the district. As a society, we were pretty ambitious then but we set the sky as our limit! It was a big success and until today I am very proud of Abigail (president) and her team.

The main aim of the programme was listening, speaking and vocabulary. Preparations were under way two months before the scheduled activity. Meetings were held with ELS committee members after school and suitable activities were lined up. The best part about the programme was it was held outdoors at Dataran Tasik in Kluang. Some of the activities can be seen in the photos.

At the school level, the old Treasure Hunt was so popular. One fine Saturday, the ELS conducted a Treasure Hunt that attracted 110 students! They came from all forms. Teamwork was of utmost importance so that they could break all the clues in order to proceed from one checkpoint to another. Clues came in the form of language puzzles or general knowledge which, if answered correctly, would lead the participants to the next checkpoint. One word of advice though - a large group may be involved so it is important that the checkpoint officers are properly briefed prior to the activity.

The checkpoint I loved most was “The Treasure Hunt Story” where teams had to continue a story on a manila board in about 20 words and to the satisfaction of the checkpoint officer. At the end of the activity, the story was usually hilarious!

The love for English must be nurtured in schools and what better way to complement classroom teaching than through co-curricular activities? We need to create an English environment in school by organising activities that help students like the subject and use the language.

These are points to keep in mind when planning and organising activities. These are:

l Activities are educationally relevant

l Fun and enjoyable activities – engage students

l Regularity of activities

l Focus on the process rather than the product

l Give students a sense of accomplishment – reward students

l Encourage students to plan and participate

l Increase collegiality among teachers or panel members

l Activities should be selected based on students’ interests

l Go for maximum involvement of students

l Budgeting

l Documentation and reports

To conclude, there are numerous co-curricular activities that can be carried out in schools to promote the use of English among students. What is important is to add vigour to the current activities conducted. One has to agree that classroom teaching is of utmost importance yet for aesthetic development, character enrichment, spiritual and physical growth, co-curricular activities are equally relevant.* The writer is an English teacher and has taught English for 27 years. She cares deeply about how English is taught and keeps abreast with developments in the teaching of English. She shares best practices and continuous professional development efforts through her blog http://engoasis.blogspot.com.

Think before you ask anything

THE Thought Police of George Orwell’s 1984.

What a wonderful creation. The ultimate symbol of authoritarian madness; where your very own personal thoughts are controlled.

The Thought Police, or Thinkpol in the novel’s Newspeak, became for generations the shorthand of the behaviour of dictatorships and undemocratic governments everywhere.

If one feels that oppression and suppression were getting out of hand, one says things like “Well, it’s just like the bloody thought police, isn’t it?”

Of course in reality, most of the time people exaggerate. I mean, seriously, how can governments control what goes on in your head? They can control your speech, they can control what you read, but they can’t really control what you think. Or can they?

They can’t but they jolly well will give it their best shot.

Two weeks ago there was a press conference held by a man named Wan Sulaiman Wan Ismail. Wan Sulaiman hails from Perak and is a small businessman.

He was charged earlier this year by the Perak Islamic Affairs Department (Jaip) for “deriding Quranic verses and the Hadith”.

What was this man’s crime? How did he “deride” the Quran and the Hadith? Why, by studying his own religion and when faced with questions and issues that puzzled him, going to the religious authorities to ask for advice and to have a discussion.

That is how Wan Sulaiman got into trouble. In his own study (and wasn’t the very first line of the very first revelation to Muhammad: “Read”?) he found questions he could not answer. He went to the very people who hold themselves out as the authorities of Islam, the Perak Mufti’s office, Jaip, the Perak State Mosque and the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).

From what I gathered, he was not there to cause trouble but merely to deepen his understanding.

The authorities were not happy as to how he was thinking and being unable to force him to think like them, decide to prosecute him.

Think about that for a second.

You can’t convince someone to think like you, so you prosecute them.

Think of how obscene that last sentence was. That is what is happening.

Wan Sulaiman was not a preacher, he was a private man. We know that the Government can control our freedom of expression (excessively), but to control our private thoughts?

Just to tell you what else they did, when they raided his home they took away his private notes (reminiscent of 1984’s Winston Smith and his diary). And when they found some of his notes pasted on a wall, they said that this was an offence as those thoughts were hanging in a “public space”. It was a wall in his house!

Now this poor man sits waiting for his day in court. His business has suffered, his family has shunned him, and he is suffering because he thinks differently from the authorities.

The Thought Police may not be so fictional after all.

A fund has been set up for Wan Sulaiman at https://freedom fund2015.wordpress.com/

Azmi Sharom (azmi.sharom@gmail.com) is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own. The STAR Home News Opinion A Brave New World 10 June 2015

The right to religion and religion of rights

Both great forces need to be harnessed for the common cause of human salvation.

AT a seminar at the University of Malaya on May 23, a monumentally significant issue was explored: whether religion and human rights are compatible with each other?

At the very outset it was pointed out by the speakers that the topic poses many interesting definitional and conceptual conundrums.

Questionable dichotomy: Religion and human rights cannot be regarded as two separate, adversarial concepts because the right to profess, practise and propagate one’s religion is itself one of history’s oldest and passionately sought-after human rights.

Likewise the ideology of human rights has become a new religion. Human rights theories contain sweeping value judgments, commendable though they are, that rest on faith, not facts. Many human rights assertions are similar to religious dogmas.

The overlapping between the concept of freedom and the concept of religion is also evidenced by the fact that many human rights landmarks are founded on religious theory. The American Declaration of Independence 1776, for example and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man 1789 invoke the name of God.

Diversity in religious doctrine: Every religion, without exception, is a mansion with many rooms. Every religion has a beautiful tapestry of doctrines, principles, beliefs and fables that embrace the inter-connectedness of life, the importance of love, tolerance, sacrifice and peace.

At the same time there is evidence throughout history that all religions have now and then been abused to divide and denigrate and to justify wars, brutalities and inhumanities.

Diversity in human rights theory: Just as with religion, the human rights theory is wide, varied and expanding and has commendable as well as condemnable narratives.

Human rights jurisprudence incorporates “first generation” civil and political rights; “second generation” socio-economic rights; and “third generation” development rights. Most of the rights articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are compatible with religious theory.

Clashes: Despite many commonalities, one cannot deny that there are areas of clear divergence between the secular theory of human rights and the sacred injunctions of religion.

> Rights must go hand in hand with duties – duties to oneself, one’s family, community, nation and the world at large. Human rights jurisprudence pays insufficient attention to duties that complement rights. In religion, on the other hand, duties to God and to fellow humans are paramount. The correlative rights are merely consequential.

> The “right to personal autonomy” treats pornography and blasphemy as part of free speech. Drugs, drinking, gambling, abortion, surrogate motherhood, sexual orientation, cross-gender dressing and free sex are regarded as part of personal liberty. The right to life includes the right to extinguish life through suicide and euthanasia!

> Contemporary human rights thinking is that everyone is entitled to his own view of the good life. He can do whatever gives him pleasure and live howsoever he wishes. The concept of divine will, the world beyond and the concept of sin are regarded as irrelevant or subordinate to the human rights quest.

Reconciling the irreconcilable: Those who wish to treasure both human rights and religion need to find some ways to reduce conflicts and to build bridges between these two great yearnings. The task is challenging but is worth attempting.

> There could be recognition that religion and human rights are overlapping circles at the centre of which there are shared rights, duties and expectations. At the fringes, however, clashes exist and need to be mitigated.

> Religion must be defended against vilification. There is no evidence that religion is a greater threat to human rights than economics or political ideology or ethnicity. While conceding that in the name of religion great atrocities have been committed in all civilisations, it must be noted that wars, conquests, genocide, ethnic cleansing, use of atomic weapons, regime changes, economic sanctions and blockades are more common for political, ethnic or economic reasons than for reasons of religion.

> We need to accept the middle path of moderation in religion as well as in our demand for freedom. Not every civil claim or demand should be canonised as a “human right”. This nomenclature should be reserved only for those core beliefs over which there is wide, universal, inter-civilisational agreement.

> While condemning atrocities in the name of religion (for instance those of the so-called Islamic State in Syria), we must also express our outrage and disgust at how democracy and human rights have been used by the West to bomb nations, overthrow regimes and exterminate millions in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

> In the area of law and morals a distinction could be made between public and private spheres. The state should not invade the private sphere except on the most pressing grounds of security and public order. Some morally questionable claims, such as the “right of speech to pornography”, should be punished only if the pornographer trespasses into the public domain. While not legalising these sinful practices, the state should observe its duty to respect individual privacy as long as a conduct remains in the private sphere.

> A distinction between crime and sin should be recognised. Sins and sacrilege, atheism and apostasy will be punished by God in the hereafter and need not be prosecuted by the state through the agency of the law.

In sum, religion and human rights are both great forces that need to be harnessed for the common cause of human salvation. One cannot deny, however, that in some areas the core beliefs of religion come in conflict with the many modern-day cascading claims of human rights. Though full reconciliation is not possible, the distance between religion and human rights can be reduced.   > Shad Faruqi is Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own. The STAR Home News Opinion June 11 2015

Moderates, stand up

IT is said that ignorance is bliss, but not necessarily so all the time. Most Malaysians must have been amused, rather than upset, over a recent Facebook posting that went viral and eventually caught the attention of a news portal.

It started with an angry customer, going by the name Mista Bob Faishah, posting on the Texas Chicken Malaysia Facebook page that the fast food chain obviously did not take into account religious sensitivities because the franchise’s brand dipping sauce is named “Church”.

“Dear TCM... Please do explain (yo)ur dipping sauce brand at Malaysia Franchises... Most of (yo)ur customers is a Muslim... AND Muslim didn’t not eat for food from ‘church’ brand,” he wrote. He also shared the image of said dipping sauce together with his post, the portal reported.

Soon, an equally outraged Facebook user, Halim Zainal, left a comment saying that Texas Chicken Malaysia should change the name on the packet as a sign of respect to its Muslim customers.

The angry person warned TCM that they would not be able to sustain their business if they were not sensitive to Muslims in the country.

The management of TCM had to patiently explain to the customer that the franchise’s “Church” brand dipping sauce was named after the founder and did not represent the Christian house of worship.

“Please be informed that the brand Texas Chicken was founded in San Antonio, Texas USA by our founder by the name of George W Church Sr — Church being his surname and the name of the brand Church’s Chicken.”

The Facebook post elaborated that the word “church” was not used in a religious context and that some of the dipping sauces were imported from the United States, where the food chain originates.

But it has ended well. The customer has now posted an apologetic comment: “Deepest from my heart that I want to ask apologized for my post (1 June). For that time I only want to inquiry regarding the brands of “church” brand. And after TCM do explain to my inquiry n I accepted that was the co brand from san Antonio, Texas.

“I hope with my apologized here can stop all the negtive things goes more bigger. That what can say I only just want to inquiry regarding that brands only..But for ur info, I stlll enjoy my meal with my favorite winglets from TCM!

“Once again..I’m apologized for my post before that I had removed because I don’t want that all people read n negtive thingking of my inquiries.”

Well, as we can see from the postings, the person’s command of the English language really leaves much to be desired.

That could have been one reason why he did not first check, via Google or other search engines, for information about this food chain and why its products are named as such.

Our English language proficiency, sad to say, has hit rock bottom and many of our Internet users are missing out a lot because they have such a poor command of the universal language.

He only associated the word “church” with religion, without being aware that it can also be the surname of many people. Christian Bale would be really worried if people stop going to watch his movies if such an association is made.

But let us keep this in perspective. We can all accept Mista Bob Faishah for sportingly admitting his mistake. We are sure he has no intention to create a controversy.

But another issue that we need to be concerned about, apart from poor English, is whether we are seeing a rise in religious conservatism where many modern-day practices that everyone in our plural society used to accept as a matter of course – from food to sports and entertainment – are being looked at from a different, and more radical, perspective.

Those who spew hate messages in the name of religion can always find a ready audience in those who are prepared to take what they say without question.

And this applies to all religions where such leaders thrive on those who are blissfully ignorant on the true nature of their faith.

Such an environment makes it easy for these people to create fears among the followers that they are constantly under threat. The bogeymen in flavour today include Christians, Jews, the LGBT community, liberal-minded people, etc.

Fortunately, we are still a country where people of different faiths can co-exist peacefully and in harmony with one another.

Faith is a matter of the heart and whatever the rabble-rousers may want to ferment, few will believe that just seeing the religious symbols of another faith will so easily shake their own beliefs.

Be that as it may, we need to also be on guard against the rise of extremism, especially when it comes quietly in every day situations.

The voices of moderation must be heard, and the silent majority cannot afford to be quiet if they value the kind of society we live in.

Why are so many Malaysians not surprised to read about the middle-aged “aunty” who was asked to wear a sarong before she could be served at a Road Transport Department office? The Rela guard felt her skirt, which was just above her knees, was too short and did not adhere to the dress code.

It may be a small matter to some, but it was good of Suzanna G L Tan to share her experience on Facebook by posting a photograph of herself outside the office, showing her attire for the public to judge.

“I had to go to JPJ personally to sign the transfer form for the car I sold. That in itself is already a pain,” Tan wrote.

“I go dressed like this. Indecent meh?” she asked in reference to her dressing in the photograph.

Tan said while she was at the counter to get a queue number, she was handed a sarong to wear “or they would not entertain me”.

The blame eventually fell on the Rela guard but none of the other officers at the JPJ office bothered to tell off the Rela guard for his over-reaction. They have kept silent over this demeaning exercise.

We used to be able to blame the little Napoleans for incidents like this but with the advent of social media, such actions can always be recorded for the public to judge.

And then we have our Malaysian gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi, who has just won a gold medal at the Sea Games, being criticised for not covering up. But to be fair, there were many who came to defend her on Buletin TV3’s Facebook.

Instead of applauding her flawless performance, there seem to be those with perverted minds whose minds are focused elsewhere.

These people thrive on attention and their antics have a way of being magnified way beyond their actual influence.

But here’s the saddest part. Those who speak out for Farah Ann are the usual known personalities and non-governmental organisations while those we wish to hear from – including politicians from both sides of the divide who hold national level posts – are strangely quiet.

But we are glad that the Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who has to protect our athletes, spoke out.

“In gymnastics, Farah wowed the judges and brought home gold. In her deeds only the Almighty judges her. Not you. Leave our athletes alone,” wrote Khairy on his Twitter account. Wong Chun Wai The STAR Home News Columnist 14 June 2015