M’sian cartoonist gets ideas after Subuh (dawn) prayer

LatNur Firdaus Abdul Rahim

CARTOONIST Mohd Nor Khalid, or popularly known as Lat, regards Ramadhan not only as the most blessed month, but also the time of the year when he is able to get ideas and inspiration for his work.

Born on March 5, 1951, in Kota Bharu, Perak, Lat, who is known for his cartoon series the ‘Kampung Boy’, said the best time for him to focus on his cartoon work is after the subuh (morning) prayer.

“I can be said to have retired, as my work no longer appeared in the newspapers, but I do still draw just to pass the time and is working to produce a comic book soon.

“So, the best time for me to get ideas for my work is in the morning, when my mind is still fresh.

“During the fasting month, after the ‘sahur’ (pre-dawn meal) and Subuh prayer as well as doing other religious rituals, I’ll spend time until noon on my cartoon work. That’s the time when I can focus,” he told Bernama.

He was met during an event “Jelajah Potret Penerima Anugerah Merdeka” by Petronas Gallery at the State Museum here recently. Lat is one of the recipients of the award. He received it in 2014.

On how he got himself into becoming a cartoonist, Lat said he had the skill since young and his father was the first person to discover his talent. He said most of his work was influenced by local cartoonists at that time like Raja Hamzah, Alias Kulub, Raja Sulaiman and Saidin Yahya.

“My father was the one who actually encouraged me. I remember during my childhood days, he would take us to the circus and when we got home, asked me to draw the animals which performed at the circus.

“That was how my interest in drawing started and it then progressed into drawing cartoons,” he added. The winner of the 2002 Fukuoka Asian Culture Award has so far published more than 20 cartoon series.

The first when he was 13 years of age. Most of his work depicts the life of the multi-racial society in Malaysia. Referring to “Kampung Boy”, he said it was based on his personal observation, life and experience.

“I don’t know how to create political stories because it is not an element that can last in the cartoon world.

“I prefer elements that are more remembered by the people, like friendship, neighbours and living in a society,” he added. He said the role of a cartoonist was not merely to produce work for people to view.

“At the same time, a cartoonist should be an agent to unite the people, especially in a country with various races, only then there is harmony,” he added.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

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– See more at: http://www.bt.com.bn/features/2016/07/10/m%E2%80%99sian-cartoonist-gets-ideas-after-dawn#sthash.BTSk9Hih.dpuf

Singapore-based scientist wins top science and technology award of Islamic world


Professor Jackie Ying will be awarded the inaugural Mustafa Prize in the Top Scientific Achievement category on Friday. Photo Courtesy: TST/Seah Kwang Peng

Samantha Boh


A SINGAPORE-based scientist has won the top science and technology award of the Islamic world, which comes with a $700,000 cash prize.

Professor Jackie Ying, 49, executive director of the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), will be awarded the inaugural Mustafa Prize in the Top Scientific Achievement category on Friday (Dec 25), in a ceremony to be held in Teheran, Iran.

This prize is meant for individuals whose research has improved human life and “expanded the boundaries of our perception about the world”.

Among her numerous scientific contributions, Prof Ying was recognised in particular for her role in developing glucose-sensitive nanoparticles that deliver insulin to diabetic patients only when their blood glucose levels are high.

The system does away with external blood glucose monitoring by finger pricks, and allows insulin to be delivered orally or by the nasal passage, instead of through injections.

Professor Hossein Zohour, head of the scientific committee of the Mustafa Prize, said the groundbreaking research is “an outstanding scientific approach of great promise for improving the quality of life of mankind in the near future”.

The other top award winner, under the Nano Science and Nanotechnologies category, was Jordanian chemist Omar Yaghi, co-director of the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

The pair edged out 600 other nominees, including Nobel laureates and scientists in the top of their fields.

The Mustafa Prize recognises leading researchers and scientists of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states, and Muslim researchers from around the world.

Prof Ying, who was born in Taipei, and raised in Singapore and New York, converted to Islam in her 30s.

She told The Straits Times that she intends to use a portion of the prize money to get more students intrigued about science, such as through exchange trips to renowned overseas science institutions and better-equipped school laboratories. She will start her effort at her alma mater Raffles Girls’ School.

The Straits Times

Thursday, 24 December 2015



Shamsi Ali: The rise and fall of a New York imam

Shamsi Ali

Shamsi Ali


AN IMAM once regarded as one of New York’s leading religious figures had a sudden fall from grace. So what does the story of one man’s attempt to adapt Islam to modern America tell us, asks Sune Engel Rasmussen.

Before the controversy that cut him down, Shamsi Ali was the leading figure of moderate Islam in New York, for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

For a decade, the biggest mosque in New York, the Islamic Cultural Center on 96th Street in East Harlem, was his stage. Here, the diminutive Indonesian with a brusque demeanour praised democracy and vigorously condemned extremism, to thousands of worshippers. Outside the mosque, he taught the FBI and congressmen in Washington about inter-religious co-existence.

He befriended presidents too. In the days after 11 September 2001, the city of New York picked him to represent the Muslim community on President George W Bush’s interfaith visit to Ground Zero. Another president, Bill Clinton, wrote the foreword to the new memoir, Sons Of Abraham, that Ali co-authored with a Jewish rabbi he counts among his close friends.

Although many of his conservative peers interpret the Koran to prohibit the use of music, Ali listens to rap and hangs out with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. He even shrugs, disinterested, at cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

In short, Shamsi Ali is the Muslim that liberal America wants. But he is not the leader all New York’s Muslims want. Ali is a divisive figure in New York’s Islamic community, and two years ago, the same mosque that gave him a platform to grow influential and popular, suddenly pulled the rug from under him.

Now, rather than preach to thousands at the 96th Street mosque, Ali speaks to a meagre congregation of 20 at the al-Hikmah Mosque, far out in the sticks of Queens, New York.

While his schedule is still packed with congregational duties at two mosques, and outreach activities and speaking engagements in public, the mosque that allowed him to rise to prominence at a young age no longer wants anything to do with him. The reasons for that are political, Ali says.

After years of tensions, he was quietly fired in 2011, or – depending on whom you ask – left of his own accord before he was. So quietly, in fact, that no one seems to know about it.


Tensions over how to practise Islam in the US mirror the challenges faced by any number of religions when they come to the US. Like Judaism and Christianity before it, Islam faces challenges of cultural integration, and lacks institutions to represent believers on their own terms in years of increased public suspicion against the religion.

Shamsi Ali at the Jamaica Center, Queens, New York .

Shamsi Ali at the Jamaica Center, Queens, New York .

“The lack of these institutions makes it difficult for Muslims to tell their own story, their own narrative,” says Khalid Latif, Muslim chaplain at New York University and another vocal interfaith proponent.

People who seek to integrate new religions into American society often meet as much resistance inside their communities, where prejudices against other faiths are rife, as they do from the outside, says Jose Casanova, professor at Georgetown University and one of the world’s leading scholars on sociology of religion. But if they persevere, people like Ali can make a huge difference.

“If you have leaders who commit themselves to it, then they can carry communities with them,” says Casanova.

An essential part of doing that is education, which is why religious institutions are so important, says Latif, and why Ali’s exit from the Islamic Cultural Center was such a blow to religious coexistence in New York.

“That mosque could be amazing in terms of really helping to educate and do outreach, right? But it’s not really doing that,” says Latif.


Ali likes to say he has a rebellious soul. But at the offices of the Indonesian Mission to the United Nations in New York, his first and longest remaining employer in the US, he wears the attire of American establishment.

The grey suit, lime green shirt and purple-striped tie all look slightly oversized on his lean, marathon-trained frame, as he edges forward on the couch to tell his story. It’s a journey that begins and ends with fights. Including internal ones.

Beginning at age six, when Shamsi led children from his village Tana Toa on the Indonesian island Sulawesi in fisticuffs against children from rival villages, through his teenage years of practising the Indonesian martial art, silat.

“That’s another thing I like,” he says. “I like to fight.”

The third of six children, Shamsi grew up five hours’ car drive from the nearest city. His parents had never read the Koran, but after they suggested he study it, it took him just eight months to learn it by heart. At 12, he enrolled in a pesantren, a strictly disciplined Islamic boarding school, where he quickly excelled as a top student.

“It was a jail in the beginning,” he says. “But later, I began to call it a divine jail.” At the school, he learned to sing verses from the Koran more beautifully than the other boys. And he learned to preach.

As a pre-teen, he gave sermons to the villagers, including his own mother who would superstitiously bless food by presenting it to a sacred rock. When Shamsi rebelled against that pagan custom and threw away his mother’s food, she got so scared the rock would curse the family that she fell ill for three days.

Shamsi’s view of Islam changed when at 18 he went on to study in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and found a stricter, more fundamentalist religion than he had been taught in Indonesia.

In Pakistan he married Mutiah, the 15-year-old daughter of the Islamic school’s headmaster, who three years later gave birth to their first child. A few years later, the Indonesian Ambassador to the UN heard Ali speak to a group of pilgrims in Mecca, and was so impressed with the young imam that he invited him to run a newly built Indonesian mosque in New York.


When he first landed in the US in 1996, at the age of 29, Ali was surprised to see that all Americans were not white. The first of them he saw were Asians, the cab drivers were Pakistanis, and his first neighbour and friend an elderly Irish Catholic man.

“It is not true that America is bad or worse than any Muslim countries. In fact, you find that America is better than many Muslim nations,” Ali says, explaining how the ethnic makeup of New York softened the doctrinaire Islam he had been brought up with.

“Islam for me is about justice, equality, tolerance, freedom, giving right to others, respecting the human rights. And if you don’t have these – even if you claim that you are a religious, Islamic country – that is a lie for me… Here in America, we have that.”

Yet, Ali’s liberalism has limits, and they are the ones that to him are unmistakably stipulated in the Koran. There is no way, for example, that he can approve of same-sex marriage. Centuries ago, he explains, Muslim scholars decided that homosexuality is a genetic mistake where a girl is accidentally born a boy, or vice versa.

While he would accept a child of his that came to him and said he or she was homosexual, he stresses that people who identify as homosexual should live a life in celibacy, get a sex change operation, or seek therapy, he says. “In that sense, I am orthodox.”


Ali was in the heart of the Manhattan when the two planes struck the towers. Al-Qaeda’s attack on the US on 9/11 became a crucial juncture in Muslim relations with American society, and it pushed Ali to the front of the public sphere.

After having noticed his burgeoning interfaith activities, the City asked Ali to join President George W Bush at a visit to Ground Zero with a host of religious leaders. At Ground Zero, Ali asked the president to explain to the American people that Islam was not terrorism. And that plea seemed to work.

“The face of terror is not the true face of Islam. That’s not what Islam is about,” Bush said a couple of days later in a speech in Washington. “Islam is peace.”

As Muslims came under scrutiny, he says, they became forced to rethink their place in society, and that brought some good things as well.

“After September 11, the Muslims became more open, more inclusive,” he says. “They opened their houses of worships for others to come and observe and see what they’re doing. They became more aggressive in terms of introducing themselves to Americans.”

In New York, however, the oldest and largest mosque in the city, the Islamic Cultural Center on 96th Street, was not rethinking anything.

Founded by the government of Kuwait in the late 1980s, the mosque wasn’t known for its progressiveness. In 2001, its head imam Muhammad Gemeaha said in an interview that “only the Jews” were capable of carrying out the attack on World Trade Center. Later his successor, Omar Saleem Abu-Namous claimed that there was no conclusive evidence that Muslims were behind 9/11.

Capsized by the following furore, the leadership of the mosque realized it needed a spokesperson more in line with the public opinion.

Enter Shamsi Ali.

He was working with the Indonesian UN Mission and at the Al Hikmah Mosque, and a press conference he gave after 9/11, in which he stressed the importance of faiths working together, had caught the City’s attention,

The mosque offered Ali, who was steadily gaining admirers outside the Muslim community, a part-time position as assistant imam. And he quickly became the face of the mosque.


Around the same time, Ali made an unlikely ally and friend. Like Ali, Marc Schneier is a self-declared orthodox believer who has raised ire with his outreach to other communities of faith. As vice president of the World Jewish Congress and head of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Schneier is also one of New York’s most influential rabbis.

“Most Muslims don’t trust Jews, and most Jews don’t trust Muslims,” says Schneier, a heavyset man of 54 with backcombed hair, in a stern, droning baritone. Recalling the time before he met Ali, he says: “I had a definitive bias in those days toward Muslims. I saw them as the enemy. They were the demons out to kill all Jews.”

Schneier’s suspicion was reciprocated. Ali, whose interfaith work had mainly been limited to working with Christians, saw Jews as the true, clandestine rulers of America, and as innately anti-Muslim.

Around the same time, Ali made an unlikely ally and friend. Like Ali, Marc Schneier is a self-declared orthodox believer who has raised ire with his outreach to other communities of faith. As vice president of the World Jewish Congress and head of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Schneier is also one of New York’s most influential rabbis.

“Most Muslims don’t trust Jews, and most Jews don’t trust Muslims,” says Schneier, a heavyset man of 54 with backcombed hair, in a stern, droning baritone. Recalling the time before he met Ali, he says: “I had a definitive bias in those days toward Muslims. I saw them as the enemy. They were the demons out to kill all Jews.”

Schneier’s suspicion was reciprocated. Ali, whose interfaith work had mainly been limited to working with Christians, saw Jews as the true, clandestine rulers of America, and as innately anti-Muslim.


Around the same time, Ali made an unlikely ally and friend. Like Ali, Marc Schneier is a self-declared orthodox believer who has raised ire with his outreach to other communities of faith. As vice president of the World Jewish Congress and head of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Schneier is also one of New York’s most influential rabbis.

“Most Muslims don’t trust Jews, and most Jews don’t trust Muslims,” says Schneier, a heavyset man of 54 with backcombed hair, in a stern, droning baritone. Recalling the time before he met Ali, he says: “I had a definitive bias in those days toward Muslims. I saw them as the enemy. They were the demons out to kill all Jews.”

Schneier’s suspicion was reciprocated. Ali, whose interfaith work had mainly been limited to working with Christians, saw Jews as the true, clandestine rulers of America, and as innately anti-Muslim.

As a response, opponents in another group, the Islamic Thinkers’ Society have taken to internet campaigns to denounce Ali. “Shamsi Ali is a moderate Uncle Sam Muslim who wants the Muslim community to imitate the west,” the group writes on its website.

In 2011, the mosque on 96th Street got a new chairman, Mansour al-Otaibi, who was less enthusiastic about Ali’s interfaith work. Suddenly, Ali no longer had the protection of the leadership, but it took a political conflict of global importance to topple him.


The outbreak of the Arab Spring in 2011 pitted supporters of the popular protests against defenders of the autocratic order, also in New York.

Ali sympathised with the Arab protests. He also knew very well that his employer in the mosque, the government of Kuwait, a little oil rich monarchy ruled by the same family for nearly 300 years, did not.

On a Friday in February, 2011, Ali strode through the prayer hall to deliver his noon sermon. Mounting the pulpit, he overlooked several thousand people sitting on the floor. The atmosphere was filled with a sense of anticipation. At the end of his sermon, Ali fixed his eyes on the men on the floor and said, “Every human being in their lives view freedom as a necessity. Prosperity without freedom does not guarantee happiness.”

He then asked his Egyptian brothers and sisters in the mosque to join that afternoon’s protests on Times Square against the Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak. The protesters in the Arab world needed their solidarity and support, he said.

After the prayer, the chairman pulled Ali aside. “This mosque doesn’t deal with politics,” he told him. But Ali replied that anti-dictatorial struggle was an inherent part of Islam. He was told he had to spend more time with his congregation and less on outreach activities, and he left the mosque.

The mosque insists that Ali was fired rather than left on his own account, but the chairman, Al-Otaibi, denies that it had anything to do with his interfaith activity.

In an email, he writes: “It was advised to [Ali] and to the other imams as well, that it was preferable not to speak about politics in sermons.”

Abdulrazak al-Amiri, who is daily director of the mosque, elaborates: “The people are coming here to pray, some of them are with the regime, some of them are against the regime. We don’t want this in our mosque.”

However, Ali claims he was squeezed out for political reasons, including his friendship with the Jews.


Since his days at the pesantren in Indonesia, Ali has thoroughly enjoyed singing verses from the Koran for masses of worshippers. On a recent afternoon, in his family’s two-story home in the low-rise jungle of Queens, he recites verses for two men in his living room.

Ali has just returned from a two-week trip to Indonesia to visit his sick father, and while there, newspapers and magazines wrote extensively about him and his interfaith work. That’s the reason the men, one of them fresh off the plane, have come – unannounced – to pray on the floor, wedged in between the coffee table and the window.

Ali and his wife Mutiah have lived here since 2004, when Ali took a job at the Jamaica Muslim Center, which is smaller than the 96th but still serves a large, predominantly Bangladeshi congregation. He also preaches to a small number of worshippers at the al-Hikmah Mosque.

Mutiah, a mild-faced woman wearing a loose-fitted dark dress and a black headscarf, serves the two men tea and plantain crisps. At 36, she is nine years Ali’s junior, but looks younger. Three of the five children run haphazardly around the living room, waving plastic swords above their heads.

The daughter of a madrasa principal, Mutiah is more conservative than her husband. “But I support him in everything he does,” she says.

His face shows the first discreet signs of middle age as he readily admits that his influence over his large congregation is diluted by all the time he spends away from it, building relationships with other faiths. Later this year, he hopes to establish his own interfaith, not-for-profit organisation which will provide a prayer room to younger worshippers. With an international tour promoting his book, this year may end up being one of the most important in his career.

“I’m sure that will be the beginning of the real journey,” he says, as he closes the front door to his house and makes the five minute stroll to the Jamaica Muslim Center.

In front of the gold-coloured pulpit, he turns his back to the crowd to lead the prayer. He then begins to sing with that striking voice that so entranced people in his pre-teens.

The loudspeakers outside the mosque carry his song through the sleepy streets, then down the hill to the busy avenue, where it dissolves and disappears in the traffic.


BBC Magazine

3 November 2013

Ali with his two daughters Maryam (left) and Malika.

Ali with his two daughters Maryam (left) and Malika.


M. Hatta, Indonesian national hero receives recognition from Netherland


REPUBLIKA.CO.ID — One of the most prominent Indonesian national heroes, Mohammad Hatta, received recognition for his peaceful and democratic commitment in fighting for independence by a university located in Netherland, a nation that once colonized Indonesia.

Erasmus University Rotterdam, where the freedom fighter went to study for 11 years until 1932, named its international student dormitory building after Hatta to honor his ideology, Erasmus’s professor Willlem M. Lamberts van Bueren stated here on Saturday (24/5/14).

“The move was aimed to reflect the changing perception about Hatta by the current Dutch generation. We are deeply impressed by his ideals and democratic commitment in fighting Indonesia’s independence, and only now we understand what he was doing,” reiterated van Beuren while visiting Hatta’s house to announce the university’s decision.

The Dutch East Indies administration in Indonesia’s colonial era saw Hatta as a recidivist who wanted to overthrow the legitimate government. To curb Hatta’s influence on the independence movement, the East Indies authorities then exiled him to several locations, including Digul and Banda.

Even as a student at the Erasmus University, later known as Rotterdam School of Commerce, Hatta was detained by the Dutch authorities without trial for six months because of his activities.

When finally taken for trial in The Hague, Hatta delivered a famous speech titled “Indonesia Vrij” or Free Indonesia. He explained that his nation and the Dutch administration could not cooperate with each other because the two are not equal partners, one is a colony and the other is a colonizer.

This unequivocal stance against colonialization was what set Hatta apart from several other national figures who sought independence through cooperation with the Dutch East Indies authorities. It was also the reason behind the hostile treatment he received during the colonial rule.

But as stressed by van Beuren in Jakarta, there is a growing change in perception in Holland about Indonesia’s first vice president.

“This appreciation for Hatta’s struggle is the main reason for Erasmus University naming its dormitory building after him,” he pointed out.

Meutia Hatta, the freedom fighter’s daughter stated that she was “grateful” and hoped to visit the building named after Hatta in the near future.

Meanwhile, Sri Edi Swasono, Meutia’s husband and also a prominent economy critic, remarked that more than a decade of education in Erasmus University laid the groundwork for Hatta to draft Indonesia’s constitution.

“Hatta deliberately chose to study international law and economy to set Indonesia in the right path after independence,” Sri Edi reiterated.

In the economic field, Hatta proposed an alternative model to capitalism and communism practices, known as “koperasi” or cooperative. While in the field of international relations, he was the architect of the main principle of Indonesian foreign policy, which is “politik luar negeri bebas aktif” or independent and active foreign policy.

Sat, 24 May 2014



Samuel Zwemer

Samuel Zwemer

SAMUEL Marinus Zwemer (April 12, 1867 – April 2, 1952), nicknamed The Apostle to Islam, was an American missionary, traveler, and scholar. He was born at Vriesland, Michigan. In 1887 he received an A.B. from Hope College, Holland, Mich., and in 1890, he received an M.A. from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, N. J.. His other degrees include a D.D. from Hope College in 1904, a L.L.D. from Muskingum College in 1918, and a D.D. from Rutgers College in 1919.

After being ordained to the Reformed Church ministry by the Pella, Iowa Classis in 1890, he was a missionary at Busrah, Bahrein, and at other locations in Arabia from 1891 to 1905. He was a member of the Arabian Mission (1890–1913). Zwemer served in Egypt from 1913–1929. He also traveled widely in Asia Minor, and he was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London.

In 1929 he was appointed Professor of Missions and Professor of the History of Religion at the Princeton Theological Seminary where he taught until 1937. He had married Amy Elizabeth Wilkes on May 18, 1896. He was famously turned down by the American Missionary Society which resulted in him going overseas alone. He founded and edited the publication The Moslem World for 35 years. He was influential in mobilizing many Christians to go into missionary work in Islamic Countries.

Zwemer retired from active work on the faculty of Princeton College Seminary at the age of seventy, but continued to write and publish books and articles as well as doing a great deal of public speaking. Zwemer died in New York City at the age of eighty-four.

According to Ruth A. Tucker, Samuel Zwemer’s converts were “probably less than a dozen during his nearly forty years of service” and his “greatest contribution to missions was that of stirring Christians to the need for evangelism among Muslims.” — Wikipedia



Bill Saragih: “It’s a true business”

Bill Saragih

Bill Saragih

WHAT’S in a name? It’s money. Oops, not really. But for veteran jazz musician Bill Amirsyah Saragih, a name has a lot to do with business. That is why he changed his name to Bill Simatupang.

“Simatupang is Siang malam tunggu panggilan (Waiting for order day and night),” Bill joked during the cocktail party held in conjunction with the 17th anniversary of The Jakarta Post at The Regent hotel in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Bill said he has become “a high-class unemployed man” since he stopped performing at pubs in the city recently and started to take orders from companies, “including state-owned pawnshop company Perum Pegadaian”.

But now he prefers to sing at Chinese wedding parties.

“It’s a true business,” he said. At such parties, he only sings one or two songs, but receives quite a nice sum of money.

One day, he said, after he sang one line of a song at a wedding party, suddenly there was a blackout. Not too long afterward, the family of the bride came to him and handed him a receipt to sign. He could not believe it. “It’s big money,” he said. — Darul Aqsha

The Jakarta Post
Sun, Apr 30 2000

Bill Amirsjah-Rondahaim Saragih (born January 1, 1933 in North Sumatra; died January 30, 2008) was an Indonesian jazz musician. His albums includes songs such as Billy’s Groove and original songs include Anna My Love, which was dedicated to his wife. Bill worked hard all his life to educate and promote music. his passion for Jazz Music was obvious. Bill leaves behind a son Tony and a daughter Tiana. Both reside in Sydney Australia. — Wikipedia

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