Who let the dogs out? Malaysia vs Indonesia’s Amazing Race to the Bottom

Most of your would be unaware of it but there is a relentless race between two neighboring and competing nations Malaysia and Indonesia.

It is a race to the bottom of the IQ ladder by its religious wallah. You know the type, using the name of religion to to impose their stupidity on others.

 

The state of play yesterday was this: Malaysia fired its first salvo when the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) said pretzel store franchise Auntie Anne’s change the name of its “Pretzel Dog” to “Pretzel Sausage” lest it confuse and alarm Muslims.

The dog is an unclean animal, according to some Muslims, so using its name would make things unclean. Presumably Jakim will soon order name changes to Hamburg and hamburgers, Swine Fever, pig iron and order a revision of the nursery rhyme featuring three little piggies.

Rename ‘Pretzel Dog’ to ‘Pretzel Sausage’, Jakim tells Auntie Anne’s – Nation | The Star Online

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has recommended that pretzel store franchise Auntie Anne’s change the name of its “Pretzel Dog” to “Pretzel Sausage” in order to receive a halal certification.    “It is more appropriate to use the name ‘Pretzel Sausage’,” said Jakim’s Halal Division director Sirajuddin Suhaimee.    “The improvement process is being conducted from time to time.  “Malaysia’s good name as a pioneering ‘halal global’ figure needs to be improved.  “To avoid this issue at the global stage, the panel has decided not to use such a name,” he said via WhatsApp Tuesday.   In a statement earlier, Jakim clarified that the body did not label Auntie Anne’s as not halal.  Jakim explained that Auntie Anne’s food products were in the process of getting a Malaysian halal certification.  It said that this was done after some improvements to the franchise’s application.  This week, Jakim’s rejection of Auntie Anne’s halal certification application went viral on social media and blogs, with many Muslims questioning the halal status of the food items.

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Not to be outdone,  the Indonesian team represented by the Indonesian Ulema Council issued a fatwa against speed bumps.

Its rationale: Speed bumps because they are “harmful.” It is unclear whether the ulemas have mistaken the word bumps with humps because Unspun’s been told that if you’re going at reckless speed while humping it may result in injury.

Indonesian Ulema Council in Samarinda issues fatwa saying speed bumps are haram

As the sole independent entity entrusted to inform Muslims in Indonesia as to what is or isn’t forbidden, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has issued many questionable fatwas (rulings based on an interpretation of Islamic law by a recognized authority) in the past, which have included everything from theprohibition of playing Pokemon GO to being homosexual, which they said should be punishable by death.

Some might argue that the MUI is doing what they believe is in the best interests of all Muslims with their fatwas, which is why this one is oddly counterintuitive.

The MUI branch in Samarinda, East Kalimantan issued a fatwa against road speed bumps of all things, because they are supposedly harmful.

“If a speed bump disrupts road users, then it’s makruh (advised against but not sinful). But, if it claims lives, then it’s haram,” said MUI Samarinda head Zaini Naim, as quoted by Tempo on Sunday.

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With the score being 1-1 we are all at tenter hooks on what the outcome of the race will be. Will Malaysia counter with another stab stupider than this dogged approach? And if so, will Indonesia strike back with a big fatwa?

Only time will tell.

More than just business

We read the news every day but how much do we know about the editors behind the news? What informs their thinking and decisions? At Maverick we decided to find out about this important group of people the good old-fashioned way, by actually talking to them.

Here, published in Maverick’s blog, we talk to Arif Budisusilo who helms Indonesia’s most important business publication, Bisnis Indonesia. We found that he has very original views about nationalism and national interest, among other things.

My thanks to Iwan Kurniawan for coming up with the idea of interviewing the literal newsmakers, and also Nurniyati who was in the media relations team but has left for greener pastures in Singapore, for coming up with the idea and making things happen.

Arif Budisusilo of Bisnis Indonesia: National Interest over Nationalism – Maverick Indonesia

Last year, when the Rupiah was falling alarmingly and Indonesia’s economy looked increasingly shaky, Bisnis Indonesia chief editor Arif Budisusilo was confronted by a young reporter who felt that the nation’s premier business newspaper was being too pro-Government. “’What’s with our coverage? Are we speaking on behalf of the Government? Have we been given projects by the Government? The young reporter demanded to know,” said Arif, who’s also known as AB, the first two syllables of his full name. The young reporter was indignant because he felt that Bisnis Indonesia had not been critical enough in its reporting of the government’s handling of the economy. Then, explained AB, Bisnis Indonesia had adopted the policy that it is to no one’s benefit if all it did was report on the anxiety, fear and pessimism felt by businesspeople. “If we did just that, then all we would do is to make businesses more anxious and worsen the situation.”

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So who’s behind #NoWitchHuntKarHut?

Update August 28: One of the buzzers involved in the campaign has admitted to being asked to Tweet, the client remains a mystery, and he has apologised for taking on the assignment here.  Unspun thinks it takes a big man to admit that they were wrong and to ask for forgiveness. Perhaps the Netizens should cut him some slack from now on.

Since my post some netizens have named the alleged digital agency and one of them have come up with a shitlist of all the buzzers involved. The company or alliance financing the campaign remains a mystery (at least to Unspun).

The original post:

The hashtag #NoWitchHuntKarHut (KarHut stands for Kebakaran Hutan or Forest Fire) began life on Twitter ostensibly on August 20, three days ago, by a buzzer. It sat there innocuously until this morning, when it seemingly caused a civil war among the Twitterati of Indonesia.

What was it about and why did it cause such a furore?

burning-13As far as can be pieced together the hashtag was a campaign initiated by a digital agency based in Jakarta. It gathered and paid some buzzers to use the hastag and get through the message that large corporations have been unfairly singled out when apportioning blame for forest fires. The unfairness resulted from the fact that smaller corporations were just as guilty for starting forest fires.

All sorts of buzzers were recruited, even those who normally would be more comfortable with lifestyle and consumer consumption than environment and public affairs. They were apparently told by the digital agency that the campaign was also an Indonesian reaction against Singapore that has been trying to assert pressure on Indonesia. Naively some of the buzzers swallowed that story, hook, line and sinker.

So when the buzzers got to work, a civil war, not unlike that in  Marvel comic that many of them are fond of,  broke out between them and the other buzzers who smelt something fishy about their fellow-buzzers suddenly taking up the cause of Big Palm Oil. Not being wall flowers, they spoke, or rather tweeted their minds, and soon there seemed to be a groundswell of sentiment against their fellow buzzers that had apparently sold out to land grubbing, environment-destroying, cynical large corporations.

The war  got so bad that one prominent buzzer was reported to have closed his account because of all the criticisms he was receiving.

Being curious about such things and having a suspicious mind Unspun thought that the usual large corporation suspects were behind the move so he checked with friends he had in their woodwork. They told him that they were flummoxed as anyone as to who was behind the campaign as they weren’t. These are friends, not the organisations, talking so Unspun tended to give them the benefit of the doubt.

So if it is not the usual suspects who could it be? Who was sophisticated enough to engineer a campaign ostensibly on behalf of the large corporations but in reality aimed to discredit them? And who else would have the kind of money to pay the digital agency to run the campaign and pay the buzzers? And why that peculiar hashtag #NoWitchHuntKarHut? It is a clumsily long hashtag. The use of the “no withch hunt” idiom suggests a Western mind or one brought up on western education (or an agency whose strategy is led by a Westerner).

One source, who corroborated on the identity of the agency, said he heard that an alliance of companies (that was not part of the usual suspects) was behind the funding of the campaign. But there was no more information. This deepens the mystery. Are there other players out there out there trying to discredit the established Big Boys? Who would gain from such a move, if true? Are we about to see a round of musical chairs in the Palm Oil industry? What is going on?

Petungkriyono

Petungkriyono is a forest reserve about three hours drive south of Pekalongan in Central Java. The distance is not that great but like many other places the road there is narrow and potholed, prolonging the journey that would take about a third of the time if it was serviced by good roads.

It’s actually adjacent to the better known Dieng Plateau, so the vegetation there is thick, the weather when we were there in July wet and fairly cool. The area is about 7,000 hectares and houses several villages.

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The Pekalongan government is trying to turn this area into a tourist destination. This means that if you love nature, go there before things get spoilt.

The main attraction, apart from the flora and fauna seems to be the Welo River where you can go river tubing. The concept sounds more attractive and fun than it actually is.

A group of us tried it and we were taken to a part of the river where we were to begin our journey. We were given helmets, arm pads and knee pads that looked like arm pads. We then got on rubber tubes and off we went shooting the rapids – for about 20 meters.

Then we had to disembark, get off and walk to the next stretch where we would get a 10 or 15 meter ride down the tube. It was a bit dangerous. We had to walk and jump from one section to another barefoot and the tubes are anything but stable so overturning in tricky sections were inevitable.

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The organisers were all well meaning and caring but their idea of safety isn’t the highest by international standards so you could imagine if someone overturned and, in a panic, kept holding on to the tube. They would have been dragged by the strong current. Once when I overturned I hit my head against a rock. Luckily I had a helmet, and a hard head.

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Still, it ended well and it was fun although I’d not recommend it for the less intrepid.

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Other than that the best part of the trip was to wind down the car windows and enjoy the scenery as we passed by rice terraces cut into the hills, rivers swollen and angry from the recent rains.

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The other attractions included watching the power of the river expressing itself as a raging waterfall at Curug Bajing (Squirrel’s Waterfall).

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Leaving Petungkriyono you get to pass through small towns with their market days.

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And when you leave Pekalongan for Jakarta you are always treated with views of fields of paddy and other crops

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Dachau

Had a spare day after a business trip to Munich in July so took the train to Dachau, the Nazi’s first concentration camp located about 10km outside of the city.

It was opened in 1933 by Heinrich Himmler and meant to house political prisoners but quickly became a catch all for everyone the Nazis couldn’t tolerate – Jews, monosexuals, foreigners,  even German and Austrian criminals.

There must have been so much sorrow and sadness played out there but when I visited I found the place impeccably restored but clinical, like so much of Bavaria.

It did not help that it was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, it was cool and cottony clouds floated across the blue sky. I could not help wondering what the inmates must have thought, the irony they savoured, on such a beautiful day when imprisoned in Dachau, a place specially designed to strip them of their dignity.

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Entrance to Dachau. A railway ended near here to unload the prisoners
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The iron gate into Dachau with the slogan “Work Will Set You Free”. The Nazis excelled in mocking and insulting their prisoners.
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Inside Dachau are pictorial and text displays of the rise of the Nazis and their programme to establish Concentration and Extermination camps after Dachau
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Another irony. While stripping the wall of paint, the restorers found the original paintwork where a “no smoking sign” was prominently painted on the wall. Many of the prisoners would be killed within a short time so this admonition seemed pointless and mocking.
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This is where the prisoners were brought en masse to shower.
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A scale model of Dachau, outside the window is a sculpture that is part of the International Monument
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A sculpture in the Dachau Museum
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A view of the barracks at Dachau
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Another view of the barracks
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The Jewish Monument at Dachau

Office trip to Belitung

Our office recently went on an outing to Belitung, an island off the east coast of South Sumatra made famous by the film Laska Pelangi.

Our first stop was Tanjung Pandang Beach, a recreational stretch that had nothing remarkable except that it faced west and therefore was a place to watch the sunset.

So we did what all good Indonesian groups do, which is to take lots of group photos and selfies.

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There was also the “it’s good to be Boss photo” designed to show me up as a beacon of collected calm in a sea of jumping staff members.

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Others ventured to become amateur photographers and models for their portfolios and Instagram accounts.

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The next day was games day where we went on boats to the surrounding islands, mainly Pulau Lengkuas. They all had the characteristic of having huge rocks sitting on white sand or clear sea.

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Some of them even came complete with their own spume of cloud to crown what, to the creatively minded, must be a lingam of Belitung

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The island was, however, beautiful.

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And studded with a lighthouse from Dutch days

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In between the games and activities we had we managed to see a bit of Belitung, which is on the surface a rather dull town with unremarkable modern buildings  that belie its rich tin-mining past.

But there are glimpses such as this old Dutch house

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Or this colonial building that the neighbours couldn’t tell what it was built for.

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There was also a temple, the Hock Tek Che temple near the market that hinted on the Chinese ethnic groups that coalesced around mining towns in Indonesia and Malaysia. Apparently the largest groups are the Hakkas, the Haines and the Hokkiens.

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There were also a few shops, again near the market, that echoes traditional trades of the Straits Chinese like this rattan shop.

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There was also little recreation in the town. No cinemas or Karaokes that we should see, a small shopping mall that you covered in 10 minutes. Much of the entertainment seemed to centre around drinking coffee at the beach and at coffee shops.

Among the coffee shops Kong Djie stands out as the  top hang out spot. There are three outlets, one by the beach, a relatively hip one near a restaurant and ole-olen complex and the original one in town.

When we were there Isyak, the sen of the founder was minding the till and occasionally making the coffee.

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He’s a sport though and allowed one of our colleagues to play barista for the afternoon.

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Back at our hotel, called the Bahamas Resort (why do they name one exotic tropical beach destination with another) it was time to chill out and bond as an office. We were treated to the great sunsets Belitung offers.

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The scene changed with the tide went out.

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Two other attractions that Belitung has is the Blue Lake, so called because the kaolin mined in the depleted time mine has given the water a bluish tint.

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And of course, there was the famous beach (I forgot the name) where Laskar Pelangi was shot, still. clear waters punctuated by time rounded boulders.

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Fear and loathing over funds for Ibu Saeni

They say that no good deed goes unpunished.

 

The four young people who had been so moved by the plight of Serang Warteg owner Ibu Saeni try raising money for her over the internet — and was too successful at it — must be savouring the irony of this saying now.

Here’s how the story unfolded: On Wednesday, Serang city authorities cracked down on Warteg owners who had opened for business during fasting hours. One of the wartegs they raided, with reporters in tow,  belonged to 53-year old Ibu Saeni.

TV coverage of the raid showed several officers swooping on a hapless Ibu Saeni behind the counter and putting all the food that represented her entire day’s takings into plastic bags to be carried off to an unknown destination.

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Shocked and awed, Ibu Saeni broke down into tears.

Not helping things, the city officials had one of their own explaining unsympathetically to the TV cameras that they raided the wartegs because their owners had violated a city regulation not to sell food during fasting hours.

When the incident was aired and reported over TV and other news outlets there was great outpouring of sympathy for Ibu Saeni, and disdain for the officials who were perceived to be picking on the small businesspeople while leaving the more privileged show ones (the larger outlets and chains operating in shopping malls) untouched.

Amid all the chatter on social media arising out of this incident, four young people  – Alexander Thian, Jenny Jusuf, dan Yogi Natasukma and Dwika Putra,  (Disclosure: Dwika works in my workplace) decided to do something to help Ibu Saeni.

Since they  were heavy social media users and influencers in their own right, they naturally turned to the Net to raise money for Ibu Saeni. They had thought that they could raise Rp10 million, maybe Rp20 million, to help her after the trauma she had been through.

So they appealed for donations. Dwika had an account in BCA that he used for his personal expenses. So he emptied that account and used it as a vehicle for accepting donations to Ibu Saeni.

Then the unexpected happened. The response was so good that the four of them were first delighted then shocked as contribution after contribution came in. When the fund ballooned to Rp80 million they began to realise that the money raised after that mark would be better utilised for helping other victims of the raid. So they used social media to tell would-be donors that whatever was raised after that would be disbursed to other Warteg owners who had also been raided by city authorities.

Still the money kept pouring in and when the deadline for the last donations came they had raised a whopping Rp265 million!

They were touched. They were elated. They were amazed by the generosity of their fellow Indonesians. But they were also getting a bit scared an frustrated.

This was because while many Indonesians were praising them and appreciating their initiative to do something instead of merely tweeting or Facebooking about their frustrations, others have been outright mealy mouthed and nasty about their motives.

It would have been fine if these critics questioned whether it was the right thing to do to try to help a woman who had broken city regulations but the bottom line was much lower than that.

The intentions and integrity of the four were questioned. Hiding behind the safety and often the anonymity of their Twitter and other social media accounts these critics started to insinuate against the integrity and intentions of these four.

Some said that they were Christians out to denigrate Islam, Others that they were out to make a name for themselves on the sorrows of Ibu Saeni. Still others questioned whether they were trying to make a profit from the interest accrued from the interest on the Rp265 million before the disbursement,. And some questioned whether they wanted to insinuate themselves into politics.

It is ridiculous. It is petty and totally unwarranted, forcing one of them, Alexander Thian, to address the issue in his Facebook page.

The truth is sometimes very simple until people try to complicate it. My take on this incident is that you have four young people with their hearts in the right places. They wanted to help an old lady in distress and got off their bums to do something about it.

They made an appeal and the response was way beyond their expectations. So now they have to deal with how best to disburse all that money so that it is not only fair but seen to be fair. There is nothing more to it.

Instead of dumping on them these critics should shut up instead and look into themselves to find out where such snarky, petty and ill-willed sentiments come from. Appropriate topics to contemplate during the month of Ramadan, when the aim is for people to become better human beings.