Negaraku: The Malaysian national anthem

“Our anthem lives in our imaginations. It has expressed our frustation and our joy.”
Saidah Rastam


If the Ottoman Empire had not collapsed

Imagine the mayhem that might have been avoided had the Ottoman Empire been saved rather than sunk. Blame, among others, Winston Churchill

WHEN a Serb gunman shot an Austrian archduke in the summer of 1914, the nations of Europe tumbled into war with all the grace of bowling pins. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, whose ally Russia declared war on Austria, whose ally Germany declared war on Russia, whose allies France and Britain declared war on Germany and Austria. By early August the continent was in flames.

Much as it wobbled like the rest, however, one of those bowling pins could not make up its mind. Which way would Turkey fall? Should the fading Ottoman Empire join the Triple Entente (Britain, France and Russia) or go with the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary)?

Turkey’s 500-year-old empire was shrinking. It had lost its territories in Africa, nearly all its Mediterranean islands and most of its Balkan lands as well as chunks of eastern Anatolia. It was debt-ridden, industrially backward and politically shaky.

Still, the sultan’s lands straddled two continents, controlling access to the Black Sea. His Arabian territories stretched beyond the holy cities of Islam to the mountains of Yemen and the Persian Gulf, where there were rumoured to lie vast caverns of the sticky black liquid soon to replace coal as the world’s chief source of power.

Confident of Turkey’s weakness, Britain, France and Russia could have clobbered the Ottomans and divided the spoils. Thankfully, wiser heads prevailed. At a secret conclave aboard a British dreadnought off the coast of Norway in late July, a far-sighted politician by the name of Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, worked with French, Russian and Turkish diplomats to forge a treaty. The Turks drove a hard bargain for, as they coyly revealed, Germany too was proffering arms and gold in exchange for an alliance.

The deal that was reached proved immensely beneficial to all concerned. From France, Turkey received generous debt relief. Russia scrapped all claims to Ottoman territory, and made a limited goodwill withdrawal from parts of Anatolia. Churchill waived further payment on two warships that British shipyards were building for Turkey. And Turkey received assurances that its vulnerable extremities would not be attacked; for an empire that for a century had been preyed upon like a carcass this was a new lease of life.

The rewards to the Triple Entente were equally big. Granted exclusive access to the Black Sea, Russia’s allies could resupply the tsar’s armies when they faltered at the start of the war. With no need to defend its Turkish frontier, Russia moved thousands of crack troops from the Caucasus to shore up its front lines. Turkey signed separate agreements recognising British control of the Suez Canal, Aden and the Trucial sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf, securing the sea lanes for Britain’s massive deployment of troops from the colonies to the Western Front. Turkey’s own army joined in a broad front against Austria-Hungary. Together, these Allied advantages are thought to have shortened the war by as much as a year; the Central Powers might not have sued for a truce as soon as America entered the war, but fought on instead.

Reprieved from collapse, the Ottoman Empire’s government pursued radical reforms. Challenged by growing nationalist tendencies from Arab, Armenian, Greek and Kurdish subjects, Sultan Mehmed V issued a historic firman or proclamation that recognised these as individual nations united under the Ottoman sovereign.

The sultan got to keep the title of caliph, commander of the Sunni Muslim faithful, which his ancestors had acquired four centuries earlier. This proved useful when the empire had to put down a rebellion of religious fanatics in central Arabia, led by a man called Ibn Saud who gained followers by claiming he would restore Islam to a purer state. But mostly the empire was seen as a tolerant place. When Nazi persecutions drove Jews from Europe in the 1930s, many took refuge there (as they had done when expelled from Spain in 1492), particularly in the province of Jerusalem.

If only

Needless to say, none of the above happened. Quite the opposite. Turkey aligned with Germany in the first world war, and the allies did attempt to invade and divide its empire. Churchill, instead of handing over the warships that ordinary Turks had paid for by subscription, had them seized for the British navy. In 1915 he ordered a catastrophic attack on Turkey; the landing at Gallipoli cost the allies 300,000 casualties. British campaigns against Turkey in Iraq and the Levant cost another million lives.

Turkey’s casualties mounted, by war’s end, to 3m-5m people, nearly a quarter of the Ottoman population. This included some 1.5m Armenians, slaughtered because Turkish officials believed they might become a fifth column for a hostile Russia. And when Britain and France grabbed the Ottomans’ Arab lands, their suppression of uprisings cost thousands more lives.

How much of today’s mayhem in the Middle East, from civil wars to terror in the name of Islam (and of restoring the caliphate) to the emergence of sectarian dictators such as Bashar al-Assad, not to mention of such a grudge-bearing Ottoman revivalist as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, might have been avoided, if only Churchill had embraced Johnny Turk instead of sinking him?

Source: The Economist (6th July 2017)

Tunku Dara Naquiah: The 5 Etiquette Rules Every Modern Sophisticate Must Know

by: Jessica Liew

“Etiquette is an improvement of one’s image, knowing how to do, what to do and when to do” – Tunku Dara Tunku Tan Sri Naquiah

The royal face of refined conduct and class reveals how to navigate social situations in the unique Malaysian context

You’ve probably found yourself in this tricky situation: It’s a formal event and you’re hosting, meeting or dining with people of various ranks and backgrounds, and not quite sure how to behave or what to say. When you’re in a trifle over protocol, hierarchy, rules and table manners, this is where proper etiquette comes in handy.

This scenario illustrates how etiquette is relatable to modern day habits more than ever, and Tunku Dara Tunku Tan Sri Naquiah, the royal figurehead of poise and eloquence, is on a mission to show how it is a way of life and a part of our social image, above all else.

Where etiquette was once seen as a prim and old-fashioned virtue for the upperclass and royals, it is the charm of forward-thinkers and accomplished impresarios today.

“Etiquette is an improvement of one’s image, knowing how to do, what to do and when to do,” clarifies Tunku Dara, who also shared tips on meeting and greeting royalty. “And that’s how you represent yourself with grace and confidence to other people on a social capacity.”

We sought out Tunku Dara for her thoughts on how this western conduct has been adapted to our eastern traditions, as a medium for harmony, and its relevance to modern society.

1. The 5 ways etiquette can be applied in this day and age.
“First, keep mobile phones out of sight at mealtimes and meetings. What’s the point of having a social or business lunch and you don’t talk? It’s deemed rude and ill-mannered. If you must, excuse yourself and step out to pick up your call.

Second, the respect of elders is lacking. It’s about showing your respect to them with simple things, like standing up, kissing their hand in greeting, holding the door, offering your chair.

Third, dress codes are important. Know what to wear for what occasion, and when to wear it. Adhere to the dress code.

Fourth, know your table manners. Learn how to behave at a buffet and at sit-down dinners. Don’t pile a plate with food and offer others at the table, unless they’re an invalid or elderly. Learn how to anticipate a western multi-course dinner at formal functions and how to eat it with the right cutlery.

Fifth, remember your P’s and Q’s, and apologies. The word ‘I’m sorry’ is an easy word to say, but for Malaysians it doesn’t come quite easily – especially amongst contemporaries. Learn to be polite.”

 2. There is such a thing as social etiquette to live in harmony in this world.
“If one is taught manners and etiquette, there will be less wars, fighting, theft, pilfering and bullying. More so in this digital age, where children are exposed to mature and violent content – they need to be taught how to handle what they’re exposed to. This is how social etiquette begets order, and in turn, harmony.”

While she’s a stalwart of social etiquette, Tunku Dara emphasises on being proud of our eastern traditions too

3. Be proud of how vibrant Malaysian etiquette is due to our eastern civilization.
“We have to remember our eastern values and traditions, too. We’re living in a cross-cultural situation where most things are done in western style, especially at work, even in parliament or palace. Unlike western practices, here in Malaysia, both men and women stand up for seniors or those of higher rank. “

 4. Etiquette is essentially how we live with one another.
“It starts from appearance, the way you walk, dress, speak and body language. Upon first meeting, what do you do and how do you handle the situation? Interaction progresses to conversation, behavior, work, then dining. Following that,  know how to entertain and be entertained, then how to behave as an employee or employer. Dress code, punctuality, table seating, and order of events, these all come into the picture.”

 5. Last but not least, be proud of your local etiquette.
“One example is eating food with our hands in a communal, casual environment, and it can be an eye-opening introduction for western people to our culture. That’s fine – warn them first that this is a real tradition, and tell them to dress down – yes, dress code applies too. Show them our way of life, because we’re teaching them our manners. Show them how to eat with their hands; otherwise, there’s always the spoon and fork.”

Join Tunku Dara Naquiah in partnership with The Circle, as she conducts Etiquette for Today, a unique etiquette-training workshop from August 26-27, 2017, held at the Sime Darby Convention Centre. To register or for more enquiries, call 012-485 1610 or email

Photos from the Malaysia Tatler Ball archive.

Source: AsiaTatler (12 July 2017)



Is ‘mamak’ a derogatory term?

by: Jahabar Sadiq

Image may contain: 3 people, indoor

My friend wondered aloud whether using the term mamak was derogatory. I replied that it wasn’t and the conversation went on for a bit.

But mamak is just a Malaysian term, and its a corruption of the word mama, which means uncle in Tamil. And it is specifically uncle on the maternal side.

Uncles on the paternal side are known as sacha or chacha. And for variety, depending where you are from in Tamil Nadu, mama is also pronounced and spelled mamu. Hence the Penang variant.

So how did it become a put-down or a derogatory term. From what I know, it came about from the old days of Malacca when the Bendahara Sri Maharaja Tun Mutahir or prime minister was seen as a vain pot. He was accused of plotting against the sultan and his entire family was put to death in 1510, a year before Malacca fell to the Portuguese.

And then there’s Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is of Indian Muslim descent. A fair number of people have called him derogatory names including mamak and mamak kutty. That probably explains the reason why mamak is derogatory for some.

But Dr Mahathir isn’t mamak. His family came from Kerala and they are known as Kakas. Ignorance has resulted in more odium and contempt for the more popular Mamaks rather than the Kakas.

But you want to talk derogatory? Or dirty.

The Indians themselves, and in Malaysia that really means the southern Indians or Tamils, have also described Indian Muslims in less than friendly manner. The term they use is Thulukans, or people of Turkish descent.

There’s a long history there as Islam came by land and sea to India – that sub-continent of princeling states and people divided by language, diet, culture and united by the British (correction, India was united before that so in defence I’ll say, English language).

The Arabs always had relations with India even before Islam but a fair number of Muslims came by land from the northwest and pushed right through to the south. They were of Turkic origins. The seafaring Arabs proselytised among the coastal Indians in the east coast and somewhat in the west coast and their offsprings were just known as Arabs, not Mamak or Kaka.

But among the Indian Muslims, the term Thulukan is friendly and a sign of recognition of brotherhood and family relationships.

What term do Indian Muslims or Mamaks use to put each other down? They call each other ToppiWappa. But it is friendly, not spiteful or derogatory.

Why I’m writing this down? Because I might forget all this one day and also to underline one thing. You can call Mamaks and think it is derogatory but it is a sign of respect. And you know, the Mamaks are there 24 hours to cook delicious fare for you and your family. And there for your cigarettes, condoms and crisps.

So before you think it is bad and not politically correct, just know the Mamak doesn’t quite care. They are a courteous community focussed on family, feasts and finance.

The rest of Malaysia can’t live without them, and know them as the people you go to when in you need food, foreign exchange and friendship.

Get the picture? Oh, and maybe one day I will write about 786.

Source: Facebook Jahabar Sadiq (27th May 2017)

Millennials: Four main reasons for Gen Y’s unhappiness

WERE you born after 1983?

Congratulations, you’re a millennial. Now here’s a quick loving guide to everything that’s wrong with you.

An Inside Quest interview with renowned author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek has gone viral thanks to his insights on Gen Y.

In the 15-minute segment, he covers everything from social media to flawed parenting in summarising the newer generation’s problems.

“Apparently millennials are tough to manage and they’re accused of being entitled and narcissistic and self-interested, unfocused and lazy,” he says.

“But entitled is the big one. Because they confound leaders so much, what’s happening is leaders are asking the millennials, ‘What do you want?’ and millennials are saying, ‘We want to work in a place with purpose’. Love that!

“’We want to make an impact’ — whatever that means. We want free food and beanbags. Somebody articulates some sort of purpose, there’s lots of free food and beanbags and yet for some reason they’re still not happy. That’s because there’s a missing piece.”

Mr Sinek goes on to outline four main reasons for Gen Y’s unhappiness: poor parenting, social media, impatience and environment.

On poor parenting, he says that “too many” young people were brought up being told they were special and could do anything they wanted to.

“Some of them got into Honours Classes not because they deserved it but because their parents complained. Some of them got A’s, not because they earned them, but because the teachers didn’t want to deal with the parents. Some kids got participation medals for coming in last.

“The science we know is pretty clear — it devalues the medal and reward for those who actually work hard and it actually makes the person who comes in last feel embarrassed because they know they didn’t deserve it. So it actually makes them feel worse.”

He added: “They’re thrust in the real world and in an instant they find out they’re not special, their mums can’t get them a promotion, that you get nothing for coming in last and by the way you can’t just have it because you want it. In an instant their entire self-image is shattered. So you have an entire generation that is growing up with lower self-esteem than previous generations.”

Mr Sinek compares our addiction to technology to alcoholism, noting that engaging with technology triggers dopamine, the feel-good receptors in the brain, just as booze, gambling or eating food does.

He explains that — thanks to platforms like Facebook and Instagram — young people are increasingly used to “filtering” their lives and presenting only their best “self” at the expense of reality.

Therefore, when they actually enter the real world, they’re dealt a sharp shock when they realise you can’t exactly chuck a Valencia filter on your career.

“The reality is there’s very little toughness and most people don’t have it figured out,” he says. “So when the more senior people say, ‘What shall we do?”, They sound like, ‘This is what you gotta do’ and they have no clue!”

Likewise, he points out that technology has created a generation that needs instant gratification. They might be in a job for eight months and then question why they’re not making an “impact”.

“Too many kids don’t know how to form deep, meaningful relationships…they have fun with their friends but they also know that their friends will cancel on them if something better comes along. Deep meaningful relationships are not there because they never practised the skillset and worse they don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with stress.”

He says this even extends to sex: “You want to go on a date. You don’t even have to learn how to be like, ‘Hey…’ You don’t have to be the uncomfortable one who says ‘Yes’ when you mean ‘No’ and ‘No’ when you mean ‘Yes.’ Swipe right. Bang! I’m a stud!…everything you want you can have instantaneously, everything you want — instant gratification.

“Except job satisfaction and strength of relationships. There ain’t no app for that. There is slow, meandering, uncomfortable, messy processes.”

So, what’s the big solution? Mr Sinek calls for young people to lower their smartphone usage and take a more long-term view on life.

Don’t keep your phone on your desk in a meeting, face-up or face-down. Charge it in your living room, not by your bed while you sleep at night. Engage with the people around you, don’t sit there texting your friends.

The alternative, he says, is pretty damn bleak.

“The best case scenario is you’ll have an entire population growing up and going through life and just never really finding joy. They’ll never really find deep fulfilment in work or life.”

He does at least acknowledge it’s not their fault.

“They blame themselves… but it’s not them. It’s the total lack of good leadership in our world today that is making them feel the way they do.”

Source: (6th January 2016)

Negative space

At a glance it looks like what you perceived it. But on a second and more deeper observation, you begin to spot something totally different. And when all is settled, it becomes clear that there is more to it than what meets the eye (at first sight).

This is the magic of negative space illustration. An art term for something like this:


Pulp fiction by Avinoam ‘Noma’ Bar. The picture shows two images in one of Samuel L. Jackson (in Afro) and John Travolta (in tuxedo).

Negative space is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space occasionally is used to artistic effect as the “real” subject of an image (Wikipedia)