Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Vietnam War: Differing Stories told through Washington DC and Ho Chi Minh City

I am now in Ho Chi Minh City, just came back from a Vietnam War Memorial here. I went to a place with a similar name when I was in Washington DC 2 years ago, but the similarity ends in the name. Inside, both places tell two different stories, but of the same event.

Throughout my teenage years, I've always been fed by the Washington side of the story through movies like Rambo and video games like Battlefield and Call of Duty. Ultimately, I was fed by those stories again through the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington. All the while I was there, the tourist guide and signages keep sending these messages into my brain: ''These American people fought for democracy, even for strangers far away from home'', ''They are freeing the Vietnamese from oppression and poverty'', ''This is a war for human rights''. Oh, you know all those American government bullshit

After my visit to Ho Chi Minh Vietnam War Memorial today, I realize how naive was I to believe what I heard and saw in Washington. So many details of the war were left out. Now that I've seen the pictures and videos of the American people during their occupation in Vietnam, I even despise playing Call of Duty: Black Ops killing the Vietnamese. I'd rather play the game now, turn on 'friendly fire' and shoot all my comrades, even if it means: ''Game Over, Friendly Fire Are Not Tolerated''.

In the memorial here in Ho Chi Minh, there were many accounts of the Vietnam war as seen by the Vietnamese themselves. There was a video of one American soldier shooting a young civilian just walking by the city, a photo of a mother and a young daughter burning to death by the American chemical weapon, and a whole lot of B-52 bombers bombing the villages along with its innocent people (Not to mention how many Vietnamese were raped during their occupation here). Nope, you won't see this in Washington.

There was no freeing the people from oppression and giving them democracy by the Americans. They were free and well off before the American came. When thay came in 1954 and install their puppet Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam, the people there revolted against him in a series of attacks and demonstrations. Why would the local people attack someone claiming to be 'freeing them from oppression'? Because they were not oppressed, and it is him who is oppressing the people

However, the Vietnamese were never stupid. They've driven away the French Army during the First Indochina war in the 1940s, and driving away the American Army from their country is just another day in their daily life. I have to respect the Vietnamese for winning the war against the Americans with such low technology and limited resources. The Chu Chi tunnel they built was absolutely amazing. They are so smart that they built kitchens underground, but diverting the smoke from their cooking somewhere else far away. So when they cook, the smoke comes out at someplace else where there's no inhabitants, and the Americans, seeing smoke frequently coming out of that area, thought that that was the place the Vietnamese were hiding. So they sent a whole lot of B-52 bombers to bomb that area, and the Vietnamese were happily enjoying the food they just cooked, laughing at the sounds of B-52 bombers wasting their ammunition killing no one in the jungles. Smart, aren't they?

It is funny how the Americans spent billions and sent thousands of their own people to die to take over such a small and poor country. I wonder what do they get after they have lost. Don't get me wrong. I am not anti-American. As a boy growing up in Boston, I was taught about the American values of acceptance, humanity and the dignity. I could only wonder why they're government are not run by people who taught me all the good values. If only their government practice what their citizens preach, America would earn a worldwide respect. Even today, years after the Vietnam war, the American government hasn't learn their lesson well. They continue invading other countries, now in the middle-east, for their greedy purposes. So there's only two types of American I hate: The politicians, and the soldiers stupid enough to stay in the American Army

The resilience of the Vietnamese people won them the war, and their resilience is still evident today, translated into economics and politics. The last of the American Army left Vietnam in 1975, that's just like 35 years ago, and today, Vietnam's economy is booming fast. Just take a city tour around Ho Chi Minh and you'll see what I mean. In comparison to my country, which has been free for 54 years, I wonder if someday they would surpass us? Or did they already?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Confusions Regarding The Freezing of Medical Courses in Malaysia

I have been receiving many emails and Facebook messages asking about the freezing of medical courses until 2016. I will try to answer them here. Many have been misled to believe that Malaysia will not be taking anymore medical students from now until 2016. Fact is: the freezing if effective towards new medical courses, not new medical students. In other words, there will be no more licenses given by the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) to new institutions wishing to set up a medical degree. Existing medical degree courses are unaffected and will still be taking in students according to their own quotas. So there’s no such thing as ‘no more juniors’ or ‘SPM school-leavers won’t be able to take medicine’.

This decision is subsequent to the forecasted surplus of medical housemen overwhelming public hospitals by 2015, which was highlighted November last year in The Star, which I commented in my previous note ‘’A Future of Too Many Doctors - A Grave Concern For Medical Students’’ (http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=178889192122594). This move hopes to reduce the number of housemen in public hospitals. Hope this note clears up the confusion, and do share this with concerned friends.

Thank you

Lutfi Fadil Lokman
Chairman Elect 2011/12
Society of Medical Students,
Malaysian Medical Association

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Thoughts On Osama's Death

This note is written assuming that Osama and his death are real, as for at the time of this writing, we can’t tell with much certainty (burial at sea, fake photos and witnesses near Osama’s compound). Whether it's a propaganda or not, I think it’s best to leave them to conspiracy theorists. What I would like to focus on is: If Osama does exist and if he is a Muslim, are the things he did justified? I’ve seen many responses on Facebook supporting violence that Osama purportedly did, which includes:

  1. I pray that another Osama will be born and destroy all the American people and Jews alike
  2. Osama has fallen syaheed, and there is no place for him but Jannah for his Jihad against oppression
  3. I pray that Osama is blessed and placed in Jannah for the justice he brought to the Muslim people

While I do respect people who go on a Jihad, and have absolutely no right to judge whether Osama goes to Jannah or not, the question that enters my mind is: Was what he did a Jihad? Was it a war against oppression? Did it bring justice to the Muslim people? This is what I think: If Osama does exist, the things he did were neither Jihad, justice nor war against oppression. A war is defined as ‘a state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state’. When targets are unarmed, when innocent people became the mark, then it is not a war against oppression but an act of cowardice. It is not a Jihad. Jihad fi sabilillah means ‘striving in the way of Allah’. Contrary to popular western belief, Jihad is not synonymous to ‘holy war’. Striving in the way of Allah is NOT equivalent to war. It could mean striving to improve our faith in Allah, striving to improve the Muslim society as a whole and striving to defend Islam. Violence is not the only way to defend Islam. In places where Muslims are clearly oppressed by violence like in Palestine, it is fitting to retaliate in war. But during that course of war, Islam prohibits us from attacking women, children and innocent people alike. Yes, the Zionists violated all human rights by killing innocent people, but does that mean we have to be like them? If we did what they did, then we are the same filthy creatures roaming the earth as they are.

I have a great opportunity to have a lunch talk with one Palestinian medical student in one of the conferences I went to. The essence of his message during the chat is that they don’t need us to come to Palestine wielding weapons with intentions for Jihad. These are his exact words: ‘’Help us from your homes by gaining knowledge that can improve the lives of Muslims around the world. Don’t worry about our armed conflicts, for years, we have learned to defend ourselves’’

Osama’s ideology to put a stop to the oppression of Muslims was admirable, but the technique he used in executing his ideology was unacceptable. He was an absolutely rich man. He has all the resources to do a different kind of Jihad, a Jihad that could improve the Muslim society around the world that subsequently puts an end to oppression. How I wish he had used his resources to change the lives of many young Muslims by giving them a chance for education. How I wish he would spend his resources helping Muslims break out of poverty by giving them a chance to start over their lives with financial help. How I wish he used his great charisma to become a leader that fight against corruptions in Muslim countries. It seems unfitting to teach young children how to handle an AK-47 before they even learn how to read. It is unfair to kill innocent people in America, hide in the mountains, and let the innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan take the blow of retaliation by the western armies. Killing innocent people may satisfy himself for a short while, but it does not help the Muslim society at all. In fact, it puts Muslims around the world in great insecurity. After 9/11, how many Muslim women had to abandon their hijab to protect themselves for being aggressed? How many young Muslims are shunned away from their circle of friends? How many Islamic religious talks had to be cancelled in fear being attacked? If his mission is to stop oppression against Muslims, it is safe to say that he failed terribly in that.

I am against all sorts of violence. Hence, on the American part, killing Osama shouldn’t be their top priority. It’s like hacking on the biggest fruit of a tree that still has rock-solid roots. Trees, of course, will always bear another fruit (unless it’s a banana tree). They don’t get the whole idea of why Al-Qaeda was there in the first place. Radicalism emerges for a reason. Instead of prioritizing the death of Osama, why not make it a top priority to stop supporting Zionism that clearly kills innocent people on a regular basis? Why not make it a top priority to stop oppressing the Muslims economically? Why not make it a top priority to get their hands the hell off meddling with Muslim counties politics? Why not getting your armies the hell out of our countries? Why not GET YOUR OWN OIL?

I think we can judge things by ourselves. Just because someone claims himself a Muslim does not mean what he did was right. Again, this note is written assuming Osama is real, but if there is anybody who resorts to act of violence and claims himself to be a Muslim, it is best we remind ourselves that violence against innocent people solves NOTHING. As people far away from war, let’s heed my Palestinian friend’s advice: Let’s jihad to improve our faith in Allah, Let’s jihad to improve the Muslim society as a whole and let’s Jihad to secure a place in Jannah =)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How Malacca Was Discovered (Alternate Ending)

Teacher: Okay everyone, please sit down and open page 23. Today we’re learning about the discovery of Malacca

(Flipping of pages)

Teacher: Aminah, can you find Malacca on the map?

Aminah: Yes, teacher, here it is!

Teacher: Good! Okay, class, who discovered Malacca?

Class: Aminah!


Teacher: Okay, but NO! It’s Parameswara

Class: Ooooh…

Amir: Teacher, who is Parameswara?

Teacher: He’s a prince. He ran away from his home, Palembang because it has fallen into the hands of Majapahit

Amir: Why did he run away from home? Did he hate his parents?

Teacher: No, because his hometown was conquered by outsiders so he has to find a new place to rule

Aminah: Did his parents hate him because he’s bald?

Teacher: Ugh, I told you, this has nothing to do with his parents!

Amir: They’re not related?

Teacher: No, they’re not!

Amir: Then who gave birth to Parameswara?

Teacher: Okay forget it! So one day Parameswara ran away from his parents’ house to find a new home, get it?

Class: Ooooh…

Teacher: First, he went to Temasik, now known as Singapore. At first, the ruler there gave him protection, but then...you know what happened? He killed that ruler!

Amir: OMG! You mean Singapore's name hasn't always been Singapore?

(Long silence)

Teacher: Ugh, yeah…but that’s not the point. Can you focus? I said, he killed the ruler of Temasik in order to become the new ruler!

Aminah: Oh no!!!

(Actually, triggered by the word 'new ruler' Aminah just realized she forgot to bring her new ruler for mathematics)

Teacher: The people of Temasik were angry and didn’t want Parameswara to become their new ruler, so he went off again to a place that will soon become Malacca. Now, who knows where Malacca gets its name from?

Class: (Silence, looking at each other)

Teacher: Okay, so Parameswara was tired from running away, so he went on to rest under a tree by the river, when suddenly came a Kijang. Parameswara brought along his hunting dogs. Uhhh, what a tasty feast the kijang would be! Yum yum! So Parameswara commanded his dogs to catch the kijang...go get 'em my faithful dogs!

Amir: Parameswara can talk dog language?

Teacher: No,it's just for the sake of narration. He must have pointed his fingers at the Kijang and the dog understood

Amir: The dogs can read Parameswara’s mind?

Teacher: Yeah, sort of. ..Anyway, as soon as the dog was about to bite the Kijang, the Kijang kicked the dog away, and into the river!

Aminah: Oh, poor little puppy! Can they swim?

Teacher: No, they can’t

Aminah: So, they drown and died? (watery eyes)

Teacher: I’m afraid so

Aminah: Waaaaaa! (Cries heavily)

Teacher: Now, now Aminah, don’t cry…I was mistaken. I’m sure there are fishermen there at the river, so the dogs must have landed in their boats safe and sound, and the fishermen took them home and feed them to become healthy dogs

Aminah: Really? Yay!

Teacher: So, Parameswara was astonished by the strength of the Kijang. So, he asked his bodyguard ‘I’ve never seen a kijang so strong! What the hell is the name of this tree I’m resting under?’

Amir: Wait, what does the tree has to do with the kijangs and the dogs and the fishermen?

Teacher: Nothing. Because Parameswara already know the name of his dogs, John and Denver, the name of that kijang, Sang Kijang, and also the name of his bodyguard, Ali Rustam, so he needs to ask something he hadn’t known already!

Class: Ooooh…

Teacher: So, the guard answered ‘Uh…I think it’s Malacca’. ‘Malacca?’ Parameswara replied. ''What a great name for a country! That’s it, I’m going to build a country here, and name it Malacca! Melaka Maju 2010!'' So that’s how Malacca was founded


This must be the river that the dogs were kicked into

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