Trump’s Immigration Ban


170131_slate_chart-banned-trump-correctio-jpg-crop-promo-xlarge2

(The omission was too glaring and that simply add to the unfairness of the whole affair. Image source: http://www.slate.com)

Well, it finally happened – that “The Apprentice” guy, Donald Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States of America on 20th January 2017.

So it was not a big surprise when he decided to “shake” things down once he had officially taken office – he have been talking about throughout his election campaign. And that includes his promise to build the wall against Mexico (funding aside) and stopping people from certain countries entering the country.

President Trump on Friday closed the nation’s borders to refugees from around the world, ordering that families fleeing the slaughter in Syria be indefinitely blocked from entering the United States, and temporarily suspending immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries.

The executive order suspends the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days and directs officials to determine additional screening ”to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States.”

The order also stops the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, and bars entry into the United States for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries linked to concerns about terrorism. Those countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

(Source)

The funny part of the whole affair is that the Iranian Government seems to be very upset that they have been listed under the list of countries to be banned from entering the US. It is funny because the Iranian Government had always perceived US as the Great Satan. So if the Great Satan is stopping your people from entering it’s Hell, why you get upset? Anyway it is just something for your thoughts.

Noticeably there were some countries missing from the immigration ban.

US-based researcher Arif Jamal argues that President Donald Trump cannot defeat radical Islam by excluding Saudi Arabia and Pakistan from his contentious move barring US entry to people from some Muslim nations.

On the contrary, all major terrorist groups that have attacked the United States and other Western countries over the past couple of decades – from al Qaeda to the Taliban to the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) – can trace their roots back to Sunni-led countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Qatar. But conspicuously these countries didn’t make the list.

(Source)

Well, I can see where Trump is coming from and how the recent terrorist attacks in Europe may have shaped this policy. After all, before he signed off the order, he did called the German Chancellor Angela Merkel ‘insane’ for her immigration decisions. But are the ban valid?

Mail Online has analysed all the terrorist attacks in Europe, including Turkey, since 9/11.

No individuals from five of the countries on the list – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – had been linked to any terrorist attacks in Europe in the last 15 years, although some could be linked to Islamist bases and training camps in Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

Raffaello Pantucci, a counter-terrorism expert at the Royal United Services Institute in London, told Mail Online: ‘Most terrorist attacks in America are carried out by Americans.

(Source)

terrorist-list-malaysia

(In this 2011 Department of Homeland Security report, Malaysia is listed as a “Specially Designated Country”. SDC are countries that have shown a tendency to promote, produce or protect terrorist organisations or their members. Image source: OutSyed The Box)

We can breathe in relief that Malaysia is not in the immediate Trump’s list of banned countries. However it may change if we do not keep extremism in check.

Police neutralised 14 attempted terrorist attacks in 2016

Malaysians were given a reality check when the first ever Islamic State-orchestrated attack hit Malaysian soil on June 28 when a hand grenade was hurled at an entertainment outlet in Puchong, resulting in eight people injured.

However, Malaysians know little about the behind-the-scene pre-emptive actions taken by the police that foiled at least 14 planned terror attacks in Malaysia by IS militants, said a senior anti-terrorism official.

Security officials were reluctant to share details of the attempted attacks due to the sensitive nature of the information.

(Source)

Kudos to the police for their hard work and diligence in crushing terrorist attacks in this country. However the headlines “Police neutralised 14 attempted terrorist attacks in 2016” is very worrying. Who knows the number of terrorist attacks that did not take place because of a lost opportunity or the terrorists changed their mind at the last minute or they have a different objective & location to terrorise.

It is not a secret (and the world knows this too) that there are plenty of Malaysians in Syria fighting for the ISIS and they have threatened to unleash the same acts of terrorism in this country. News of ISIS sympathizers or agents being caught by the police have become a norm these days.

Then we have people like Zakir Naik who is on the run from his home country, coming into this country freely and doing public sermons.

Fugitive televangelist Dr Zakir Naik will be delivering a Friday sermon in Perlis on February 10, according to a poster shared by the state’s mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin yesterday

Last month, Dr Zakir visited a private Islamic-centric university in Shah Alam, Selangor, which is also under investigation for radical teachings after two students were arrested on suspicion of being Islamic State recruits planning a terror attack locally.

Although a fugitive in India, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said the controversial Islamic preacher is free to travel in Malaysia because he is not on the terror list here.

He has been reported by several Indian newspapers to be on the run to avoid prosecution in India.

The Salafist preacher has also been banned from several countries like Bangladesh, Canada and the UK.

(Source)

Frankly speaking, there is nothing wrong in bringing foreign speakers for sermons and religion functions. And I say that it does not only happens for Muslims but also other religions. In fact, we have Hindu gurus and priests, Buddhist monks and Christian preachers (some of them super rich) coming to this country on a regular basis and devotees signs up for such sermons / religion talks months upfront. Religion is a very big and profitable business nowadays. So I don’t really see a fuss and the logic of my fellow Malaysians questioning foreigners coming to the country for sermons. Sometimes it is good to get out from our comfort zone and get a different perspective of religion from outside experts aka holy men.

But when you have someone who is not only banned and wanted for links with terrorism in other countries (including Bangladesh – a Muslim majority country), one need to exercise great caution.

Just watch this talk by Zakir Naik who questions the propagation of faith (in forms of allowing places of religion to be built) by non Muslims. This kind of talk does not fit a multi racial, religion model country like Malaysia. In fact, it works against it and makes one Malaysian to look at fellow Malaysians as a threat due to different faith & beliefs. It sows the seeds of disunity and intolerance. We need more avenues to unite us and not foreigners who will disunite us even more.

In this video, using a very bad example of a maths teacher, he claims that only in his own religion, the computation is correct i.e. 2 + 2 = 4 whilst all other religion will compute wrongly. But does it really happens that way? All religion teaches one to be tolerant and exercising good behaviors. To shoot down other’s religion does not necessarily elevates your own religion – I have always said this.

Every religion have their share of extremism as well but it does not mean it is wrong (or evil). At the end of the day, it all depends on how you use religion in your daily life and religion is something that should be personal and ends there. So it is not right to say that “I am right, you are wrong” when it comes to something personal. In fact, the more you talk bad about others, it will back fire and will cause others to look at religion as something intolerant, rigid and enforces compulsion when it should be the other around. And if you claim that others have failed religion, why then they have a very prosperous and matured society? It is the same case where Iranians for ages have labelled the US as the Great Satan but get upset when the same Great Satan closes its doors.

We already have “funny but disbelief” incidents such as the protest that forced a church to take down a sign of cross back in 2015 (the excuse for the protest – the cross will confuse Muslims). Are you saying that Muslims in this country had never seen a cross before and all the sudden, one fine morning, they wake up and seeing it for the first time and it will confuse them? It sounds dumb, right? But interestingly, that is very premise that smooth talking preachers like Zakir Naik is doing in his talks and whilst the implications may not be so obvious but the outcome can be very grave indeed.

And then we also have a spew of misinformation and made up facts (yes, it called fiction) that is used rather sparingly to justify his talk on religion. Watch this video where Naik attacks Darwin and the notion of evolution and he simply wrongly quotes or uses wrong facts to show that he is correct (which is not the case):-

For someone who is not familiar with Darwinism or even have a good command of the English language, Zakir may sound like a God send angel with good information at his finger tips. Perhaps this is why at one point of time, Darwin’s book on the evolution was actually got banned? I don’t know. It is not a secret that science and religion is like water and oil – it does not mix that well but at the point when wrong information is used to justify someone interpretation of religion, it is dangerous and irresponsible.

Now looking back at President Trump’s decision to ban entry to a selected immigrants, it may sound harsh and cruel and unfair but think again, that itself should make others to wake up and look at the cause of the ban in the first place. And if it is unfair, then what are the other countries around the world is going to do about it? No Middle East country have come out in the open and made the commitment to take in the refugees and other immigrants in the droves – perhaps they should look into it now (they are nearer too). And talking about terrorism, banning entry is just one of the short term solution although it is a bad solution if implemented blindly and in general. They should have a proper solution in place and allow people are genuinely in need of help whilst identifying and stopping red flags and potential sleeper agents at their tracks.

One cannot run away from this – not at this age of human civilization.

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Sunrise


The mornings here can be cold – too cold to be standing by the window and see the motion that is taking place at the clean lonely streets below.

(This shot was taken at about 6.30 am – I had just came out from a warm shower and decided to check out the horizon – there is always interesting to see the sunrise. Sometimes on different days, there different colour and pattern)

(The sun is almost up but was gladly blocked by a building – the mountain at far looks spectacular)

(The same photo as the first with some changes to the photo temperature and added vignetting effect, thanks to pointers from Visithra from V-Eyez Imagery)

But it is one of the best spot to be standing for a beautiful sunrise over the horizon (sunsets are on the other side of the apartment).

I have plenty of high resolution photos taken for my photoblog which will be promptly updated in due time.

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Bazaar Time


I first learned about bazaars when I watched the Travel series on the Discovery Channel and I first experienced a real bazaar when I was in Bangkok couple of years ago. Basically it was a modernised flea market and much updated for foreign tourists. Not exactly a traditional kind of bazaar that one was looking for.

(Tightly packed shops on the left and right but the items on sales not necessarily old and ancient)

But we heard that there is a traditional bazaar in the Iran and it is just a metro-travel away, we decided to check it out on one of the weekends. The nearest metro station was almost a kilometre walk away from our house. So one fine cold morning, we got dressed in thick clothes, packed water and camera and started to walk to towards the nearest metro station.

The thing about the general rule about photographing in Iran is that you can take photo if it is expressly allowed so. I have lost count of the times when we were asked not to take photographs (very politely and with a smile) by the authorities. So photography becomes the exception rather than the general rule (a far cry compared to Malaysia where we loved to be photographed).

So, since we do not want to run into any problems, we usually opt out from photographing anything and everything that we see (missing a lot of unique photo opportunities) and we only do it if it is safe to do so or we have gotten the necessary permission. So, photographing the inside of the metro station was out of the question but we were highly impressed with the metro system in Iran here.

(Metro ticket – fast and efficient)

At first, the layout of the station is simple and easy even for foreigners like us. We went to the ticket counter, mentioned the station that we wanted to go (to get the station name, we just googled the metro’s website and the names are laid out clearly in English), mention whether we wanted a one way or two way ticket, paid the cash, get the ticket, swipe it over the electronic gate and walk on to the platform.

Iranian metro trains are super efficient – there are plenty of cabins and trains arrives and departs on time. Most of the time, the cabins are full but when we went on that particular date, we found enough space to stand at one corner (or perhaps we were foreigners and the locals were kind enough to squeeze some space for us). After almost 6 stations, we arrived at the station that we wanted to go.

As we walk out from the metro station which is located underground, we can feel the strong cold breeze flushing in from the outside. We walked out and make a couple of turns, we arrived at the bazaar.

(The entrance to the bazaar – nothing strange from the outside. Note the crowd at the entrance)

There is one main entrance at the bazaar and there a big different it makes when one moves from the outside to the inside. On the outside, it is covered by a rather modern building but in the inside, one is transformed to an old looking bazaar. The walkway moves from the outside and moves along a huge tunnel. On the left and the right of the walkway, there is nothing but shops. The bazaar as whole is huge and somehow divided into different area of produce – carpets on one side, lamps on another side, electrical goods and souvenirs and so on.

But the problem here in the bazaar which becomes self evident is that it is not so friendly to foreign tourists – no sign boards in English, photographers is looked rather suspiciously and there was no indication whatsoever as to where the bathrooms is!. My friend actually had to go one of the carpet shops to use the bathrooms (we had to walk along some deserted lanes to reach this shop – we were expecting to be jumped by a gang of bandits, waiting for the unexpected foreigners at the corner of the alley but luckily it ended as nothing but our wildest imagination) .

(The tunnel and the crowd and somewhere in between “speedy” Gonzales! Noticed the many strange look as I was taking this shot)

Compared to “bazaar” in Bangkok, there are more people here in the Bazaar here and everyone seems to be on the move to somewhere. If we stop to snap some photos or to look at the produce sold in the shops, we find ourselves being pushed around by this large human traffic. If that is not enough, we also have to confront the goods handlers who busy with sending the goods from the outside and to the shops. We almost got run over by these goods handlers on a number of times and thankfully we were quick enough to move out from the way in time. With an uneven walkway (seems to be made from big rough tiles), the act of avoiding “speedy” Gonzales on goods carts makes it even more tricky.

(We loved the interior decorations on the wall and ceiling. The clock reminded of the clock that we used to see in the old train stations)

One of the things that we noticed immediately when we are in the inside of the bazaar is the architecture – something on the wall and ceiling spelt ancient architecture and history. And we managed to find some quiet spot where there was less people to allow us to snap some photos on a more leisurely pace.

We must have walked about in the bazaar for almost an hour (we managed to buy some things in the process) before realising that we were both hungry and tired. We walked out, only to be greeted by small children begging and people trying to sell small items – we decided to have our lunch at one of the nearest “sandwich” (what else?) shop. The good thing was the “chief” waiter spoke some English which made it easier to confirm and order our lunch (the menu was all in local language).

By the time we came back home tired, it was almost time for dinner time.

Missing Hotel Life


Whenever I am on an overseas assignment, I have always stayed in a hotel.

(The service apartment that I stayed in Bangkok, overseeing the Chao Praya river – so far one of the best of all the ‘hotels’ that I have stayed)

I have stayed in 4 star hotels and I have also stayed in “rumah tumpangan” alike cheap hotels. It all depends on the country, budget and time frame of my stay.

Staying in a hotel has its perks – security, room service, regular house keeping, in-house laundry service, cable TV and concierge services. Nothing beats the comfort of having someone to do some work for you with a smile after a long day at work. For some hotels which have restaurant and pubs, it is blessing in disguise – we don’t have to walk far for food or beer and if we get so drunk, bed is just couple of steps away.

However Iran proved to be a challenge on itself – they do have good hotels (so I was made to believe) but we decided to rent an apartment instead. It was cheaper and big enough to accommodate all of us. Besides, it is a good place to stay in especially on cold nights and we have a fully furnished kitchen to do our cooking when it is just too cold to venture out especially for dinner.

However, staying in an apartment proved to be a challenge and the main three ones are:-

1. Own Housekeeping

That’s right – no room service to turn up your bed or to vacuum the carpet or to clean the bathroom. We have to do it ourselves.

We could always hire someone to do the cleaning for us. It cost about R200,000 but after looking at the quality of cleaning (the cleaner just do ‘touch and go’ kind of cleaning and asks us to provide meals for them), we decided to do it ourselves. It is cheaper and much cleaner if we do it ourselves. However for all the guys in the apartment, doing housework is something alien to them. Some of us have not lifted a finger to do housework when we are back in Malaysia.

But here in Iran, we not only have to vacuum the carpet but we also have to mop the floor, wash the bathroom, clean the table tops and chairs, clean the windows and kitchen. That itself takes at least 3 – 4 hours to complete and by the time we finished, we are almost dropping death from tiredness (salute our wives and moms to be doing the housework on daily basis!). Of course, we wished to have cold beers after a hard day house work but this is Iran where the only beer that we get is the non-alcoholic beer.

So house cleaning is one chore that we wish to put off for next week or the week thereafter.

(Here is another room from my stay in Bangkok – 2 separate beds for one person and this even nearer to a large supermarket and a famous red light area)

2. Own washing

Thankfully we have laundrette nearby so that it was a big relieve when it comes to washing our clothes. It is not cheap but we rather get our shirts and pants washed at the laundrette than trying to do it on our own and get crumpled shirts and pants (not mentioning, not properly washed clothes – sorry but we simply don’t have the patience).

However, we decided to wash smaller items like our undies, handkerchiefs and socks on our own (perhaps to save some money or to get some exercise or to avoid the lady at the local laundrette from freaking out seeing our “rainbow” coloured undies, I don’t really know).

For that very reason, I brought extra, extra undies, socks and handkerchiefs for this trip but there is always a day in the week where I need to soak them in soap water and wash them (we don’t have a washing machine since we have laundry service). Washing is the difficult part but drying is not. The air in Iran is so dry that a fully wet towel will be bone dry within several hours.

3. Own cooking

We have a fully furnished kitchen so we do try our hands on some bachelor alike messy cooking (in other words, plenty of frying foodstuffs like eggs, sausages, nuggets, etc). As much as possible, we try to eat out but eating out is a big problem here – 1. There is not much choice (almost every restaurants has the same menu – sandwich, pizza, fried chicken, sandwich, pizza, sandwich, pizza…you get the idea) and 2. Sometimes it is too cold to venture out – we can hardly walk out couple of meters without freezing our “…toot…” off.

If it has been a hotel, we just need to pick up the phone and call for room service but in this apartment, we need to pick up the frying pan and decide what to fry for dinner. Once in a while we try to be creative and quite often the taste becomes unbearable. We have to swallow our pride and eat as if it is very tasty when fellow colleagues comes over, look at our messed up creation and asked “how’s the taste?” in a “fear factor” look in their eyes.

Staying in a hotel is good but so does staying in an apartment when one needs to do their own washing, cooking and cleaning. Damn, what I am saying here? I miss hotel life….sob

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It looks like beer, it smells like beer and the people are drinking as it is beer but certainly it is not beer.

(Great stuff from Holland!)

Iran, I guess is the second country that I have been to without any drop of cold beer. Brunei was the other country although I could have brought a crate of beer after declaring to the customs. Interestingly there are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks from local and European breweries to choose from here. And the drinks which come in many colourful can also come in many flavours – plain, lemon, apple, etc. And here is one part of the drinking “style” that I found very peculiar in a country who not only allows anyone to beer in the open but also bans the sales of beer – that the non-alcoholic drink is served in the same nature of serving alcoholic beer – in a iced beer mug.

Malaysia certainly is the best to be drinking beer although these times beer is not cheap. I say it is the best because very rarely I drink alone – there are always friends, colleagues or cousins who are more than willing to be my beer drinking buddies. The thing is I have cut down a lot on drinking beer – one is for slowing down the ever growing tummy and another is due to the fact that beer in Malaysia is not cheap. The day when I can say that “beer is cheaper than water” to my Aussie friend is a far, far away.

(You may have mistaken this for some beer drinking session in some coffee shop in Malaysia)

Ghana is one country where beer was kind of free-flow. It is cheaper but was more diluted as well. One needs to drink 2 large bottle of lager before one can feel the drunkenness a distance away. Perhaps we Malaysians are so used of having heavier content alcohol in our beers that when we are in Ghana, the local beers almost tasted like water. It was indeed diluted. But the locals usually can get drunk with just one small bottle – one of those unexplained funny paradoxes that I encountered when I travelled abroad.

For now, I had to do with non alcoholic lemon flavour drink as my nearest replacement for a good old mug of cold beer, at least until the next round of beer drinking session with friends and cousins.

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Trip to ‘Chilly’ Restaurant


By the way, Chilly means Chinese…

(One good sign is red lights and tang-lungs on the inside and on the outside)

From day 1 after we had arrived here, we have been looking for cheap Chinese restaurant and thus far, we have been unsuccessful.

Some of our colleagues who have been in this part of the world had recommended us to visit one restaurant which is located about 2 kilometres walk from our apartment. But once we reached the place, we found the gates to the front doors was locked and no one on sight. At first, we thought we came on the wrong day or the wrong time (perhaps it was still too early). So we went to the same restaurant on different days and time and yet it was still closed.

We were unable to eat Chinese food but what the heck, we got plenty of exercise – just imagine 4 kilometres walk to and fro. One day we saw someone coming out from the restaurant – we asked and were informed that the restaurant was undergoing renovation and will be opening in 2 weeks time. Unfortunately the 2 weeks was almost a month ago and the renovation is still undergoing. I guess it take another 2 weeks from the time of writing this post for the ‘official’ reopening.

(It looks big on photo but in reality the servings are small and expensive)

So, we dropped our hopes for Chinese restaurant until one of the taxi drivers mentioned another in the city. But once again we had to abort the trip to that Chinese restaurant as we found that it will cost us at least USD35 for meals for each of us.

Last week, however, we got a breakthrough. One of our colleagues had found another ‘chilly’ restaurant and after a long tele conversation, it was found that the price was very reasonable – about 20,000 Rial for a plate of fried rice. With 4 of us who have decided to go and share out the cost, there were plenty of dishes that we were able to order. The restaurant was not easy to find for it was tucked away from the usual busy roads and given the roads were jammed, the taxi driver took some time to locate the restaurant and that too, after getting lost several times and had to stop and ask people.

(A close-up of all the dishes in one plate…my plate)

The restaurant, when we walked in, was empty with no one in sight except for the lonely restaurant manager. Later we found that we came too early to the restaurant for the crowd only came in when we about to leave after spending almost one hour in the restaurant. The manager remarked that the foreigners would usually come in early before the locals come in. Coming in early was also a blessing in disguise as the chef was not busy with other orders and had time to cook our dishes without any necessary rush (no half cooked dishes were found).

Admittedly at the end of the day, the price of the dishes and the taste can never come close to what we have back home in Malaysia but it was a relieve to see something that were very familiar such as ‘taugeh’, ‘onion leave’, ‘noodles’ and etc.

At the end of the day, 3 bowls of different types of soup, 2 bowl of fried rice (with different ingredients), 2 plate of mixed vegetables, 2 plate of noodles with different ingredients and a free flow of green tea, cost us about 500,000 Rial for 4 of us.

(To be continued)

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DIY Chef Part 2


Cocktail

(Cooked chicken cocktail with fried eggs and good dose of Maggi sauce)

Lately we have been finding harder to get by without having a good dose of vegetables – going for the ‘big job’ has not been as smooth as it used to be.

Unlike Malaysia where vegetables are abundant, in Iran, there is nothing much other than plain onion (to be eaten with a thin slice of bread) or salad (a mixture of minced carrot, cucumbers and salad leaves). No doubt that the Persian diet consists of a lot of yoghurts and yoghurt drinks which is good for digestions (although it takes some time to acquire the plain yoghurt taste) but nothing beats having a good dose of green vegetables.

We have noticed that some of the shops here do sell vegetables but it is not easy to cook them as we do not have other ingredients to go along with the vegetables. I guess this is why the vegetables in the Persian diet in restaurants consist nothing but fresh salads (perhaps we did not ask about this).

On other days, we eat a lot of fruits namely red apples but we soon get tired of eating just apples. Another alternative is of course, to take in high fibre tablets which does the ‘job’ the same.

When it comes to cooking our self, other than cooking the good old Maggi Mee, we managed to cook eggs (another easy one to do), sausages, nuggets, chicken and vegetables (Chinese style). Buying processed meat can be tricky here. What looks like processed chicken meat can turn out to processed red meat.

Cocktail 1

(Boiling is one good way to de-ice the meat and ensure the inside is cooked well)

Recently I just found out that ‘Chicken Cocktail’ is really made of chicken so it has been my ‘main’ choice when looking for items to cook at home – DIY style. It comes handy to just boil it and added the sliced chicken cocktails into the pot and has it together with instant noodles or fry it until it is well done and have it with scramble eggs.

Talking about eggs, we have been shopping around and found onions in one of the shops, so now we can also cook onion with eggs (instead of just plain eggs). Yesterday we found fresh gingers but we have to determine how best to cook something with ginger in it (we are goggling for easy ideas).

(To be continued)

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