Trump’s Immigration Ban


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(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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Movie Review: The Hurt Locker


(One great movie in recent times – Poster source: Wikipedia)

The Time Magazine calls this movie “A Near-Perfect War Film”

The fact of the matter is that the truth is not far from this. The Hurt Locker is indeed a near perfect war film. It could have been the perfect movie if not for some holes in the plot and loose execution of certain scenes. So, let’s talk about the plot holes first.

Holes in the Plot

In Wikipedia, it was reported:-

Author Brandon Friedman, also a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan criticized the accuracy of the film’s representation of combat, saying “in real life, EOD techs don’t conduct dangerous missions as autonomous three-man teams without communications gear.

Another thing you’ll rarely hear in combat is an EOD E-7 suggesting to two or three of his guys that they leave the scene of an explosion in an Iraqi city by saying: “C’mon, let’s split up. We can cover more ground that way.

In IMDB, the following plot holes were also mentioned:-

The EOD team usually went out of the wire by themselves. Usually when EOD goes out of the gate they are escorted by a quick reaction force (QRF) of 3 or more Humvees.

In the stand off scene in the desert the shelter the insurgents are being protected by would not have been strong enough to stop the bullets from a Barrett M107 anti-material rifle, which is designed to punch through thick armour plating

But the one bigger plot holes that I got irritated rather early into the movie was when Sergeant First Class William James had his first assignment with the Bravo Company and a taxi storms in, passing the secured perimeter setup by the heavily armed US Army personals and only stops when William James pulls out a gun and points at the driver.

(One lonely man against a potential suicide bomber – it does not make sense when the locals know that it is not safe to barge in a heavily armed perimeter manned by nervous US soldiers. In real life, the taxi driver would have been dead)

William James asks the driver to back away. This scene did not make any sense all – what if the driver has been a suicide bomber, with a load of explosions in his taxi? The initial reaction of the US Army in these tense situation especially have someone driving against the perimeter was to shoot at the driver. But no, here, the driver was allowed to ponder on his next “action” despite a barrage of weapons and trigger nervous US soldiers focussing on the driver and William James coolly asking whether the driver wants to back off.

You don’t get that kind of soft treatment from the US Army on the field! These guys don’t take their chances especially in Iraq.

(One of the opening scenes in the movie – well executed and simply breathtaking! Guy Pearce gets wiped out and the hero acted by Jeremy Renner comes into the picture)

The Plot

Despite obvious holes in the plot, the rest of the movie of simply impressive. Although some reviews have mentioned that there is no real “mission” in the movie, I dare say that not many movies out there that grabs your full attention by the neck in the first 10 minutes. The first scene in the movie was so tense that I hardly blinked, worrying I may miss a small detail. It was superbly directed and taken and set the premise for the rest of the story to unfold.

Read the full plot here if you still have not heard of this movie.

Scripts are kept to the minimum and nothing much brilliant was heard throughout the movie. We don’t expect brilliant words like “go ahead, make my day” coming out from Sergeant First Class William James’ mouth as he sweats profusely as his steady hands make it’s way around the dusty wires looking for the detonator but thankfully the action alone was more than enough to compensate for this lack of “memorial words”.

Nearest one would be “there’s enough bang in there to blow us all to Jesus. If I’m gonna die, I want to die comfortable” when William James removed his blast resistance suit and tries to disarm a car load of bombs without any protection. That speaks the reckless nature of William James (which earns him a whack to the face from his team member, Sergeant Sanborn after the bomb has been disarmed)

(The hero “painting” the target for his team member with the anti material rifle. This picture could have been taken from the real battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan but it is not)

Direction

Kathryn Bigelow did one fine job to get this movie as realistic as possible. The movie was shot in Jordan where there is great number of Iraqi refugees are staying. So imagine having foreigners in US Army battle fatigues, driving around in Humvees through the narrow streets of Jordan and getting the scenes done was unbelievable.

It was high risk taken by the movie maker – they could taken the same shots in less risky locations but without taking the shots in the right location would have made the movie rather artificial. At moments, you will forget and start to think that the movie was actually taken in Iraq and that Sergeant First Class William James is a real person.

Shots of innocent people on the rooftops and balcony looking down on (I guess on the movie making) and surprised look on their faces, adds to the realism of the shot.

The bomb disarming scenes was interesting and the movie makers took the pain to portray the different types of bombing detonations – by mobile phone, detonation wires, detonation switch and human suicide bomber.

(Anthony Mackie as the no nonsense, by the book, Sergeant J.T. Sanborn with the anti material rifle – he outshines Jeremy Renner in many areas and was a saving grace to the holes in the plot in sense that he objects to it)

Acting

The movie is so focussed on the 3 main characters who make the crack EOD team that you may miss the other big names in the movie – Guy Pearce (the EOD member who dies in the first part of the movie), David Morse (the Colonel who called the EOD to disarm the bomb at an UN building car park) and Ralph Fiennes (the private contractor who get stuck with a flat tire in the desert).

Jeremy Renner who acts the main character in the movie, the rather reckless and risk taker Sergeant First Class William James excels in the bomb disarm and battle scenes and that it is about it. Unfortunately and perhaps due to the nature of the movie and character, Jeremy hardly shines when it comes to scenes that call for the character to be highly emotional. Don’t get me wrong, Jeremy is doing one fine acting in the movie but there are rooms to improve.

Anthony Mackie who acts as Sergeant J. T. Sanborn (William James’s team member) on the other hand outshines Jeremy Renner in all acting departments. It was just too bad he was not nominated for Best Supporting Actor in the recent Oscars.

(The view from the Humvee before an IED goes off and kills a high ranking soldier – the effect is great and shows just how deadly the streets of Baghdad can be with the locals looking so innocent)

Cinematography

There is little wonder why cinematographer Barry Ackroyd won an Oscar for this movie. Watching this movie is almost like watching a documentary – shaky movement (not much and not as bad as Cloverfield) and a gloomy background – the neighbourhood street full of rubbish and dirty and the ordinary people look clueless and nervous and sounds of helicopters and jets flying overhead.

Capturing the tense moments from many angles makes the story telling more compelling  and Barry does this well. Shots from afar and where the residents are looking from, from team member’s vantage point providing cover whilst William James disarming the bomb, from the inside of the blast resistant suit where his breathing is heavy and warm and from the angle of the resistance members – how vulnerable the US soldiers (in this case, the EOD team) are from sniper shots and all out attacks.

Conclusion

The movie makers may have their own reasons for having these holes in the plot (perhaps to synchronise with the script or budget, perhaps to focus more on the characters or perhaps simply to make things more entertaining) but despite getting the movie as realistic as possible (it was shot in Jordan, a stone throw away from Iraq), certainly having holes in the plot gives the movie a near perfect label.

It would have been great if it has been a perfect movie – for the movie was nominated for 9 Oscars and won 6 including for Best Picture and Best Director.

The Hurt Locker is a must watch war movie!

Final say

The plus points: The background, story and realism

The negative points: The glaring holes in plot

(Click here for other movie reviews)

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LA Times: The Making of The Hurt Locker