Atheism: the latest whipping boy for Malaysia’s pre-election politics?

Arrawdah comes from a middle-class Muslim-Malay family. Well-travelled and fluent in both English and Bahasa Malaysia, he seems the epitome of the moderate Islam supposedly practised in Malaysia. But as a “closeted” atheist, Arrwadah faces family conflict on a regular basis – when his parents ask why he does not attend Friday prayers, when he hides his alcohol consumption from his siblings, and when he eats in secret during the holy month of Ramadan. But recently, he and a...
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Why Malaysia’s national car 49.9pc owned by the Chinese, is driving into an election storm

M alaysia ’s national car, Proton, has long been a source of nationalistic pride while simultaneously a long-struggling company. Established in 1983, it was a sign of the then-agrarian nation’s move towards industrialisation, the cherished brainchild of former premier Mahathir Mohamad. But the flagship national car has long been flagging, grappling with declining sales and losses of hundreds of millions of ringgit yearly. By last year its market share had diminished to barely 12 per...
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If Anwar and Mahathir have kissed and made up, should Najib be worried?

Nineteen years ago Mahathir Mohamad, while prime minister of Malaysia, denounced his freshly sacked deputy Anwar Ibrahim as “morally unfit” for leadership, following allegations of corruption and sodomy. Now the duo – formerly known for a father-and-son-like closeness – has seemingly reunited to take down a common foe: embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is facing global scrutiny following his alleged involvement in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB)...
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1MDB vs 38 Oxley Road: why Malaysia envies Singapore

The family feud dominating public life in Singapore has crossed the Causeway, as Malaysians marvel at the Lion City premier’s open handling of the saga – and compare it to the closed-door approach of their own leader, Najib Razak, regarding his alleged links to a scandal at the state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has won widespread praise for his handling of what many believe should have been kept a private...
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‘Gender confusion’: the video contest fiasco that got Malaysia all mixed up

Malaysia’s Health Ministry has bowed to pressure from rights activists who opposed a public health contest that asked young people to suggest ways to prevent “gender confusion”. The competition, themed “Value Yourself, Healthy Lifestyle Practice” had asked participants between 13 and 24 years old to produce videos focusing on the “prevention” and “control” of gender confusion, and “how to get help” for what it termed a “...
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Meet the Malaysian man who sings 112 national anthems

Thean See Xien, 31, speaks only English and Bahasa Malaysia, and the latter not very well. But when he breaks into the Russian or French national anthems, or any of the other 110 national songs he knows, you’d mistake him for a native singer, if not a native speaker. A lawyer by training and an in-house counsel for an international oil and gas company in Kuala Lumpur, Thean first picked up the hobby in 2002 out of boredom. In the last 15 years he’s gone through most of the...
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What’s causing Malaysia’s ethnic Chinese brain drain?

Cathy Chin left Malaysia for Australia feeling she had been treated as a “second-class citizen” because of her ethnicity. “Malaysia is a beautiful country but the politics is sickening. Religion is put first, scholarships given on religion and ethnicity,” said the registered nurse, who is ethnically Chinese. “Every country has its own political and welfare issues, Australia included, but I feel that I get more rights as a second-class citizen here in Australia. My...
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Is Malaysian support for Rohingya an election ploy by Najib Razak?

Khan, 22, first came to Malaysia in 2014. He travelled from Bangladesh to Thailand in the belly of a ship and then crossed the border into Malaysia on foot. On the ship he was starved and beaten by traffickers he had given all his savings to, but he considers himself lucky – some were beaten to death and thrown overboard. And Malaysia promised an escape from his homeland, Rakhine state in Myanmar, where he and other Rohingya face systematic discrimination. Khan’s story isn’t...
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In Malaysia, why is child sex bad but child marriage OK?

“When she came to me, she was 13, had already delivered her first child, and the boy – then 15 – had already divorced her and run off,” said child rights activist Dr Hartini Zainudin, recalling her first case of teen marriage in Malaysia. “Her mother was dead and her father, a security guard, had severe gout. The father would come to me to ask for help to get milk powder and diapers. Eventually I sat the girl down and explained to her that the welfare of her child...
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