Ahad, 16 Mac 2014

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The Star Online: Nation

Supernatural help

Posted: 15 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

When logic fails and every trail leads to a dead end, some will turn to cultural and traditional beliefs in desperation.

SINCE "Raja Bomoh Sedunia" Ibrahim Mat Zin brought out his "magic carpet" to help in the search for the missing MH370, visuals­ of the supernatural ritual and its spoofs have gone viral. Do Malaysians still buy into the unexplainable?

Academics say many Malaysians still hold strongly to cultural and traditional beliefs despite living in a digitally driven world.

Since flight MH370 disappeared, shamans, astrologers and mediums have all come forward to offer their services to help in the search – with some predicting that the plane would resurface yesterday.

Meanwhile, a YouTube video where a "Nigerian Pastor" "prophe­sies" a plane crashing shortly after it took off from an Asian country is also being re-circulated.

A cursory look at the various public holidays for the different faiths in Malaysia and the often highlighted religious-cultural festivals support the impression that a lot of Malaysians are very familiar and comfortable with the prevalence of religious-cultural beliefs and practices, Monash University Sunway Campus School of Arts and Social Sciences senior lecturer Dr Yeoh Seng Guan points out.

He believes that there are various well-meaning individuals and groups out there, though not necessarily of the same religious faith or belief system of the affected families, who are doing what they think is important or meaningful in bringing about a happy resolution to a difficult situation.

"The very nature of social media like Facebook allows for divergent comments, whether one sees it as appropriate or inappropriate.

"The critics are obviously those who don't believe in the world-view of the shamans (and the like)," he adds.

The presumption that faith and modernity or science cannot co-exist, and that those who are modern cannot be religious or spiritual, is no longer the reality as historical events of the past two or three decades have shown, he states.

Universiti Malaya anthropology and sociology department lecturer Kamal Solhaimi Fadzil agrees.

Describing Malaysian society as one that straddles between modern rationality and traditional values, he says we are a spiritual community.

This is true irrespective of which religion we embrace, he says, noting that people will accept and believe in whatever gets them through a difficult time – and this includes the supernatural.

"For those who believe, nothing is far-fetched. However, their beliefs should not be exploited," he says.

"Rituals need not be turned into a spectacle because then it becomes a farce or, worse, offensive to the families involved."

Dr Edward Chan, principal consultant psychologist at the International Psychology Centre, Kuala Lumpur, notes that Malaysians are not unlike many other nationalities who veer towards God or the supernatural to help in times of crisis and to cope and manage their emotional distress.

The baby boomers especially, and their children who are locally edu­cated draw emotional strength from the hope-generating acts of the supernatural practitioners, he feels.

"As there are still many from ­various religious traditions who share in such beliefs, supernatural reports are widely shared on social media.

"Practices (like the one involving the bomoh) psychologically support those who believe. They find it helpful," he explains.

Dr Chan recommends that the public­ develop psychological skills so that they can better accept and deal with difficult situations.

This can be done through psychotherapy, he says.

Conducted by psychologists, these include existential psychotherapy, rational emotion therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.

"In the long term, this would be a healthier and more resilient way to deal with an emotional crisis," he opines.

Instead of relying on acts performed by shamans, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) associate professor Dr Muhammad Azizan Sabjan from the School of Humanities (philosophy and civilisation section) calls on Muslims to "pray sincerely and obediently" to Allah for help to locate the MH370 and bring those on board home safely.

"Apart from searching with top notch gadgets, please pray because His power is might.

"Malaysians still hold strong to their cultural and traditional beliefs but Muslims should not condone ritualis­tic acts that deviate from Islamic teachings.

"Now the whole world is ­making fun of us, which is irritating," he says, referring to various spoofs of self-dubbed "Raja Bomoh Sedunia" Ibrahim Mat Zin's attempts to find the missing aircraft.

The group first performed their ritual at KL International Airport in Sepang on Monday and returned on Wednesday.

Following reports of the spectacle, creative netizens went to town super-imposing shots of Ibrahim and his assistants sitting on the so-called magic carpet onto photos including one of US President Barack Obama.

A few of Ibrahim's Indonesian counterparts have also weighed in on the topic, with blogs and websites quoting some as saying that the aircraft had crashed in a realm con­trolled by supernatural beings or flown through a portal in the sky where it could remain for hundreds of years.

On the Malaysian Bomoh Facebook page, the administrator posted that real shamans do not publicly parade their tricks.

It wrote: "There are Good bomohs and there are Nonsense bomohs. Not all bomohs the same. But unfortunately most of the nonsense bomohs get all the attention in media because everyone likes these kinds of news. People always like to make fun of things they do not understand (sic)."

Missing MH370: Passengers' kin relieved after PM's announcement

Posted: 15 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

IPOH: Families of passengers and crew members aboard the Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane have expressed relief following Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's announcement that the aircraft could have flown for hours after it went missing.

A niece of passenger Tan Ah Meng, 46, said there was still hope after the press conference.

Tan's parents, she said, were feeling a little better after hearing the news, adding that they could better sleep and eat now.

"They feel a little relieved and can now only hope and pray for the best," said the woman who declined to be named.

Tan was onboard the flight together with his Taiwanese wife Chuang Hsiu Leng, 48, and their eldest son Tan Wei Chen, 19. The couple have two other boys who are staying with relatives.

"We can't do anything else but just wait for more news," she said, adding that her parents had been in Kuala Lumpur ever since the incident.

Getting updates: Selamat listening to Najib's press conference. - EPA 

Getting updates: Selamat listening to Najib's press conference. - EPA

Thong Say Moi, 73, whose daughter-in-law Goh Sock Lay is the chief stewardess for the flight, said she had been told by her son to only listen to verified news.

"Right now, our hopes are high, and I pray that all goes well," she said at her shop in Kampung Tawas.

In Putrajaya, families of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane remain hopeful as they gathered at the hotel ballroom to watch the Prime Minister's live telecast.

Selamat Omar, 60, whose son Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat is onboard the flight, said immediately after the telecast that he was relieved to get some information.

"I am relieved that the Prime Minister has spoken at last and given us some new developments. I am hopeful that the passengers may still be safe and will return soon," he said.

At one point, Selamat, who watched the telecast with the reporters in the lobby, seemed excited when Najib mentioned that the plane's satellite signal might have been detected and that the aircraft was heading towards the west of Peninsula Malaysia.

Strong winds and swift-moving rain clouds help clear haze

Posted: 15 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Strong winds and swift-moving rain clouds helped clear the sky stricken by haze in parts of peninsular Malaysia, said the Meteorological Department.

A spokesman said rainfall had started in the morning over several areas in the east coast before moving gradually to northern and central states by evening.

In addition, he said strong northeasterly winds had also helped disperse the haze particles, which had caused air quality in Port Klang and Banting to reach hazardous levels on Friday.

"We recorded rain clouds moving across Selangor and the Klang Valley, bringing brief and moderate rainfall over several areas. Parts of Negri Sembilan and Malacca also experienced isolated showers," he said when contacted yesterday.

However, he said that the rain clouds had been blown out to the Straits of Malacca before they could bring significant rainfall over Johor.

He said that visibility had also improved significantly.

As of 5pm yesterday, the Department of Environment's Air Pollutant Index (API) showed no places in Malaysia were experiencing hazardous air quality.

Three places recorded unhealthy air quality: Port Klang (124), Banting (103) and Tanjung Malim (123).

An API reading between 0 and 50 is considered good; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy; and 301 and above, hazardous.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said on Friday that the DOE's ban on open burning was now extended to Negri Sembilan, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya effective March 13.

"No open burning can be done in these areas except for certain activities such as cremation, for religious purposes and barbecues. Those caught carrying out open burning can be fined not more than RM500,000, jailed not more than five years or both," he said, adding that a maximum compound of RM2,000 could also be imposed for each offence.

Meanwhile, AirAsia cancelled all flights to and from Pekanbaru until Wednesday due to low visibility caused by the severe haze.

It said in a statement that flights were expected to resume on Thursday, depending on how much visibility improved.

The AirAsia flights affected by the cancellations are Kuala Lumpur-Pekanbaru, Pekanbaru-Kuala Lumpur, Pekanbaru-Bandung, Bandung-Pekanbaru, Pekanbaru-Medan and Medan-Pekanbaru.

Affected passengers can choose one of two service recovery options: 1) Changing their flight departure date within seven days of the original date without additional charges and 2) use a credit shell equivalent to the value of the confirmed booking for any AirAsia flight, valid for three months from the date of issue.

"All affected guests will be notified via their registered member e-mail account as well as an SMS notification of the cancellations. We urge all guests to keep their e-mail address and mobile numbers with their country code prefix updated in their AirAsia member profiles," it said.

For more information, visit www.airasia.com/ask, www.facebook.com/AirAsiawww.twitter.com/AirAsia or call its Indonesian call centre at +62 21 2927 0999.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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