previously an Inter|national section writer
Faizal is doing postgraduate studies in social sciences at UEA and plans to do a Masters in Media and Cultural Politics. He is a former political journalist in his home country Malaysia and currently writes on international news at The Norwich Radical. His interests include literature, film, music and ranting on the various inequalities in the world.
(19.03.17) – Trumpocalypse Now?
It’s barely two months after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, and things are already starting to look worryingly apocalyptic.
Where do we begin? Shortly after he was instated, one of his first moves resembled an environmental assault, by approving the final permit for the Dakota Access pipeline.Then the promise of building the Mexican wall. The ‘Muslim ban’ came next. And finally, fanning the flames of war with Iran.
(14.09.16) – Fanning the Flames of War in Syria
While Islamophobia continues to run rampant on the streets of Europe, one critical aspect that tends to be overlooked by the mainstream media when it comes to the Western world’s relationship with the Middle East is the steady stream of armed aid the former provides to pro-Western regimes in the latter. Understanding the main source of grievances in the Arab world may offer us a clue as to why there is so much tension stemming from the Middle East today. For example, it’s no secret that the British government has for a long time been highly complicit in its arms dealings with Sunni Saudi Arabia, often used by the oil-rich kingdom to exterminate Shi’ite Houthi rebels in Yemen. And even more recently, leaked emails from Hillary Clinton also indicate that she is fully supportive of fanning the flames in Syria even further through the export of arms to extremist groups such as ISIS.
Content warnings: xenophobia, racism
On Saturday 9th I took part in the Anti-Racism and Anti-Austerity March in London, and it was during this event that I met two lovely young ladies of colour – one was Irish-Palestinian by descent (whose parents were both Catholic and Muslim) and the other was a Moroccan-French Muslim. It seemed rather fitting that, on this day, I chose to march against creeping racism in post-Brexit Britain alongside other people of mixed heritage.
And so, it was during our time spent together that the issue of “Third Culture Syndrome” was brought up.
(04.07.16) – Licence to Hate: Post-Brexit Britain
Content warnings: xenophobia, racism, racial slurs
You’d think that after more than three decades of multiculturalism in the UK, racism should have, more or less, become a thing of the past. Yet bigotry has decided to rear its ugly head once more after the recent EU referendum, with many of those who voted for Brexit, in particular those from a working class background, feeling the result has given them the right, and indeed social acceptance, to begin verbally chasing out migrants, in some kind of vague collective bid to “get [their] country back”.
(04.06.16) – Casual Racism: Why Is It Still a Problem in Asia?
Disclaimer: mentions violence against women, casual racism
Last week, the Internet was sent into its usual frenzy over the latest political correctness issue. Amidst the now sadly all-too-common Western-centric controversies, such as actress Rose McGowan raising the issue of the use of casual violence against women in movie posters to market ‘X-Men: The Apocalypse’, the Internet also reacted strongly to a television advert from China that was making its rounds on social media. The ad, featuring national detergent brand Qiaobi, contained levels of racism considered disturbingly casual by most standards.
In the commercial, a pouch of Qiaobi cleaning liquid is forced into a black actor’s mouth by a Chinese woman, who goes on to bundle him head-first into a washing machine. After a few cycles, she opens the lid and in his place, a Chinese man emerges instead. He proceeds to wink at the camera before the tagline appears onscreen: “Change begins with Qiaobi”.
(22.05.16) – Tackling the Stigma of Mental Health in Asia
Disclaimer: mentions suicide, depression, physical and mental abuse
Tackling the stigma against mental illness is arguably gaining ground among Western students and in Western society in general. However, the task of helping to achieve widespread understanding and acceptance of mental health still remains highly stigmatized in Asian cultures, regardless of which region of the world they’re in.
(07.05.16) – Mayor Sadiq Kahn: London’s Muslim Face of Tolerance
It’s been a pretty rough decade or so for Muslims. Since 9/11, negative images of the Islamic world have been relentlessly smeared all over the Western media, in a manner often mirroring the Orientalist perspective of Arabs as described by the historical anthropologist Edward Said. Ever since the Europeans first encountered Arabs during the time of the Crusades, Middle Easterners have been perpetually stereotyped as the social “Other”, known to act and appear completely differently from Westerners. Furthermore, the otherwise diverse Islamic world is frequently reduced to exclusively “exotic” stereotypes such as bearded mullahs, shady sheikhs in their groups of concubines, terrorists, Bedouin, belly dancers and harem maidens. Meanwhile, Muslim women are constantly portrayed as quiet, modest and uneducated, covered from head to toe and traveling several paces behind domineering males.
Two weeks ago, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opened to mixed reviews from film critics, but nonetheless went on to perform spectacularly at the box office. Just this week, the Panama Papers were also unleashed into the public sphere, from the world’s fourth-biggest offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca. The 11.5 million document leak featured startling revelations on a web of shady offshore accounting, involving twelve prominent world leaders including David Cameron. Implicating a total of 143 world politicians, their families and close associates, the leaks demonstrated the various ways in which elite rulers have been exploiting secretive offshore tax regimes.
One novel I’ve always been meaning to finish is the the award-winning sci-fi classic Neuromancer by William Gibson. Since the initial publication of the counter-cultural novel in – of all years – 1984, it went on to inspire the ‘cyberpunk’ movement in the science fiction genre, as well as the ‘high-tech, low life’ type neo-noir aesthetic that often goes with it. Neuromancer has also gone on to inspire popular films such as Ghost in the Shell and The Matrix.
Science fiction as a literary genre has long been ignored by both the academic and literary world as one that can be taken seriously. However, attitudes towards the genre are slowly changing. It is gradually being accepted and taught by many universities today, with literary modules dedicated to it emerging. It can also be potentially seen as a welcome break by those who are weaned off interpreting the likes of Chaucer or Shakespeare.
We keep reading news reports on the Islamic State, immigration from Syria and all-round growing Islamophobia that we often forget that there are other real, everyday problems affecting Muslim countries that are very easy to overlook. The increasing trend in focusing on much broader, impersonal issues by the international media has a tendency to de-humanise Muslims altogether, making it easy to forget that they too face ordinary problems, which often have nothing to do with the abovementioned huge issues.
(23.01.16) – How Far Can Feminism Go in Asia?
Over the past century women have made great strides towards gender equality in the Western world. From the Suffragette movement of the late 19th and early 20th century in Britain to the commonplace election of female MPs today, women’s rights in the West are increasingly becoming the norm. Feminism has even played a role in the world of science fiction, with prominent authors such as Margaret Atwood and Ursula LeGuin imagining hypothetical future societies in which gender barriers, and in some cases gender itself, have been removed completely for the betterment of the human race.
(09.01.16) – 2016: The Age of Agoraphobia?
I kicked off 2016 by … not going out at all.
At first glance, that would not seem completely unusual. Many would prefer to stay indoors than brave the rain, cold, and the above-average bustle of crowds on New Year’s Eve — however this was during a recent holiday spent in London, which hosted some of the most spectacular fireworks displays in the country. Watching the display afterwards online, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of regret at not being there to see them in real life. Having said that, fireworks are usually the same old spectacle anyway, regardless of the event.
(31.10.15) – Student Politics – Japan’s Next Big Thing?
The words “democracy” and “Asia” aren’t always known for going together. But with the proliferation of the Internet and social media, Asia appears to be learning a few lessons from other developing nations when it comes to democratic reform. The Arab Spring, the online democratic movement which eventually culminated in protests in Tunisia and Egypt, is surely a recent example that could be learned from.
The Internet has certainly had a liberating effect on this region, previously known for being conservative in terms of political expression and dissent. The Japanese political sphere, for example, is usually not renowned for being politically active or outspoken. But that’s slowly starting to change.
(19.09.15) – Islamaphobia Has Become The Norm
‘Islamophobia appears to be so casual nowadays to the point that it is increasingly becoming the norm. On Friday, during a town hall rally in New Hampshire, US presidential candidate Donald Trump failed to condemn an outspoken audience member who called for the ridding of America of Muslims, and claimed that President Barack Obama is not an American.’
(06.09.15) – Why Won’t the USA Take More Syrian Refugees?
‘Over the past week, footage of Syrian refugees has bombarded international news channels. Most of the four million fleeing Syrians – currently living in overcrowded refugee camps in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey – often go on to travel thousands of miles through central Europe, and across the Mediterranean, to countries such as Austria and Germany. Many have attempted to find their way onto boats, trains and trucks crossing the Channel to the UK.’
(23.08.15) – Don’t Counter Violence With More Violence
‘Despite almost 14 years of Western nations waging a ‘war on terror’, not much has been achieved in the way of making the world a truly secure place for all. With Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden now considered yesterday’s news, the Iraq war that was waged after 9/11 — widely considered by critics to be “pointless” — merely gave birth to another terrorist threat in the form of ISIS. Today, some sections of the Western media continue to be awash with Islamophobic articles on an almost daily basis, further fueling the public’s misconception of Islam and its supposed roots in terrorism. This in turn has affected Britain’s immigration and multicultural policies to an extent, and has only served to further heighten levels of prejudice against Muslims.’
(09.08.15) – Calais, Migrants, Myths and Reality
‘In my last article, I looked at Theresa May’s recent plans to further crack down on immigration by banning international students from working in the UK before, as well as after, graduation. This is to be achieved through various visa controls, as part of the Conservatives’ plan to cut net migration to “tens of thousands” by 2020 – despite the fact that the UK continues to suffer from skills shortages in many industries.’
‘As part of a new government clampdown on immigration, Theresa May recently unveiled new plans to ban international students from working during their studies — replacing current laws enabling them to work up to 10 hours a week — as well as force them out of the UK upon graduation. This is in spite of the fact that the country continues to suffer from skills shortages in many industries.’
(14.7.15) – The Myth of Asian Democracy
‘Although Asia as a whole will always be making great strides economically, much more remains to be seen in the way of democracy and human rights. There has always been the myth that Asian values and democracy are incompatible — a well-known fact in Asia, especially in the more developing countries — but in the Internet and social media age, there appears to be a renewed demand for freedom, especially when people’s livelihood and most basic rights are in jeopardy.’
‘The run-up to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election has been full of surprises so far — whether for better or for worse is another matter altogether. Not long after former First Lady Hillary Clinton announced her campaign, Jeb Bush, brother of George W. and former governor of Florida, subsequently announced his own candidacy. America could potentially have its first-ever female president, or its third Bush president within the space of three decades.’
‘The recent Charleston shootings on June 17th — in which nine people were shot and killed inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church — has raised eyebrows from all quarters as to why suspect Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man, has not been labelled by the media as a ‘terrorist’ for his hate crimes.’
(20.4.15) – The Slow Death of UK’s Multiculturalism?
‘Following the BBC Challengers’ Election Debate sans David Cameron, it appears the UK’s hotly-contested immigration issue could finally be put to rest after May 7.’
(12.04.15) – Tackling Mental Health – Now or Never?
‘In the aftermath of the Germanwings crash, Britain’s call to take mental health more seriously has never been more relevant. German pilot Andreas Lubitzmade headlines for killing himself and 149 others in a plane crash after reportedly going through a bout of depression (which he is said to have suffered from since 2009). Although the perpetrator of the March 24th crash was a non-Briton, this nevertheless makes the issue of mental health more urgent no matter which part of the world you’re from.’
(07.03.15) – Jihadi John – Product of Structure or Agency?
‘So the identity of Jihadi John has been revealed and the local press are now going to town on who Muhammad Emwazi was and what his past life in England was like, presumably to put together the pieces behind his state of mind and what drove him to commit such atrocities. Of course, this writer has been keeping tabs on such developments over the past week or so and, without wanting to sound like an amateur psychologist here, has done so in order to gain an idea of what the mind set of the average ISIS recruit is like.’
(21.02.15) – Flogging for Blogging: Amnesty International
‘With the world’s media spotlight being thrust on ISIS, the UK General Election, and the Ukraine, one major issue being overlooked by many is that of modern-day torture. And yet, despite its relatively lesser coverage, the issue is just as relevant as ever in many parts of the world today.’