Sunday, December 28, 2014

Berlaku Adil dan Prioriti Tumpuan

Kini terlalu banyak sangat berita negatif dan sensasi yang beredaran dalam internet, termasuk Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram dan yang seumpamanya. Sikap kita kena betul dalam menangani perkara sebegini.

Kita ditarbiahkan untuk sentiasa tabayyun (sahkan), menyandarkan hanya kepada hujah, bukti dan saksi, bukannya kepada khabar angin (hearsay) yang diterbangkan. Kita ditarbiahkan supaya berlaku adil, hatta kepada diri kita sendiri (kalau tidak menguntungkan kita) atau pihak "lawan".

Kita tidak sepatutnya terlalu cepat menyebarkan berita-berita yang belum sah, terutamanya apabila berbentuk sensasi atau ada unsur-unsur fitnah. Tahanlah mulut kita (atau jari kita) walaupun nampak "seronok" atau "mengena kepada pihak yang tidak kita sukai". Terlebih penting, kita janganlah terlalu segera menghukum, sedangkan dalil dan maklumat belum sampai kepada kita sepenuhnya daripada kesemua pihak yang terjejas. Itulah ciri keperibadian (character) yang sepatutnya sudah sebati dalam jiwa du'at dan mereka yang menjunjung panji-panji Islam.

Kita telah melihat sendiri betapa banyakkah cerita-ceriti yang kita sangka benar, yang kita sangka berasal daripada sumber yang dikatakan sahih, yang akhirnya terbukti salah dan palsu. Dalam era teknologi canggih ini banyak perkara sebenarnya tidak seperti apa yang dipersepsikan. Gunakanlah standard yang sama yang kita tuntut daripada orang lain buat diri kita (kiranya kita di pihak yang "kena") ke atas orang lain apabila kita yang berada di pihak yang melontar tuduhan ataupun sangkaan.

Juga, kita perlu sentiasa ingat perbedaan di antara circle of influence dan circle of concern. Apapun urusan dalam dunia ini yang mungkin menjadi keprihatinan kita dan menyentuh hati kita, hanya sebahagian sahaja yang berada dalam kekuasaan dan keupayaan kita untuk pengaruhi natijahnya. Kita tidak sepatutnya terlalu sibuk dan menyibuk dengan perkara yang kita tidak boleh pengaruhi atau lakukan sesuatu ke atasnya, sehinggakan kita pula abaikan perkara yang sememangnya di bawah pengaruh dan dalam tanggungjawab kita.

Luruskanlah keutamaan (priority) tumpuan dan amal kita, dan berikanlah sumbangan kita di mana kita boleh membuat sesuatu yang paling bermakna, serta tinggalkanlah daripada tersedut ke dalam pusaran perkara-perkara yang tidak berfaedah.

WaLlahu a'lam. 

Ainullotfi al-Fikri
29 Disember 2014.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Importance of Creating a Caring Society to Solve the Issue of Homelessness


The Importance of Creating a Caring Society
to Solve the Issue of Homelessness
 Assoc Prof Ainullotfi bin Abdul Latif
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Skudai, Johor, and
Head of i-Bantu, Community Services Committee,
Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia.


The issue of homelessness was thrusted into the headlines earlier this year when directives were given to ban the feeding of homeless people in tourist-popular areas of the City of Kuala Lumpur. It was understood that the ban was to protect the image of the city from such an ugly scourge of the society. This provoked outrage from many sections of the society, especially those directly related to the problem, including volunteers and social activists and other concerned members of the society. A good outcome of it has been that the issue is now more widely discussed by the society and more deliberations and researches to understand the issue were conducted. This paper is an attempt to see the issue from the perspective of an activist, more than that of an academic.


How do we define homelessness? Many uninformed people, both on the streets and in gilded chambers, would see homeless people as associated with drunkenness, vagrancy, laziness and basically a social ill that should not be tolerated, and even a form of crime to be distanced from. However this does not reflect the hidden reality of the pertinent issues behind such problems. Amongst others, homelessness is generally understood as the state of not having shelter, or a regular private space for sleeping, washing, and otherwise conducting one’s day-to-day life  [Food Not Bombs, 2014].

Official statistics showed that in 2010 there were 1,646 homeless people in the whole country, with the bulk majority, 1,387, in the capital [Boo Su-Lynn, 2014; Rayna Rusenko, 2014]. Unofficially, the real number might be double or triple that. Contrary to popular believe most homeless people in the city, in the order of 90%, actually have jobs [Tan Su Lin, 2014], though these jobs may not provide them enough income to sustain their life in the city properly [Sharifah Mariam Alhabshi, 2002] and are locals, not foreigners. Surprisingly, in general they are literate, with some form of basic education.

Issues Behind Homelessness

There are many reasons that lead to homelessness, and understanding the basics real issues causing the problem is important in order come up with meaningful actions to address the problem. Equally important would be to suspend one’s judgements on the homeless, or to look at the issue in just some superficial perspectives.

Some of the related issues that needed to be comprehended as possible causes leading to homelessness include [Food Not Bombs, 2014]:
  • Low income – where the income does not par up with the financial requirements of living in a city, given the high costs of housing and food;
  • Unemployment/underemployment – the lack of enough employment opportunities, and the lack of financial backing in the event of retrenchment;
  • Lack of affordable housing – within range of employment, given the high property and rental costs;
  • Lack of affordable transportation – high costs of transportation to and from work should one prefer to live away from the city centre.
  • Domestic violence – the lack of shelters for victims of domestic violence forced women and children onto the streets for safety;
  • Labour exploitation – unregulated employment where employees are not given proper rights, such as no health benefits and injury compensation, late or unpaid wages, SOCSO protection etc.
  • Debt – affects a lot of homeless people, where income are mainly used to pay off debts, or debts causing them to be bankrupt;
  • Addiction of alcohol, drugs or even gambling – saps off whatever regular income they have;
  • Regional disparities/rural to urban migration – relocation cuts off the natural protection of family home and communal support, while having to face higher costs of living in the city.

Aside from these causal issues, other related issues need also to be considered [Food Not Bombs, 2014]:
  • Chronic long-term illness that cannot be cured such as asthma, arthritis and diabetes;
  • Mental health issues such as depression;
  • Physical, amental and developmental disabilities;
  • Ageing, with 20% above the age of 60 years, and the lack of social support for these people.

A Caring Society

In the nation’s strive to achieve Vision 2020 and create a society that is democratic, liberal and tolerant, caring, economically just and equitable, progressive and prosperous, and in full possession of an economy that is competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient, the fourth, seventh and eighth listed challenges are, respectively [Mahathir Mohamad, 1991]:
  • The fourth is the challenge of establishing a fully moral and ethical society, whose citizens are strong in religious and spiritual values and imbued with the highest of ethical standards;
  • The seventh challenge is the challenge of establishing a fully caring society and a caring culture, a social system in which society will come before self, in which the welfare of the people will revolve not around the state or the individual but around a strong and resilient family system;
  • The eighth is the challenge of ensuring an economically just society. This is a society in which there is a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation, in which there is full partnership in economic progress. Such a society cannot be in place so long as there is the identification of race with economic function, and the identification of economic backwardness with race.

These framework could provide some of the necessary thinking in developing some of the solutions to address the issue of homelessness. It should be noted that addressing these matters could not be done by one sector of the society alone, but should cover the three major sectors involved in the community, namely (Figure 1):
  • The government sector;
  • The business sector;
  • The volunteer sector, consisting of community activists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Figure 1 Sectors involved in addressing community issues

Furthermore, the philosophy of a caring society must go beyond the microscopic perspective of actual individual actions towards another member of the society, but must permeate into the very purpose of existence of the community as a whole. This leads us to look into the creation of a society which is contented and at peace with itself, providing a level of satisfaction and happiness for its members, which could only be attained if the various components of life are fulfilled and addressed, i.e the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects (Figure 2). Any neglect of any of these aspects would certainly undermine the creation of a happy society.

Figure 2 Components of life

A caring society seeks to ensure that, together, the needs of an individual member of the society in all of these aspects are sufficiently fulfilled, and none are undermined or neglected in the pursuit of the others. A measure of the success or otherwise of a society must take into consideration how much of the needs of each of these aspects are fulfilled in a balanced manner.

A Holistic Approach

Most of what we see on the ground are actually mere symptoms of bigger causal issues normally hidden from view, and to just alleviate these problems as is would only provide a superficial treatment of the malaise. It is akin to providing pain-killer to a person suffering from a critical heart attack; it is useful to reduce the pain suffering, but more serious effort must be done to address the root of the problem. Homelessness in itself is only a reflection of bigger and broader issues in the society that need to be identified and addressed.

Noting from the causal issues of homelessness from earlier, one can categorise them into three levels (Figure 3):

(1)    Long-term, more global policy and planning issues;
(2)    Implementation and enforcement issues;
(3)    Responsive-type actions in dealing with the aftermath of the problems.

What is generally seen and felt are the last of these categories, but these are in fact mere consequences of discrepancies in the earlier two, and especially the first.

Figure 3 Levels of Issues

A caring philosophy must be imbued not only at the tail-end of the problem, but also must prevalent in the early stages.

A More Caring Policy and Planning

Some of the major causes of homelessness involves the availability of housing and the costs of transportation and food. These very much depend on the policies laid down by the authorities, especially in drawing out the long-term planning of cities and suburban areas. The expansion of cities purely based on the consideration of profits and economic gains, including uncontrolled real estate prices, certainly does not put the four human life needs mentioned above of the general population as a priority. Property prices would continually rise way beyond the reach of the ordinary people, and can only be afforded by a minute proportion of the population, the super-rich. A more caring philosophy in the planning should put the needs of the majority and the disadvantaged before the consideration of profit and pure economic gains.

Similar considerations need to be to overcome the problems relating to transportation. A city planning based on the requirements of private modes of transportation way above the development of a good, reliable and efficient public transportation system which is available and affordable to most would certainly contribute a lot to the issue of quality city dwelling, and homelessness. Again, the emphasis here is to start to pen everything with the human in mind, in a caring attitude, not just doing it for the physical and material benefits, or treating the people as mere tools for economic productivity.

Another requirement that can be considered in planning is the stemming of unbalanced flow of economic immigrants from rural and less-developed areas to the megacities. As long as the needy find it imperative for them to move from their original districts to bigger cities in search of better living conditions for their families, then the issue of providing for their needs in the cities would continue unabated. There is no reason why every economic development must be centralised in the cities, especially with better communication and transportation systems nowadays. Greater push must be done to enable the creation of more viable centres of economic activities outside the bigger cities, which would also necessitate the creation of better planned new townships (instead of the old, haphazardly growing cities) that would address all the four needs of human lives in a more balanced manner.

Of the three sectors, such massive undertaking can only be taken by the government sector, probably with the support of the business sector. However, the leaders and planners must be very clear as to what should drive the planning, is it pure profit, or is it vanity or should more emphasis be put into the balanced human life. Relevant laws and regulations should be enacted to ensure such are achieved.

A More Caring Implementation and Enforcement

As earlier ementioned, one very important myth to be bustered with regards to homelessness is that they are lazy, linked to crimes and put it upon themselves to be homeless. Once we are clear that the negative perceptions tied to the homeless are just not true, then our treatment of the issue and the people related to it should not be judgemental but seen in a more compassionate way. This change in perception should particularly be relevant to those executing programs and matters directly affecting the homeless. For those in the bureaucracy, these are individuals that they are dealing with, not just statistics and faceless names. They are also not small issues to be glossed over or swept under the carpet, especially in the face of the onslaught of “economic advancement” or “progress”, and especially not so that we would protect our “squeeky clean” image to the tourists.

The welfare agencies need to be better equipped to handle the variety of issues relating to homelessness, particularly in helping those affected by chronic illness, mental and psychological problems, ageing and also domestic violence. Our society must have a ready safety net to take care of such matters, so that they would not have to face such issues on their own in a helpless situation. A society which does not protect its weakest is a society heading towards certain doom.

Also, in matters involving work exploitation such as the deprivation of employment benefits, and late and unpaid wages, these disadvantaged people must be able to obtain ready legal assistance to fight for their rights, and their cases should not be bogged down in red-tape. Enforcement of the long arm of the law against the perpetrators of such exploitation must be firm and swift, and not be put back due to their status.

For Muslims, one of the ordained channels that should be available to assist the homeless is through the distribution of zakat and fitrah (tithe), which is rightfully theirs. Red-tapes and unrealistic conditions tied to the handing out of zakat monies must be done over, and zakat should be let to serve the role it was meant to do in Islam, not to be kept in the banks years after years. Compassionate considerations should prevail over legalistic and bureaucratic hurdles. Only then the true purpose of zakat would be attained.

Education is also an important means to impart the caring and compassionate attitude in facing the homelessness issue. Schools could be an effective medium to create better awareness of the issue, including educating school children of good practices to avoid being trapped into such conditions – in matters such as income management, debt avoidance, good social behaviour, as well as imbuing the feeling of empathy towards the disadvantaged. 

In this area of implementation, both the government and the business sectors have a lot of role to play, with the volunteer sector give a supportive role.

Caring Response to the Problem

When prevention fails and the problem still persists, as no amount of planning and tip-top implementation of programs would ensure an air-tight solution to the problem, then the necessary steps must be taken to alleviate the matter. The roles played by the respective organisations (NGOs) in helping the homeless, whether directly in providing food to them or in assisting them to obtain their legal, medical and social dues, are commendable. These organisations are staffed by concerned volunteers, and financed by the support of concerned community members.

Figure 4 Students trolling the night to distribute food for the homeless

Direct participation in such programs by members of the society, especially the youths, aside from alleviating the suffering of the homeless, have a secondary effect of creating a better awareness of the problems, and thus a more compassionate attitude towards the down-trodden and disadvantaged, instead of merely sneering at them negatively and blaming them squarely for their misfortune. This have an overall positive effect on the society’s well-being, creating individuals who would be better positioned to later serve in positions of policy-making and planning. More such programs should be encouraged at universities and schools and carried out with better planning, so that they would not be just one-off activities or just serve as window dressings. They could be included as part of extra-curricular activities of institutions of higher learning and even for trainees in the National Service programs.

More active involvements of the business sector should also be solicited, if not demanded, as par of their CSR activities. At present a number of corporations do provide funding to the NGOs involved in tackling the homeless issues, but they should also consider sending their staff to get directly involved on the ground. Furthermore, the business sector should ensure that they themselves are not involved in creating the problem by bad practices such a exploitation of their employees, non-compassionate treatment of human issues etc.

In providing for some of the basic needs of the homeless, the NGOs and volunteers should not be hinded or treated with disdain by those in authority, but should be assisted and facilitated wherever necessary. Any issues arising should be handled in a mutually agreeable manner and not dealt in a confrontationist mode, for these NGOs and volunteers are what gives the society its soul.


The issue of homelessness should be handled with more compassion in a caring society that we are to build, and any solution to the matter need to involve a more holistic approach right from the policy and planning, implementation and support. 


Boo Su-Lyn (2014). Homeless in the city - Falling through the cracks, Malay Mail Online, July 4 2014, 

Edmund Yap (2014). Homelessness is a Choice, Is It?,  Social Enterprise Malaysia,

Foods Not Bombs (2014). Homelessness in Malaysia - Policy Sheet,

Mahathir Mohamad (1991). “The Way Forward”, Prime Minister’s Office. 

Rayna Rusenko (2014). Homelessness in Malaysia – popularly misunderstood , The Malaysian Insider, 

Sharifah Mariam Alhabshi and Alifatul Kamilah Binti Abdul Manan (2002), Homelessness in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: A Case of Agenda Denial, International Journal of Social Science Tomorrow Vol. 1 No. 2.

Tan Su Lin (2014), 90 per cent of the homeless are Malaysians with jobs, Astro Awani,

The above paper was presented as an invited paper at "A Seminar on Homelessness: Nature, Causes, Implications and Solutions", University of Malaya Faculty of Business and Accountancy, 20 October 2014.

Bagi yang membawa tarbiah, ingatlah bahawa kita tidak mentarbiahkan manusia hanya untuk menjadi pengikut kita yang taat dan menurut sahaja, tetapi kita seharusnya mentarbiahkan mereka agar kelak menjadi pemimpin kita. Untuk itu, mereka haruslah ditarbiahkan supaya mempunyai pemikiran yang sentiasa bergerak, analitikal dan kritikal, bukannya statik dan jumud.

Mereka taat bukan kerana menurut secara buta-tuli individu-individu tertentu, tetapi dengan kefahaman yang mendalam berdasarkan kepada ilmu dan hujjah yang jelas, serta menjiwai sepenuhnya tuntutan fikrah ini. Pada masa yang sama, walaupun cara berfikir mereka kritikal, mereka tetap mendokong adab dan tatasusila, serta tetap mengutamakan tsiqah dan berlapangdada terhadap sesama sefikrah.

Para murabbi janganlah hanya menekankan supaya mereka menjadi burung kakak tua yang hanya mengulang-ulangkan kembali setiap apa yang disogokkan kepada mereka tanpa berfikir mendalam, tetapi seharusnya mendidik mereka supaya dapat mencernakan fikrah Islam itu sebaiknya lalu menghasilkan rekayasa yang asli dalam gubahan yang tersendiri, sarat dengan intipati yang penuh visi untuk meneroka jalan dakwah ke hadapan.

21 Disember 2014

Berlapik atau berterus-terang?

Artikel di bawah ini (How To Say “This Is Crap” In Different Cultures oleh Erin Meyer) mengenai perbedaan budaya dalam menyatakan pandangan terhadap orang lain menarik perhatian saya.

Perbedaan budaya atau cara interaksi ini memberi kesan terhadap suasana bekerja di dalam sesebuah tanzim atau organisasi, termasuk gerakan Islam. Sesetengah orang lebih suka berlapik dan berkias dalam menyampaikan mesej mereka, seperti orang Inggeris. Dengan cara yang lebih "diplomatik" ini, setiap orang harus pandai memahami apa yang tersirat di sebalik yang tersurat.

Bagi diri saya, saya banyak ditarbiahkan untuk berterus-terang dan menyampaikan pandangan saya secara jujur, walaupun isinya mungkin pahit, iaitu seperti budaya orang Jerman. Cara begini mungkin akan menyentuh perasaan mereka yang terlibat. Namun saya juga ditarbiahkan agar tidak memendam perasaan di dalam hati kiranya saya di pihak yang "kena". Pada saya cara yang sebegini, membolehkan kita lebih telus, tetapi ia juga harus disertakan dengan tahap keikhlasan dan kejujuran serta adab yang tinggi, sehingga tidak menjejaskan hubungan sesama yang terlibat.

Juga, kalau zaman dahulu di awal komputer mula digunakan secara meluas, ada konsep WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get), maka saya juga suka menggunakan konsep yang sama, iaitu apa yang saya sebut itulah apa yang saya maksudkan, dan tak payahlah untuk cuba mentakwilkan apa yang di sebaliknya. Pada saya ini lebih mudah untuk saya dan untuk mereka berinteraksi dengan saya.

Sidang Ketiga DPN 2014-2018
20 Disember 2014


How To Say “This Is Crap” In Different Cultures
Erin Meyer
Harvard Business Review
February 25, 2014

I had been holed up for six hours in a dark conference room with 12 managers. It was a group-coaching day and each executive had 30 minutes to describe in detail a cross-cultural challenge she was experiencing at work and to get feedback and suggestions from the others at the table.

It was Willem’s turn, one of the Dutch participants, who recounted an uncomfortable snafu when working with Asian clients.  “How can I fix this relationship?” Willem asked his group of international peers.

Maarten, the other Dutch participant who knew Willem well, jumped in with his perspective. “You are inflexible and can be socially ill-at-ease. That makes it difficult for you to communicate with your team,” he asserted. As Willem listened, I could see his ears turning red (with embarrassment or anger? I wasn’t sure) but that didn’t seem to bother Maarten, who calmly continued to assess Willem’s weaknesses in front of the entire group. Meanwhile, the other participants — all Americans, British and Asians — awkwardly stared at their feet.

That evening, we had a group dinner at a cozy restaurant.  Entering a little after the others, I was startled to see Willem and Maarten sitting together, eating peanuts, drinking champagne, and laughing like old friends. They waved me over, and it seemed appropriate to comment, “I’m glad to see you together. I was afraid you might not be speaking to each other after the feedback session this afternoon.”

Willem, with a look of surprise, reflected, “Of course, I didn’t enjoy hearing those things about myself. It doesn’t feel good to hear what I have done poorly. But I so much appreciated that Maarten would be transparent enough to give me that feedback honestly. Feedback like that is a gift. Thanks for that, Maarten” he added with an appreciative smile.

I thought to myself, “This Dutch culture is... well... different from my own.”

Managers in different parts of the world are conditioned to give feedback in drastically different ways. The Chinese manager learns never to criticize a colleague openly or in front of others, while the Dutch manager learns always to be honest and to give the message straight. Americans are trained to wrap positive messages around negative ones, while the French are trained to criticize passionately and provide positive feedback sparingly.

One way to begin gauging how a culture handles negative feedback is by listening to the types of words people use. More direct cultures tend to use what linguists call upgraders, words preceding or following negative feedback that make it feel stronger, such as absolutely, totally, or strongly: “This is absolutely inappropriate,” or “This is totally unprofessional.”

By contrast, more indirect cultures use more downgraders, words that soften the criticism, such as kind of, sort of, a little, a bit, maybe, and slightly. Another type of downgrader is a deliberate understatement, such as “We are not quite there yet” when you really mean “This is nowhere close to complete.” The British are masters at it.  The “Anglo-Dutch Translation Guide”, which has been circulating in various versions on the Internet, illustrates the miscommunication that can result.

Germans are rather like the Dutch in respect of directness and interpret British understatement very similarly. Marcus Klopfer, a German client, described to me how a misunderstanding with his British boss almost cost him his job:

In Germany, we typically use strong words when complaining or criticizing in order to make sure the message registers clearly and honestly. Of course, we assume others will do the same. My British boss during a one-on-one “suggested that I think about” doing something differently. So I took his suggestion: I thought about it, and decided not to do it. Little did I know that his phrase was supposed to be interpreted as “change your behavior right away or else.” And I can tell you I was pretty surprised when my boss called me into his office to chew me out for insubordination!

I learned to ignore all of the soft words surrounding the message when listening to my British teammates. Of course, the other lesson was to consider how my British staff might interpret my messages, which I had been delivering as “purely” as possible with no softeners whatsoever. I realize now that when I give feedback in my German way, I may actually use words that make the message sound as strong as possible without thinking much about it. I’ve been surrounded by this “pure” negative feedback since I was a child.

All this can be interesting, surprising, and sometimes downright painful, when you are leading a global team: as you Skype with your employees in different cultures, your words will be magnified or minimized significantly based on your listener’s cultural context   So you have to work to understand how your own way of giving feedback is viewed in other cultures. As Klopfer reported:

Now that I better understand these cultural tendencies, I… soften the message when working with cultures less direct than my own.  I start by sprinkling the ground with a few light positive comments and words of appreciation. Then I ease into the feedback with “a few small suggestions.” As I’m giving the feed- back, I add words like “minor” or “possibly.” Then I wrap up by stating that “This is just my opinion, for whatever it is worth,” and “You can take it or leave it.” The elaborate dance is quite humorous from a German’s point of view… but it certainly gets [the] desired results!

What about you? Where do you think your own culture falls in this regard?   If I need to tell you your work is total crap, how would you like me to deliver the message?

Erin Meyer is an affiliate professor of organizational behavior specializing in cross-cultural management at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France, where she is the program director for two INSEAD executive education programs: Managing Global Virtual Teams and Management Skills for International Business.  She is the author of The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business (PublicAffairs, due June 2014).  Follow her on Twitter: @ErinMeyerINSEAD.