The baseline of humanity

I am now at the airport, waiting for a flight to get home, after a long day at a seminar. Lots of interesting ideas gathered and more unanswered questions emerged. One thing that I’ve learnt in this life – change is actually not that difficult to make, it only requires conscience and political will. Lets leave it at that…

Then I watched a TED talk on my mobile. It was a talk by Mellisa Fleming, describing the journey of a young woman who became an unlikely hero, among the 11 who survived a capsized boat that carried 500 people. Not only that she survived, she also saved another life, an infant. It was a touching story. I found a youtube link here that you might want to use.

Melissa also brought about few important points and raised a number of questions. She asked, why isn’t the world more organized in helping the Syrian refugees in the manner that it did to the Vietnamese in the 1970’s? Why is so little being done to stop the war, the prosecution and the poverty that is driving so many people to shore of Europe? She also made few statements that fundamentally need to be understood by all, “… no refugee would be on that dangerous boat if they can thrive where they are.., no migrant will take that dangerous journey if they have food to feed themselves and their children….”

Last month, I met a Professor in Europe who came up with a hypothesis. Well, professors love to hypothesize and assumed that it becomes accepted theory immediately after they said it. That’s why professors enjoy arguing with each other. He said that among the refugees are ISIS fighters that wanted to attack Europe from inside. So Europe should be careful in opening their doors. Then in the next day I met another professors who was severely criticizing the Hungarian for turning their backs on the refugees. He said in a very logical manner, that when they were in crisis and fled their countries to Western Europe, they were welcome. Why couldn’t they do the same for the Syrian?

In the end, there is a fundamental question to be answered on this matter. What would be the baseline? What is the acceptable level of humanity to be adopted by us towards our fellow human being that we share the world with ?

My Lord, please provide us the wisdom needed to make correct judgments…

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Process or Outcome ?

Konvensyen Maqasid Syariah 2015

Konvensyen Maqasid Syariah 2015

Journey and Destination

Quite often I told my students that the journey is as important as the destination. Well, this is very true when we are travelling. Instead of rushing to the destination, why not enjoy the journey – it can be the scenery, the friendships with fellow travellers, or any other things. In fact, the journey can be more enjoyable than the activities at the destinations 

Similarly, quite often I also told my students that the process is as important as the outcome. Yes, in carrying out any task, it is important to scrutinize the process so that we are ensured that the desired outcome would be obtained in the best possible manner, without giving adverse effects to whatever means that we use to produce the outcome.

Over-emphasizing the Process

Nevertheless, I have noticed many situations where people are over-emphasizing the process to the extent that I think they may have forgotten that it is the outcome that they should be working for, because in the end, we want the results. We want the objectives satisfied. But why are these people focusing on the process to the extent that the desired outcome might be compromised?

I really like the legal arguments on the spirit of the law vs the letters of the law. Whenever there is conflicting argument on the interpretation of the laws, they highlighted the importance the spirit so that the interpretations are guided towards achieving the objectives on the rules and regulations.

My fellow academics may have noticed how we sometimes get carried away with the audit exercise based on OBE. This outcome-based education (OBE), is emphasizing on the immediate outcome (Program objectives, PO) and the medium term outcome (Program Educational Objectives, PEO). In achieving these objectives, there are processes that we have to establish. Unfortunately, some of the “guardians” of OBE may have over-emphasized the process to the extent that it is making the process very rigid that it deserved to be renamed to a “Procedure-Based Education, PBE”. I think, some of these people have gone astray, away from the spirit of OBE. The OBE should have allowed more varieties of approaches, more flexibility to achieve the target, after all it is the objectives that we want to realize. 

I am sure many researchers have had colorful experiences with  their Research Management Centers. This is because, the center which is supposed to facilitate researchers has somehow became a gate-keepers and making the life of many researchers more difficult. It seems that establishing good records in maintaining the process is much more important than motivating researchers. That is why when some researchers from various universities met, one of the topic is their RMC. Aah, this is a sensitive one for some… You can use your own imagination.

In fact we can see similar things in many realms of life. The religious department in Malaysia is seen to be more interested in establishing uniformity. That is why during Ramadan, there is circular coming from the department to the mosques telling which chapter of the qur’an should read in which rakaat of solat tarawih, and how many rakaats you should do in congregations in the mosque, etc. Those are processes.

Maqasid Syariah

That is why I really like the fact that “Maqasid Syariah” is now becoming a buzz word in Malaysia. Many are talking about it. Some attempted to explain what it means. Some are focusing on discrediting those who tried to make people understand. Some are saying that we are ignorant, thus we shouldn’t be talking about deep concept like maqasid, let’s leave it to the scholars. And yet they are professionals who have gone through many years of higher educations. I am sure that they can think, if the prefer to do so.

I really like the fact that now, Muslim and Nonmuslim alike are trying to understand this concept. After all, it is the higher objectives of syariah. In designing our procedures of living, we need to ensure that these objectives are satisfied. When we build a system of life, regardless of which domain – social, economics, legal, etc – it needs to satisfy these objectives. It can be done explicitly or implicitly without causing any stir of sensitivities because the outcome is positive, and good for everybody.

Somebody gave me an idea on how to simplify the explanation of maqasid syariah – it means making things better for everybody. Islam will ensure that you have a good life and your rights protected. So, go and get the details from those opportunities arising these days.

I’ve got quite a good dose of it last weekend, and to my surprise, sitting next to me was a young fisherman who came by motorcycle from Melaka to Kuala Lumpur for the event. I asked him, what made you come? He said, he saw the advertisement on facebook and wanted to learn more about what is meant by maqasid syariah. Yes, we have to understand this concept to appreciate what is meant by “Islam as a mercy to mankind”.





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Brussels – A Short Guide for Muslim Travelers


If you are in the Euro capital, Brussels, you would find people speak either French or Flemish. Some speaks English. Signage is often bilingual in Flemish and French. Some of the newer metro trains or trams have also English instructions. But if you are not careful, you might be lost, at least for a moment. For example, this can happen on a metro train and when you are expecting your next stop, you saw a different name appeared on display. Haha… that would be the same stop, but the name is expressed in different language. So remember both names or have a map on your hand.


Place to Visit

Naturally, there’s a place in a city where people would visit just for the sight of it. In Brussels, I think that would be the Grand Place. Nice architecture painted the scenery and the colorful patches of flower in balconies add to its beauty. From there, there are many interesting place to visit, all guided by signposts showing the directions for pedestrians. There are others such as mini-Europe, Atomium and many museums, if you have the time and interests.


Mannekan Pis


Some travelers have difficulty in searching for foods. Others do not face a single bit of it. For Muslim travelers, variety of halal food outlets are available in the city, especially in the area surrounding the Lemonnier Metro Station, in the South side of the city.

A nice Teh-Tarik on the roadside

A nice Teh-Tarik on a roadside cafe

In your excursion on foot in the city, if you have reached the Mannekan Pis (The small statue of a boy urinating), then it is not too far to the area.

Stalingrad- THEY SERVE RICE!

Stalingrad- THEY SERVE RICE!


There are mosques in various places especially in the south side, such as the one on Lemonnier st. Most are houses converted into mosques. A larger purpose-built mosque is located near the Euro buildings. I have been there 2 years ago and what a pity, I didn’t write it down. Luckily, I could vaguely remember that it was located on the same road with the Carrefour express. So today I searched for it and Alhamdulillah, I found it without a problem.

Carrefour Express (Opposite of 11 Schuman)

Carrefour Express (Opposite of 11 Schuman)

So, if you are in the Euro buildings for meetings, walk ahead towards the large roundabout and in the opposite side of 11 Schuman place, there is Carrefour express (a grocery store). From there, follow the road away from the roundabout, and in about 2-3 minutes, you’ll see the Brussels mosque. On your way, you’ll pass the European Personnel Selection Office on your right.

So, you can offer your noon and evening prayers in the mosque during breaks. It is very convenient.

Brussel's Mosque

Brussel’s Mosque

The toilet and ablution areas are in the basement and the main prayer hall is level 2 which can be reached via an elevator.

Be Careful in Busy Areas

I asked the receptionist on the hotel counter, “is this area is considered safe?, he then told me that in general, major cities in Europe including Brussels are safe. Then we had some discussions as I told him about some incidents that I’ve heard of etc ,while waiting for him to do the check in procedure, he then said, “if you are in busy areas, such train stations, subways, etc, be a bit more careful. Take a closer look on your luggages, beware of pick pockets, etc.” So, as a rule of thumb, we need to be mindful of our belongings.

Perhaps, the Professor in Erlangen exaggerated a little bit when he said nobody in Erlangen would steal anything… It is a safe city. Haha… but the aura in Erlangen was a bit different. Much more calm than Brussels. Perhaps he was correct?…

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Korea Experiences – Sharing for Muslim Travellers

I am now in a flight towards Kuala Lumpur from Busan, and I decided to write this piece. Perhaps, it might be useful to some other Muslim travellers bound for Korea.

Traveling in Korea has become slightly easier since my last trip more than a year ago. Today signage in English is more common. However, in general, we still have to depend on mix of words with hand gestures as well as trials and errors.

Traveller’s Saver Card

In this visit, I purchased a train saver pass that entitled me to travel anywhere on any train including the KTX for five days. Reservation for this pass can be made on-line from the KoRail website and the pass can be obtained from any train station by showing the reservation printout and your passport. Then using this card, free train tickets can be obtained from ticket counters. If you are travelling in groups and prefer to sit together on the train, it is advisable to book the ticket ahead of time.

T Money or All Pass Card

These discount cards are used in subway trains, buses, taxis, and some convenient shops. You can purchase and top up the cards at Story Ways, Seven Eleven etc. With this card, each journey provides saving. For example for a journey costing KRW 1500, only 1200 will be charged to the card, or something like that. More importantly, you don’t have to struggle with the ticket machines, especially if English option is not available in the menu.

T-Money (I had it since last trip)

T-Money (I had it since last trip)


Interestingly, taxi fares in Korea were relatively cheap. So, if you travel with a group of 3 or 4, taxi would be a cheaper option. There were budget taxis and a bigger one, which was slightly expensive. You can ask the hotel to call the one that you like. They’re all metered taxi. 


For Muslim travellers, to get a full meal would be a bit challenging, unless you know where to find them. If you go to the supermarkets, you’ll find that ingredients are all written in Koreans. So, apart from depending on breads or your own supplies, options are normally available if you can find the city mosque, if there is one.

If you have the option, perhaps it is better to book service apartments for accommodation. In Seoul there’s Hyundai Residence, for example that provides cooking facilities. At least you can cook a quick nasi goreng or something. I stayed there and it was very nice.

Busan Mosque

Busan is the second largest metropolitan city in South Korea. I was told that there are some 30,000 Muslims in Busan, majority of which are foreigners. Busan mosque was built in 1980 based on a donation by a Libyan benefactor and later renovated using funding from Turkish government. The mosque has 3 levels. The uppermost was a small prayer area for ladies. On the ground level offices, libraries, and other facilities are sited.

Inside Busan Mosque

Inside Busan Mosque

As I walked into the mosque, I heard a discussion between two gentlemen. From their appearance, I guessed one was a Korean and the other a Bangladeshi. They were discussing in Arabic, about a hadits that was familiar to me. I share the translation here:

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Everyone of my ummah will enter Jannah except who refuse”. He was asked: “Who will refuse?” He said, “Whoever obeys me, shall enter Jannah, and whosoever disobeys me, refuses to (enter Jannah)”. (Bukhari)

I recalled that this was one of the many hadist that touched my heart when I was young. Suddenly, a reminiscent of the past quickly dispersing into my feelings as I climbed the stairs towards the main prayer hall in level 2. In the hall, I saw a few Indonesians chatting happily. I greeted them and offered my prayer.

After performing my Zuhr and Asar prayer, I sat down with the imam of the mosque in the discussion room downstairs. He introduced himself as Yassir Lee, a graduate of Madinah University. True enough, he was talking to his friend, a Bangladeshi who was also a graduate from Madinah University. They were in a sort of teaching and learning session.

The imam asked me, “what do you understand about the word fitnah?” I told him, in Malay language, fitnah means false accusation. For that reason, Malaysians tend to misunderstand the word fitnah, which may mean trial and tribulation. The Bangladeshi scholar corrected me, by saying, in the book of tafsir, fitnah refers to shirk or bidaah. Yes, said I, since I also remembered reading the tafsir of the verse 2:191, where part of the verse is referring to a phrase, “Fitnah is worse than killing”. The mufassir explained that fitnah in this context is shirk. Many Malaysian quoted this verse, and put it in a different context, with the word fitnah referring to false accusation.

Subhanallah, what a nice moment was that. A short acquaintance that refreshes knowledge.

Turkish Restaurant

Next to the mosque was a house, nicely converted into a restaurant with Turkish murals and decorations. It serves variety of Turkish menu. It was a treat for us as halal food is difficult to be found in Busan.

Cappadocia Kebab

Cappadocia Kebab

The easiest way to get to the restaurant and Busan mosque is to take subway train line No 1 to Dusil station. Then after taking exit 8, just walk straight a head until you see a tyre shop on the right with a gas station on the other side of the road. At that intersection, turn right and very shortly you’ll see capacedonia restaurant on your right. You can have your treat there, or go down a short alley next to the restaurant towards the mosque. I have a full meal of Adana Kebab, one of my favorites. It was a treat indeed.

Itaewon Mosque in Seoul

Seoul has a much larger Muslim population including a substantial number of Malaysian students, and increasing numbers of visitors from Malaysia, perhaps a direct influence from the Korean drama casted on Malaysian TV. Somehow, the Muslim communities are concentrated more in Itaewon. In fact Itaewon is an area with totally different aura than other parts of Seoul. It is International. 

Taking exit 3 from Itaewon subway station, you’ll emerge on the main road of Itaewon. Then walk straight ahead until an intersection, where you need to make a right turn, going uphill on a small road towards the end where you need to turn left. From there, you can see the mosque at the end of the road.

Seoul Mosque

Seoul Mosque

Along the way, there are many restaurants should you want to make a stop. If you want to try some halal Korean food (cooked by Bangladeshi, I think), there’s a small restaurant on the right side of the road, close to the mosque. You can also opt for other choices  – Turkish, Indian, Egyptian-Malay (Siti Sarah), and many others.


Gwangju is the 6th largest city in South Korea. You can get to Gwangju in 1 hour 50 minutes on a KTX from Yongsan station (not Seoul Station) to Gwangju Songjeong Station.From there you can take a metro train to the city. 

My destination was not the city. It was the  Mudeungsan National Park that I’ve fallen in love with. So, I took a metro train to Hakdong-Jungsimsa Station. From there, there’re bus No 9, 50 etc that can take you to the the bus stop near the park.

In this particular trip, Gwangju has not acknowledged T-money, so, I paid cash. My wife had All-Pass Rail Card, and this discount card was useable in Gwangju. Still – a discount travel card is useful.

Outlets for outdoor apparels were plentiful with all major brands - Lafuma, Millet, Columbia, Northface and many others that I didn't recognize - Korean's and international brands.

Outlets for outdoor apparels were plentiful with all major brands – Lafuma, Millet, Columbia, Northface and many others that I didn’t recognize – Korean’s and international brands.

As you walk towards the entrance of the park, you’ll distracted by rows of stores selling branded outdoor apparels and equipment – international brands such as Columbia, North Face, Millet, Merril, Deuters, Lafuma, Alpine, Eider, Fila, Mountain Hard Ware, etc, along with Korean brands such as westwood, center pole etc. So, if you’re not determined to go on hiking, you may end up shopping.

At Gwangju Songjeong Station

At Gwangju Songjeong Station

Gwangju Mosque

I didn’t get chance to visit Gwangju mosque, but there’s one and Friday prayer was held there. Some information can be obtained from I have not verified the info on the website, use it at your own risks.

Turkish Kebab Stall (Hasan, Murat etc)

Turkish Kebab Stall (Hasan, Murat etc)

Gwangju Kebab

For a quick Kebab meal, there’s a place in the city that I visited during my last trip. In this recent trip, I went straight to the mountain park and back to Seoul on the KTX on the same day. It was a nice outing day which ended with a reward of Turkish meal in Itaewon.

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Hati yang bersih

Yusuf dan Saudaranya

Tersentuh hatiku membaca dialog antara Yusuf a.s. dengan saudara sebapanya yang suatu masa sebelum itu telah menginggalkannya keseorangan di dalam telaga. Kisah tauladan mengenai Yusuf ini diceritakan dengan panjang lebar dalam ayat 4-102. Diringkaskan cerita, Yusuf ditemui peniaga dan dijual. Kemudian dibesarkan oleh orang yang membelinya sehingga dewasa. Kemudian dia diuji dan dipenjara. Liku-liku itu dilalui dengan taqwa. Akhirnya, apabila dia telah mendapat tempat sebagai pembesar negara, ketakwaan dan kebersihan jiwa kekal padanya.

Mari kita amati dialog antara Yusuf dan saudara-saudara yang satu masa dahulu telah membuangnya ke dalam telaga dan ditinggalkan bersendirian.


(88) Maka (bertolaklah mereka ke Mesir, dan) setelah mereka masuk mengadap Yusuf, berkatalah mereka: “Wahai Datuk Menteri, kami dan keluarga kami telah menderita kesusahan (kemarau), dan kami datang dengan membawa barang-barang yang kurang baik dan tidak berharga (untuk menjadi tukaran bagi benda-benda makanan negeri ini). Oleh itu, sempurnakanlah sukatan bekalan makanan bagi kami dan mendermalah kepada kami, sesungguhnya Allah membalas dengan sebaik-baik balasan kepada orang-orang yang bermurah hati menderma”.

Yusuf- 89

(89) Yusuf berkata: “Tahukah kamu (betapa buruknya) apa yang kamu telah lakukan kepada Yusuf dan adiknya, semasa kamu masih jahil (tentang buruknya perbuatan yang demikian)?”


(90) Mereka bertanya (dengan hairan): “Engkau ini Yusufkah? ” Ia menjawab: “Akulah Yusuf dan ini adikku (Bunyamin). Sesungguhnya Allah telah mengurniakan nikmatNya kepada kami. Sebenarnya sesiapa yang bertaqwa dan bersabar, maka sesungguhnya Allah tidak menghilangkan pahala orang-orang yang berbuat kebaikan.


(91) Mereka berkata: “Demi Allah! Sesungguhnya Allah telah melebihkan dan memuliakan engkau daripada kami (disebabkan taqwa dan kesabaranmu); dan sesungguhnya kami adalah orang-orang yang bersalah”.


(92) Yusuf berkata: “Kamu pada hari ini tidak akan ditempelak atau disalahkan (tentang perbuatan kamu yang telah terlanjur itu), semoga Allah mengampunkan dosa kamu, dan Dia lah jua Yang Maha Mengasihani daripada segala yang lain yang mengasihani.

Apa yang dibuat oleh Yusuf a.s. adalah melihat ke hadapan dan bukannya mengungkit perkara silam. Itulah pengajaran yang boleh kita hayati dari kisah yang amat menyentuh hati dari surah Yusuf.  Sahabat, bertadaburlah dengan ayat-ayat Allah.

Bingkisan Ramadan

Hujung minggu lalu aku berkhidmat sebagai supir, memandu sekarelawan menyampaikan sumbangan sempena Ramadan kepada golongan yang kurang bernasib baik di daerah Pontian. Subhanallah, memang hati ini perlu sentiasa diberi peringatan. Sama ada tinggal di rumah PPRT atau di rumah usang peninggalan keluarga ataupun pondok kecil yang dibina dengan kayu-kayu yang mungkin dikutip di pusat pelupusan sampah, kehidupan mereka kelihatan sempit. Mereka meneruskan kehidupan dengan apa yang ada. Ketika itu, hati merasa syukur di atas nikmat yang diberi oleh Allah kepada diri sendiri.


Terbayang di ingatanku seorang nenek tua yang berusia lebih 80 tahun tapi masih tegap berbanding dengan usia. Dia tinggal di sebuah rumah kecil yang dibina dari bahan-bahan terpakai yang usang. Suaminya telah meninggal dunia dan dia tinggal bersama dengan 3 orang cucu lelaki yang tidak mempunyai pekerjaan tetap. Di sebelah rumah kecilnya itu, ada sebuah pondok yang lebih kecil. Di situ tinggal pula seorang lelaki yang kurang upaya. Bila ditanya, “siapa yang bagi makanan untuk lelaki itu?”, nenek tua menjawab, “apa yang saya masak dia makanlah.” Lelaki pertengahan umur itu adalah anak tiri kepadanya. Subhanallah, sungguh mulia hati nenek tua itu. Wahai Tuhan yang Maha Penyayang, murahkanlah rezeki mereka, ampunilah kesalahan mereka sekiranya ada dan berilah mereka kehidupan yang lebih baik di dunia dan akhirat. Amiin.


Benarlah kata hadits rasulullan s.a.w. “Sesungguhnya dalam diri manusia itu ada seketul daging. Jika daging itu baik, maka baiklah seluruh anggota badannya tetapi seandainya daging itu rosak dan kotor, maka kotor dan rosaklah seluruh anggota badannya. Daging yang dimaksudkan ini adalah hati.”(Riwayat Bukhari dan Muslim daripada Nu’man bin Basyir). Di sana sini, boleh ditemui insan-insan yang baik hati. Beruntunglah mereka kerana mempunyai kelebihan itu walau pun kekurangan dari segi kemewahan.

Marilah kita mengambil keberkatan bulan Ramadan ini untuk mensucikan jiwa. Mari kita guna masa yang ada dengan sebaiknya untuk merebut segala tawaran yang disediakan Allah di penghujung Ramadan yang sememangnya kita nantikan. Semoga Ramadan tahun ini lebih baik dari yang pernah dilalui sebelum ini. Amiin Ya Rabb.

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A week full of mathematics in Copenhagen

Mathematical Modelling 

For whatever reasons, I am comfortable with mathematics and computing. Perhaps it was the motivation from Miss Lim, when I was in school in Ipoh. But last week in Copenhagen, something caught my interest. It was ontology. It is actually a concept that I use all the time, but without formalizing it, let alone to give it a name. It is how we view a process systems before starting a mathematical modelling.

Prof Preisig explaining ontology and mathematical modeling

Prof Preisig explaining ontology and mathematical modeling

Ontology is the philosophical aspects of whatever that we are examining. Using ontology, a unit is visualised from its function, its nature etc, and depicted in various forms to facilitate representation of complex systems. There are two challenges – first is to have a comprehensive view of the system that we are examining, second, is to develop the engine that runs underneath, connecting objects and all its associated physical, chemical and other phenomena, and simulate them all simultaneously. Nice and neat, of course in principle,  but it is not an easy task.  Haha, a student of mine got stuck in developing the engine of functional models that he developed for fault detection system, and I didn’t have enough time to dig deep into the issue to help him solve the algorithms.  

I spent 2 hours listening to various researchers on ontology, including Prof. Preisig from NTNU, Trondheim, with whom I spend another half an hour on the matter. Interesting. Perhaps I’ll get into it later.

Markazi Mosque Copenhagen

After two long days attending conference at the Bella Center Copenhagen, we, a group of professors in process control  decided to visit a mosque. So, at 6 pm we started our journey by a metro train, followed by a bus ride, and searching for the place on foot. Few minutes later we saw a Muslim girl, who directed us to the place. Once inside, the aura was socially warm. It was the center of activity for Jamaah Tabligh of Denmark in Copenhagen. It was a house converted into a musalla. Brother Zahid told us that in the near future the place will be expanded as they have already purchased a plot nearby. At this small place, groups from various places gather in transits before being sent to various communities within Denmark. The mission is simple, calling people to be closer to the Almighty and reminding them not to be absorbed by daily activities, forgetting the mission of life – the world is a farm for the hereafter.

Markazi Mosque Copenhagen

Markazi Mosque Copenhagen

We were told that there are around 250 thousands Muslims living among the 5 million people in Denmark. So, they make about 5 % of the total population. Interestingly, in the aftermath of the “karikatur Danmark” where the Danish newspaper published 12 editorial cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in September 2005, and creating anger on Muslims around the world, more dialogues between muslim scholars and the Danish communities took place. It brought many positive impacts including the construction of a purposely built mosque in Copenhagen, growth in the number of mosques around the country and the locals became curious and interested in Islam. We left the mosque after a short stay, feeling fully recharged. 


The 5-day event of  PSE 2015 was held in conjunction with ESCAPE25 and chaired by Prof Rafiqul Gani of the Denmark Technical University. The organization was neat and the participation was full. Due to some safety and health procedures, the organizer decided to cap the participation to 600 and about 50 % of papers submitted had to be rejected. It was nice to meet and talk to people highly regarded in the academic field..

Prof. Ventakasubramaniam explaining the difference view on process control by academics and plant operators

Prof. Ventakasubramaniam explaining the difference view on process control by academics and plant operators

I was told that once the early bird registration deadline was up, the organisers made their accounting and realised that they have made the break-even point. So, all additional fees beyond the date would be a profit.  Interestingly, instead of smiling and enjoying the would be profit, they decided that now they can offer free registrations from interested  researchers that were hampered by financial constraints. Such a noble act. They understood the aim of an academic conference. It is for dissemination of knowledge and networking, and not for profit making. They do make a little profit though.

That is why I despise some of the professional institutions that put so much emphasis on profit making in running academic conferences. Knowledge creation, dissemination and sharing are noble acts. I call upon all friends in the academic world to have this in mind.

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There goes my place of retreat…

The color of academic world

Living the academic world is not as easy as it is often thought of. Though we are a government employee, we do not even enjoy the standard perks made available for government officers. University is a poorly funded organization, and we have to survive with what’s given.

The expectation on the academicians is almost without limit, often influenced by politicians and the media. Being pressured by the ministry, the university administration cascaded the expected performance to the academicians by embedding increasingly stringent requirement in annual appraisal and promotion exercise. The pressure is increasingly high.

The life of an academician is also tricky. How much you want to contribute, how many hours you want spend on your work etc,… there is no ceiling. Academicians work from everywhere, day and night, even while on holiday. Some are too engrossed in their works and lost track of time, ended up working late until their energy fully drained, not even enough to do physical exercise needed by the body. And it is not strange to find that many are ailing relatively younger.

A routine personal retreat is definitely needed. His mind need to be cleared. He needs to reflect on himself, to reconcile life activities. Maybe he should meditate in a cave (careful, there might be snakes around). Maybe he prefers to travel (careful, don’t miss your classes). To me, outdoor ventures are always appealing. I find serenity within surrounding natural beauty soothing. It doesn’t need to be long, but it has to be scheduled. 


These three islands have always been my favorite place of retreat.  These are quiet islands visited only by divers and anglers. The sights of dolphin, flying fish, vast blue sea, boats and ships passing through and most importantly patches of small islands in the background are common features. As an activity, we call it fishing trip, but unlike other groups of people, to us, it is the journey that is important, not the outcome. The focus is more on enjoying the moments. Of course, we always caught enough for lunch and dinner plus some extra to take home. Every year we spend some time on these islands – clear water, clean beach, delicious food and great hospitality. Over the years, the islanders have become friends.  

But Taman Negara Johor has confiscated the luxury we had. Not only that we have to pay for fishing fees, we must now stay away from most of the great spots (lubuk) that we used to gather handsome catches. They are are now considered out of bound, as we are no longer allowed to fish within 2 nautical miles off the isles in Johor. For those who enjoyed catching kerapu using bottom drift techniques (I’m included), it is very frustrating indeed.

The policy has a strong impact on the livelihood of the islanders. Some chalets have already closed down. A friend that used to prepare our lunch has now moved with his family to Mersing. The jetty of Pulau Dayang has been dismantled for whatever reasons. One  villager told me that it was rumored that the school in Pulau Aur will be closed, which I doubted. It nevertheless added to the pushing factor for them to migrate to the mainland.

I wonder, … Is this is exactly what the authority wanted to see, less divers and anglers in the area? Perhaps something is coming, that’s what my intuition says. My imagination went wild, but my analyses say that these are plausible. Whatever it maybe, many people are affected, and I don’t like it at all..

Suddenly, South China Sea can no longer promise us a good time, like it used to do in the past.

Endau Rompin National Park

Recently, we went on a recce. In a 15 HP boat, we went upstream from Tanah Abang towards Anak Endau river. The journey took 90 % of the time, and we spent only 3 hours casting lures in the river. Sometimes they ended up on the branches of the tree, sometimes stuck in between rocks. I lost one of my favorite white & red spoon and I failed to catch any Sebarau that I was looking for. It is a different game indeed. When I caught a small Baung (a species of catfish), I can feel the difference.

Jeti Tanah Abang

Jeti Tanah Abang

The aura in this watershed was nice and serene. There were plenty of music from wildlife – I simply didn’t know what they are. Swimming in the cold water was nicer than the salty water of the South China Sea. But the view was different. It was mostly green forest instead of vast blue water.

Relaxing under the shade

Relaxing under the shade

Time was short and we couldn’t do much, but we’ll be back for camping trips. I thing that’s the way to go – 1 night on a raft-house in Tanah Abang, and another night camping. Mmm, whatever happens, we’ll always find something interesting to freshen up our mind and to break boredom and stressful life of modern academics.


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