Sunday, February 28, 2010

From around the interwebs...

Things I've been digesting these last few days...


Don't be fooled: the BNP is really nothing like you
Martin Samuel (better known as a top football writer) gives a stinging reminder of the British National Party's fascistic ways, at a time when their slogan is "People Like You". Interestingly this article appears in The Daily Mail, which not so long ago had the gall to publish this cartoon.

Culture and Genes, People and Places
Razib at Gene Expression looks at how the transmission of genes, culture and language happens differently in different places. Fascinating if you like this kind of stuff. The invading Magyars and Turks brought their language and culture to from Central Asia to Hungary and Turkey respectively, yet without leaving much change genetically. By contrast, other groups like the Romani (Gypsies) held on strongly to their language and culture, yet their genetic makeup changes more the further they get from their homeland in Northern India.

Ethnic minority theme parks draw crowds in China
With the Han Chinese forming around 95% of China's populace, its ethnic minorities are largely confined to the sidelines, and have even become a curiosity for tourist consumption. This article looks at the Dai Minority Park in Yunnan, which has bettered the lives of some of the Dai people but turned them into a commodified oddity in the process. Ironically, the English translations of some of these parks used to read "Racist Park".

Handsome Chinese beggar becomes famous online
I recall a line in Seinfeld to the effect that "you never see any handome homeless." But apparently some Chinese netizens are getting excited about a homeless guy who is not only a looker, but has a certain sartorial shabby style. (Anyone who's seen Zoolander will be thinking "Derelicte" right now.) Of course, being homeless, his story is a sad one. It's an interesting read.

English words of Indian origin

English at its base is a Germanic language, which has borrowed a huge amount of its vocab from French, due to the Norman conquests a millenia ago. But other languages have added much to the rich tapestry that we know as the English language; Arabic, for one (a post I will write another day). But the British colonial occupation of the Indian subcontinent also gave us a host of words. Some, like curry, are still associated with their place of origin, but others like thug and verandah are no longer thought of as being "exotic" in nature.


HINDI / URDU WORDS
Hindi and Urdu are dialects of the same language, with Urdu spoken in Pakistan and having significant influence from Persian and Arabic. Hindi is the dominant language of Northern India and is common as a second language throughout the rest of India as well. Thus, English colonists borrowed more from Hindi and Urdu than the other Indian languages.
pyjama
bangle (bangri)
bungalow (originally meaning a house in the Bengali style)
bandanna (bandhna)
chutney (chatni = to crush)
dinghy
ganja
guru
juggernaut (named after the giant chariot of the god Jagannath)
jungle
loot (luta)
mugger (magar = crocodile)
pundit (pandit = priest or scholar)
shampoo
thug
toddy (tari = juice of a palm tree)
verandah


MALAYALI WORDS
Malayalam is the language of Kerala on the southern tip of India. Together with the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, these southern Indian kingdoms were historically important in trade with both East and West.
calico (originated in Calicut, in Kerala)
teak (thekku)
mango (manga)
orange (naaranga. Entered English via Arabic naranj)


TAMIL WORDS
catamaran (kattumaram)
pariah (paraiyar)
rice (arici. Entered English via Greek oryza)
ginger (inciver. Entered English via Greek zinziber)


SANSKRIT WORDS
Sanskrit is an ancient language, not spoken anymore outside of religious or academic contexts. Just as Latin evolved into Italian, French and Spanish, Sanskrit is the basis for most of the languages of Northern India today. Because of the trade links between ancient India and the rest of the ancient world, there are words in English that come indirectly from Sanskrit, via Europe or the Middle East.
jackal (srgala. Entered English via Turkish shagal)
candy (khanda = sugar. Entered English via Arabic qandi)
madarin (mentrin = minister, advisor. Entered English via Malay menteri)
musk (muska-s = testicle. Entered English via Greek or Latin)
sugar (sharkara. Entered English via Arabic sukkar)
aubergine (vatinganah. Entered English via Catalan alberginia, via Arabic al-badinjan)


INDIAN RELIGIOUS TERMS
The following words, Sanskrit in origin, have their roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, but their use in English has taken on broader meanings.
swastika
zen (via Japanese, from Sanskrit dhyana)
mantra
nirvana
karma
avatar

See. Everything's Indian...



Like this? You may like:

How Muslim names evolve across the world

Pilaf, paella and pulao - how a rice dish conquered the world

It ain't easy being Sikh

So, who really invented noodles? China or Italy?

The Malaysian-Indian food experience

Friday, February 26, 2010

Not your typical Asian pop stars

Despite living in an era when one of the biggest RnB stars is a Punjabi from Britain (Jay Sean) and a Chinese-American like Jin can carve out a successful and credible career as a hip-hop artist without anyone really batting an eyelid, it still is a bit of a mindf*** to see Westerners singing Asian music.

Meet Kristy Gibson and Jonas Anderson, popular Thai recording artists.
Both arrived in Thailand at young ages (Gibson from Holland [I think] at age 6 and Anderson from Sweden at 9) due to their parents' work commitments there. So they speak and sing in fluent Thai and have turned their farang novelty into musical careers.

Interestingly, they do not perform contemporary-sounding Thai pop, instead preferring the older sounds of luk thung (Thai country music) and mor lam (traditional folk from the Isan region).


Jero (aka Jerome Charles White) is another musical and cultural novelty. A 28-year-old African-American originally from Pittsburgh, his love of Japanese music and culture came via his Japanese grandmother. Now a star in Japan, his musical style of choice is enka, a largely forgotten Japanese form of lounge music that in modern times has been mostly popular with middle-aged women. It is usually performed by artists wearing kimono, but Jero wears hip-hop attire.


Jero - Michinoku Hitori Tabi (japanese enka) by winnychudoku

Do both of those clips seem really surreal or is it just me?


More like this:

Tajik Jimmy. This guy is freakin' amazing.

Nigerian dudes sing Bollywood

Finnish bhangra. This is weird.


Daichi, amazing Japanese beatbox kid

Black chicks singing in Mandarin - why not? This is cool.

Lloyd Popp - awesome Indonesian talk-box guy

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Vindaloo Against Violence" draws 17,000 diners

In Melbourne yesterday, over 17,000 people dined at Indian restaurants as part of the Vindaloo Against Violence initiative. The brainchild of digital media professional Mia Northrop, it aimed to show solidarity with the local Indian community and express a rejection of the violence that has beset Indian students in Australia recently.

By eating a curry.

Now, in one sense the idea could be regarded as the epitome of a kind of tokenistic multiculturalism that many Australians engage in. As in, they embrace the ability to eat different foods without really embracing any other aspect of a different culture. And it would be highly laughable to think that it actually could make a difference where it really matters - in the rates of violence against Indians in this country. And perhaps there could have been the effect of having participants go away with a sense of self-satisfaction at having done something positive and anti-racist when all they did was eat a curry.

But on the other hand, the personal is political, and small gestures do have a wider social context. Food can have such a major role as a social lubricant and a way of bringing different people together and opening eyes to new experiences and cultures. Many Indians here are feeling insecure and under threat by what they see as a climate of racism and violence right now. If all Vindaloo Against Violence has done is shown many in the Indian community that our nation is full of people who do value their presence and do not wish them ill, then that is a very noble and worthwhile thing indeed. So well done to the organisers.

I personally did not take part, although that says more about my lack of friends than anything else. I did however consume a particularly tasty and non-violent Gujarati thali on Sunday this week (which given it was vegetarian, is about as non-violent as you can get). Although judging from the burning sensation experienced by my dining companion later that day, there may just have been an element of violence in it. He should have had more lassi.

Singapore's answer to the "Flea Market Montgomery" ad

This one is a few years old now. But I couldn't not share it with you. There's just so much to love.



Couldn't help but notice the similarity to the one and only, world famous (with 5 million+ Youtube views) "Flea Market Montgomery" ad. I can't tell you how many times I've watched this. Quite frankly, it's better than sex. Seen here in it's extra long version. It's just like a mini-mawl. Or so I gather.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Right-wing Americans suddenly concerned about offending other cultures

Check this email currently being forwarded furiously in angry-white-person circles. (Hat tip: Wonkette)

You know the wingnuts are just desperate for something to get angry at Obama about. And they are unimpressed with his chillaxing posture, with his feet up on the table in the White House. Correction - OUR table. In OUR White House.

Now of course, if you ask whoever wrote that, the "we" in "our" is "we the people". But anyone who is familiar with dog-whistle politics knows that the "we" here is really "Real Americans" aka "white people."

Which was presumably why there was no similar indignation when George W Bush was photographed doing the exact same thing several years ago.

But my favourite part of the email is:

"While this posture is disrespectful in any culture, it is absolutely never done in an executive setting. Further, in over half the cultures in the world, it is recognised not only as disrespectful, but as an extreme insult."

Because everyone knows that there is no one more sensitive to other people's cultures than the American Right...

Brutal murder of Malaysian man shocks Sydney; road rage suspected.

The vicious attack on a Malay man in Sydney's inner west this week has made headlines in both Australia and Malaysia.

Police are saying that the fatal assault on Mohd Shah Saemin, outside his unit in Leichhardt on Sunday night, was most likely the result of road rage. But Malaysia is calling for reassurances that it was not a racist hate crime.

Evidence appears to show a very minor collision took place between Saemin's car and a black sedan occupied by two men. As Saemin was stepping out of the car, the two men attacked him with knife and a hammer. He tried to flee but suffered stab wounds and blows to the head. A female passerby attempted to intervene but to no avail.

The attackers fled and were described as having olive skin and curly hair.

This type of attack is absolutely shocking, and moreso if the apparent motive - road rage - is proved to be correct. To react in such a way to a minor traffic accident beggars belief.

Undoubtedly many Malaysians are leaping to the conclusion that the attack was racially motivated; understandable given the recent headlines about attacks on Indian students in Australia.

At this point it doesn't look to me like it was any such thing, although if racism played a role in how it all went down, I wouldn't be altogether surprised. Most likely, the murderers were substance-affected (given the extreme nature of their reaction) and already leading a life of crime (who else goes out on Sunday night with a knife and hammer handy in their car like that?)

Mr Saemin, 43, had lived in Australia for 10 years and had become a citizen. He was described as a soft-spoken man who had worked as a driver for the Malaysian consulate for the past 3 years.


(If you weren't aware, Mohd is pronounced Mohammad, for which it is an abbreviated form.)


__________________
UPDATE: A 55-year-old Croydon man has been arrested in relation to the murder. And here I was thinking it would be some young thugs.

UPDATE 2 : Ok, didn't see this coming. The arrested man turns out to be Indonesian-born cab driver Hazairin Iskandar, whose wife worked with Saemin at the consulate and was apparently having an affair with him. The second man appears to be Iskandar's son, who has fled back to Indonesia.
So racism is probably not an issue then. Still, it's messed up. Story here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Don't f*** with senior citizens, they'll surprise you once in a while."

When keeping it real goes wrong.

If you haven't seen this yet, where you been? It's an fascinating study of human behaviour, that takes place on a bus in Oakland, California. An internet sensation was born.



Various thoughts that spring to mind:

* The 67-year-old Epic Beard Guy (aka Thomas Bruso) is wearing a shirt that says "I am... a motherf***er."

* Bruso gives us the immortal line: "I see tough guys like you and I slap the sh*t outta them." How many senior citizens you know talk like that? Sounds like something out of Shaft.

* The girl who caught it on camera appears to steal Bruso's bag. Does she really film herself stealing something?

* She also says "Hey we can press charges, blood... I got it on videotape." Although of course this would show Mr Cornrow initiating pretty much everything.

* Cornrow's most unintentionally hilarious line (At 2 min 13 sec): "Next time... I'll f*** you up." That's gold.

* Epic Beard Man may not know karate. But he sure know kerrazy. But also to give him his due, he tried to avoid the fight. Well, sort of.

* You just know this video is gonna be porn for the white supremacist crowd.

* Although of course, if this inspires other old white gentlemen to stand up to hardcore ghetto cats, don't expect it to turn out too well next time around. (I'm thinking of Eddie Murphy's standup bit about the Rocky films emboldening Italians to start sh*t with big black guys.)

* While Cornrow picks the fight over what he sees as a racist comment, it appears to be just a misunderstanding. The most overt racism on display is from one of the black women, yelling, "Say it again, pinky!" and "Beat his white ass!"

* Seriously, who picks fights with the elderly? You ain't never gonna come out of that in credit. It's one of those things where even if you win, you lose.

* And getting beat down by a guy wearing a fannypack? EXTRA FAIL.

* Love the final shot. The sign saying "Keep our city clean and safe. Do your part." Kinda makes the whole thing seem like an ironic community service announcement.

* Word around the webs (and from Bruso himself) is that Mr Cornrow was actually out on parole after serving time for murder, and since the incident has now gone back inside.

* A couple of phrases that may just enter the wider lexicon after this incident: "He leakin'!" and "Ring the amba-lamps."

* Bruso has since been interviewed about the incident; you can watch it below. Apparently he's a Vietnam Vet who has done time many years ago for drug dealing and pimping. See? You never know who you're messing with.

* And apparently he's already a somewhat well-known character around Oakland (known mostly for walking around yelling obsenities and so forth). There's footage of him on Youtube getting tasered at a baseball game, where he was apparently yelling obscenities at cops. There's also a funny piece about him here, including an unverified account of what he was doing prior to getting on the bus.

* You can even check out the Mortal Kombat parody.

* He's clearly a little "out there". As you expect from a senior who wears a shirt that says "I am a motherf***er."



On a related issue, it was also the Bay Area public transport system that witnessed this brawl (below) between two women, apparently started over seating. Again, you never quite know when that person you choose to mess with is gonna get medieval on your ass.


Props to the girl who tries to stop it.


For some other senior citizens who like to whoop ass:

Vietnamese grandpa repeatedly kicks cop in the nuts

This guy is totally my new hero - China's elderly traffic enforcer

Monday, February 22, 2010

From around the interwebs...

Various things I've been reading about this week that you should be too...

The thriving illegal trade in exotic animal flesh
From tiger's penis and turtle soup in China, to chimpanzee and other bushmeat being shipped from Africa to the US, the illegal trade in animal flesh is big business indeed. In Western countries it seems to be primarily ethnic minorities behind this trade, driven by the meat's supposed health benefits or the sense of nostalgia it brings as a reminder of traditions from the old country.
It's an interesting article which raises some interesting questions. While I may find the whole idea abhorrent, do we in the West really have the moral authority to tell Africans or Asians that what they want to eat is wrong? How do we say that killing a whale or tiger for food is wrong, but the killing of billions of domestic animals is perfectly fine? And do Westerners really care more about the welfare of African animals than African people, as many Africans seem to believe?


The power of semantics and Don't Ask, Don't Tell
A US survey about people's attitudes to gays serving in the military showed a marked difference in the results depending on whether they were described as "homosexuals" or "gays and lesbians". Seems "homosexual" is more threatening, I guess because it puts the focus on the sexual aspect, whereas perhaps "gays and lesbians" makes you think of them more as people, and not simply as the sum of what they do with their naughty bits.

But to extrapolate these results, to me it shows how in a variety of contexts, word choice is everything. When refugees arrived in Australian waters on boats, fleeing war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan, the Howard Government took a hardline stance against them and probably won an election on that issue alone. One of the keys to that was the replacement in political discourse of the technically correct term "asylum seekers" with "illegal immigrants". The whole country bought it, to the point where after a few years of this some people thought the term "asylum seekers" was leftist propaganda.


What if Sarah Palin was black?
It may seem like a silly question to be pondering, but this article (originally at the We Are Respectable Negroes blog, but cross posted all over the place) is a thought-provoking look at white privilege. It's interesting not only to consider how someone like Palin gets free passes in some ways (such as her seeming lack of worldly knowledge being somehow seen as a virtue), but how Barack Obama has his allegiances constantly questioned in a way that no white President would ever be.


Standoff between Shah Rukh Khan and Hindu fascists
While it just now seems to have calmed down, there has been an ongoing row over the last few months between Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan and powerful Hindu nationalist organisation Shiv Sena. It began when Khan, who owns the Kolkata Knight Riders cricket team in the IPL, mentioned in passing that he believed Pakistani players should also have opportunities to compete in the IPL (which also includes Australians, South Africans and others). This led to outcry from Shiv Sena, and a campaign to obstruct the release of Khan's new release My Name is Khan.
The Mumbai-based Shiv Sena in the past has been implicated in attacks on businesses owned by migrants from other parts of India, regular anti-Muslim violence, and vandalism of the offices of media agencies who voiced criticisms of Shiv Sena. Lovely folks.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Japanese TV weirdness of the week

The tug-of-war as re-imagined by deranged Japanese game show folk.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Don't let the door hit your arse on the way out

Pauline Hanson, figurehead of Australian anti-immigrant sentiment in the late 90s, is becoming an immigrant.

The former member of parliament is going to spent some time in New Zealand and then wants to settle in the UK, where she is eligible for citizenship due to her parents being born there.

According to this news story, the One Nation Party founder thinks Australia has changed too much for her liking. "Sadly, the land of opportunity is no more applicable," she said. Of course, Australia has given Pauline opportunities to get elected and spend some time on Dancing with the Stars.

In any case, I won't be at all sad to see her go.

Hanson's meteoric rise to fame began when she ran as a Liberal Party Candidate for the Queensland seat of Oxley, winning the seat as part of the massive swing towards the Coalition in 1996. However she was disendorsed by her party mid-campaign after her comments criticising the amount of welfare received by Aborigines. She won the seat as an independent, but since she was still mistakenly listed as a Liberal on ballots, it is hard to say whether her success was due to her comments on race.

Here is an excerpt from her maiden speech to parliament:

Immigration and multiculturalism are issues that this government is trying to address, but for far too long ordinary Australians have been kept out of any debate by the major parties. I and most Australians want our immigration policy radically reviewed and that of multiculturalism abolished. I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Between 1984 and 1995, 40 per cent of all migrants coming into this country were of Asian origin. They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate. Of course, I will be called racist but, if I can invite whom I want into my home, then I should have the right to have a say in who comes into my country. A truly multicultural country can never be strong or united. The world is full of failed and tragic examples, ranging from Ireland to Bosnia to Africa and, closer to home, Papua New Guinea. America and Great Britain are currently paying the price. Arthur Calwell was a great Australian and Labor leader, and it is a pity that there are not men of his stature sitting on the opposition benches today. Arthur Calwell said: Japan, India, Burma, Ceylon and every new African nation are fiercely anti-white and anti one another. Do we want or need any of these people here? I am one red-blooded Australian who says no and who speaks for 90% of Australians. I have no hesitation in echoing the words of Arthur Calwell.

(Caldwell is better known for his infamous joke to parliament that "Two Wongs don't make a white.")

Hanson only lasted one term in office as the major parties all did their to ruin her chances by directing their preferences away from her. It also hurt her chances that the Coalition had started adopting policies which were Hansonesque. As the overall political climate shifted in a right-wing populist direction, Hanson was no longer the maverick she had initially been. It was one of John Howard's Machiavellian masterstrokes as PM - to strongly denounce Hanson's xenophobia, yet then proceed to copy that same quality - but it also remains a stain on his legacy in office, which Australia's race relations have not really recovered from.

Perhaps the lesson to be learned from the Pauline Hanson story is the danger of dismissing the rumblings of the ignorant. The reaction of the nation's media and political parties was to ridicule Hanson for her regressive views on race and her lack of intelligence in the usual political sense. Which is understandable, because mocking the stupid and ignorant is irresistable.

But like it or not, Hanson represented a lot of people who were fearful of change and fearful of difference. They admired her for her open racism (or as they would call it, being un-PC). She represented people who no longer trusted politicians and so were attracted to a candidate they saw themselves in. The phenomenon has parallels with the appeal of George W Bush and Sarah Palin in the USA; intelligence in politicians is viewed with suspicion, as something associated with "the elites", and it's more important just to believe the right things.

Do I think we were wrong to treat Hanson with such contempt and ridicule? Perhaps. Not that I think she is undeserving of such treatment. But it is hard to argue that the rise of "political correctness" (as a real and often imagined phenomenon) also gave rise to a backlash, of which Hanson was one manifestation. Is that the inevitable cost of keeping hateful discourse out of the public arena? Perhaps. But I also wonder if it is the consequence of a policy of multiculturalism that no one really understands, and therefore makes a convenient bogeyman for fearmongers to rail against. Perhaps we need to have a multiculturalism that exists within more clearly defined boundaries, and is easier for all Australians - including those who would vote for Hanson - to understand and embrace.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year

Kung hei fatt choy, people! Welcome to the Year of the Tiger! (Meow!)

Let's hope it is the year of the tiger, because last year wasn't such a good year for Tiger, know what I mean?

I hope wherever you are you have received some nice red packets, and have cleaned your house (it's good luck, you know).

Of course if you're not Chinese this may mean little to you. But get with it anyway. I'm not in any way Chinese, but since I am perpetually surrounded by Chinese folks, I usually get swept up in the celebrations.

This year the date happens to fall on Valentine's Day as well. So it is indeed a fortituitous time to give a Chinese person some sweet sweet lovin'. And preferrably like a tiger.



You can check out last year's post giving tips for non-Chinese people on surviving Chinese New Year, here.

Due to the convergence of those two special dates, I thought it only appropriate to post a Chinese love song for your listening pleasure. For all you lovers, Chinese people, Chinese lovers and lovers of Chinese food out there.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Immigrants = Animals

Some racist garbage from the UK's Daily Mail.


In case you can't read the small print, it says "I've voted Labour all my life, vicar; and fully support their quest for a multicultural society."

Classy. Real classy.


Hat tip: Liberal Conspiracy


See also:

"How to draw Asian women". Really?

How the media manufactures a racist "controversy".

Japanese cuteness - Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours"

I don't normally post the cutesy stuff (although a whole bunch of lolcats would no doubt send my readership through the roof), but I couldn't resist this one.



Dude's got soul.

Thanks to fromthetropics for the heads up.

Facebook Doppelgangers

I'm pretty sure it's not technically Facebook Doppelganger Week anymore. I mean, it apparently started on January 19th, whereas on February 2nd it still seemed to be Doppelganger Week. Doesn't make a lot of sense, but "time is rubber", as we Indonesians say.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's an internet meme that's been gathering steam on Facebook; basically the idea is to replace your profile picture with a photo of a celebrity who apparently looks like you. Yes, it's a stupid little fad like most other things that happen on Facebook, but hey, so what? It's kinda funny to see what people come up with, although it may also be a way for folks to flatter themselves (no dude, you do NOT look like Denzel, all right?). It also kinda contravenes Facebook rules about what you can use as your profile photo. But no matter.

I noticed some discussion over at Sepia Mutiny and Racialicious about how this meme might be a bit limiting for people of colour. Facebook is foremost used by the English-speaking world, for whom "celebrities" are mostly white or African American. What to do if you are brown or yellow?

Mrs Eurasian Sensation (who is of South Indian extraction) didn't bother with this nonsense, being unable to think of any celebs who resemble her. Whereas I am always eager to belatedly jump on some passing bandwagon, and I had a host of options. Being racially ambiguous-looking as I am, people often liken me to all kinds of celebrities from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds. For example:

(Disclaimer: I never said I do look like these people, OK? These are who various people say I look like - you can judge if they are correct.)

US tennis pro James Blake (white and African-American parentage)

Boxer Anthony Mundine (Indigenous Australian)

US actor Vin Diesel (Italian and African-American)

French footballer Thierry Henry (Guadeloupean / Martiniquais descent)

Brazilian footballer Ronaldo

Brazilian footballer Roberto Carlos

US actor Yul Brynner (Swiss and Siberian descent)

Hurdler Kyle Vander Kuyp (Indigenous Australian)

All-round asshole Eurasian Sensation (white Australian and Javanese background)


Australian footballer Marco Bresciano (Italian and Croatian descent)

US comedian Jo Koy (white American and Filipino descent)

Yep, so basically anyone with a shaved head. Shows a lack of imagination, eh?

I went with Mundine in the end, because it makes me look tough for once in my life.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Awesome Thai "Chiclet Stick" Chewing Gum Ads

With all the fuss made over the commercials shown in the Superbowl this week, let's not forget who really makes the best ads of all - the Thais.









Interesting fact: The name "Chiclets" comes from chicle, the natural gum extracted from a Central American tree. The same sort of tree also produces the delicious fruit called sapodilla or sapote, but which in India is known as chickoo.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Karaoke is a deadly business

As someone who is frequently observed hogging the mic at karaoke bars, this a sobering thought. Apparently singing badly can get people killed. Particularly if it's a certain Frank Sinatra song.

From the NY Times this week:

“I used to like ‘My Way,’ but after all the trouble, I stopped singing it,” he said. “You can get killed.”

The authorities do not know exactly how many people have been killed warbling “My Way” in karaoke bars over the years in the Philippines, or how many fatal fights it has fueled. But the news media have recorded at least half a dozen victims in the past decade and includes them in a subcategory of crime dubbed the “My Way Killings.”

The killings have produced urban legends about the song and left Filipinos groping for answers. Are the killings the natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo? Or is there something inherently sinister in the song?

Whatever the reason, many karaoke bars have removed the song from their playbooks. And the country’s many Sinatra lovers, like Mr. Gregorio here in this city in the southernmost Philippines, are practicing self-censorship out of perceived self-preservation.

Karaoke-related killings are not limited to the Philippines. In the past two years alone, a Malaysian man was fatally stabbed for hogging the microphone at a bar and a Thai man killed eight of his neighbors in a rage after they sang John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Karaoke-related assaults have also occurred in the United States, including at a Seattle bar where a woman punched a man for singing Coldplay’s “Yellow” after criticizing his version.

Still, the odds of getting killed during karaoke may be higher in the Philippines, if only because of the ubiquity of the pastime. Social get-togethers invariably involve karaoke. Stand-alone karaoke machines can be found in the unlikeliest settings, including outdoors in rural areas where men can sometimes be seen singing early in the morning. And Filipinos, who pride themselves on their singing, may have a lower tolerance for bad singers.

Indeed, most of the “My Way” killings have reportedly occurred after the singer sang out of tune, causing other patrons to laugh or jeer.

“The trouble with ‘My Way,’ ” said Mr. Gregorio, “is that everyone knows it and everyone has an opinion.”

Full article here.

It's true that those Pinoys do freakin' LOVE their karaoke. The Japanese may have invented it, but only Filipinos have made it into a national pastime.

It does seem a strange thing to draw blood over. In Western countries, sitting around waiting to sing emotional ballads would seem like a strange thing for macho guys to do. Yet in Asia that is quite normal, and you can see even the toughest-looking thug Asian busting out a heartfelt rendition of Love is All Around in a karaoke bar without even having to be drunk first. I'd guess the phenomenon of karaoke-related killings relates more to the the role of the popular pastime in the Philippines more than anything else. The kind of aggressive macho morons who in another country would be doing burnouts in the carpark outside the pub, are hanging out in Filipino karaoke bars instead.

Of course, if you've ever hung out in a karaoke bar for any serious length of time and listened to the third drunken interpretation of Hey Jude for the night, it's quite likely that you have contemplated taking a life. Check out the following clip and tell me it didn't make you think murderous thoughts.




See also:

Dancing Filipino prisoners and their Michael Jackson tribute

Stuff Asian People Like: Cheesy Ballads

"Tuts my barreh"

Weird Vietnamese karaoke version of "Birthday Sex"

K'Naan

Heard this song? If not, you'll probably have to get used to hearing it. It's been out almost a year already, but it's been selected as the official song of the FIFA World Cup this year in South Africa. Waving Flag is by K'naan (known to his mother as Keynaan Cabdi Warsame), a Somali-born refugee who grew up in Canada. He's a rapper/singer/musician in the Wyclef Jean mode, or kind of like a less-annoying version of Akon.



Personally, I find Waving Flag to be okay without really loving it, although it's catchy; I find myself singing it at odd times. The K'naan track I'm feeling most is Somalia, a sad tribute to his homeland. Nice backing track.

Addressing the myths and misconceptions about anti-Indian violence in Australia

Ok, time to separate the truth from the bullshit now, people.

The robbery and assault of Indian people in Australia is one of the most widely-discussed topics in the country right now. Yet there are a lot of opinions being thrown around which have become accepted as truth, when in fact they are not.

And as with many issues, most of the opinions being expressed are simplistic ones which do not satisfactorily address what is going on. We seem to hear either "Australia is one of the most racist countries in the world", or, "Australia is not racist! Stop whining and get over it!"

Neither of those responses is really helpful - they merely inflame things and engender a heated response at the other extreme.

So, given that I've studied this issue more than most, and examined everything useful I could find in the media about it, I'm going to try to clear up some of the misconceptions that are being bandied around.

Read this, so next time someone gives their opinion on the matter, you'll know what you are talking about.

BULLSHIT ARGUMENT #1. "THE ATTACKS AREN'T RACIST; THEY ARE JUST OPPORTUNISTIC CRIMES THAT COULD HAPPEN TO ANYONE."
One aspect in which the Indian media has contributed negatively to this debate is in adding the label "racist" to every attack. Clearly this is over the top, as an attack on an Indian is not necessarily racist; some attacks clearly were not targeted specifically at Indians. However, of all the reported attacks I could find mention of in the media, about 33% specifically mentioned racial abuse being present. Of the rest, racist remarks were not specifically reported, which doesn't mean they weren't there.
Even if we consider that many of the attacks may not have had racism as their primary motivation, we have to wonder how much race may have influenced the outcome. For example, someone who harbours anti-Indian feelings might argue with a white taxi driver over a fare, but might bash an Indian taxi driver over the same incident.

While some assaults receive media coverage, verbal racist abuse generally does not. But countless Indians talk of being on the end of racial slurs being yelled out of cars, or by passersby in the street, or in other daily interactions. It would be naive to think there is no link between racist abuse and the violence some Indians encounter; both behaviours are part of the same spectrum. If young people hear racist comments from their parents and peers and absorb those attitudes, it makes it easier for them to assault someone who is different from them, since they are seen as less deserving of respect and empathy.



BULLSHIT ARGUMENT #2: "THE INDIANS ARE WHINGERS, AND SHOULD STOP COMPLAINING AND HARDEN UP"
So... if they don't bring attention to their plight, then what? Do nothing? Become vigilantes? Neither of which would improve our society. When the Indian student community demonstrated about the attacks, the police and Government responded by taking measures to increase safety. That's good for everyone.

It is fair to say that some sections of the Indian media have blown things out of proportion. But that is the nature of the media. And even taking into account some exaggeration, there is still a legitimate complaint to be made.
But the "Indians are whingers" viewpoint forgets that a significant number of incidents go unreported. It has been reported that some Indian students, being on student visas, are scared of being seen as troublemakers by going to the police. Others still have got the idea that the police will do nothing to help them and therefore do not report.


BULLSHIT ARGUMENT #3: "AUSTRALIA IS / IS NOT A RACIST COUNTRY"
How do you answer such a question simplistically?
Most Australians are well-meaning and generally tolerant. But there exists a problem with racism. Admit it. Just because you may not dish it out or receive it personally or notice it around you, doesn't mean others don't.
It's not just white Australians who display racial prejudice by any means. Non-whites can have views which are equally vile. However white racism is the most important because (a) it has so influenced the development of this country, and (b) white people make up 85-90% of the population. The isolationist history of white Australia nurtured an entrenched xenophobia which is far less apparent today than it was 40-50 years ago, yet still lingers on in various forms.

I don't think we are necessarily more racist than the UK, the US, or India for that matter. But we have our problems nonetheless. People get bashed and killed over it. That's not something to ignore. More here and here.


BULLSHIT ARGUMENT #4: "INDIANS AREN'T BEING TARGETED ANY MORE THAN ANY OTHER GROUP IN AUSTRALIA"
The key figure here would be whether the violent crimes against Indians are proportional in number to violent crimes against the general population. If you look at nationwide figures, attacks on Indians might not stand out. However, this issue is not really about the whole of Australia, because the vast majority have occurred in Melbourne, particularly in the West and North. And the robbery figures in Melbourne's West that put this issue on the front page are pretty clear: approximately 33% of robberies in that area were on Indians, yet they make up not much more than 5% of the area's population.


BULLSHIT ARGUMENT #5: "WHAT ABOUT THE CRIMES INDIANS COMMIT IN AUSTRALIA?"
Countless people want to bring up the case of Puneet Puneet, who killed an Australian while driving drunk and then fled back to India and has avoided justice. Or, they'll bring up some Indian who raped someone, or some Indian who killed someone else, etc, etc.
Those are not good things. But they are irrelevant to the debate. Bringing them up is a way of avoiding self-examination. In any population of people, there are some who will commit crime.
Also frequently raised are rapes and murders of Australians in India. Again, these are terrible things. But if we are talking about what happens in Australia to Indians, there is no relevance in bringing up what happens in India. In any case, why compare Australia to India? India is a poor country with a billion people and myriad problems. Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and supposedly one of the safest.

Pointing the finger at examples of Indian crime is no better than the kid at school who gets busted vandalising something, and then says "But the other kids were doing it too!"



BULLSHIT ARGUMENT #6: "INDIANS ARE AT FAULT BECAUSE THEY CARRY SYMBOLS OF WEALTH LIKE iPODS AND LAPTOPS AROUND EVERYWHERE"
Indians carry iPods? Of course some do. The thing is, virtually every person under 35 on public transport has an iPod. Try asking anything of a stranger these days - they will inevitably have to take their earphones out first in order to understand you. It is hardly restricted to Indians. About laptops? I have no idea, I see plenty of Indians on the train but I never really noticed laptops. As for Indians flashing their wealth, the majority of the Indians who have been assaulted here were not rich. If they were rich, they would not be living in Sunshine or St Albans or Dandenong, and driving taxis, or taking public transport home from their jobs as kitchenhands, security guards and service station attendants.

The mention of carrying valuables appears to come from Police Commissioner Simon Overland, who advised Indian students against carrying those items as it might make them more of a target. This got picked up by the media and became interpreted by many as a way of blaming Indians for their own victimhood.


BULLSHIT ARGUMENT #7: "INDIANS ARE TO BLAME BECAUSE THEY DO THINGS THAT ANNOY OTHER PEOPLE."
Heard this one? In other words, Indians force people to beat them up because their taxi drivers provide bad service, or because Indian telemarketers make annoying phone calls during dinnertime, or because some Indian guys have smelly armpits, or because some Indians talk too loudly on the train.
We seem to have an instinctive need to look for reasons to blame the victim. I'm surprised no one is saying "Indians bring it upon themselves because they wear short skirts."
In the course of one's daily activities, you will get annoyed at people for various reasons. Just the other day a (non-Indian) guy did this ridiculously stupid thing in traffic that I won't bother to describe, but suffice to say it really pissed me off. And then the girl at the bubble tea shop took ages to serve me and I got pissed off. But here is the crucial detail; I didn't assault anybody as a result. Mainly because I'm a patient and tolerant kind of guy, but also because our society has a set of laws and values that state quite clearly that you can't just attack people because they annoy you for some reason.


BULLSHIT ARGUMENT #8: "IT'S MOSTLY 'ETHNICS' COMMITTING THESE CRIMES, NOT WHITE AUSTRALIANS"
Who is attacking Indians in Australia? What race are they? In around a third of all the reported attacks, no ethnic description of the offenders was reported. But commentators like Andrew Bolt have been pushing this line relentlessly - that it's not white people, it's Africans, Asians, Pacific Islanders and Lebanese. I do not have all the information available to the police, but of every attack reported in the media in which the race of the perpetrator was mentioned, around half were described as white or Caucasian. On top of that there are a number of reports that involved mixed groups which contained both Caucasians and non-Caucasians. So while ethnic minority groups might seem to be somewhat over-represented in these statistics in comparison to their general numbers in the population, white Australians still appear to have committed the majority of the attacks. Bear in mind also that an area that has a lot of Indians is likely to have an ethnic mix different to the population as a whole.

The oft-spouted idea that "it's all blacks and Lebs" seems to stem from certain news items that gained the most publicity. When the attacks first started to make news, one of the statistics that was frequently quoted was 10 attacks on Indian cab drivers in Melbourne's inner West within the space of a few months. The perpetrators in those particular cases were all African. The most widely seen footage of an attack was the train carriage assault of Sourabh Sharma, in which the gang appeared to consist predominantly of white and Pacific Islander kids; however aside from that there has been little reference to Islanders being involved in other incidents. In Sydney, the violence mostly centred around Harris Park, and most attackers appear to have been Middle Eastern in background. However, few Middle-Easterners have been reported as behind the attacks in Melbourne. I have frequently heard people claiming Asian gangs are responsible, but I could only find evidence of 2 attacks in which Asians were reported responsible.

But talking about of race here is problematic in any case. Firstly, the categories are difficult; is a Middle Eastern person considered white? And it's not always easy to tell what ethnic category someone belongs to, particularly in the dark while you're being beaten up.

And as I wrote about here, those from an ethnic majority (in this case, white Australians) have a tendency to ignore crimes when the perp is from their own group (because white people are "the norm"), yet notice ethnicity whenever an ethnic minority is responsible. (The ethnicity of gangland figures like Carl Williams is never considered significant, for example.)

And does the race of the attacker actually matter? Right-wing commentators try to deny race on one hand (as in, violence is violence, it doesn't matter what race the victim is), but emphasis race on the other hand (it's only the ethnics who are the offenders). If an Asian criminal or an African criminal is raised here, then surely they are Australian criminals first and foremost, and products of the Australian system.


BULLSHIT ARGUMENT #9: "INDIANS SHOULD CLEAN UP THEIR OWN BACKYARD BEFORE CRITICISING AUSTRALIA."
This commonly-expressed viewpoint goes along the lines of: "India has a horrible caste-system. India has lots of crime. India has murders of women over dowries, and honour killings. Therefore they have no right to criticise Australia for crimes against Indians."
This is just a derailing tactic. Thing is, you don't have to be perfect to point out that someone else might be doing the wrong thing. Otherwise no one could ever say anything critical to anyone else. A person or country who is comfortable with its own identity should be able to accept criticism and take it on board without getting ultra-defensive and having to take shots at whoever gave the criticism. I wrote about this over at Stuff White People Do.
What the Indian media do need to be wary of, however, is the extent to which their hysteria over these attacks could actually perpetuate it. Over-the-top coverage and accusations can fuel resentment in Australia that could possibly lead to further racism. So balance and context does need to be sought.


-----------------------

The reality here is that we are dealing with a range of crimes that differ in many details, with the common factor that the victims were Indian or South Asian. As such, it is tricky to put them all into one category ("racial attack") as is often being done in the Indian media. There are also a number of significant factors other than racism as to why these attacks occur; such as the numbers of Indian people taking public transport at night to dangerous areas, and working as taxi drivers. Yet these are not sufficient to completely explain why so many attacks occur, particularly considering the rate of assaults on non-Indian taxi drivers does not seem as high, and given the degree to which racial abuse has been present in some of the incidents.

If we learn to discuss these issues in less simplistic and polarising terms, we might be able to address this phenomenon without whipping up further hate and hysteria.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Americans are a bit scary; here's proof

As you may know, Americans basically run the world. And the USA is broadly speaking a fairly conservative country. And conservatives tend to vote Republican. So in order to gauge the opinions of the ordinary folk whose voting habits tend to determine what goes on in the world, progressive website Daily Kos did a survey of 2000 people who identify as Republicans, and asked their views on a number of issues. The results are scary. And I already thought Americans were a bit scary, but it scared me even more.

Here are a few results:

24% believe Barack Obama wants the terrorists to win. 33% are not sure.

33% believe Obama is a racist who hates white people. 33% are not sure.

Only 8% think openly gay men or women should be allowed to work in public schools. 19% are not sure.

76% believe abortion is murder. So they believe in the right to life. Unless of course if you commit a crime, because 91% support the death penalty.

Feministe also has a good breakdown of it.

Of course, this poll was done by a guy who likes to ridicule the right wing, so I don't really trust that the poll is representative of what Republicans really think. Well, not exactly. But even if some of it is even anywhere near accurate, it paints a scary picture. Most of them believe in God; but will God save us from the Republicans?




Pictured: A young Obama caught in the act of hating his white grandmother.








See also:
Is the anti-Obama movement motivated by racism?

Japanese TV weirdness of the week

This program, as far as I can tell, is called "Bug Game". No idea if that's actually what it's called, but let's go with it.

There are various obstacles the contestants have to contend with, but what is most important is that they do it dressed as brightly coloured bugs. I'm not sure if there is a reason for this, but it kinda makes it cooler not knowing, I think.

As with most Japanese game shows, the piece de resistance all is the bizarre punishments meted out to them if they fail; in this first one, a woman appears to blow full-strength garlic breath at them.




Monday, February 8, 2010

Victoria Police giving fashion advice to Indian students?

There's been a bit of a stir in the press (in India, particularly) over Victoria's top cop Simon Overland telling Indians to "dress poorer" in order to avoid getting robbed and beaten up.

And on the face of it, it doesn't look good from Overland; my initial reaction to hearing that was: "What the...?"

Indian students, particularly those in the highest risk category for attack in Melbourne - those forced to live in the cheapest areas and working odd hours to keep afloat while studying - are hardly flossin' and flauntin' the latest expensive gear, by any means.

But looking at the wider context of what Overland said, it's nothing to huff and puff over.

Overland told Indian students at a safety forum Saturday that although police were doing all they could to stop violence against them, students should adopt self-protection strategies like avoiding public transport late at night, not living where crimes rates were higher and avoid working as taxi drivers or at late-night convenience stores.

"Don't display your iPods, don't display your valuable watch...try to look as poor as you can," he said. "If you can live somewhere safer, live somewhere safer...if you can avoid public transport in high-risk areas at night, avoid it."

Ok, so he's giving some general safety advice - advice which is common knowledge to most people, but helpful anyway - as part of his discussion which includes what the police are doing about the violence.

One of the problems with the media everywhere is that it is so over-reliant on soundbites that context is often omitted. So turning this into a headline like "Overland says Indians should dress poorer" will only succeed in making Indians unneccesarily pissed off. And it will also possibly damage sympathy amongst non-Indians in Australia, as many will interpret that quote as "It's Indians' fault for flaunting their wealth."

The reporting of safety advice is often problematic, because it can often be interpreted as blaming the victim. An example would be advising women to dress more conservatively to help avoid sexual violence; it's probably good advice, but it's easy to take out of context by misogynists, and in any case people should ideally be able to wear what they want, where they want.

So no need to get cranky at Overland for this. Not that I think Victoria Police are doing enough to combat street violence. And if the Indian community in Melbourne hadn't raised such a fuss, the police wold probably be doing even less. But it's important not to get worked up over quotes taken out of context. That doesn't help anyone.


Also check out this article today at ABC Online about the conflicting messages being conveyed by the police, the media and the Government, about these attacks.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Guess who's Asian? (Part 6)

Finding Asian-ness in unexpected places...


Remember the old series Saved by the Bell? Its all-American boy-next-door hero Zack Morris was played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who has since turned his talents to roles on NYPD Blue and Raising the Bar. Gosselaar was born in California but his father was Dutch and his mother was Dutch/Indonesian.

Happen to catch Terminator:Salvation? You may have noticed Moon Bloodgood, who is surely beloved of nerds everywhere for not only being hot, but having a name that sounds straight out of Dungeons and Dragons (I reckon she'd be a 8th level half-elf ranger - yes I'm a nerd too). She's part Korean on her mother's side, while her Dad has Dutch and Irish ancestry.


Jamie Durie, Sydney-born with a white Australian father and Sri Lankan mother, has come along way from his early days as a male stripper. From hosting gardening and home renovation shows in Australia, he regularly featured on Oprah and now hosts The Victory Garden in the US.



You'd probably need to be a hardcore hoops fan to remember Rex Walters; he had a 7-year career in the NBA with various teams, averaging around 4 points a game, but didn't really live up to the expectations of a 16th draft pick. Still, it's more than I've ever done. Walters' mother is Japanese, and he remains one of the very few Asian-Americans to play at NBA level. He's now the head coach at the University of San Francisco.

Dance DJ/Producer Armand van Helden is Boston-born, with a Dutch/Indonesian father and French/Lebanese mother. He's recently produced a UK Number 1 hit in Dizzee Rascal's Bonkers, and is best known for his remix of Tori Amos' Professional Widow and his own track You Don't Know Me. My personal fave isthe soulful house epic Flowerz (below).


More like this - "Guess who's Asian?" part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.

Guess the Ethnicity, part 1 and 2.

Yes, Eurasians are hot. Just ask science.

Interracial dating in the USA

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Why I don't trust bankers

Key phrase - "expecting a rise".



Actually I feel a bit bad for the guy. He seems to opening emails someone is sending to him, rather than just randomly deciding to ogle half-naked model Miranda Kerr during his work time. There is some discussion around the place that it was actually a prank being played on him with knowledge that it would get on TV.

Given that this video has gone viral and been watched all over the world, it's fair to say this is not how David Kiely envisioned his 15 minutes of fame.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Random Singlish

Perhaps it's not nice to laugh at people's accents when they speak English, but it's worth making an exception for this one. It's a Singaporean radio show's prank call to a restaurant for catering. It might strike you as a little cruel, and if it was done in Australia admittedly it would be flashing my racism-warning-buttons, but in this context, it demonstrates the complex relationship Singaporeans have with their local dialect - loving to make fun of it, yet still feeling a great deal of affection for it.




More like this:

The white boy who speaks Singlish

Communication challenges in Malaysia

Guide to ordering food in Malaysia

Is it OK to laugh at Ris Low?



UKGSRSFJQ3RG

How Muslim names evolve across the world

What do rapper Tupac Shakur, footballer Zinedine Zidane and 15th century explorer Zheng He have in common?

The answer is a name, or part of it, with Arabic origins.

As Islam spread from the Arabian peninsula into new territories many of its converts adopted names that reflected the new religion and the change it brought to their culture. So before too long there were people with Arabic names from Senegal in the West to Indonesia in the East. This did not solely happen in the Muslim world by any means; witness the dominance of Spanish or Portuguese names in the Philippines, East Timor, Latin America and parts of Africa, which accompanied the spread of Catholicism in the colonial era.

But the spread of Arabic names did not necessarily annihilate the traditional names of those Islamizing nations. In many cases, the names evolved to fit each local culture, while still bearing the hallmarks of their Arabic origins.

Not all countries adopted Arabic names with the same zeal, of course. Malaysia and Indonesia make for an interesting comparison. Although the two countries are culturally almost identical, Islam became a much more fundamental part of the Malay identity than it did for Indonesians. This is reflected in Malay names, which are identifiably Muslim, almost without exception. By contrast, many Indonesians adopted Arabic names, but many did not, or combine an Arabic surname with an Indonesian given name, or vice versa. Indonesia's last four Presidents are a case in point. Abdurrahman Wahid and Yusuf Habibie have names that would be quite at home in the Middle East, whereas Megawati Sukarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, despite being Muslims, have names that are purely Indonesian.

So today the Muslim world has a diverse range of names which are identifiably Islamic, yet have adapted to the cultures that embraced them. Let's investigate the way these names have evolved.

JUDEO-CHRISTIAN CONNECTIONS
While some of the most common Muslim names are derived from the Arabic language (and particularly from the 99 Names of Allah), many are descended from the Arabs' common links with early Jewish and Christian communities. Here are some examples:
Ibrahim (Abraham)
Yunus (Jonas)
Yahya (Yohanna / John)
Yusuf (Joseph)
Issa (Jesus)
Jibril (Gabriel)
Daud (David)
Suleiman (Solomon)

COMMON VARIATIONS OF SPELLING AND PRONUNCIATION
Time, distance, and the vagaries of converting Arabic sounds into Roman script have meant that many Muslim names have a number of variations and derivations even within the Middle East. For example:
Muhammad, Machmoud, Mehmet (Turkish), Achmed
Abdul, Abdullah, Abdallah, Abdel, Abd, Abida
Uthman, Usman, Osman (Persian/Turkish)
Rahim, Rahman, Rehman, Abdurrachman
Nasri, Nasr, Nasir, Nasser, Nazir, Nazeer
Said, Saeed, Sayid, Syed, Sayeed, Zaid


NORTH AND WEST AFRICA
(Pictured: Senegalese singer YOUSSOU N'DOUR)
Islam has a long history in the Maghreb (Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria) and the Sahel region of West Africa (Senegal, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, etc). Muslims there have developed a large number of distinctive variations on the original Arabic names, due to the influence of local languages, but French colonialism has also likely had an influence, particularly on spelling. Obviously I'm not really doing justice to this vast region by lumping all these countries together, but I'm doing it anyway because there is considerable overlap.

Mamadou, Mahamadou, Amadou (Mohammad)
Ibrahima / Brahima (Ibrahim)
Salifou (Salif)
Khadidjatou (Khadija)
Youssou (Yusuf)
Lamine (al-Amin)
Zinedine (Zain'Uddin)
Daouda (Daud)
Abdoulaye (Abdul)
Ousmane (Uthman)
Boubacar (Abu Bakar)
Drissa / Idrissa (Idris)
Lassana / Alassana / Alassane (Al-Hassan)

THE PERSIAN INFLUENCE
(Pictured: Indian film star SHAH RUKH KHAN)
Despite Persians' enthusiastic embrace of Islam, perhaps it was their long and proud history as an all-conquering empire that made them less keen to adopt Arabic names. While many Persians today have Arabic-derived first names, their family names are most often Persian. According to Razib at Gene Expression, the Persian elite adopted Arabic names as a marker of religious identity when the nation was first starting to embrace Islam, but once Persia was fully Islamicized, the elites began to revert to Persian names.

Because they played an important role in spreading Islamic religion and culture, the Persians also spread Persian names. Thus within the historical Persian sphere of influence, particularly the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia, many Muslims are as likely to have a Persian-derived name as an Arabic one. Some examples:
Khan (surname of Central Asian origin, meaning great military leader)
Shah / Shahrukh
Shireen
Sikander (the Persian version of Iskandar)
Shadi
Azar
Rustam
Shaheen
Parviz / Pervez
Massoud
Rassoul

BOSNIA
(Pictured: Although born in Sweden, Barcelona striker ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC is of Bosnian origin - his name is a giveaway)
The Muslim population of Bosnia-Herzegovina was strongly influenced by Turkish culture, and many adopted Arabic- and Turkish- derived names. Yet being Slavs, they tended to maintain the South Slavic naming tradition common to their Serbian and Croatian neighbours: "-ic" added to the end of the surname, meaning "child of". The resulting surnames thus reflect the combined cultural origins of Bosnia's Muslims. Some examples:
Ibrahimovic
Salihamidzic
Selimovic
Mehmedinovic
Muradbegovic
Tahirovic
Hasanovic
Hasandedic
Muslimovic
Husejnovic

CENTRAL ASIA
(Pictured: Uzbek tycoon ALISHER USMANOV)
The people of the Central Asian republics are mostly Turkic in origin, but under Russian rule in the 19th century, many adopted Slavic naming conventions. Not "-ic" this time, but "-ev" or "ov" ("-eva" and "-ova" for females). In Tajikistan, there has been a push to drop those Russian elements and revert to traditional Tajik names, which are very often Islamic in nature. So Tajik president Emomali Rahmonov has changed his surname to Rahmon and has urged his countrymen to do likewise. You can read about that here.

Hakimov
Karimov
Nazarev
Kasimov
Yakubov
Jabarov
Nazarbaev
Makhmudov
Yusupov

CHINA'S HUI PEOPLE
(Pictured: Admiral ZHENG HE [aka Hajji Mahmud Shams], legendary Chinese 15th century explorer)
While China's population includes a number of Central Asian ethnic groups who are Muslim (Tajiks, Uyghurs and others), there are also 10 million Muslims in China who are ethnically Chinese, albeit with some mixed origins. They are known as Hui. Hui tend to look Chinese, speak Chinese and have Chinese names. However, the Hui believe that their family names are Sinified versions of their Muslim ancestors. For example:
Ma, Mu or Han (Muhammad)
Ha (Hasan)
Hu (Hussein)
Sai (Said)
Sha (Shah)
Zheng (Shams)


AFRICAN-AMERICANS
(Pictured: Basketball star SHAQUILLE O'NEAL)
Particularly from the 1960s onward, many African-Americans were drawn to names that they felt reflected their ancestral origins - names that were Swahili, West African, and Arabic in origin. While the trend towards Muslim names would have obviously originated in the black Muslim community, it spread to the wider black community as well. Thus we see black non-Muslims with Muslim first names like Rashida Jones or Aaliyah Haughton. The following names reflect an Islamic origin, but have evolved somewhat to fit African-American preferences:
Shaquille (from the Arabic word shakil, meaning "handsome")
Amare
Rahsaan
Omarion
Lakeisha


Like this? You may like:

Quiz time! (European names)
Pilaf, paella and pulao - how a rice dish conquered the world

It ain't easy being Sikh

It's official: Jesus was black. Or was it Korean?