LISTEN to this!

Certainly, in the context of social media today, you know you’ve made it big time if you have one or more of the following:

  • A viral video on Youtube shared throughout social networking sites
  • A PARODY of that video
  • An AUTOTUNED parody of that video (ranging  from 2 minutes to hour-long loops)
  • An Internet Meme created in commemoration of your achievement (if you still have no clue about memes, for the love of Google, look it up, you’ll be absolutely amused)
  • Hitler rants about your video (Search Youtube for ‘Hitler Rants’, again, highly entertaining)
  • You’re forced into making a public statement concerning your actions

In the case of one Sharifah Zohra Jabeen Syed Shah Miskin, she has amassed all the above accolades (talk about overkill) in a very, very bad way. Sharifah is the de facto president of the organization known as ‘Suara Wanita 1Malaysia’ [1Malaysia Women’s Voice (rough translation)], and very recently, a video depicting her engaging in an argument with Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) law student K.S. Bavani in a fairly disrespectful manner during a forum that she (Sharifah) emceed, went viral. Sharifah has since endured much anger and scorn for her conduct, most of the comments, which if you consider that Malaysia is a diverse country of multiple ethnicities, were filled with our vocabulary that can be undeniably colourful when need be.

The forum started off with students required to recite a pledge to oppose any street demonstrations of any form in Malaysia (freedom of rights much?), and branding such practices to be destructive and deviant behavior, drawing the irk of one student in particular.

Some parts are in Malay but the main points are in English, but for the benefit of our international readers, here’s a general transcript of the early exchanges starting from the 18th second of the video. Note that Sharifah is the woman in the coat (duh!) Ps, bracketed statements are additional information to understand the context of the video)

From 0:18

Bavani: Everyone here needs to understand that, the High Court has ruled that Bersih (a string of street demonstrations demanding electoral reform) is legal. Why? Look it up for yourselves. We must understand that Bersih is not an unlawful organization. Go ask opinions from others about this. Other than that, madam, you also touched upon the subject of the PTPTN (Government study loans) protests (that were held last year by students seeking for the dissolution of the PTPTN loan system), free education and more. You asked if there were any solutions. In my opinion, yes, there are. Countries such as Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela and Brazil can afford their people free education from pre-school level up until their first degree in university. Why are such countries (third world or poor) able to provide free education and our country cannot?

She then gives examples and suggestions of how the government can manage to provide free education without compromising other fronts of development, quoting an array of facts and figures to consolidate her point. Then it gets interesting.

From 2:39 onwards, you can see for yourself the reason for all the scorn for Sharifah. But, some parts are in Malay, so again, I will transcribe as best as I can.  In case you missed it, Sharifah cuts off Bavani mid-question by asking her to “listen” to her 99 times (actually 11, but who’s counting?) and takes the microphone away from Bavani. This act earned Sharifah the nickname “Miss Listen” and she was hugely criticized for an apparent infringement on Bavani’s right to speak at a public forum. Fast forward to the main points of Sharifah.

From 4:11

Sharifah: To answer your question, number one, do not compare Malaysia with other countries. If you want to compare with other countries, what are you doing in Malaysia? Listen. What are you doing in Malaysia? Go to Cuba, go to Argentina, go to Libya, go anywhere you want. Because you know what? All the students in this hall are happy with whatever the government does for them. You’re not happy, you tell me (I think that’s what she said amidst the loud applause). We come to the Bersih demonstration. I have never mentioned A. Samad Said (national laureate who is a staunch supporter of Bersih). Number two, pay attention, you’re a student, much more intelligent. The difference between you and me is a degree and an O-level. That is all. I did not say, what was the question just now? Ambiga (leader of the Bersih movement) what? Promote anarchy in the country? Yes, she did. And I am giving this as a statement, if there is any media in the house, come on down. Procurer of anarchy. You must understand what is democracy and what is anarchy. You must understand what is a gathering of three or more individuals in a single place. (Malaysian law implies that a gathering of three or more individuals at one place at any time is deemed illegal unless a permit was obtained. Clearly, we need someone to help the legislative in Malaysia to word their finer points in their law-making). I did not say that the Bersih demonstration is illegal. I said that Ambiga promotes demonstrations, and I will not back down from my statement. Everyone here has a high level of education, but today, I’m sorry to say, that you have proven that you have the least amount of education. You know what is education? Number one, respect. Respect the adults. Number two, always have a differentiation, gap between age. That’s why you have a mother, grandmother, daughter, child, babies. Do you think only humans have problem? (THIS IS WHERE IT GETS FUN!) I shall tell you who else has problem, animals have problem.

She gives a list of animals that have problems, for example, cats, how we kick them when they beg us for food. We scold dogs for barking. How we kill sharks for their fins. Oh yes, this blatant habit of going off-topic goes on for two whole minutes.

Right, if you managed to survive the long transcipts, here’s why Malaysians were up in arms, if you haven’t figured out already. First was how Malaysians felt that Sharifah bullied a student out of her voice by taking away her microphone, infringing her rights to freedom of speech. Second was how Sharifah chose to avoid every question raised by Bavani by suddenly becoming a saintly advocate of animal rights. Third was Sharifah’s clichéd statement “if you want to compare Malaysia with other countries, why are you in Malaysia”, which many have argued (amidst four letter words) suggested that Sharifah was living in a disillusioned world and that the forum she conducted was a brain-washing session for the students. Soon after the video went viral, many people (especially students in tertiary education) flocked to Bavani’s aid, setting up numerous pages on Facebook, demanding an apology from Sharifah and multiple parodies were soon spun. Internet Memes such as the one below were quickly generated as well.

However, what was first a noble awakening of freedom of rights soon turned into a public bashing of Sharifah as vulgar insults increased in multiples. Somehow, rape was also brought into the equation and the whole thing just imploded into a national phenomenon. Something else that worries the community is the alleged “sheep-shepherd mentality” of the students who responded to both Sharifah and Bavani even though some of them were clearly less than impressed but of course, that would have to be a topic for another day, lest this article turns into a thesis or a dissertation.

Sharifah has since issued a ‘public apology’ where she said that she forgives Bavani and the public (no that was not a typing error, Sharifah’s method of saying sorry is to say that she forgives others (video link below). Interest in the subject has since cooled, but the fact that Sharifah is a self-proven supported of the Barisan Nasional government and with elections coming soon, I dare say we’ve not seen or heard the last of “Miss Listen”.

So, yes, PARODIES! If you were too lazy to go through the transcripts, these parodies will also allow you a good understanding of the situation. Parts in Malay are illustrated with pictures, so don’t worry about the language barrier.

Hitler rant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FUlLEUYoBg

Autotune remix: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xL25dpv_cg0

Sharifah’s apology: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3w5qAx6eL0

 

Darren Yeoh

"Zeal without knowledge is fire without light." - Thomas Fuller, 17th century historian

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