Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter Sunday

Happy Easter!

He is risen
Jesus is alive
He is Lord
and is with us always
in spirit and in truth


More good news to top off an already excellent day: Oxford won the annual Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race today by a solid two lengths, gloriously avenging our underserved defeat last year. Hurrah!

BBC report: "Oxford capture Boat Race success"

Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Friday

Watched the Passion of the Christ today. This was the first time I'd ever seen it. What better day to watch it than on Good Friday? The day that we commemorate Jesus' crucifixion. I am very grateful to my friends who came to see it with me even though they'd seen it before - I do not think I would have dared to go alone. To be perfectly honest I think the reason why I did not see it the first time round was that I was too afraid. Most people will watch the movie as a graphic depiction of a historical event. They might not even agree with how entirely historical the events of the movie are. Sure, Jesus suffered and died, but that was it. How could he rise from the dead? Nobody rises from the dead. Nobody except God.

I don't agree with every single part of the movie - I think Mel Gibson overdoes the violence and includes too many bits which are not in the Bible proper but derive more from Catholic tradition. But I believe that most of the events depicted did happen - that Jesus was the Son of God who descended to earth, that he taught widely during his earthly ministry, that he was flogged and then crucified, surrendering his life on the cross, only to rise again three days later.

The night before he died, Jesus ate with his disciples one last time (The Last Supper).

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26: 27-28)

Jesus died in our place, taking the punishment that we deserved, so that we can be reconciled to God. For the essence of sin is separation from God and rebellion against His authority, above all else. It is separation from everything that is good, pure and true.

I know that very many people say that they do not believe that people are innately sinful, they cannot believe that people are innately sinful. But personally, looking at the state of the world today, and more often looking into the reaches of my own heart, I always think this cannot be all that there is. In the very eloquent words of Miss Stacie Orrico - there's gotta be more to life. And in the words of the very awesome Switchfoot - we were meant to live for so much more.

But Christianity isn't doom and gloom and condemnation - it's the greatest hope of all. God's love for us is the greatest love of all. Because despite our undeserving brokenness, we are already redeemed.

For a fuller exposition please see: "Two Ways to Live"

I must confess, the reality of Jesus' sin-bearing substitution is something that I constantly grapple with. Sometimes I think that my finite mind simply cannot comprehend God's infinite mercy and grace. I believe that it is only with Jesus's death on the cross that God is both just and merciful. He is just in that he rightly judges us all guilty of sin, but he is merciful in his abundant forgiveness of it.

I recently read a very helpful illustration of what it meant for Jesus to die on the cross that I would really like to share with you. It's a bit long but please bear with me; I promise it's worth it.

Joshua Harris, who's written many awesome books on relationships, recounted this dream he once had.

The Room

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features except for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings.

As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I Have Liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match.

A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I Have Betrayed".

The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. "Books I Have Read," "Lies I Have Told," "Comfort I Have Given," "Jokes I Have Laughed At." Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've Yelled At My Brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done In My Anger," "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath At My Parents." I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked "Songs I Have Listened To," I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented. When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: "No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't mattered now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore "People I Have Shared With About My Belief In Jesus." The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that the hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key. But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus.

I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.

"No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished!"

I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.

Thanks for reading to the end.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Oxford Singapore Forum

Just got back from church camp today. Having not read the news for a few days, I logged on to the Straits Times to find that I was almost famous. Well, almost. The inaugural Oxford Singapore Forum was held on Monday - Vivian Balakrishnan, Warren Fernandez, Irene Ng, Tim Huxley and Colin Goh spoke and took questions. I asked the one question that was referred to in the Straits Times "Why no referendum on casino in Singapore" except that they did not put my name down, which, as far as I'm concerned is a good thing, because the question was taken slightly out of context.

The discussion was about the Singaporean Identity - what is it? Does it exist? Dr Balakrishnan spoke of Singapore as a very young country whose sense of nationhood was (somewhat artificially) formed by the state, as opposed to having evolved historically out of a shared ethnic identity (think England); this is not made any easier by the racial diversity of the populace. It's easy to see why the Singaporean identity is an elusive thing to grasp. He spoke of Singapore as an unfolding historical oddity; the need for intrusive government given the youth of the nation and the threat of instability. Singapore is a very small place, and the politics that is practised is the politics of a small place. This was said in response to questions about the lack of democracy in Singapore - we are too small to have a functioning two-party democracy.

This then made me think about what democracy is, and what it is to have democracy in a small state. Immediately I thought of Plato and Rousseau, and the republican philosophical tradition that held that it was precisely in small states that democracy is best established. Plato spoke adoringly of the Greek polis, and Rousseau drafted a constitution for Corsica (a suitably small place). It is in small countries that you have ease of access to information and transportation - it is easier for people to meet up to discuss ideas and to decide things democratically. Here a distinction must be drawn between democracy as manifested in a functioning party system, and democracy in the decision-making process. Even if Singapore did not have a functioning party system, surely decisions could be made in a more democratic manner - a referendum would be a good example. If a referendum was not possible (or deemed undesirable by the government) then surely administering and publishing more opinion polls could do no harm. In fact, they would even add to the legitimacy of the decision.

And so my question was this - You say that Singapore is a small place with an intrusive government which was the result of the historical context in which the state was founded. But if we look at the writings of some of the great philosophers, it seems that it is precisely in small places that democracy would flourish (and then I briefly stated the reasons I gave above). I managed to speak briefly with Professor Joseph Nye when he was lecturing in Oxford, and he mentioned that Singapore was the closest thing on earth to Plato's Republic - a sentiment that I had heard expressed before and one that I agreed with. With respect to the casino issue, my understanding of it is that the government did make an effort to ascertain the views of the people. But having done so, they then withdrew to decide. The proposal for the holding of a referendum was quickly shot down, and by most accounts, there wasn't that much citizen participation in the act of decision.

Now the perception will clearly be that what we think does not matter - that no matter what we say, the government will ultimately decide according to its own agenda. Does this not pose a problem? To feel like you have a stake in something, you need to feel that what you say or do makes a difference - how can you feel a sense of ownership and belonging if you feel entirely alienated from the decision-making process? Given the futility of political participation, how can you blame Singaporeans for being politically apathetic?

Dr Balakrishnan basically said what the article quoted him saying, which is that the only other occasion on which we had a referendum was over the merger. But that was not quite my point. I mentioned the casino issue as an example of how public opinion did not seem that important, and that ultimately the government decides. There are many things you can do short of a referendum in making more democratic decisions - opinion polls for example. What would also help is if the process were more transparent - how exactly do the views of the populace factor into the decision-making process?

I got to speak briefly to Dr Balakrishnan later on. And we spoke about how it was indeed true that Plato's Republic wasn't exactly utopia - there was a huge underclass of slaves and women were denied the vote. (But to be fair to Plato, he was writing more than 2000 years ago.) What we did not manage to get round to discussing (he had to leave) was the fact that the nature of decision-making was quite similar in spirit. While there was clearly more consultation in modern Singapore, the essence of decision-making was still rather elitist - it's very much a top-down approach where ultimate and overriding authority lies with the government. While Singapore may be like that now it may not always be so. Dr Balakrishnan spoke about the constant change and reinvention that characterises Singaporean society - each generation will face its own unique set of challenges in its own way.

Through no active design on my part, I ended up at the private post-lunch reception and so got to speak to Warren Fernandez, Colin Goh and briefly with Irene Ng. Warren Fernandez is very soft-spoken and very nice - he's a fellow Oxonian and also formerly of Hwa Chong Humanz :) He was very upbeat about Singapore's future and the vitality of our meritocratic system, even for those of minority races (he saw himself as a prime example). As a young journalist he had incurred the ire of the then-PM, a certain Mr Lee. He ended up having tea with him and suffering no apparent ill consequences.

Colin Goh is Long live He's just as funny in person and just as critical. I told him that his wife taught me when I was in secodary school - it turns out that they had met at one of the creative writing camps that she had organised for us (he was a guest speaker - everybody say 'Awww...') He asked me about my plans for next year and I said that I hoped to go to Columbia for grad school. If you do come to New York, come round and visit us, he said, which was so very nice of him. I want to go to Columbia!!! He told very many heroic stories of his battles with the censorship board - an especially funny one was about how he had to argue his case for the Turbanator segment in talkingcock The Movie. He got the entire Sikh community on his side, and in the end they let the segment pass uncut. He spoke about the need to "just go and langgar lah" - just push the envelope and see how far you get. If you believe in something, make sure you do something about it. Fight the good fight. He wrote a rather funny column around this theme just before the forum (see below).

The Oxford Singaporean Forum was fun and quite interesting. I'm very impressed by the few 1st and 2nd years who managed to pull the whole thing off, and also by the speakers who generously chose to give of their time and were patient and gracious in answering our numerous questions.

By the way, church camp was great.


Given that the Straits Times will make us all start paying in 2 days time, I have included both articles below.

March 15, 2005
Why no referendum on casino in S'pore
Issue not big enough; only one referendum held so far - on merger with Malaysia
By Neo Hui Min
Straits Times Europe Bureau

OXFORD, ENGLAND - THE only time Singaporeans were called on to vote in a referendum was for whether Singapore should merge with Malaysia.

Going by this precedent, a referendum on whether Singapore should have a casino may not be entirely appropriate, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday.

'We didn't even have a referendum for independence. Is this (the casino issue) of the same order of magnitude as independence and merger?' he asked about 130 Singaporean students at a forum held at Oxford University yesterday.

Dr Balakrishnan was responding to a remark by a student participant that the proposal for a referendum was 'shot down very quickly', and that the Government often seeks views but then 'withdraws to decide' what it wants to do.

Citing more recent 'painful' changes that the Government had to make - including increasing the goods and services tax, lowering income tax and cutting contributions to the Central Provident Fund, Dr Balakrishnan pointed out: 'When these painful crunch-time decisions come up, the Government has to consult, explain its decision and then be held accountable for it.'

But if the Government were to decide everything by referendum, then 'you may not have...coherence in policy, and...the accountability of the Government'.

'Whatever happens, we will take the blame or credit for it.'

Dr Balakrishnan was the keynote speaker at the forum organised by the Oxford University Malaysian and Singaporean Students' Association, which explored the idea of the Singapore identity, whether Asean could be seen as Singapore's hinterland, and how Singapore is faring as a post-colonial nation.

Other panellists at the forum included defence analyst Tim Huxley, Member of Parliament (Tampines) Irene Ng, Straits Times Foreign Editor Warren Fernandez and film-maker and satirist Colin Goh.

Opening the forum, Dr Balakrishnan asked students to think about 'what ideals we have as a people or as a group of people who want to be a nation', the insecurities of the people, and the concept of opportunity for the people.

He pointed out that the thing that catapulted Singapore into becoming a sovereign state was the pursuit of ideals of meritocracy and of multiracialism.

'People think our existence was to become rich. If that was so, then we shouldn't have become independent. No right-leaning economist would have said then that Singapore had any possibility of economic success.

'What makes you special is what you believe in, what you fear and what your obligations and responsibilities are - Whether you like it or not, you are part of this small odd place called Singapore.'

March 13, 2005
Speak up first, take cover later
By Colin Goh

I write this, I'm about to fly off to England, where I'm scheduled to speak at a forum organised by Singapore undergrads at Oxford.

While honoured, I'm not sure why they invited me, since the other speakers include a Minister, an MP, a senior fellow at an institute and a serious columnist for this paper (as opposed to a frivolous one, like, um, me).

I imagine I'm there either to be the token nut who's too dumb to get with the programme, provide comic relief, or make the rest look intelligent.

My anxieties were reinforced when I did some calculations and discovered that despite the sponsored flight, attending the forum would put me out of pocket by several hundred pounds, since I have no institution to cover ancillary expenses.

'I'm actually paying to expose myself to a potential tekan-ing by establishment figures,' I wailed to the Wife. 'Say wrong thing, how? Why am I doing this? What's wrong with me?'

'You're Singaporean, mah,' she replied. 'Glutton for punishment.'

A glance at the news proved the Wife right. Last week, a survey of 719 Singaporean couples showed that 39 per cent considered themselves unhappy in their relationships, because of things like unhappiness with each other's personalities or communication problems, but were going to get married anyway.

That's right: Despite unhappiness with their partners, they are ngeh-ngeh going to shackle themselves to each other, ostensibly for life. Totally illogical, but completely consistent with the Singaporean character.

I say this with some confidence, because in 2000, the Wife and I wrote an article for the Singapore International Foundation titled Paved With Good Intentions, about our desire to change the script of our lives.

Somehow it got circulated on the Net and since then, we've received torrents of mail, even as recently as last week, from fellow Singaporeans.

Many of the writers expressed regret at choosing a course of study or career in which they had zero interest, but went along with it for reasons such as 'because Ma and Pa say Gahmen say it's good and because Uncle So-and-So's son did it, and now he's making a lot of money'. And many have said they now feel trapped and depressed.

Singaporeans, it seems, have a high propensity for self-suppression. According to Professor David Olson, the administrator of the relationship survey, the Singaporeans' conundrum may be attributable to a cultural reluctance to express their real feelings, coupled with an aversion to confrontation. In other words, plain old kiasu-ism, and its even plainer sister, kiasi-ism.

At most, Singaporeans' displeasure leaks out in little displays of passive aggression, like those irate drivers who, when someone cuts into their lane, mutter obscenities and make rude gestures even though the offending driver can neither see nor hear them.

My favourite example of Singaporean passive aggression is a friend's account of watching The Lord Of The Rings at a cinema, when some moron decided to amuse himself by pointing a laser pointer at the screen. No one told him to stop, or called the management to remove the nuisance. Instead, the audience simply morphed into chichaks and proceeded to make 'tsk' sounds from the anonymity of their darkened seats.

Of course, yelling at some inconsiderate twit has some risks - he might be a junior member of the Chap Sar Tiam Secret Society looking to work off some aggression, for instance, but if one can't take even these small social risks, how are we going to deal with the big ones? Like, say, marriage or general elections?

And if we're unhappy with our prospective partners, how will our angst leak out after getting hitched? Staying longer at the office to avoid the emotional void at home? Hanging out more at the 'launge'? Pouring boiling water on the maid?

The fact is, when we sweep unpleasantness under the carpet, sooner or later it accumulates into a bump that could lead to a nasty fall. My old army sergeant's advice still rings true: 'Kah kah lai! Meng kia, long tio ooh sia!' (Go boldly. Don't be scared. If you bump into something, it'll make a noise.)

So what should I do with the potential discomfort at Oxford that I've committed myself to? The lesson of the unhappy Singaporean couples suggests that if I've committed myself to a venture, then I shouldn't be afraid to speak my mind.

For better or for worse, speaking one's mind may be risky, but it beats the alternative: losing it altogether.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Between the Idea and the Reality

Exactly a week ago I found myself at St Catherine's College, listening to none other than Anwar Ibrahim speak. You heard me right. Anwar Ibrahim. Former Malaysian Minister of Finance and heir apparent to Mahatir, that is until he got chucked into jail on charges of corruption and sodomy. He's in Oxford now on a visiting professorship - it's so cool that Oxford draws the most eclectic people from far and wide. It was a really interesting talk, "From Paradiso to Inferno", touching on the years 1997-8 when the Asian Financial Crisis struck. I was quite impressed when he started off by quoting Dante:

A heavy clap of thunder startled me up
As though by force; with rested eyes I stood

Peering to find where I was--in truth, the lip
Above the chasm of pain, which holds the din
Of infinite grief: a gulf so dark and deep

And murky that though I gazed intently down
Into the canyon, I could see nothing below.

He spoke about what he did as Finance Minister and how he tried to push for reforms to the system so as to combat corruption. He said he met with great opposition, and he also basically said that it was his personal war on corruption that led to his fall: he was making it harder for the former PM to favour his own, especially his children.

He impressed me further by quoting Amartya Sen (Nobel Prize winner for Economics and formerly of Oxford) on his theory of development as freedom, and proclaiming that Asian Values were clearly overrated. Arguments about the need for example, to curtail freedom of speech in order to maintain racial harmony and guarantee national security have been used since the 1960s - surely we have moved on since then. He stressed the importance of freedom and democracy, specifically expressed in the institutions of an impartial judiciary and a free press, as the best way to fight corruption and encourage greater growth.

During the question and answer session I stood up and said "You say that the way to combat corruption is through having freedom and democracy. I was just wondering what you think about the experience of Singapore as compared to Malaysia in the fight against corruption, especially given the fact that Singapore is, well..." People started laughing, and because I'm so incredibly politically correct, I didn't go on to state the obvious. He smiled and said that clearly Singapore was much more successful than Malaysia in dealing with corruption. And this is something that Malaysia always has trouble admitting - that Singapore is better at it in anything. But he insisted that Singapore could still do with greater freedom. And besides, corruption is sometimes a matter of defintion, is it not? It made me think about how it is possible, while not breaking the letter of the law (and hence not being legally culpable) one is still clearly capable of breaking the spirit of the law.

He also spoke about the "Chinese problem" and the bumiputra policies. He said that there clearly needed to be more equality, and in the cases where there was to be affirmative action, it should apply equally to all races: the Indians on the plantations, the Chinese in the urban slums and the Malays in the rural areas. He said he'd often had arguments with fellow Malays about the matter, and he always pointed out how it was impossible to be a just Muslim if you were to deny, say for example, an accomplished Chinese student a seat at the university on the basis of race.

He was very funny and engaging and I could see why the Economist had said that he was the most charismatic Malaysian politician of his generation. He spoke about the difference in the extent of corruption in Indonesia and in Malaysia. In Indonesia they just ask you for bribes outright, but in Malaysia they were a bit more subtle. "We were trained by the British you see, the Indonesians were trained by the Dutch," he said, to much laughter all round. He talked about his time in jail. "There wasn't much to do in solitary confinement; read, sing, you name it, I sang it all, Elvis Presley and all that."

He looked perfectly fine and healthy which was surprising. He said he had been beaten quite badly in jail but that his operation in Germany had more or less got him back on his feet. He said that he did not regret anything that he did, except for the pain that it had inadvertantly caused his family.

Later on during tea at the Rector's Lodgings I got to speak with him. I asked him what role moderate Islam (as practised in Malaysia and Indonesia) had to play, in the light of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. He said that he was writing a paper on that and that it would be published soon. I then asked him what he thought about Mahatir's incendiary and controversial comments about the West (I distinctly remember him accusing the Jews of conspiring against the Islamic states during the height of the financial crisis) and how he thought it affected relations between Islam and the West. He said that Mahatir was a clever guy and that he knew just how to appeal to Muslims all over the world. When you consider that their options are rather limited (Saddam, Osama, the Saudi King), it is not difficult to see why Muslims would respond positively to someone like Mahatir (a moderate in comparison).

I also had a chance to speak to his wife, Dr Aziza, MP of Penang as I understand it (yay Penang! I have family there :) She seemed really nice and gentle. I asked her what she thought was the role of women in an Islamic society. She spoke about how in the beginning there was Adam and Eve and that is the way God made it - men and women were meant to be partners in this world, but this did not mean that women should be treated like men. She talked about the differences between men and women, women had to bear children, biologically we have a different make-up etc. I asked her if that then meant that men and women have different roles in society, women at home and men in the workplace. She said that women should be in the workplace as well, but that differences should still be taken into account. Do you mean in terms of maternity leave, childcare subsidies and so on and so forth? Yes, she said, and she spoke of recent efforts to extend maternity leave.

She said that a man once asked the Prophet whom he should respect, and the Prophet replied "Your mother. Your mother. Your mother." Women were clearly worthy of great respect. But I kept wondering if, in conservative Islamic societies, it was the case that women only gained the greatest respect as mothers, and that implicit in all that she had said, was an admission that women could never really be "on par" with men, and that "difference" was just another word for inequality. She spoke about how it was important to be gentle and genteel and to be respected when conducting oneself in the political arena - that was how she got things done. But at the same time I wondered how much that respect was contingent on her being the wife of Anwar Ibrahim. Don't get me wrong, she seemed perfectly nice and respectable, and I'm thrilled that she's an MP, but I am still rather sceptical of the prospects of gender equality in a conservative Islamic state like Malaysia, at least for now.

Later that night I spoke to my dad and told him that I'd seen Anwar Ibrahim speak. We have lots of family in Penang (some of them rather well placed) and my dad told me that according to a very reliable source, Anwar Ibrahim had had a very mutually advantageous relationship with one of the prominent Chinese businessmen in Penang. It might not have been a case of straight out corruption, but like Mr Ibrahim himself said, it's a matter of how you define corruption, isn't it? Cherfarn said quite humorously and quite accurately that it was not a matter of whether you were muddy or clean, but how muddy you were, because everyone was dirty. It is a matter of degree, so where do you draw the line?

In his speech, Mr Ibrahim also quoted (much to his credit) T.S. Eliot. It was particularly apt.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

- from 'The Hollow Men'

I was speaking to Dr Aziza when they had to leave. "Thanks for coming," she said, "And God Bless."

"Thank you," said I, "God Bless you too." I thought it was nice that we could say that to each other meaningfully, even though we had different conceptions of God.

I really enjoyed the session and it really made me think. They were both very pleasant and approachable, and I do hope to God, for his sake and for his country's sake, that Mr Ibrahim is innocent of what they charged him with. And also, that he truly means what he says.