Saturday, 29 November 2008

Of creed, colour and a clamp

I'll start off with the clamp first.

It is now the school holiday season here in Malaysia. During this time, Muslim parents who have young sons are planning for the `rites of passage' ritual for their boys. It is circumcision time... an anxious time of their life for the young boys. Sometimes the parents, especially the moms, are filled with anxiety and worries too.

The process of circumcision has changed a lot. The trade of the traditional Tok Mudim is dying away as most parents nowadays send their sons to private clinics. Doctors can even now offer their young patients the option of using circumcision clamps as opposed to the standard` snip and stitch' method. The clamp is a device that helps simplify the process because there is no need for sutures or dressings. The cut also tend to heal faster.

I've read some negative reviews about this particular method but having chosen this option for my youngest son's circumcision a few years ago, I can attest to its advantages. The clamp method is now widely used in Malaysia and some other developing countries. Not many people know that this device, commercially known as the Tara Klamp, was invented by a Malaysian doctor.

We'll come back to this subject a little later. I want to touch now on the subject of creed and colour.

Creed and colour relates to religion and race. In Malaysia, these two issues are so intertwined in the fabric of society and hardly a day pass by without something about race or religion being discussed in the mainstream media. The last few weeks have been no exception. I'm of course, talking about the decision of the National Fatwa Council regarding yoga.

Many blogs have touched on this issue and I do not wish to delve too deep into the merits of the decision itself. I just wish to share my observations based on what has been reported in the papers and the views and opinions of other bloggers. So here goes, in simple point form :

1. The National Fatwa Council cannot issue a fatwa or edict that is enforceable nationwide. Jurisdiction on Islam is a state matter.

2. The practice of yoga is not haram as long as it is not accompanied by mantras or chants that equates with the divinity of Allah swt.

3. The announcement by the council is a case of poor planning and foresight. Otherwise the Prime Minister and some Sultans would not have seen fit to publicly give their views on the matter.

4. The announcement has caused over-reactive response from both supporters and detractors. The response has come from non-Muslim individuals and communities too.

I do not think that this is the end of the story yet. I believe the Council could have handled this issue in a much better manner. While I appreciate their intent in issuing the directive (primarily that the Muslims who perform yoga do not become deviated in their faith - terpesong dari aqidah), they could have adopted a more thoughtful approach. The Gazer of Navels has an excellent example of how it could've been done -> here.

As I've said, many non-Muslim groups and bloggers have entered the discussion on this directive. This has prompted some Muslim groups to react by saying that `This is none of your business!'. Many Muslims are even chiding other fellow Muslims for questioning the ruling.

In my view, when it comes to issues like this, we Muslims cannot prevent non-Muslims from airing their opinions. Malaysians are not an exclusive society of this or that race only. What ever happens to one race could affect another... it's just a question of degree. We cannot fault our non-Muslim friends from showing their concern. What's important is the way this concern is raised... again we are back to the question of approach.

Similarly, Muslims cannot hold on to the position of exclusivity. By shutting out discussion, we are hindering the process of understanding. If we wish to attract other people to our religion or at least to understand it better, we should be encouraging interaction rather than building walls. We have to recognise that opinions and efforts of individual non-Muslims have their merits too.

Which now brings me back to the story of the humble circumcision clamp. After sending their sons to be circumcised using the clamp method, not many Muslim parents realise that the inventor of this device is a non-Muslim doctor. Dr Gurchran Singh won the Gold Award for his invention at the Geneva Exhibition in 1996.

Dr Gurchran donated thousands of his clamps to the young boys of Acheh in the aftermath of the tsunami. It's simplicity of use meant that the clamp was ideally suited to the non-hospital environments available in Acheh. This story of the good doctor helping out our neighbours in need was recorded by the Discovery Channel. Something that all Malaysians can be proud of.


D said...

thank you for an insightful post. hehe...i read with full anticipation - trying to guess the connection between circumcision and creed & colour. you see, my friend is nursing her son who just had a circumcision done, n we've been exchanging tales (my twins' episode with the clamp).

regarding the fatwa issue, i think that knowledge is not quite easy to gain... to be an ulama' you need to be 'alim, i.e. to have 'ilm. And 'ilm is wisdom - including matters of complexity. It requires careful observations and extensive research.

Islam is simple, thus jurisdictions within it should be guiding yet simple. We've got to be careful here. Very, very careful.

Anonymous said...


I always admire your clear, objective and yet descriptive writing style. And now, you have shown yourself again to be a very fair and progressive thinker and writer.

Thank you very much for your very candid and objective stand.

Have a good weekend!

warmest regards,

Kak Teh said...

Oldstock, when i took my youngest for the 'snip' in Malaysia, I nearly fainted. I think the experience was worse for me. It was the most beautiful moment seeing him walking like a cowboy holding his kain pelikat, out of the clinic.
Whatever ways they use, I think the best way is one that reduces pain and agony.
I read one story some years ago when the doctor did a snip too far. Hish!!

Queen Of The House said...

Two years ago, my elder son who was then 9 years old, had his circumcison done using the SmartKlamp (I only knew about the Tara Clamp then). I thought he was wonderfully brave, complaining of minimal pain. Ten days ago my not-quite-8-yet son had his done. I was expecting the SmartKlamp to be used, instead, this time it was the ISMAIL CLAMP. This one was more amazing - my son exhibited almost no pain! On the 2nd day he was walking around and playing like it was nothing. The clamp was removed (at home, by my husband) on the 8th day. It was that simple! So, what I'm getting at here is, kudos to our Malaysian inventors for making this once-painful procedure almost a breeze for our little boys.

Hugh7 said...

Kak Teh:
"Whatever ways they use, I think the best way is one that reduces pain and agony."

Hey, here's a way that reduces pain and agony to zero!

1. Hold the baby/boy gently.
2. Say prayers, or whatever is necessary.
3. Leave his genitals alone.

There's no mention of circumcision in the Qu'ran. Three men out of every four in the world are not circumcised, and they're NOT dropping dead of dreaded diseases (not because of that, anyway).

It's a method that's been tried and tested all over the world for 100,000 years! No risk of a snip too far, no risk of death (which can happen), and no pain or agony.

Oldstock said...

Just a note of caution to other commenters :

Clicking on the Hugh7 link above will not lead you to another blogger's profile but to a website that opposes circumcision.

Patricia said...

Hi Fadhil,

I have been waiting for you post on the yoga fatwa, and I knew it was coming, and all I needed was patience ( I have been blessed with very little lah ;)

But this was worth the wait. Thank you for the so matter-of-fact way in which you approach it. It has helped answer some of my questions.

About the clamp, all I can bring myself to say is: Ouch!

But I appreciate your point in the juxtaposition of the yoga fatwa against the inventor of the device. Cool :)


Mark Lyndon said...

Promoting circumcision is nothing to be proud of.

The Quran doesn't mention circumcision. It does say this though:

He created everything in exact measure; He precisely designed everything (25:2)

He designed you, and designed you well. (40:64)

He created the heavens and the earth for a specific purpose, designed you and perfected your design. (64:3)

He created man in the best design. (95:4)

VersedAnggerik said...

Hilman dulu guna teknik laser. No blood, and the skin looked as if it was burnt off. Dressing came off within 3 days only!

Oldstock said...

Wow, another commenter that's against circumcision. Didn't think that this blog would be getting that wide a readership.

Mr. Mark Lyndon, how did you reach this blog in the first place?

Mark Lyndon said...

I'm not a regular reader I'm afraid, though I have read some of your other blog entries. I found your blog because I receive google alerts for articles which mention circumcision.

hanitha said...

salam bro, berkenaan khatan nie, bukan ke itu mengikut sunnah NABI, sebagai org islam, kan kite kena ikut alquran dan sunnah. ORG ISLAM je yg perlu ikut..faham2 kan la..
tul tk bro? tp...mualaf camner ek??

Anonymous said...

Hey Oldstock,

Great article. Toksak layan mat salleh merapu ni. Diorang pandai pandai nak ajar yg patut dan tak patut, pada hal AIDS, penyakit kelamin dan gejala sosial negara depa lebih teruk dari kita. Religion is personal and based on freewill. Dr. Gurchran understands that and went on to design a device for moslems although he is Sikh. In his own way, he has shown Sikhism to be a good religion.

BTW, we have bought soccer balls with the money you donated for Orang Asli kids. Will send you some pics soon ....

OO Ipoh mali

hanitha said...

salam bro n semua,
kabare? lamer tkde post baru? bz ek? atau ader kenduri berkhatan to attend to :)), selamat hari raya aidil adha. take care

Anonymous said...

Reference is made to Queen Of The House, who wrote...
' Two years ago, my elder son who was then 9 years old, had his circumcison done using the SmartKlamp (I only knew about the Tara Clamp then). ... '

Perhaps you are not aware, after seeing and treating many badly performed and infected circumcisions from among the many kampongs around Kuala Kangsar, Dr Gurchran's research, which spanned over 20 years, resulted in the following:
(1)He discovered the concepts that enable Non-Invasive surgery. This has been confirmed at many surgical conferences and also by The Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland, as new surgical knowledge.
(2)He created the Tara KLamp based on the above concepts. The device has won many Gold awards. It is also PATENTED in many countries worldwide, including Malaysia.

You have mentioned a few devices in your above posting.. these are copying the underlying technology of Tara KLamp. Dr. Gurchran has not pursued legal action against these, as yet. Perhaps his learning of 'Biar La' from the wise in these kampongs also, still holds sway over his patience. His has also shown that research must transcend religious leanings and must benefit all human beings etc.

Madam Markonah said...

Very informative. My son was circumsized at the age of 1 (laser method. He had to undergo an op for hernia and we thought...buat sekali la alang2 *lol*). He started climbing chairs the very next day, even before we checked out of the hospital!

Don't you love modern medical inventions??

Oldstock said...

D, touching back on the yoga fatwa issue, I am sure all those in the council are learned people. But unfortunately they have not handled it wisely. I hope all of us can learn something from this.

Oldstock said...


Thank you for the compliments. It's hard to be objective when it comes to discussing sensitive subjects such as race and religion. I don't think I can do this too often :-)

Oldstock said...

Kak Teh,

As I said, it is mostly the mothers who are more anxious than the young sons. So your youngest one took his `snip' in Malaysia, huh? How come not in London?

Yang seronoknya bebudak nak bersunat kat Malaysia ni sebab ramai mak sedara dan pak sedara bagi duit... heheheh.

Oldstock said...


I guess the Ismail clamp is an improvement over the TaraKlamp. It takes a lot of the worry out of the whole process.

Just our luck is was not invented yet during our time ;-)

Oldstock said...


Good things happen to all that have the patience to wait.

Oldstock said...

Verse, I'm sure you and your son were happy that the whole process was over in a few days. Kalau ikut cara lama, nak tukar dressing tu was a painful experience. Lepas kena tunggu berminggu sampai jahitan tu tanggal.

Oldstock said...

Mark Lyndon,

It seems that you are dead set against circumcision to the extent of having Google alert you of new blog posts relating to the matter.

How you pursue your interest is none of my concern but if you wish to use verses of the Quran to support your stand against circumcision, then you should declare that you have full faith of the holy book. Don't only believe in some parts while discarding others.

Your selective quote of certain verses only to give the impression that they support your cause shows your shallowness.

Oldstock said...


Orang mualaf pun kena `snip' juga la... No hal nyer :-)

Lama tak post sebab bz sangat la Kaklong.

Oldstock said...

Hi Double-O,

Takpe... saja je nak layan Mat Salleh kejap.

Hope that one day I can have a kick-around with those orang asli kids.

Oldstock said...

Anon of 5th December,

From the way you wrote, seems like you are in close touch or know Dr Gurchran personally. If you do, please send him my regards.

I would agree that there is no need for him to sue the other doctors for patent infringement. He has a noble heart and I salute him for it. It would be better if they can work together to come up with better versions.

Oldstock said...

Madam Markonah,

Selamat datang ke blog saya. Umur setahun dah sunat... kira berani jugak la you nie :-)