In a think piece “Ensuring Good Health During the Hajj in a Time of the H1N1 Pandemic”, I  – together with researchers at the RSIS Centre for NTS Studies – commented on the progress and prospects of H1N1 pandemic mitigation efforts in Saudi Arabia leading up to the annual Hajj pilgrimage in 2009.

The piece noted that despite the complex circumstances surrounding pandemic preparedness during the Hajj, successful mitigation of a pandemic spread is possible with efficient multi-sectoral cooperation amongst Hajj officials and pilgrims. Such efforts must also be given greater emphasis in the media so as to ensure accurate and holistic reporting of events thereby reduce the likelihood of media hypes of a pandemic outbreak.

To read the article, click here.

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Up before sunrise on a public holiday. WHUT?!

Cos sometimes you just gotta get things done. Fajr prayers, intercontinental skype calls, reports and thesis.

But first, a wholemeal toast with a spread of almond butter and fresh fig. Yes fresh fig. Ditch the jam and have the real thing when you can.

Cuppa coffee and Mano Chao to keep me company too.

Enjoy! 🙂

image SO…. after a long hiatus of being “in the field” and just trying to make sense of what all that data means for my PhD thesis, I’ve decided to resume blogging.  And what better to kick it off again with food! Tonight’s dinner was a random concoction of blues and greens. Chicken salad with blue cheese and blueberries on a bed of greens and a side of green tea. 🙂 FAQ: So how’s your thesis going? Ans: Better than last year. Thanks.

RSIS Centre for NTS Studies' Year in Review 2012
RSIS Centre for NTS Studies’ Year in Review 2012

Think saving the planet is that easy? Think again.

If trying to understand the complex interactions between sciences, economics, culture, politics, security and global/regional frameworks is just not working for you and you’re close to giving up, then check this out.

For the fourth year running, the RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies has released its Year in Review (2012). The Year in Review provides a snapshot of dominant NTS events/issues in 2012, particularly affecting the Asia-Pacific region.

This year’s publication focuses on the role of institutions in NTS and its feature article is on developments in Myanmar. Articles following that are based on the 5 themes: Climate, Energy, Food, Health and Water. The publication also includes a summary of activities and publications produced by the centre in 2012.

To view the report [in pdf], click here.

Chaaklet oats!
Chaaklet oats!

So I felt like I wanted to jazz up my usual breakfast oatmeal. I’ve been a bit experimental these days in trying to use existing food items in my pantry. One of those items is cocoa powder. So I typed in cocoa powder and oats in google and stumbled on several web pages on Chocolate Oatmeal, such as this one and this one.

The recipes tend to include banana as one of the ingredients. I guess that’s understandable to sweeten the neutralise the bitter cocoa powder taste. No bananas in my kitchen, but I have dates and honey! Milk gives a creamier texture to the oatmeal, but personally I find it fine with water, especially after its been cooking on the stove for a while.

So in short …

1) Mix 1/2 cup rolled Oats + 1/2 to 2/3 cups water + 1/2 tsp cocoa powder + couple of dates (chopped or just break them up with your fingers) and cook them on the stove until oats have absorb most of the water (consistency totally up to you).

2) Place in your usual breakfast bowl, topped with your favourite berries and a slight drizzle of honey

3)  [Optional] Take a picture of it and post it on Facebook/Twitter/Wordpress/Instagram/Path/Tumblr/etc…

4) Nomnomnomnom…..

An afterthought… how about using Milo as a substitute for the cocoa powder and dates? Hmmm…..

Happy Sunday! 🙂

Me: “I’m having a Green Iftar on National Day, and you’re welcome to come. We’ll be breaking our fast with all things vegetarian.”

Cousin:”Huh?! Where’s the meat? No meat, sure pengsan (faint), lah!”

Well,  no we didn’t pengsan.

I’m glad that I finally got a chance to do a little green iftar with a few environmentalists on Singapore’s 47th Birthday. While it was just a small group of girls (the boys couldn’t make it!), it was perfect way of testing out a new initiative with some heart-to-heart conversations on various topics related to the environment, as well as our faiths and cultures.

But… Why a Green Iftar?

1) Less consumption, more health

Simply put: To walk the sustainability talk.

Similar to other efforts by Green Muslims worldwide, we incoporated sustainable practices in our iftar. In a bid to reduce waste and carbon footprint, no disposable utensils were used during the event, and guests were encouraged to bring spare tupperwares to take home any leftovers. We even opted for using the fans instead of the air-con!

To make our iftar more personal and meaningful, each person was to bring a vegetarian dish to share. It was wonderful to have home-made nutritious dishes (some of which took quite a bit of effort) and just gain a greater appreciation for vegetarian food.

From vegetarian bee hoon and pasta to baked tomatoes stuff with quinoa and capsicum, wonderful salads and dips (including home grown ingredients like mint and bluepea) topped off with pound cake, homebaked cookies, fruits, juices and lemongrass tea. It was all deeeeelish!!! 😀

Healthy vegetarian iftar FTW!

2) Green Chit-Chat

One of the main aims of the green iftar was also for environmentalists to have a chance to get together and share their thoughts and experiences on various issues related to the environment. Topics of discussion included challenges in engaging sections of society to be more environmentally conscious, encouraging environmental conscious behaviour via highlighting the significant benefits to one’s health, ways of improving the connections between various stakeholders, the humane treatment of animals as part of food choices, the importance of environmental issues in intercultural exchange, and various tools/methods to enhance the sharing of experiences.

3) Enhancing inter-faith dialogue

What I found to be the best aspect of the green iftar, was the ability to use an environmental initiative for the benefit of other social and cultural exchanges. While my initial thoughts of invitees were to be Muslims, I chose to extend the invitation to non-Muslims as well. No man is an island, and the environmental movement is clearly a reflection of that. In addition to non-Muslim guests gaining greater insight to Islam and the diversity amongst Muslims, the green chit-chat was certainly enhanced with a discussion on the cultural aspects and values associated with the environment based on our own ethnic backgrounds. Common threads such as food and water have played significant roles in bringing communities together as well as a means of understanding and appreciating how nature works.

It was agreed that such spaces for sharing such environmental as well as cultural values and practices would be a way of transcending differences and a means of facilitating greater collaboration. With events such as  Diwali, Eid al Adha and Navratri coming up in the next few month, it would be a chance to have yet another similar gathering. Yay! 😀

Resources on the environment, faith and communities.

OK… Then what?

While the Green Iftar was a lovely experience, there are perhaps two factors that make it difficult to translate environmental (or any other) activities into something bigger. One comment was that the energy and enthusiasm created in environmental events tends to die off after a while, for the fact that people are sucked back into their “normal” life. Another comment was because society prefers to remain passive and would only latch on to an initiative if there’s a “leader” spearheading it. While this may be to extent true, I’d like to have some hope that there are some people in society that care enough and are willing to experiment on their own.

Leading people is good, but empowering people to be leaders in their own right would be so much better. Moreover, for initiatives that encourage personal behavioural change, you are ultimately your own leader. Taking the effort to have a green iftar with one’s own family and friends outside environmental circles, for instance, will be a challenge but is ultimately the best chance of avoiding being ‘sucked’ back into the normality of careless consumption.

10-day Ramadan Challenge for fellow Muslim brothers and sisters:-

As we commit to more intensive spiritual reflection and rituals in commemoration of Lailatul Qadr in the last 10 days of Ramadan, let’s also make a conscious effort to reinforce one of the main reasons of why we are fasting. To put ourselves in the position of those who have so much less than us. To put ourselves in the position of those that can’t afford meat, let alone enjoy a decent meal.

Several Muslims have demonstrated that it is possible to adopt healthier and greener iftars, if we put our minds to it. Do try to take the effort to reduce your meat intake during this tail end of Ramadan, which just means making a conscious decision of what you want to eat. Encourage family members, such as mothers, to cook vegetarian recipes that are nutritious but also filling. For Muslims in Southeast Asia, think sayur asam rebus, sambal tempeh/telur, kacang pool, or even a banana shake! It would also be much easier to have vegetarian meals at this point, given the fact that many of us would already naturally have a smaller appetite after fasting for the past 20 days. If you must, then limit white meat intake to a couple of days a week.  More importantly, do share the experience and beauty of Ramadan to your non-Muslim friends.

Still can’t get over just having veggies for iftar and sahur? Well think about it, at least you know it’s been worth it while you’re busy stuffing yourself on Eid! 😉

The thought of eating balls of rice somehow reminds me of the old trick to do when you’ve accidentally swallowed on a bone. (Sorry if that sounded random but it makes perfect sense to me!).

QQ Rice offers big (triangle or oval-shaped) balls of rice, with 5 fillings of your choice. And yes, there’s a range of healthy rice to choose from. Think of it as Subway meets Health Foods Shop.

While there were interesting fillings such as salmon floss and spicy shrimp, the Flexitarian in me suddenly went a bit extreme and opted for a purely vegetarian option to go with the multi-grain and purple rice combination. What was I thinking?? This was actually going to be my lunch!

But somehow I survived the afternoon with the cucumber + cherry tomato + broccoli + mushroom + emperor’s veggie (???) mix.

I think the key to enjoying a vegetarian diet would be knowing how to get that right combination of vegetables that is both tasty and filling. And you’ll only know that when you try it out. Trial and error, so to speak.

And if you happen to err, no problem. At the very least, you gave yourself a dose of vitamins and minerals for the day. Alhamdulillah 🙂

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Screenshot from MuzlimBuzz.sg

How awesome is that? I got interviewed by NTUMS’s Eleven and MuzlimBuzz.sg!

Thanks very much folks, for listening to my two cents worth on the need to increase environmental awareness and action amongst Muslims.

It is my hope that such messages will in time be shared further and ultimately reach a critical mass for a truly environmentally conscious Ummah, inshaAllah 🙂

If you haven’t checked out the interviews yet, click here for the Muzlimbuzz article  and here for the Eleven article.

I got this from a fellow Muslim sister, Alia, from the DC Green Muslims mailing list.  Found it lovely. Hope you do too.

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Asalaamu ‘Alaikum!

Have you ever wondered why there is so much evil on the earth? Why are there so many environmental problems, so many wars, so many famines and sickness?

From Jan-Aug 2010 alone,

  • Destructive earthquakes (Haiti: 12/01/10- catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake killing almost 300,000 ppl and leaving 1.5mil ppl homeless, one of the WORST earthquakes in history),
  • Droughts (Russia: an estimated 10mil hectares of agricultural land has been devastated by the fires following the worst heatwave in Russian history),
  • Floods (Pakistan: covering 1/5 of the country, leaving more than 1500 ppl dead and 20mil ppl affected, THE WORST in UN history),
  • Heavy rains & landslides (China: Heavy rains have affected more than 300mil ppl and caused $1.7bn in economic losses across the country; more than 2,100 ppl are dead or missing across China due to floods and landslides; 12mil people have been evacuated from their homes nationwide)
  • Famine (Niger: is also suffering from severe food shortages following a prolonged drought. The UN estimated that at least 7mil ppl, more than half the population, are facing starvation in Niger.)
  • Drug war (Mexico: 26/08/10 – 72 bodies found near the US-Mexico border the biggest single discovery since the launch of a drug war four years ago)
  • Civil war (Sudan: 13 aid org’ns have been expelled from Sudan since the ICC issued an arrest warrant for President al-Bashir last year for reporting human rights abuses. The ongoing 7 yr conflict the UN estimates has left 300,000 dead and 2.7mil displaced.)
  • Oil spill: (Gulf of Mexico: up to 79% of the 4.1mil barrels of oil that gushed from the broken well and were not captured directly at the wellhead remained in the Gulf. Many species are currently nesting and reproducing in the area, and an entire generation of hundreds of species could be lost as a result. Countless marine birds could also be affected, as the area is a primary flyway for many species, currently in its peak migratory period. New information also reveals that BP is using 100,000 gallons of dispersants (1/3 of the world’s supply) on the oil, further contaminating the ocean with harmful chemicals. Unfortunately, the true environmental ramifications of this catastrophe won’t be known for years to come. Not only marine life and beaches are affected, but also the health of countless ppl are also at risk
  • War: Israel vs Palestine: 22 day War on Gaza 2008-2009- crowded into a strip of land 40km long and 10km wide, Gaza’s 1.5 million people suffer from widespread poverty, malnutrition and unemployment, a situation only worsened by Israel’s bloodiest assault on the territory in decades. 1,434 Palestinians were killed (235 were combatants, 960 civilians lost their lives, incl 288 children & 121 women. A total of 5,303 Palestinians were injured in the assault (incl 1,606 children and 828 women. About 100,000 Gazans lost their homes in the three-week war; the shooting at medical crews; the use of illegal munitions against a civilian population, including white phosphorus shells; the prevention of the evacuation of wounded; bombing and shelling of schools, hospitals, supply convoys and a UN facility. Israeli death toll: 13, 10 of which were combatants.

to just name a few if you weren’t aware….

It’s because of you. Yes, you. And me, and the rest of man.

Many times when we are struck with a trial or calamity, our first reaction is the thought: “why me?!” Yet the sad fact is that we do not realize these trials are a result of what our own hands have reaped.

Allah azza wa jal says in a monumental ayah for our times:


ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُمْ بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

“Evil has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned, that He (Allah) may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return”. (30:41)

Allah ta’ala says ‘fasaad’ has become apparent. Fasaad means an imbalance and is the opposite of ‘islaah’ (reformation). Fasaad is when something decays, spoils and it is not as it should be. There are two types of fasaad: tangible evil such as famine, drought, wars and intangible such as bad manners and doing shirk.

This ayah does not only state that evil has appeared on the land, but it includes the land and sea. On the land, there is physical land pollution, drought, earthquakes and vegetation is scarce. There is also an imbalance in the people of the land. Such fasaad is also evident in the sea: the water is polluted, and certain species that live within it are nearing extinction.

How is it that we are the cause of this fasaad? Allah ta’ala says:

بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ


because of what the hands of men have reaped.

The “ba” in the beginning is known as the ‘ba of reason’ or ‘ba of causation’, showing that it is through continuous sinning without repentance, disbelief in Allah and corruption that fasaad has appeared. Abu Al-’Aliyah said: “Whoever disobeys Allah in the earth has corrupted it, because the good condition of the earth and the heavens depends on obedience to Allah.”

Allah ta’ala only mentions the hands of men because most of our deeds are done by our hands and our hands represent action.

This fasaad has appeared:

لِيُذِيقَهُمْ بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا

that He (Allah) may make them taste a part of that which they have done.

The ‘laam’ here is known as ’laam of ‘illah’, of reason. The reason for the appearance of evil is so that we are made to taste and experience what our own hands have reaped.

An interesting part of this ayah is the word بَعْضَba’dha, which means “some” of the consequences. The fasaad on the earth is not a complete retribution of what people have done, rather Allah ta’ala only gives us a taste of the consequence in this dunya. Imagine, everything that is going on around us is only some of what man has done!

May Allah have mercy on Imam Sa’di who said in his tafseer of this ayah:

Then how Exalted and Glorified is Allah! He blessed through His trials and favored by His end results, and if He made the people taste the full consequence of what they earned, not even one creature would remain on the earth.

Allah azza wa jal then ends the ayah,

لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

in order that they may return.

SubhanAllah, the reason as to why there is fasaad upon this earth is so that we may return to Allah azza wa jal: from wrong actions to right actions, from disobedience to obedience, from imbalance to the balance of the earth.

Islaah, reformation, is a part of tawbah. Allah ta’ala says:

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ تَابُوا وَأَصْلَحُوا

Except those who repent, and do islaah: reformation to good. (4:146)

Take these signs around us as a blessing; how Merciful is Allah to let us see what our own hands have repead so that we may repent! Turn back to Allah and ask for His Forgiveness before it’s too late.

Shaykh ibn al-Uthaymeen rahimahullah beautifully said:

“By Allah, sins effect the security of a land; they effect its ease, its prosperity, its economy; and they effect the hearts of its people. Sins cause alienation between people. Sins cause one Muslim to regard his Muslim brother as if he were upon a religion other than Islam.
But if we sought to rectify ourselves, our families, our neighbors, and those in our areas, and everyone we are able to rectify, if we mutually encouraged good and forbade evil, if we assisted those who do this with wisdom and wise admonition- then it would produce unity and harmony”