Confession: I used to be afraid of travelling to Turkey. Even though I have some distant relatives over there, that movie “Midnight Express” freaked me out. Then again, so did The Exorcist.
I realized eventually the movie was exaggerated in many ways. Turkey is a beautiful and colorful country. Thankfully, the real Billy Hayes qualified and explained himself in relation to the time he spent in prison there.
As Saint Augustine said: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
The monks in Europe used to travel to the Middle East to study at the Islamic universities during a time when books were banned. It was the “Burning of the Book” era, and if I am not mistaken, this took place in Europe somewhere in the 14th century.
In fact, when Napolean Bonaparte colonised Egypt, he took some aspects of Shariah and superimposed it into the French Civil Law with modifications, of course.
Or as Averroes (Ibn Rashid), a medieval Arab scholar from Andalusia, Spain, tells us: “Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate, and hate leads to violence. This is the equation.”
p.s. it works both ways.
I used to frequent the 200-year-old El Fishawy café in Cairo. The waiters knew me well. On one occasion a senior waiter asked me to change an American hundred dollar bill with him. The note belonged to another customer who didn’t have the local currency to pay his bill.
The next day, I went to the bank to convert the bill. But the teller did something strange: He returned it back to me. He told me I was in possession of a fake. The teller rubbed the paper with his fingers, proving how easily the ink came off. I was surprised he didn’t have me arrested. I could have been the counterfeiter.
So I went back to the waiter and told him what happened. The waiter, upset, took back the bill and promised to return my money. He did.
Some days later at the café, the waiter told me to accompany him and a few others to the police. The forger had been caught. My role was simple: Tell the police what the bank teller told me.
The man they caught was a middle-aged Palestinian-Jordanian. He appeared calm and composed as he listened to their accusations. Fingers pointed at him, voices were raised. Everyone swore he was the wrongdoer. They were cocksure.
The accused then pulled out his passport from his jacket pocket and asked one of the officers to check the entry stamp. The man had only arrived a few hours ago.
I was at a certain place, and a stranger, a Singaporean, tried to strike a conversation with me. I knew what was coming next, because it’s rare to meet someone here – though they exist but as a minority – who can hold a proper conversation without prying into your personal details.
I can tolerate a lot of things, like how in cinemas here, people laugh at dumb slap sticks but remained silent when the dialogue is sprinkled with pun. But there are some things I classify as a no-go zone.
As expected, the question came: “Where do you stay?” Once you answer that question, more will follow. They’ll ask you incessantly without respecting boundaries.
On one occasion — someone, whom I hardly know — came up to me and the first thing he asked was, “So what’re you doing now?” In reply, in front of his wife, I said: “Standing in front of you, talking to you.” The wife giggled, he didn’t.
And then there’s that “You again” when they meet you in public instead of saying, “Hello, how are you?” That’s crudeness, in addition to everything else.
In fact, I’ve had strangers at gatherings asking me, “What’s your race?” What’s your religion?” apart from “Where do you stay?”
Here’s the funny thing: When you turn the questions on them, they don’t like it. They start to shift their eyes this way, that way, looking uncomfortable.
This time, however, I decided to give the person at the beginning of my story a brain freeze. A real shocker.
I narrated about my prison time in Argentina for murder and how I got a shorter prison sentence after revealing to the prosecution office where I hid the body. I added I’m back for good, and presently staying at a halfway house. As I don’t have any friends, I asked him for his phone number. You should have seen his face as he slowly crept away.
I complained about this incident to a friend, a senior PR director, about how in Singapore one’s privacy is always being trampled. She told me she suffers from it too — and she doesn’t like it. I’m sure many of you can relate to this.
This has to stop. Nobody has the right to disrespect your privacy.
Looks quaint, doesn’t it? This used to be the caretaker’s quarters at a Presbyterian Church in Singapore. It was located beside the old library. I must have walked past this place a million times. There used to be a bus stop in front of it, and across, a cinema. I am kinda outdated these days. Singapore’s too fast for me, too many changes.
Back in the 1980s, lots of things were happening. I mean, things were moving and shaking. Good old days. The pace of life was moderate.
But something happened at this little house that was most disagreeable with the tempo of life.
The caretaker was chopped into pieces and his parts cooked in curry. You read that right.
The six suspects, including the man’s wife and her relatives, were charged with murder.
But they were eventually discharged not amounting to an acquittal. No remains or evidence of the killing were ever found. Imagine that.
Three others were imprisoned for several years, and then released unconditionally.
The three gave a newspaper an interview. In the photo, they were all smiles while having a meal at a food stall.
The case was dubbed “The Curry Murders.”
During a trip somewhere, I stopped over in Qatar. The connecting flight was delayed for many hours.
When I had to go to the gents, I found a long queue of people waiting. There was no other place because it was a make shift airport. The new complex was being constructed.
A Bangladeshi janitor, with a gesture, made me follow him. He took me around the corner. Right there, above a locked door, the sign read: “Executive.”
The janitor took out a key, unlocked the door, and told me it’s all mine.
Two hours earlier when I first arrived at the airport, I had walked past the janitor. He greeted me. I responded with a smile and a nod.
I didn’t think anything of it. But it would seem it meant a lot to him. For that, he remembered me.
Moral lesson in this story? Don’t piss off the nice people.
From serial to ritual killers, here’s a list of lesser known personalities from around the globe.
Adrian Lim – Singapore (Ritual)
In the early 1980s, the murders of two young children in Singapore, led to investigations that resulted in the capture of psychopath, Adrian Lim. The trial turned out to be the second-longest murder trial in Singapore, lasting about eight weeks. The case unveiled disturbing accounts of rites and rituals that was both heinous and wicked. Lim and his accomplices, his wife Catherine Tan Mui Choo and his mistress Hoe Kah Hong, were sentenced to death.
Andrei Chikatilo – Soviet Union (Serial)
Andrei Chikatilo (“The Butcher of Rostov”) was a former school teacher who killed more than 50 young people in the Soviet Union. The Ukraine-born was a child molester, a rapist, a murderer and a cannibal. A psychiatric evaluation determined he was suffering from borderline personality disorder with sadistic tendencies. But he was declared legally sane and competent to stand trial. He was sentenced to death in 1994 by shooting – a single bullet to his head. He blamed a variety of reasons for his actions, including impotency.
Vlado Taneski – Macedonia (Serial)
Who would have thought? Vlado Taneski was a freelance journalist who knew too much about every murder case related to a serial killing his hometown, Kicevo, Macedonia. The stringer received prominence in newspapers because he always had inside story of the brutal murders of three elderly women. They were raped, molested and killed. But the journalist’s intricate account of the murders eventually led to suspicion. What made it unmistakable clear he was the murderer was his inclusion of details police had chosen not to release. In 2008, while in prison, Vlado killed himself by dunking his head in a bucket of water.
Mona Fandey – Malaysia (Ritual)
The vampiress Mona Fandey (Mazna Ismail) was a famous Malaysian pop singer turned witch doctor. After leaving the music business, she became involved in witchcraft, offering her services to the upper-class society. According to reports, Mazlan Idris, a politician, wanted to boost his political career and sought the supernatural services of Mona. The politician was persuaded by Mona and her accomplices, as part of a ritual, to lie on the floor with his eyes closed. Mona told him to expect money to “fall from the sky.” Instead, an axe decapitated and dismembered the politician. Mazlan was reported missing after withdrawing a large amount of money from a bank. The day after the killing, Mona went on a shopping spree in Kuala Lumpur. She was hanged in 2001 along with her husband and another accomplice.
Yang Xinhai – China (Serial)
Yang Xinhai was a Chinese serial killer who confessed to 67 murders and 23 rapes between 1999 and 2003. It was reported he used a hammer to carry out some of the attacks in several provinces. In an interview with the media, Yang, who had been imprisoned twice on charges of burglary and rape, explained why he kills: “When I killed people I had a desire (to kill more). This inspired me to kill more. I don’t care whether they deserve to live or not. It is none of my concern.” It was not reported how he was executed. But it is known that death sentences in China are usually carried out either by lethal injection or a bullet in the head.
A few years ago, at about 4 a.m., I was sitting at the back entrance of a relative’s cafe having a cup of coffee and a water pipe when I heard a commotion. I looked out the quiet back street and saw a man shaking a woman.
The woman yelled for help. I alerted everyone, and a big group of guys approached the couple.
As we neared them, the woman looked at us and exclaimed, “He tried to rape me!” We were all stunned.
The man then turned to us, his face covered in blood, and said, “She’s my wife! She hit me with a bottle!”
We brought the couple back to the cafe. We found out they had gone to a club. The woman had argued with her husband, she got tipsy, and started flirting with other men. Naturally, the husband reacted. So he insisted they go home. As he tried to take her out of the club, she hit him with the bottle.
The man’s account was the truth. When he sat down at the sofa and related the incident, his wife removed one of her shoes and hit him in the head. He did not react. The woman was more aggressive and violent than the man.
The point I am trying to make is this: Don’t be so quick to judge what you hear or what you see. It is so important to check your facts and verify your information and sources.
This goes for many things. What you read or see in the news may have a different impact in a court of law. Sometimes the newspapers decide to judge a person, a community or a country but when it is given due process in a court of law, things can play out differently.
Nothing is perfect, of course, but just don’t be so quick to point a finger.