I’m an atheist, thank God – Comedian Dave Allen 

A friend sent me a 2022 poster advertising a medical conference in Kuala Lumpur. As an “international” conference, however, it wasn’t impressive, attracting speakers from only Malaysia, Indonesia, and Myanmar. 

I could see why I received it: it was about circumcision.

The procedure is the oldest surgical procedure in human history dating back almost three centuries. Which begs a question: apart from anaesthetic or antibiotic, what new or cutting-edge technology was being gained from the conference to advance the cause of human civilisation? 

I’m not saying it’s a rip-off, but ostensibly learned professionals holding forth on the country’s “experience” with circumcision seems akin to the hot air needed to keep the Hindenburg aloft. 

I mean, we’re talking a simple procedure that a hospital assistant wouldn’t find challenging. It’s not like we’re a cut above the rest. 

Even Raja Bomoh felt sufficiently moved towards a deeply disapproving “Tut-Tut.” 

The poster even cheerfully threatened the “latest” updates on female circumcision, but I think you get the point.  

What is it about Malaysian “scientific” research that smacks of reinventing the wheel, of futile pointlessness?

And the Oscar goes to – drum roll – University Malaysia Pahang.

In May 2015, no less than its vice-chancellor called a press conference to announce that, after “three years” of painstaking research, it had come up with an “anti-hysteria” kit that would repel “evil spirits”.     

I’d concede that it would undoubtedly have been useful in 16th Century Europe where it might have saved a lot of pain and fuel. Lacking said kit, however, many people afflicted by “evil spirits” were burnt at the stake as “witches” by order of the Church. 

In short, the Malaysian researchers were so behind their times, they were out of sight. You could say the New England Journal of Medicine wasn’t bewitched.  Not even a tad.  

The VC, one Dr Daing Nasir, said the kit consisted of such everyday items as chopsticks, salt, lime, vinegar, pepper spray and formic acid. It retailed for an affordable RM8,750 and was guaranteed to be sharia compliant. 

According to the VC, it was stated (in religious texts) that evil spirits could not abide the items in said kit. Apart from the chopsticks, that is. 

It isn’t clear if the research had been peer-reviewed, although there had been at least one “Islamic medicine expert” in attendance.  Even so, tests had been conducted in 11 schools where, presumably there had been cases of mass hysteria. 

For the purposes of scientific accuracy, however, it isn’t clear if the hysteria broke out before or after the tests were administered. 

A point to ponder: if pepper spray was good enough against rapists, muggers, and assorted criminals, wouldn’t it be good enough against evil spirits? At least, it would strike a mighty blow against inflation: kit prices could come down.  

Seven years on, the anti-hysteria kit has vanished into the rubbish heap of futile research conducted in the name of science in  Malaysian universities. No one knows its point or its costs. 

At least, it’s entertaining. Example: the good Dr Daing may have attended Hogwarts.  

Reason: the 2015 Malay Mail news-report noted that his university even boasted a Committee of Advanced Studies in Witchcraft Law – the capitals aren’t mine. Said committee even successfully formulated a Standard Operating Procedure – capitals aren’t mine, either – to combat the use of witchcraft in the country. 

Hallelujah! We are safe from the followers of the Dark Lord. 

Even Raja Bomoh was impressed.