Malaysian princess marries Dutchman in lavish ceremony

This handout photograph made available on August 14, 2017 by the Royal Press Office shows Dennis Muhammad Abdullah (R) of the Netherlands places the ring on the finger of his bride, Princess Tunku Tun Aminah Sultan Ibrahim (L), the only daughter of the Sultan of Johor, after their wedding at Istana Bukit Serene in Johor Bahru. The daughter of one of Malaysia's most powerful sultans married her Dutch fiance on August 14 in a ceremony steeped in centuries of tradition during a day of lavish celebrations. (AFP)
Updated 14 August 2017

Malaysian princess marries Dutchman in lavish ceremony

JOHOR BAHRU, MALAYSIA: The daughter of one of Malaysia’s most powerful sultans married her Dutch fiance Monday in a ceremony steeped in centuries of tradition during a day of lavish celebrations.
Princess Tunku Tun Aminah Sultan Ibrahim, 31, the only daughter of the Sultan of Johor, tied the knot with Dennis Muhammad Abdullah, 28, capping a romance of over three years.
The Dutchman, who has converted to Islam, and the princess wed according to Muslim Malay custom at the Serene Hill Palace, the royal family’s residence in the southern city of Johor Bahru. The private ceremony was attended by close family and friends.
The groom wore traditional white Malay wedding attire and the bride wore a white dress. Dennis Muhammad placed the wedding ring on Tunku Aminah’s finger in a special room in the palace, according to the royal press office.
In keeping with centuries-old wedding customs in the Muslim-majority southern state of Johor, he also gave her a dowry of 22.50 ringgit (about $5), and the couple kissed the hands of their parents, aunts and uncles as a mark of respect.
An evening reception will be the main event which will feature a “sitting-in-state” ceremony, with some 1,200 guests due to attend and crowds expected to watch the event on a big screen in a city square.
There have been frenetic preparations in recent days, with the grounds of the main palace decorated with bunting and main streets adorned with flags.
“I am taking my wife and two young children to the city square tonight to witness the live broadcast of the evening celebrations,” Azim Mohamad Nurazim, a 34-year-old local salesman, told AFP.
“It is a celebration for all Johoreans. My message to Tunku Aminah and her husband is long and healthy life, and may Allah bless the couple with lots of children.”
The Dutchman, who now works for a property development company in Johor, was born Dennis Verbaas and adopted a Muslim name when he converted to Islam in 2015.
Johor’s royal family is rich and powerful and possesses its own private army — the only state to have one.
Malaysia has a unique arrangement in which the throne of the Muslim-majority country changes hands every five years between the rulers of the nine states which are still headed by Islamic royalty.
The current king is Sultan Muhammad V, from the conservative Islamic northern state of Kelantan, who steps down in 2021.
But Dennis Muhammad is unlikely ever to assume the role since the rulers choose among themselves who the next king will be.


World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

Updated 24 January 2020

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

  • Economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee will attend the event

JAIPUR: The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) started on Thursday.

Known as the “greatest literary show on earth,” the five-day event brings to one venue more than 500 speakers of 15 Indian and 35 foreign languages, and over 30 nationalities.

Among the festival’s participants are Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

The event has been expanding, with over 400,000 people attending it last year and even more expected to show up this time.  The growing crowd has made the medieval Diggi Palace, which hosts it, look small, and organizers are planning to shift the event to a bigger venue next year.

Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple, one of the organizers, said: “The first time we came to the Diggi Palace in 2007, 16 people turned up for the session of which 10 were Japanese tourists who walked out after 10 minutes, as they had come to the wrong place. Things have improved a little since then. We are now formally the largest literature festival in the world.”

Dalrymple, who has extensively written on medieval India and South Asia, has played a pivotal role in promoting the festival.

The other two organizers are its director, Sanjoy K. Roy, and writer Namita Gokhale, who along with Dalrymple made the JLF become one of the most sought-after events in India.

“Why has the literary festival taken off in this country in this extraordinary way? It goes back to the tradition of spoken literature, the celebration of literature orally through the spoken word has deep roots in this country,” Dalrymple said.

“So the idea that a literary festival is a foreign import is something that can’t be maintained. We’ve tapped into something very deep here. Literature is alive and is loved in India,” he said.

Inaugurating the festival’s 13th edition, celebrated British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy said: “Every number has its own particular character in the story of mathematics. For me it is 13; 13 is a prime number, an indivisible number, and the JLF is certainly a festival in its prime.”

The festival this year is taking place amid a raging debate about India’s new citizenship legislation and mass agitation on the issue of preserving the secular fabric of the nation.

Reflecting on the prevailing mood in the country, Roy, in his opening remarks, said: “We are now faced with a situation where we see a spread of the narrative of hatred. Literature is the one thing that can push back against it and so can be the arts. All of us have a responsibility to do so and this is not the time to be silent anymore.”

Gokhale said: “Ever since its inception 13 years ago, we at the Jaipur Literary Festival have tried to give a voice to our plural and multilingual culture. We live in a nation which is defined by its diversity, and it is our effort to present a range of perspectives, opinions, and points of view, which together build up a cross-section of current thinking.”

She added: “We seek mutual respect and understanding in our panels — it is important to us that these often conflicting ideas are respectfully presented and heard. We also resist predictable and self-important all-male panels, and try to ensure that the vital voices of women resonate through all aspects of our programming.”

One of the attractions of the event this year is the presence of Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize in economics last year.

There are also panel discussions on Kashmir, the Indian constitution and history.

The prevailing political situation in South Asia is also reflected by the absence of Pakistani. Before, popular Pakistani authors would attend the JLF, but delays in visa issuance and a hostile domestic environment forced the organizers to “desist from extending invitations.”