Monday, January 14, 2008

Saturday Booksigning - Ruslan of Malaysia

I attended the book signing held at the Library Reading Room Saturday afternoon, even though I had never heard of, and knew nothing about the subject of the biography written by Roy Davis Linville Jumper and published by CDR Press, South Padre Island, Texas. However the enthusiasm of Dr. Jumper for Edmund Colin Ritson Dewsnup - an Englishman who converted to Islam and became known thereafter as Ruslan, following the tradition of shortening to a single word his full Islamic name, Mohamed Ruslan bin Abdullah Iskander - was contagious.

I brought home my copy of Ruslan of Malaysia,The Man Behind the Domino that Didn't Fall, and set aside my other reading to begin this fascinating story about the man who led a counter-insurgency against the communist infiltration of Malaysia. Admittedly, Jumper, who has studied the political situation of Malaysia and taught political science in the Navy Pace Program, comes at his subject from a perspective with which, while recognizing my limited knowledge of the history of this region, I may not completely share. That being said, he writes in an easily understood, conversational tone that makes the book an informative, interesting and yet enjoyable read.

To quote from the back cover the book is:

The life story of a courageous Englishman who conceived the plan to arm Orang Asli tribesmen to fight communism in the Anglo-Malayan Emergency, converted to Islam and then with renewed zeal and singular focus in a bloody sequel, the shadowy Second Emergency, led his troopers into the country's jungle interior killing the insurgents one-by-one. In sum, this book makes the effort necessary to secure for posterity Ruslan's many accomplishments. Through it others may, now that Malaysia is after years of struggle strong and well on the way to being an advanced, fully developed country, know him as the man behind the domino that didn't fall. By comparison when one considers the buckets of blood that drenched Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, there but by the merciful all-knowing will of Allah, through Ruslan, goes Malaysia.

Dr. Jumper's parents are residents of South Padre Island and meeting them just reconfirmed my belief that this island attracts fascinating people from all walks of life. Their experiences, living and working in the middle and far east, would be an interesting topic for a future lecture or discussion series. They obviously passed their passion for the region on to the author who:

...has traveled throughout Asia and sailed the Pacific Rim teaching political science in the U.S. Navy Pace Program. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he spent his boyhood in Beirut, Lebanon, where he attended the American Community School. He studied public law at the University of Dijon, France, and holds B.A. (French Language), M.A. (Public Administration) and Ph.D. (Political Science) degrees from major universities in the United States. His publications include Death Waits in the Dark: The Senoi Praaq, Malaysia's Killer Elite (Greenwood Press, 2001); Orang Asli Now: the Orang Asli in the Malaysian Political World (University Press of America, 1999); and Power and Politics: The Story of Malaysia's Orang Asli (University Press of America, 1997).

If you enjoy history or biography, this is a fast-paced book which covers the political and military situation sufficiently to provide context to Ruslan's story, but does not overwhelm the reader with historical nuance. Each chapter closes with footnotes which cite the interviews or source documents used by the author.

I'm going to go finish reading my copy right now. If this book sounds interesting to you, the South Padre Island Reading Room should have a copy.

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