Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NGO's Protest Book Banning in Malaysia

Representatives of 10 non-governmental organisations including Sisters in Islam, human rights organisation Suaram and representatives from the Bar Council handed some 1,000 postcards protesting against the banning of books to the Home Ministry in Putrajaya yesterday.
We are concerned because the guidelines leading to the ban of books are vague and the decision by the Government is often arbitrary. Some of the banned books have also been published and widely sold in stores for some time but then, the Government decides to confiscate them. ... Similarly, we didn’t even know the books were banned until we read about it in the newspapers ...
She cited the banning of Muslim Women and the Challenge of Islamic Extremism published by SIS as an example.
We want the ministry to call for a consultation with all the parties involved in the publication of books to resolve this matter. Banning books has a negative effect on information and intellectual development.
I see book banning is one of the most serious issues facing this country at the moment, and perhaps the only way to bring about positive change is to keep up the pressure on the Home Ministry. Though it seems to me that the Islamic Departments (Jabatan Ugama) are really the cause of the problems, while standing behind the KDN, and they don't seem to be at all answerable to the public! (Come on - explain why those books are banned! What did you find objectionable? Engage in open public debate instead of, by your silence, displaying a lack of ability to engage intellectually with your critics!)

This I think is a state of affairs all Malaysians should be seriously concerned about.

18 comments:

Yo. said...

is that how you write it? NGO's?

Matt said...

The solution to book banning is to educate writers to modify their anti colonial attitudes. If writer (even writers!) are likely to flog the dead horse of populism, then politicians will not wait if it becomes necessary to do so, to quell some other dissatisfaction. You cannot have it both ways. Politicians turn on and off the tap of anti colonial sentiment in Malaysia just as they do in China. The result is barbarism. Don't encourage them. Fight for liberalism everywhere and always, not just where it suits you today.

Amir said...

Eh, what does anti-colonialism have to do with the SIS book, or indeed any local book that has been banned recently?

animah said...

I've said this before: look at the gazette of banned books under the Publications & Printing Presses Act. A substantial number of the banned books are about Islam. We need to ask some serious questions here. Who is KDN (and the Home Affairs Minister, Syed Hamid Albar) to decide what type of Islam Malaysians must follow.
Note the habeas corpus case that saw the release of RPK from ISA detention. The Home Minister has no business deciding whether RPK has insulted Islam.

Do we want the government continuing this paternalistic attitude and telling us what we can and cannot read?

Amir, I have a feeling Matt is not from Malaysia, and therefore is not aware of the issues behind book banning in this country.

bibliobibuli said...

yo - yes, after an abbreviation

matt & amir - yes anti-colonialism not the issue here.

animah - trouble is that it isn't the government making the decisions about what you can and cannot read, it seems, but folks that you didn't elect to represent you and who aren't answerable to anyone, not even i think the toothless home ministry

Anonymous said...

We shall await the Saviour of Democracy, Anwar Ibrahim, to give us an ideal world. When's his nth deadline again? :-)

- Poppadumdum

dreamer idiot said...

These people... make my blood boil. Just read about how our 'guardians of the law' have been deployed not to safeguard the peace, but provoke and arrest peace-loving cyclists.

http://jelas.info/2008/12/09/latest-vicious-arrests-and-assaults-cops-ignore-criminals-pick-on-peaceful-jerit-cyclists/

http://www.jerit.org/

animah said...

Poppadumdum, no we are not waiting for Anwar. If he ever comes.
It's about people taking back what's rightfully theirs no matter who is in power. Our voice.

Sharon, yes you're right - we have allowed some little people we don't know to dictate to us.

caving liz said...

Sharon, I went with SIS to the Ministry to hand over the postcards. I've put some of the photos on
http://cavingliz.multiply.com/photos/album/110/SIS_present_postcards_ag
ainst_book_banning_to_Ministry

Matt said...

"is not aware of the issues behind book banning in this country"

Why are these issues different from book banning in any country. Do you think Malaysia is unique? This is an issue that has plagued good people everywhere, for thousands of years. The arrogance of essentialism - "we're different" - is a terrible curse. Look for universals, be intelligent, not proud.

bibliobibuli said...

actually Matt i didn't actually get what you were saying in your first comment. which writers have anti-colonial attitudes they must modify? SIS writing about islamic extremism and its effects on women? they are populist? that seems a very odd thing to say ...

i just don't see what anti-colonialism has to do with the price of chicken! *scratching head*

animah said...

Matt, I completely agree with your universality statement. However, I was responding to your anti colonialism statement. That is not what has caused book banning in our country.

Anonymous said...

As the Bangkok hookers' and go-go boys' T-shirts so profoundly say, "SAME SAME BUT NOT THE SAME"

"Be intelligent, not proud" - can I take pride in my intelligence then?

- Poppadumdum

Anonymous said...

have a drink and go to sleep....

Anonymous said...

Hmm... I'm not sure I get ANY of what Matt is saying, actually, not even the "universality" thing. It's a pretty idea, but history is all about particularities, not universals, otherwise why bother to study more than one country?!? Hey, I already read about the Holocaust, I think I'll skip Rwanda. You see one genocide, you've seen 'em all, eh?

Do I think Malaysia is unique? Of COURSE I do! Who doesn't? Seriously, was that meant to be a rhetorical question?!? Malaysia *is* unique, as is Indonesia, as is India, as is the US, as is Botswana, as is the Congo, as is Bermuda.... Context always matters. (Side note: I don't see what essentialism has to do with any of it.) I think what people here are saying is that in the Malaysian context, bookbanning has nothing to do with anticolonialism.

I could go on and on about the problems I have with your argument (such as I understand it), Matt, but mostly, I think it's a bit patronising to say that Malaysian writers need to be "educated" to modify their anti-colonial attitudes. I think a country that was, just 50 years ago, a colony, needs to be able to analyse its past -- and are we only allowed to say that colonialism was a wonderful, mind-broadening experience for us?!? Who are *you* to tell us what to think and feel about colonialism? The fact that *some* Malaysian writers do blame colonialism for *some* of the mess we're in now doesn't necessarily make them anti-colonial, anti-Western, or anti anything else (and I'm thinking specifically of Farish Noor, who criticises Malaysia's modern authorities at LEAST as much as he criticises the colonial powers).

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

But for a while you did the same thing, decide what your blog readers could and could not read.

You said you were tired of apologizing to people. Well why were you apologizing to them? free speech isn't a crime. Dissent isn't a crime. Being annoying isn't a crime.

Could the government be tired of apologizing to people who ask them why such books are allowed in the country?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 5:37 -- are you seriously drawing a parallel between book-banning on the national level and which comments chooses to publish or not publish on THEIR blog?

Think about that for a minute, would you?

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

I meant: which comments a person chooses to publish or not publish on their blog.

-- PS