Don’t ban it if you don’t get it

Don’t ban it if you don’t get it
Azly Rahman

There is nothing more frightening than active ignorance. – Goethe, German philosopher

The Internal Security Ministry denied that it had seized 10 copies of the book on May 13, clarifying that it had only taken the books to check the contents. The books would be returned if they contained nothing that violated the Printing Press and Publications Act 1984.

Deputy Minister Fu Ah Kiow said news reports stating that the books were seized were incorrect and believed that the matter was being deliberately blown out of proportion to gain publicity. “It is just a very ordinary procedure, something that the officers will do if they receive reports about any publication that may be unfavourable for the public.

“They will still carry out their duties even if there is no report,” he told reporters. Fu was asked to comment on the books taken from a bookstore in Mid-Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. Fu said his officers were still reading the contents.’ (The Star)

The above news report still amplified the culture of book banning we have had since independence. To be telling schoolchildren and parents that we ban books is not conveying a smart message for our smart schools. Why not tell these children to think and think freely and to read and read voraciously? Why use the schools to promote the message of active ignorance?

Active ignorance

In our history, one of the most famous books banned was of course The Malay Dilemma by a medical doctor from Titi Gajah, Kedah. The author later became Malaysia’s fourth prime minister, staying in power for 22 years. We banned Kassim Ahmad, Othman Ali, Karen Armstrong, and many work of national and international authors who proposed new line of thinking about society. We ban good movies on the Malaysian early political experience that tries to enrich our youth with a radical perspective of this nation and its narration.

We were even afraid of our respectable social scientist Dr. Lim Teck Ghee’s Asli findings on the New Economic Policy, written with such a refreshing and constructivist perspective. Through the repressive Internal Security Act, we jailed out intellectuals — without trial — people like Lim Kit Siang, Dr Syed Husin Ali, Kassim Ahmad, Dr Chandra Muzaffar, and many others who lived their lives presenting alternative viewpoints for a better Malaysian future. We have installed a government of active ignorance, interested in the advancement of poor understanding of human development. We continue to live a national life of contradiction.

We prefer to glorify leaders of Mat Rempits and make our youth stoned glued to 100 television channels, useless programmes such as Akademi Fantasia, and soap operas that mainly sell useless products to housewives. These do not increase the value to the nation’s collective intelligence. Reading good books does.

As we move towards a “Biotech” nation, send the first Malay Muslim astronaut into space, drop 10 Mat Rempits form the sky in the North Pole, we ban a book that could have explained all the three events of cultural contradictions I mentioned.

What’s still wrong with us?

What’s wrong with those who are thinking of possibly calling for the ban? Can’t they read and analyze and write their own rebuttal of the historical account of May 13, 1969?

If an American youth in his 20s can do a good documentary “Loose Change” to rebut the Bush Regime’s “official view” of 9/11, why can’t the government do as such? Why stop others from reading about another interpretation of history? What kind of standard of intellectual rigour helped elect those senators who called for the ban?

I thought, “senators”, like the Romans and the Greeks were supposed to be scholarly as inspired by Cicero and Socrates? I thought we elect politicians because we think they are profound scholars such as Kung Fu’Tze, Lao Tzu, Krishnamurthi, Za’ba, W.S. Rendra, Syed Hussein Alattas, and Jose Rizal.

What is wrong with this country? I thought we are more mentally advanced than the many a war-torn nation that summarily execute journalists and truth-tellers? I thought this is the year 2007 and that we have declared to produce tens of thousands of those with PhDs

Why not encourage each other to read the book first and write a review of it — we will be respected. If one’s command of the English Language is poor, take time to improve it before deciding to become a representative of the people in a world in which the rakyat will continue to challenge politicians on intellectual and moral grounds.

The power of the bloggers is showing us that politicians need to work harder to become more intelligent in their decision-making. Look at how many corruption cases are beginning to get attended to in this otherwise “Sleepy Hollow” country called Malaysia? Look at how many “Rip Van Winkles” among the politicians are beginning to wake up from their siesta and slumber in some Malaysian Catskills Mountains of upstate New York and scrambling to explain why they need to be more accountable. We elect them and we want them to behave.

Instead of spending long hours at country clubs and golf courses, read and read and improve your ability to analyze whatever “controversial” books published. Don’t ban the May 13 book if you don’t understand!

Talk about controversial issues

We must remove the clauses that prohibit us from talking about so-called controversial issues. We are an intelligent nation expecting to live in a more intelligent environment. We must banish unintelligent leaders who are still living with a May 13, 1969 frame of mind. From whom do these prohibitions and banning serve?

We must allow as many writers and scholars as possible to write critical analyses of issues that affect our lives — from the role of the Communist Party in fighting for Independence and the root cause of the May 13 1969 riots to the by-election of Ijok and the cognitive inabilities of rude, vulgar, racists and sexist politicians who continue to be given the power to define Malaysian parliamentary culture.

We are letting this beautiful country move aimlessly in an euphoric state of pseudo-intellectualism when we can do more that ban books, witch-hunt our university students, silence our academicians, criminalise our intellectuals, shy away from inter-faith dialogues, angry at newer findings on the ownership in the NEP, forced our university administrators to police our students, spew vulgarities in our August house, allow Ministers to make unintelligent statements on responsible and socially-conscious bloggers, and countless other acts that are stopping our nation from thinking and organising collective action on radical change.

We need to be serious about becoming a nation of better thinkers. We need to remove the hurdles. This will require the rakyat to demand that we remove leaders in politics, academia, social services, public education and all sectors that are anti-intellectual.

We need a new brand of leaders who will move this nation forward and create a new republic of virtue, morality, peace and justice for all races.

In the case of the book, it is time the Ministry of Information and Ministry of Internal Security each have a website to publish review of books instead of using their power to ban what it has not properly understood. This will be a more respectable thing to do. This will launch the two ministries into the Space Age — from the Age of Dinosaur. From the year 1957 to year 2007.

  1. #1 by zack on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 6:08 am

    never assumed that the other are not as as you are! we do get it. and we know you history as student and teacher and lecturer … not so great la!!!

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 8:59 am

    “…//….Instead of spending long hours at country clubs and golf courses, read and read and improve your ability to analyze whatever “controversial” books published. Don’t ban the May 13 book if you don’t understand!…//…” – Dr Azly Rahman.

    They are not thinking of banning May 13 book becauser they “dont’t understand”. They are doing so because they understand only too well what’s the implications of the book’s contents and how they could affect the existing power structure!

    You have also lamented the countless other acts of powers-to-be “that are stopping our nation from thinking and organising collective action on radical change” but what makes you think that they want the people to think or “organise collective action on radical change”?

  3. #3 by Libra2 on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 9:31 am

    In that case can I also walk in the bookshop and take a book home to read and then return it. Would I be charged for shoplifting.
    Comeon lah MCA stooge, that is shoplifting or stealing. Why not pay for the book like an oriental gentleman.

  4. #4 by sotong on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 9:38 am

    The victims families have to right to the absolute truth so that they could move on with their lives and the innocent victims souls rest in peace.

    Childrens must be educated of this most shameful and disgraceful incident so that it will not be repeated.

    But then…you have criminals happily threatening another one.

  5. #5 by megaman on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 9:57 am

    history has repeat itself …

    Ancient China, the legalistic First Emperor of China, Shih Huang Ti burned millions of books and persecuted scholars that presents a different view from his own.

    Nazi German, under Hitler, did the same. Burned bibles, Quran, philosophical books and articles. Persecuted writers, journalists, Jews, holy men (basically anyone that are too different from the ideal Aryan).

    We are basically doing the same here although on lower level of aggression but higher level of sophistication.

    Instead of burning books, we banned books from circulation, censured mass media and controlled the newspaper which basically achieves the same effect of controlling the information that the population at large receives thus manipulating their thinking.

    Instead of killing scholars, political activists or basically anyone that are considered undesirables (gays, lesbians, provocative writers etc), we have the ISA which can be used to incarcerate political activists and we have overzealous religious officers to handle the rest.

    So tell me fellow Msians, have we learn from history ?
    Or is the history books I read different from yours ?
    Or is it because you don’t even bother to read ?

  6. #6 by AsIseeit on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 10:46 am

    This is one article that I have enjoyed reading.

    The call to get out of active ignorance to promote a culture of active learning, to stop banning books that provide an alternative view point, and to encourage minds to be inquisitive and analytical is certainly commendable.

    For a nation to mature, a rational discussion of controversial issues is a necessity. I agree with AR that “We must remove the clauses that prohibit us from talking about so-called controversial issues. We are an intelligent nation expecting to live in a more intelligent environment.”

    We should not let the politicians define for us a narrow culture of active ignorance, nor should we have organised mob violence to have their way that ‘might is right’.

  7. #7 by i_love_malaysia on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 11:11 am

    Aiyah, why so difficult one, just publish it in the website and it is cheaper! we are talking about year 2007 with internet etc. and how many people still go for hard cover books. If any one wants hard copies, they can print out and read wherever they wantlah. May be DAP and opposition parties etc can help to sponsor the writer to advance the cause, if the objective is to let Malaysian and the world know about May 13, it should be made available easily and freely.

  8. #8 by good coolie on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 3:10 pm

    What are we really afraid of? People would start to riot if the truth were known?
    What have the leaders of this country done to educated the masses to hear both sides and make reasoned conclusions? We are always saying that some our brothers would run amok if truth were told. Come on, out with this bogey! It looks as if some people are purposely cultivating the amok to serve political purposes!
    We Malaysians- Ahmad, Ah Chong, and Ramasamy – can stand knowing the truth about May-13. I hope the poor fellow who authored the book is not made to spend his time in LKS’ vacated
    room at Hotel Kamunting.

  9. #9 by shortie kiasu on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 5:06 pm

    Let the people/readers be exposed to alternative thinking, facts, info… etc.. and let them read, not all will believe blindly, they know how to analyse facts from fiction. Government cannot play God & decide who should read what!

  10. #10 by i_love_malaysia on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 5:39 pm

    it is easier to ban the book when there is any complaint than to write a long report to justify for the book to be sold in public by those working in the gov dept. . u need to know how this gov dept functions.

  11. #11 by DiaperHead on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 10:15 pm

    “What’s wrong with those who are thinking of possibly calling for the ban? Can’t they read and analyze and write their own rebuttal of the historical account of May 13, 1969?” Dr. Azly Rahman

    They are only calling for a temporary ban of the book because they want a share of the proceeds from the sale of the book later.

    I like conspiracies. Don’t you?? It is all about money.

  12. #12 by alphoti on Thursday, 24 May 2007 - 11:03 pm

    Sad….That’s Malaysia Boleh – Ban Books!

    So long as our Political landscape does not change, not much can be done. To do that, we need to change the whole government.

    Lots of Malaysian are smart people but are suppressed to give views, opinions, analysis, etc. Lots of them just couldn’t stand it & left Malaysia. If we look around the world, there are so many very successful people in all fields that are Malaysian. Why left Malaysia. Because Malaysian government cannot afford to have too many smart citizen. Its always easier to rule without smart people. To prove my point, just look at how our Ministers, MP, YB talks. Malaysia belongs to them.

  13. #13 by private_undergrad on Friday, 25 May 2007 - 2:27 am

    I’m kinda wondering whether the book can be made online or compiled as free e-book for the benefits of the tech and intellectual savvy like every commentator here? The truth can then be revealed regardless of the govt’s counter-measures as Internet, as part of the mass media is borderless and should be utilised to the fullest.

  14. #14 by hawaiichee on Friday, 25 May 2007 - 9:02 am

    Wahai rakyat Malaysia

    Thesis utama Dr Kua dalam bukunya Mei 13 adalah untuk menyebarkan rancangan dan konspirasi Tun Abdul Razak dan Harun Idris yang ingin merancangkan koup de tat supaya memulakan NEP dan isu-isu ketuanan Melayu. Ini bermaksud tanpa rancangan sedemikian, peristiwa Mei 13 akan dapat dikawal dengan bantuan polis. Mungkin hanya kes-kes terpencil mati 1-2 orang saja yang akan berlaku. Ini akan dapat dikawal dengan serbuan polis yang tidak berat sebelah.

    Tapi, dengan rancangan dan konspirasi dipenuhi Agenda Melayu – polis dan tentera membenarkan peristiwa ini supaya Tun Abdul Razak dapat naik takhta dan memulakan Agenda Melayu.

    Ini menunjukkan bahawa rakyat Malaysia hari ini yang sudah matang tidak akan MENGAMUK lagi apabila NEP dibubarkan. Rasa TAKUT adalah tidak rasional dan tidak harus dijadikan alasan untuk melambatkan pemodenan Malaysia.

  15. #15 by Jonny on Friday, 25 May 2007 - 2:09 pm

    i sure do hope the publishers and author of book would market it internet marketing style. available for download for a fee.

    I’m sure a lot of people worldwide (The Malaysian diaspora) would like to read it.

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