Interlok: Time to Make a Stand

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee | CPI

As the drama over the Interlok textbook issue continues to unfold, it is important for Malaysians to understand the context and the stakes involved, and to make a stand.

There are some defenders of the book who have argued that withdrawing or even just editing it will rob Malaysian writers of their artistic freedom and integrity. To these people, I would like to say “hello, where have you been” – Interlok has already been edited twice, in 2005 for Edisi Pelajar and in 2010 for Edisi Murid. Its literary integrity was already compromised by the shedding of some 85 pages even before this latest controversy.

In fact, copyright for the edition distributed free to schools no longer belongs even to Abdullah Hussain but to Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

Hence Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s statement that his ministry “will ensure that any amendments made will not affect the storyline of the novel and the noble message that the author wants to convey” is nothing short of whitewash. According to reports, Muhyiddin is not permitting anything beyond deletion of the word ‘pariah’.

This concession is like slicing off one tentacle from a hundred-headed hydra – a totally pointless exercise. Make no mistake; Interlok is a work that must not be permitted into the nation’s class rooms as a compulsory literature text. Anything less is a vital failure to grasp the gravity of the threat it poses.

The quarrel is not merely with vocabulary or spelling (for example, of ‘tali’ vs ‘thali’) but the overall suitability of the novel with its overt and covert racial messages as a school text.

Starting ‘em young and younger

Concern by many Malaysians that Interlok has been intentionally selected by the authorities to fulfill the Umno/Biro Tata Negara objective of indoctrinating young minds with a warped worldview and national view is hardly misplaced.

Before these concerns are dismissed as imaginary or overwrought, let us not forget that education has long been and continues to be the most politicized sector of the country. Far from being neutral institutions, many of our public sector colleges and universities consciously and consistently promote a narrow nationalism.

It is in the educational sector where proponents of the Ketuanan Melayu dogma have sought to impose their will and polarize our communities.

Their missionary zeal focuses on use of race-based criteria at all levels and in all aspects. It is no surprise therefore that the propagation of the ideology of super-ordination and subordination has now been extended to the schools, and to the curriculum and text books.

As has been pointed out by those who have analysed the Interlok content, why are all the villains and nasty characters Chinese and Indians? One of the key plots turns on the rapacious Chinese merchant swindling the easily duped Malay of his inheritance.

Touted as a ‘historical novel’, Interlok is constructing a version of BTN history and racial stereotypes to influence young minds. Its government-mandated and authorities-supported dissemination and circulation appears to further a carefully thought-out agenda to fan racial animosity.

Drawing line in the sand

Because Interlok is the first round battle (in tandem with the History curriculum revamp), it is important for conscientious objectors to send a strong signal to the Education Minister and his bureaucratic and academic cronies that Malaysians will not be cowed into acquiescence.

We must exercise our right to openly discuss, criticize and protest on this crucial matter. To remain mute will only embolden the apologist wolves wrapped in their sheep clothing of educational good intention and defence of literary freedom.

  1. #1 by waterfrontcoolie on Friday, 18 March 2011 - 4:17 pm

    Somehow, I got the feeling that the general motive of all these sloganeerings is to indoctrinate the Malays that it is alright if UMNO takes them for a ride but not when someone else does it! Hence you have characters like Cintanegara refusing to draw the line based on general maxim that cheating by anyone one is bad. To sustain such argument, they need to bring in racial issues so that the REAL action remains blur to those Kampong Folks who can only read in Bahasa. Hence you have the Super-Ego and Ibrahim Ali being asked to maintain the status quo, this will allow them to contimue to strive on their ignorance. This book is certain part of the brain indoctrination programme!

  2. #2 by Taxidriver on Friday, 18 March 2011 - 5:18 pm

    Freedom to exude one’s talent in the form of writing or speech does not mean that one is free to insult another race or religion. What if another author writes a book wherein he describes the Malay race as lazy, baby-dumpers or …….. or running dogs of Japanese invaders of Malaya? Will the Malays/Muhyiddin say “the writer is free to display his artistic talent?

    The above comment is just to make a point. Personally, if someone were to describe the Malays as such, I would be the first to protest. While the is an element of truth in it, it is not right to disgrace a whole race just because of some people of the race doing such things. Furthermore, people of other also do such things.

    I believe all religions teach us to respect others and refrain from hurting theie feelings, Islam included. Any muslims out there who want to tell me otherwise?

    ‘Interlok’ is not good reading material for our youngsters. There are many other Malay books by good Malay authors. Why pick ‘Interlok’ ????

  3. #3 by Godfather on Friday, 18 March 2011 - 9:37 pm

    Abdullah Hussain is the best that UMNO can produce, and you expect UMNO to just drop this issue in favour of other writers ?

    UMNO is so good at painting themselves into a corner and then forcing their way out irregardless of other people’s feelings that Muhyiddin’s stance is predictable.

  4. #4 by tak tahan on Friday, 18 March 2011 - 10:15 pm

    I wonder the family of Abdullah Hussain would feel shame of his ‘anak kurang ajar’?I also wonder why majority malays are keeping quiet and still supporting Umno in spite of its racial propaganda and shenanigans?Are they so dump stupid or couldn’t care less typical type hypocrites?Either one,mamak had achieved his objective.Malay dilemma is actually caused by mamak and no others.

  5. #5 by boh-liao on Saturday, 19 March 2011 - 12:39 am

    Many Indians accept the Interlok content n will happily vote 4 UmnoB/BN, just like Maxi\mus O happily accepted d goment stamp n serial number on the Al Ki\tab, no problemo

  6. #6 by boh-liao on Saturday, 19 March 2011 - 12:48 am

    Alamak, dis Kha/lid, S’gor MB n Yayasan S’gor chairman, truly cannot pakai 1, didn’t know YS spent almost RM1 million on its controversial anniversary celebration last year
    Corruption, incompetent, useless 1, as bad as UmnoB/BN

  7. #7 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Saturday, 19 March 2011 - 3:29 am

    Interlok or the Allah controversy or the Bible seizure and stamping fiasco – they all show BN has small minds and warped thinking to boot.

    I think rational thinking Malaysians would simply write off this sick, truly nauseating government for their hypocrisy, bigotry and stupidity.

  8. #8 by VincentW on Saturday, 19 March 2011 - 9:31 am

    There is a general problem in the mindset of the UMNO/BN malays.

    They believe they have a right to:
    1. insult everyone but themselves or their beloved king and religion.
    2. demand that everyone must be sensitive to their feelings while they can ignore and be insensitive to others.
    3. do as they please since this is their country and non-malays and non-muslims are not considered citizens but visitors/squatters.

  9. #9 by boh-liao on Saturday, 19 March 2011 - 10:30 am

    PAS wants NR 2 sack NYY over d bribery scandal of Tourism Ministry
    NYY said what lah, dis is SOP mah, ini BN culture pun tak tahu, bribery, TRULY BN loh

  10. #10 by monsterball on Saturday, 19 March 2011 - 10:30 am

    The problem with the Malaysians Indians is a fact…that they are not able to make a firm stand…as you can see…one day full of determinations to get the Govt. get rid of Interlok book and next day..fizzled out..accepting it as it is.
    In short…the vast majority Malaysians Indians can change ther minds easliy.
    Perhaps they are smart enough to know…nothing can make the Govt. move away fom race politics… and waiting for 13th GE to vote them the only solutiuon.
    Just look at all the race and religious issues under Najib…after 12th GE…and you can see Bibles…is now …one of the issue.

  11. #11 by k1980 on Saturday, 19 March 2011 - 10:44 am

    Pay each of them RM50 and thousands of estate hindus will demo in support of the racist book.

    PR needs to chop serial number and stamp “For Racists Only” on the cover of the interlock book.

  12. #12 by k1980 on Saturday, 19 March 2011 - 1:47 pm

    she oso wanna write her autobiography “Anak dara tertua di malaysia”

  13. #13 by good coolie on Monday, 21 March 2011 - 2:15 am

    I was in a taxi the other day. The driver asked, “Why chose Interlok?” Well, it is clear to Indians, at least! If it were not for UMNO, Indians would be “pariahs” forever. Join us and be equal, free of the caste system!. Be thankful to UMNO; and Indians should know their proper place. As Ezra Pound said, The Ant’s a centaur in its dragon world. Learn of the green world [the grass, dwarfing the ant] what be your place. Hey, we Indians always worshiped people in authority. Remember the maxim of the Indian Army Sepoy? You can kick me, beat me. YOU ARE MY MOTHERR AND MY FATHERR. If you cannot beat me and kick me, who else can!

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