Freedom of speech for all?

Sharmini Darshni
May 22, 2011

MAY 22 — I should not have done it. Should have left it alone. Should have continued my hiatus from the humdrum of life. Should have continued to embrace the peace that comes from purposeful ignorance.

But no, just knowing there was a single computer with Internet access, I gave in to the temptation and checked the e-mails — and unfortunately — read the news.

Regrets! I said goodbye to the zen stupor I had been in for five days as I read the latest buzzword in Malaysian politics: Crusade.

I gorged on the news, becoming less and less zen by the minute. On the march back to the water chalet to write this piece, I barely registered the nice Mexican lady who had stopped me to ask me about the book I was holding.

“Huh? … Oh!” I smiled. Good manners prevailed. “It’s called ‘The Year of Living Biblically’.” Not wanting to sound like a religious extremist on holiday, I explained that the agnostic author, A. J. Jacobs, had tried to apply over 700 Biblical laws in a year — resulting in many comical and enlightening experiences.

But all the time, my front lobe saw only one word.

In my last column, I had said that Ibrahim Ali was inciting hatred. I must have prophetic skills. CRUSADE? Hello, this is Malaysia! You want to crusade against the taxpayers funding this country?

Haish! When reading Nazri Aziz’s statement about freedom of speech, I grunted in disbelief at the computer. (Followed by quick glances around the hotel lobby to make sure nobody had heard. They did.)

The de facto law minister’s words were classic Nazri. The comments that followed The Malaysian Insider’s story, though, gave me the giggles. It’s uplifting to know that politicians, try as they might, cannot pull the wool over the eyes of the educated Malaysian.

An interesting thought occurred: If I wake up tomorrow and call for a crusade against the people responsible for the cow head fiasco, the people who desecrated churches and other houses of worship, the people responsible for calling 40 per cent of Malaysians “pendatang” — this means that my “freedom of speech” would be intact right?

Oh. Wow. Have we grown up.

Seriously though, how is Ibrahim Ali getting away with this travesty? (I suddenly have a mental image of me flexing my chubby arms in his face, displaying the word “Liberty” tattooed on the left and “Freedom” on the right, and yell, WWF-style, “Dude, paham tak (understand)?”

Perkasa, of which Ibrahim Ali is chief, was formed as a non-governmental organisation to “fight and defend the rights of Malays” (though I am still trying to wrap my head around a NGO safeguarding the rights of a majority).

Is calling for a crusade (defined as “a holy war undertaken on behalf of a religious cause” or “a vigorous and dedicated action or movement in favour of a cause”) part of Perkasa’s mandate?

I live in a pluralistic society. I love that we have different religions, beliefs, politics and value systems. Thus, I expect from myself this: to understand the beliefs of my family, the friends I love, and the people I share a country with.

When at a Buddhist temple near Inle Lake in interior Myanmar, I looked up at the ceiling-high Buddha statue and said: “I may not believe in you, but millions do. I promise, at least, to learn more about you.”

Is it too much to ask that you do the same?

  1. #1 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 5:04 pm

    Sharmini, I enjoyed what u wrote. please write more often. Stay off yr zen stupor until u bring down nazri, hear?

    And Ibrahim Ali too.

    That Minister of education who knows not what he knows not is not good for Malaysian education. Bring him down too.

    And whilst u r at it, can u dig a little more. We’d like some expose on that ex-CM who is part of that Datuk Trio (or Datuk T).

    Can’t sleep whilst crooks with criminal minds, politicians with racist bent, thieves, thugs and troublemakers roam freely in the corridors of power, can you?

  2. #2 by monsterball on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 6:25 pm

    This one lost in the woods….came out and now confused and bewildered.
    I wonder has he planned how to vote.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 7:08 pm

    It’s either Freedom of Speech for all (including Ibrahim Ali) or equal standards of restrictions apply to all without selective treatment.

    Those who believe in Freedom of Speech (in more absolute sense) will accord Ibrahim Ali the right to say his piece. It does not man they think he’s right. They may think he’s very wrong, and what he says is logically, factually and even morally wrongful but still defend his right to say it. It seems incongruous to condemn the sedition laws and yet urge that they be applied to his ‘seditious’ statements.

    The Freedom of speech principle is grounded on no one should be silenced. Even a moron can sometimes speaks aspects of the truth and even everything thing said is untenable and wrong it only serves to impress more vividly the truth of those who disagree with the person saying the wrong things!

    Ibrahim however is entitled to his freedom of speech provided he accords the same privilege to those his detractors who say things different. If he cries sedition defamation and derhaka against others then he cannot expect the others not to do the same to him! Likewise law enforcement is should be fair & not selective – whether one puts more weightage to freedom of speech or to its restrictions.

  4. #4 by tak tahan on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 9:40 pm

    What is wrong with Katak Bra Him is he abused freedom of speech by declaring war(WW1?WW2?1WAR?) against the other community/religious party.He is inciting racial/religion tension within the communities.Anyway who cares!Chau..

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