(Kalau nak baca artikel ni dalam BM, klik kat sini!)
In the past we’ve talked about blocked websites, classified public information, and also films that would’ve been censored heavily if they were released now. Not all are doom and gloom though, as these potentially seditious Made-in-Malaysia Android games are still available on Google Play store! So download them while you still can.
And now, are you ready for… banned books? According to tintaanakmuda.wordpress.com, by 2015, Home Ministry alone have banned over 1543 titles! And this number doesn’t even include the ones that have been banned by JAKIM, so there could be many more.
Is this number even accurate? Thankfully the Home Ministry website provided a list of banned books that you can view on their website:
From the picture above, it says that over 1601 titles have been banned! Can you imagine, all those 1601 well-composed and thoroughly put together pieces of research, knowledge and wisdom that we might never read anyway cause they would ended up in the dusted stash with all the other books we bought from Big Bad Wolf.
Anyhoo, why are these books banned? The list on the Home Ministry website doesn’t specify reasons, probably because it wouldn’t fit into the column anyway. So CILISOS picked 5 high-profile ones and look for answers ourselves, and those include…
1. Ultraman comic that is banned for using ‘Allah’ name
Y’all Disney kids might not understand, but for most of us cable TV hoggers, Ultraman was a big part of our childhood. So it was a shock when Home Ministry banned Ultraman comic book for allegedly containing elements detrimental to public order. This news even gained global attention with the likes of Time, The Guardian, The Independent, and Al-Jazeera!
After countless Ultraman and kaiju memes have been spawned, Home Ministry later elaborated their action, saying that the ban is only effective to “Ultraman the Ultra Power” published by Resigns Publication because it used the word Allah to refer to Ultraman the King, a character in the comic book.
“The word Allah is holy for Muslims in Malaysia. The word Allah is sensitive and can provoke Muslims if abused by irresponsible parties. If this is not curbed, it can be harmful to the public and can mislead the public. It is feared it could damage the faith of Muslim children to equate “Allah” with Ultraman,” – Home Ministry, as quoted by Asto Awani.
Many of ugaiz might be aware of the longstanding debate over the usage of word Allah by non-Muslims in Malaysia. This ban on Ultraman comic book, however, seems like more of a benign mistake. Astro Awani tried doing a direct translation on the its synopsis and found out that it could’ve simply been an innocent (or rather, ignorant) error by the publisher. Ultraman himself were not the one at fault.
Some Muslim scholars supported the ban on this particular edition, or if it was unintentional on the publisher’s side, to recall and correct the edition. But a lot of critics called out Home Ministry in handling their priorities. Political analyst, Shahbuddin Husin said that this action was overblown for something as trivial as a technical mistake, and that the Home Ministry could only show firmness towards cartoons and animations.
Even Saifuddin Abdullah who at that time was still in UMNO spoke about the issue from a bigger picture. According to Saifuddin, we should encourage the culture of knowledge. To debate and make corrections instead of simply taking punitive measures.
2. Faisal Tehrani’s books that are banned for allegedly containing element of Syiah
Muhd Faisal Musa a.k.a Faisal Tehrani is a writer that have been under the wings of famous Malaysian literalist including A Samad Said and Dato Shahnon Ahmad. Among his highly-praised work is 1515 that won him many awards, even becoming the official text for Malay studies in University Cologne in German.
His later works, however, weren’t really well received by the government (despite initially being launched by PM Najib himself). Four of Faisal’s books are banned by the Home Ministry as they are ‘found to have controversial Syiah element’. We did a quick search on Home Ministry website and found there are actually 6 titles in total.
If ugaiz are not familiar with the whole Sunni/Syiah issue, suffice to say that in Malaysia, the Syiah branch of Islamic teaching is considered illegal in Malaysia. So it’s not as surprising to see if there’s a strong reaction towards Faisal’s works. Even Dr Mohd Asri (Mufti of Perlis that’s well-konwn for being a moderate) once wrote a letter to Harian Metro to oppose Ketupat Cinta on the ground that it “uses false hadith to glorify the Syiah”. While there are some who praised Faisal as a great writer, they also commented on the Syiah ideology that got in the way of writing.
But regardless of the message/ideology that he’s trying to deliver, some opposed the outright ban on his novels.
“…(I) feel that this action to outrightly ban the reading of books is pretty much asking people to stop thinking.” – Quoted from blog Fara Hanani.
As for Faisal himself, he seems more nonchalant on the ban (despite appealing to contest the decision):
“Thanks to the Home Ministry for adding credentials to my profile. Most of Nobel literature winners are nominated when their works are banned by the authorities. God willing that I will make Malaysians proud with this ban of 5 books of various genre.” – Faisal Tehrani, as quoted from Berita.
3. Irshad Manji’s books that were banned for allegedly containing elements that insults Islam
Irshad Manji began making waves in Malaysia when the translation of her book, “Allah, Liberty and Love” was banned on the ground that it “contravenes teachings of the Al-Quran and Hadith“. According to the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop, the book also encourages secularism and pluralism.
Interestingly, the ban was only done on the BM edition, as the original English version had actually been circulating for over a year before without any intervention. In response to gomen’s claim that book would cause confusion, High Court Judge Zaleha Yusof asked if only the Malay-speaking readers would be confused and the English-speaking readers wouldn’t.
But even before the ban was issued, an action was already being taken. A Borders outlet in Midvalley was raided by the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (JAWI) to seize the copies of Irshad Manji’s books. Even worse, the general manager of operations and store manager were charged, with the latter charged under the Syariah High Court.
Three years later, High Court judge Zaleha Yusof ruled that the raid was illegal, and JAWI has acted in bad faith in exercising their power (her full text are quite badass so ugaiz might wanna read it in full):
“I am satisfied that the applicants have shown existence of illegality, abuse of discretionary powers, irrationality, unreasonable exercise of power, unconstitutionally and that there exists procedural impropriety on the part of the respondents” – High Court Judge Zaleha Yusof, as quoted by The Malay Mail Online.
Zaid Ibrahim criticized JAKIM for exercising action that should fall within Home Ministry’s jurisdiction. He also questioned the ban decision that was made on the ground of liberalism:
“Why are JAKIM so afraid of the liberalism idea? Maybe they thought that they are the same as communism.. Liberal writers are giving a soft perspective on religions. On being kind… forgiving, not just on hell and punishment. What’s wrong with that?” – Zaid Ibrahim, as quoted from mStar.
4. Ashaari Muhammad’s books that are banned for spreading a false teaching of Islam
If ugaiz has never heard of Ashaari Muhammad, he’s the man responsible for the Al-Arqam movement, one of the largest ‘sesat’ movement in Malaysia. According to Pemuda Selempang Merah blog, the sect started with 10-12 people in 1968 and grew to over 10,000 followers in 1994! It was later banned by the government based with an official fatwa issued by National Fatwa Council on August 5th 1994.
Among JAKIM’s first action was to ban the book Aurah Muhammadiah in 1968 on the ground that it as it deviate from the teaching of the Sunni, Quran, and Sunnah (the way of the Prophet). You can read the full explanation by JAKIM (in PDF form) that elaborates why this sect is being prohibited.
According to a report by Utusan, the right-hand men of Al-Arqam were detained under the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA) and even have made a public confession that the sect deviates from Islamic teachings. Before being released on October 25th 2004, Ashaari was put under home detention in Rawang and Labuan.
To date, over 45 Al-Arqam books have been banned by the Home Ministry (you can check the Home Ministry website by typing ‘Ashaari Muhammad’). The sect leader himself passed away on 14 Mei 2010 due to respiratory failure.
Funny thing is, even other books that have ‘Al-Arqam’ in its title are also banned. Like this book titled “Menangani Ancaman Al-Arqam” that literally means “Handling the Threats of Al-Arqam”. On a separate case, copies of books titled “Rahsia Arqam” (“Arqam’s Secret”) were confiscated by the state Home Ministry officials without any clear reasons given, even the Home Ministry headquarters didn’t know about it!
“In this case, because they [the officials] see the word ‘Arqam’, they take it, without looking at what it actually says,” – PTS Publication General Manager, Fauzul Ishak, on the raid made by local Home Ministry branches, as quoted by The Nut Graph.
5. Zunar’s cartoons were banned for being seditious
We guess we don’t even have to explain the ban on Zunar’s comics, with strips such as the one below:
Among his works that were banned by the Home Ministry include 1 Funny Malaysia and Perak Darul Kartun, on the usual allegation that their contents “threaten public order and can influence people to riot”. Zunar and Malaysiakini (the publisher) contested this decision in High Court and won! The court even issued order for the government to pay for damages and return the confiscated copies.
Zunar also urged PM Najib to fulfill his promise in amending the Printing and Publication Act that have been used by Home Ministry in their banning exercise:
“During Najib’s administration, a lot of cartoonists are being suppressed like never before. I hope with this decision from the court, such things won’t happen again like what happened to me. Najib once said that he will amend the Printing and Publication Act 1984 that is also used to confiscate my work, so I hope PM will fulfill that promise, instead of continuing being a false democrat.” – Zunar, as quoted by KeadilanDaily.
Having his books banned is not the only street cred Zunar has. He has received international awards including Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award, and also the first cartoonist to receive the International Press Freedom Award. Zunar also almost faced 43 years in prison on 9 sedition charges not for his cartoons, but his tweets following the sentencing of opposition leader Anwar. Balls of steel la this one.
And that leaves us with 1596 more books banned by the Home Ministry
We would love to go into all 1601 of the titles listed on the Home Ministry website, but that would warrant an entire book by itself (which would most probably be banned as well). But in all seriousness, what’s frustrating about the ban is often no elaborate reason was provided by officials other than “tendency to confuse”, “tarnishing the sanctity of Islam”, “contrary to a fatwa” or “causing suspicion and public anxiety.” Even news sites are running out of paragraphs to meet their words count, other than saying that: 1) It violates Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984; and 2) The amount of fines that could be imposed.
Article 19, an international organisation who speaks out for freedom of speech has called the Malaysian authorities lift the ban on these books, and also to amend the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984. There are also continuous pressure from the rakyat and public figures calling these ‘unexplained’ banning to stop:
“It’s not my intention to defend those particular books, but the tendencies to ban academics material without a concrete reasoning could halt the progress of knowledge.” – Dr Mohd Asri, Mufti of Perlis.
But would all these pressures and condemnation amount to any action from the Home and Ministry and JAWI/JAKIM? Guess we’ll have to wait and see……