Four punches were hurled at him when he was attacked by a group of Umno members in Komtar yesterday, said political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque (Zunar).
“They also pulled my collar, I was physically assaulted, but I kept calm, I did not want to retaliate,” Zunar told Malaysiakini.
“As an award recipient of the Cartoonist for Peace Award presented by former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Anan in Geneva this year, I want peace, not war,” he added.
Zunar said the leader of the group introduced themselves as Umno Youth members. They were led by Penang Umno youth chief Rafizal Abdul Rahim.
He urged Umno national Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin to teach his members to behave, instead of acting violent against their rivals or those who are opposed to their views.
“It is unfortunate, as supporters of the ruling party, they threatened to burn my books,” Zunar said, recalling the burning of subversive books (or those opposed to Nazism), campaign launched by the German Student Union in Germany and Austria in 1930s.
“Other than forcing me to take down all my artworks which were affixed to stands, kicking at them and damaging two pieces, the group also asked me why I did not draw cartoons against the Penang government,” Zunar said.
“I told them they can have their own exhibition about the Penang government if they wanted, but please do not disturb mine,” he added.
Zunar's exhibition of 10 artworks on Komtar’s 3rd floor was officiated by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng at noon before it was disrupted by a group of rowdy members from Penang Umno Youth.
They group of 30 hurled obscenities at Zunar and his two assistants, words like “haram jadah” (bastard) was heard during the commotion which started around 3pm.
They had apparently marched to Komtar from a mosque nearby after Friday prayers and shouted “Allahuakbar” while attacking Zunar.
As a result of the attack, Zunar has cancelled his exhibition in Komtar, which was supposed to go on until Dec 2.
His artworks were supposed to be moved to Speakers Square, at the Esplanade on Dec 3.
However, the incident has not deterred Zunar from continuing his indoor programmes.
He will launch his new cartoon book ‘Wasabi’ at Wisma Yeap Chor Ee at 6pm tomorrow.
“The BN government banned me from travelling, or else, I would be exhibiting my work in Geneva now,” Zunar said.
Zunar said he may have felt a little intimidated when attacked by the group but said “Being afraid will only allow them to carry on with their violence”.
He had invited them to debate with him, but the group was not interested.
Yesterday, Rafizal lodged a police report against Zunar and the Penang government for organising an exhibition which “insulted and lied” about Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Rafizal had warned if the exhibition continues, the group will not hesitate to use force to demand Zunar to end his programme in Penang.
State executive councillor for Islamic affairs Abdul Malik Kassim said if Umno members were afraid of cartoons, it showed they could be at the “end of their existence”.
“It seems Umno members on the outside are different from their assemblymen who behave well even when criticising the state government,” Malik said in a statement.
“I believe Penang Umno leaders would be ashamed of some of their members who behaved like gangsters,” added the PKR Batu Maung assemblyperson.
Malik said Umno members who behaved violently yesterday had only tarnished Najib’s reputation.
He was certain the international media would describe the incident against Zunar yesterday as testimony that Najib was “afraid of his own shadows”.
“In a democratic nation, we should end such disruptive behaviours so that the future generation will be more progressive and matured in their thinking,” he added.
Zunar’s cartoons, deemed offensive by Umno, focussed on 'Malaysian Official 1' (MO1).
Cabinet minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan has confirmed that M01, cited in the US civil suit against three individuals alleged to have been involved in money laundering of 1MDB funds, is Najib.
Najib has denied being involved in the civil suit, while attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali had cleared him of any wrongdoing related to mismanagement of funds in 1MDB and the RM2.6 billion donation in the premier's private bank accounts.- Mkini