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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Stop ‘thinking’ for the rakyat


By declaring certain events, books and movies as ‘harmful’ to the country’s peace, harmony, law and order only reveals the deep-rooted insecurity haunting the BN-led government.
COMMENT
How does one define a nation’s development? Is it based on the impressive infrastructure or by the fact that its coffers are brimming?
What about the intellectual capacity of its people – does it count for anything as far as progress goes?
If the thinking ability of the people is the backbone of a developed nation, then Malaysia for one better re-think its claims of being a “successful” country by the year 2020.
Malaysia is deserving of the “developed nation” status only when it stops insulting the intelligence of the rakyat; in other words, do not underestimate the people’s thinking power.
From brainwashing to indoctrination of submissive and unreliable dogmas, the federal government has done it all and that too by making schools and universities its prime targets.
So we have young Malaysians who are unable to think creatively or constructively. The era of “do as I say” continues, a sad reminder to the rakyat of the dictatorial legacy that came about during the premiership of the country’s fourth prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Where Malaysia’s education goes, it remains a case of “teachers and lecturers speak and students listen passively”. And where politics go, the government dictates and the rakyat nods, the latter’s views dismissed unceremoniously.
The government has decided to do the “thinking” for the rakyat; be it by way of banning books by “out of the box thinking” authors to labelling movies tackling sensitive subjects as damning to the nation’s well-being.
The question that begs an honest answer is: just why does the federal government keep insulting the rakyat’s intelligence?
By declaring certain events, books and movies as “harmful” to the country’s peace, harmony, law and order only reveals the deep-rooted insecurity haunting the Barisan Nasional-led government.
It was not that long ago when all hell broke loose when “I speak my mind” writer-lecturer Irshad Manji flew down from America to launch her book “Allah, Liberty, Love” in Kuala Lumpur.
Prior to that, the federal government decided it was “dangerous” for an event that gave the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders a platform to converge and exchange information.
The authorities meanwhile started chanting “peace” as the reason for justifying such restrictions.
Not once were the rakyat consulted or their views deemed necessary before such prohibitions were enforced.
When will this madness stop?
Looks like the government of the day has no plans to stop meddling in what the people can see and read, that too without understanding and investigating the issues further.
The recent premature move by the Home Ministry declaring the Tamil movie “Vishwaroopam” as unfit for public viewing, claiming that it hurt the religious sensitivities of Muslims, is the last straw in taking the sound-minded rakyat for granted.
Malaysia has joined Singapore, Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu as countries that have outlawed “Vishwaroopam” on the basis that it gives the message that Muslims are terrorists.
“Vishwaroopam”, a spy thriller, is directed and co-produced by South Indian superstar Kamal Haasan, who also portrays three main characters in the film.
The movie, released worldwide on Jan 25, revolves around s international terrorism, a reason fit enough by Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s standards to impose a ban.
Back in Tamil Nadu where “Vishwaroopam” was barred from the theatres for two weeks, the actor-director took the matter to court.
To dispel the fears of the Muslim organisations back home, Kamal Hassan organised a special screening but this only worsened matters.
In Malaysia, within 48 hours of having received a memorandum from the Malaysian Indian Muslim Youth Movement, the Home Minister decided to outlaw the multi-lingual “Vishwaroopam”.
The Film Censorship Board had no say when Hishammuddin ordered that “Vishwaroopam” be declared unsafe for public viewing.
Malaysia emasculated by bigots
When news of Malaysia’s objection towards “Vishwaroopam” reached Bangladeshi doctor-turned author Taslima Nasreen, she had this to say:
“Malaysia banned ‘Vishwaroopam’. Coward countries will ban it, coward cinemas will not show it.
“This fear of Muslim fanatics is just plain stupid,” said Taslima on Twitter after news of the suspension was reported by the Indian media on Jan 26.
Taslima whose book “Lajja” or “Shame” was condemned by the Bangladeshi Muslims for criticising the implementation of the syariah law, lives in exile in India, having fled her native country after the Muslims there called for her death.
Malaysia’s very own national laureate and activist A Samad Said is left wondering just what is so “dangerous” about “Vishwaroopam”, its Hindi version set for a Feb 1 release under the title “Vishwaroop”.
In fact, Samad thinks Bollywood’s “Race 2” should have been rubbished by the Home Ministry, going by the amount of violence in the movie.
But then Samad, like Taslima, must realise such madness or paranoia as depicted by Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu in the context of “Vishwaroopam” is a classic example of a nation emasculated by bigots.
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.

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