Malaysia’s need to control minds has reached 'crisis' stage

Amin Iskandar Looi Sue-Chern

Seven of Faisal Tehrani's books are banned in Malaysia, the most recent being Aku ____, Maka Aku Ada. – Facebook pic, October 3, 2017.

MALAYSIA has reached a state of “madness” in its need to control the people’s minds, said well-known novelist Faisal Tehrani whose book has just been banned here.

The author, whose real name is Faizal Musa, said he had not yet decided what to do about the ban, but would speak to his lawyer soon.

“But I think we have reached a crisis and a state of madness in our need to control the people’s minds,” said the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Malay World and Civilisation Research Institute fellow.

He told The Malaysian Insight that the United Nations’ special rapporteur on cultural rights had just asked that the ban on his books be lifted, referring to Karima Bennoune who had recently voiced her concern over Putrajaya’s book-banning tendencies.

Bennoune, who was recently in Malaysia for 10 days, had questioned Putrajaya’s banning of Islamic books that were progressive and moderate when Malaysia wished to portray itself exactly as such to the international community.

The Malaysian Insight reported today that one more of Faisal’s books had been banned since the first one in 2013.

The latest and Faisal’s seventh book to be banned is “Aku ____, Maka Aku Ada!” published by Dubook Press Sdn Bhd.

Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi declared the book banned in a federal government gazette dated September 6 because it was “likely to be prejudicial to public order, likely to alarm public opinion, and prejudicial to public interest”.

Other titles by the same other that are banned are the novels “Perempuan Nan Bercinta” and Sebongkah Batu di Kuala Berang; short story compilation “Tiga Kali Seminggu”; stage play “Karbala”; poem collection “Ingin Jadi Nasrallah”; and  film critic essay collection “Sinema Spiritual: Dramaturgi dan Kritikan”.

The government has explained that his writings are banned because they contain elements of Shia teachings that are against teachings of Sunni Islam.

While speaking at the 4th Asean Literary Festival in Jakarta, Faisal said the government’s banning of his books was a betrayal of the Merdeka promise in the 1957 Proclamation of Independence.

Malaysia is seeing a clampdown on religious books that the government deems unsuitable for the reading public.

Faisal’s latest book has been banned at the same time as books by think tank Islamic Renaissance Front, “Wacana Pemikiran Reformis (Jilid I) (A Discourse on Reformist Thought, volume I)” and “Wacana Pemikiran Reformis (Jilid II)”; and Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol, “Islam Without Extremes: A Case of Muslim Liberty”.

Muslim preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin slammed Putrajaya for banning books.

The PKR Youth religious bureau chief said the government’s move encouraged Muslims not to read and think.

“Likely to alarm public opinion? Only those with weak intellect will feel alarmed.

“Such moves (book banning) are done by people who are against civilisation (anti-tamadun). Those who are pro-civilisation would celebrate and take pride in intellectuals and their work.

“The government has taken the same steps as the “firaun” (pharaohs) mentioned in the Quran, who had oppressed the people by not allowing them to think,” he told The Malaysian Insight. 

Wan Ji, who is Penang information officer, cited verse 54 of Surah al-Zukhruf: “In this way he moved his people to accept and they obeyed him – they were perverse people.”

“The government should not take the same approach as the pharaoh in the Quran. It makes it seem like it is going against the holy book, which is held sacred by Muslims.

“If the Imam Abu Hasan al-Asy’ari is in Malaysia today, his books will likely be banned because his views are not in line with the ruling government’s views,” he said, referring to the founder of the most important theological school in Sunni Islam, who lived in the 9th century during a period that has been dubbed the Golden Age of Islam. – October 3, 2017.

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