Malaysia’s book bans ar­chaic: Think-tank

The Straits Times - - ASIA -

KUALA LUMPUR Malaysia’s Home Min­istry is con­tin­u­ing the ar­chaic tra­di­tion of polic­ing lan­guage, sex and re­li­gion by ban­ning books in the In­ter­net age, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port by the Pe­nang In­sti­tute.

The think-tank’s re­port ti­tled “The Polic­ing and Pol­i­tics of the Malay Lan­guage”, which was re­leased on Tues­day, states that the min­istry banned 1,695 books from 1971 to this year, re­ported the Malay Mail On­line. They in­cluded 556 Malay books, 516 books in English and 450 in Chi­nese.

An­a­lyst Ooi Kok Hin also noted that a Malay trans­la­tion of evo­lu­tion the­o­rist Charles Dar­win’s On The Ori­gin Of Species had been banned, but not its orig­i­nal ver­sion in English. Most of the banned Malay books were on top­ics re­lated to sex and pornog­ra­phy.

The re­port stated that the use of the Print­ing Presses and Pub­li­ca­tions Act 1984 (PPPA) by the Home Min­istry to black­list pub­li­ca­tions did not re­flect pos­i­tively, es­pe­cially in the cur­rent era where much in­for­ma­tion is read­ily avail­able on the In­ter­net and in all lan­guages.

“It is also cru­cial to ask whether it is re­al­is­tic for the Home Min­istry to con­duct lan­guage polic­ing and book ban­ning in this day and age,” Mr Ooi said in his con­clud­ing re­marks.

He said that ban­ning books or cer­tain ti­tles would only draw pub­lic at­ten­tion to them and that on­line ver­sions of these books meant they could be down­loaded.

“Un­less the Home Min­istry is plan­ning to be on the con­stant look­out for other book ver­sions and trans­la­tions, it is safe to con­clude that the book ban is not only in­ef­fec­tive, but also coun­ter­pro­duc­tive,” he added.

The Home Min­istry has come un­der fire from free speech ad­vo­cates and civil so­ci­ety groups af­ter its re­cent ban on a num­ber of books on moder­ate Is­lam.

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