Sunday, July 09, 2006

Arbitrary 'system' of book censorship in M'sia

Malaysia's book censorship system is becoming increasingly arbitrary and irrational. For example, while Karen Armstrong's The Battle For God and John Esposito's What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam are now banned, Bernard Lewis' many titles, especially The Crisis Of Islam - Holy War And Unholy Terror and What Went Wrong? The Clash Between Islam And Modernity In The Middle East are readily available in major bookshops.

Before I proceed further, let me state clearly that I am not at all trying to argue for a ban of Bernard Lewis' books - which I have bought and perused and found recommendable - just because books by Karen Armstrong and John Esposito are now effectively deemed by the government as 'subversive' as Mao's Quotations -which I had also read when it was still banned in the 1960s and 1970s .

What puzzles me is the fact that in the US and Europe, Armstrong and Esposito are generally regarded as Islam-friendly Western scholars. On the Right in the United States, where most of the supporters and admirers of Lewis are to be found, Armstrong and Esposito are often seen as 'apologists' for radical Islam or Islamism. So, the question is what make the books written by Armstrong and Esposito more 'threatening' to Malaysia's 'security' or ' public order' than those by Lewis?

Have the censors actually read the books by Armstrong and Esposito which they have banned and compare and contrast them with those by Lewis which are not banned? What are the academic qualifications and English proficiency of the book censors?


Blogger malekz said...

Mark my words, they would not have read them. The bosses, who might understand English, are too lazy while the underlings are too poor to grasp the books. That is what my experience in the public sector tells me. So ARBITRARY censorship is here to stay - unless the new PM who had cried for an open society a few years ago ..... and has since proven otherwise, walk the talk.

I have just read Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution by Simon Schama - and if the censorship board have read and UNDERSTAND English, they might have banned it for there are many similarities with our present quagmire.

9:49 AM  
Blogger James Wong Wing-On said...

Thank you for sharing your experience-based insight. I think we liberal Malaysians should now learn French or Russians to regain our freedom:)

10:48 AM  

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