Monday, January 12, 2015

The IGP and the French Connection

The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Khalid Abu Bakar, has either misunderstood the overriding significance of the terrorist attack in Paris or is attempting to mislead Malaysians. The three men who attacked the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris wanted to stifle freedom of speech. Satire, when used responsibly, makes us probe deeper into certain issues.
 
The terrorists wanted to kill off many types of freedom, including the freedom to use satire to spread one’s views. The terrorists killed without mercy, using religion as an excuse. A French Muslim policeman was gunned down at point-blank range, despite raising his arms in surrender. The policeman had only been doing his job.
 
Yesterday morning, the IGP twittered that the massacre in Paris was a good reason for Malaysia to retain the Sedition Act 1948. He said, “Draw a lesson from the incident in Paris. This is why we need the Sedition Act, and PDRM will not let anyone who insults religion off.” So, is Khalid condoning the killings? Would he care to explain further?
 
Let us compare Paris and Putrajaya. The terrorists were trying to stifle all sorts of freedom, including the freedom to publish satirical cartoons. In Malaysia, the Sedition Act is a convenient government tool to punish critics of the administration, including Malaysian cartoonist Zunar. In both cases, the objective is to silence people. To create a climate of fear. To control the rakyat.
 
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak may claim to preach moderation but, in practice, he encourages extremism. Overseas, Najib tells the international community that Malaysia is a moderate Muslim country. Yet, he does nothing to contain extremists within our society.
 
Malaysia has one rule for Muslims and another for non-Muslims. Two Malaysian terrorists, Dr Azahari Husin and Nordin Mat Top, were responsible for a spate of bombings across Indonesia between 2002 and 2005. They killed many innocent people and were themselves killed in a shoot-out with Indonesian forces. Their bodies were returned to Malaysia for burial. Some people alleged that Mat Top’s body was repatriated in an RMAF plane. In contrast, the ashes of Chin Peng, the communist leader, were not even allowed to be placed in the ancestral family plot in Sitiawan.
 
The terrorists in Paris may have claimed they were trying to “avenge” the prophet, but any decent religion teaches us that killing is not justified. The terrorists who claimed that they were “protecting” Islam are nothing more than murderers. What does it say about the people who use Islam to kill, maim and destroy property? More importantly, what does it say about the Muslim clerics and leaders in Malaysia who have failed to condemn the killings in Paris? Are they in denial? Do they support the terrorists? Or are they quiet because they do not want to be wrongly seen as anti-Islam?
 
Khalid is being disingenuous when he claims that “anyone who insults a religion will not be let off”. The Malaysian religious authorities prevent Christians from using the word 'Allah'. They deface the Bible with “official stamps”. Extremist Muslims have threatened to torch churches, whilst others have dragged cow heads through the community, as a deliberate insult to Hindus. None of these acts has been censured.
 
In Malaysia, Islam is used by our political masters and their puppets, to destroy the peaceful co-existence between the various people. The inflammatory comments by Perkasa, Isma and controversial converts continue.
 
Khalid is short-sighted when he claims that Malaysia needs the Sedition Act to prevent terrorist acts like the one in Paris. In Malaysia, the Act is used arbitrarily to silence critics of the government. Opposition politicians, academics, students, playwrights and journalists have been charged with sedition. The government does this to make the public feel afraid and so, prevent the rise of more critics.
 
We could scrutinise the professionalism of the French police and Khalid. Life in Paris stopped for three days whilst the police imposed a lockdown on the city, to track and hunt the terrorists. Resources were stretched, but the terrorists were eventually found.
 
Khalid cannot even use his resources to trace a Muslim convert, Mohd Ridhuan, who kidnapped his daughter, despite a High Court ruling which gave his wife, Indira, custody of their child.
 
Khalid cannot even close down a shop in Bangi which, for the past three months, has been trading and selling paraphernalia with a militant theme, such as flags and caps bearing the ISIS insignia. The resources spent on maintaining Khalid and his force are wasted.
 
Khalid and practically all of the Cabinet who toe the party line find the Sedition Act convenient. It quells criticism. Their actions may not be brutal nor as bloody as the terrorists in France, but the end result is the same. To promote fear. Both use forms of terrorism, intimidation and violence, to achieve a political end.
 
In Malaysia, the Sedition Act is used in the same way as other terrorists use their weapons  - to silence dissent. Khalid is part of Najib’s terror machinery. Najib and Khalid may not use machine guns and bullets to silence critics. Instead, they use the Sedition Act to quash their detractors.
 
Mariam Mokhtar
 
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