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KUALA LUMPUR, May 6 ― The Home Ministry's actions in banning some books translated into the national language, including Charles Darwin's “Origin of Species” smacks of “intellectual persecution”, DAP lawmaker Zairil Khir Johari said today.
The Bukit Bendera MP questioned if the government has a “deliberate policy” to keep Malays in the dark, observing that the bans under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1982 affected only translated works.
“Is a Malaysian who can only speak and read in Malay considered not mature enough to make informed decisions?” he asked in a statement.
“As most people who fall into the latter category are Malays, the question then arises whether there is a deliberate policy to keep Malays ignorant,” he added.
The second-term federal lawmaker said he had raised the issue in Parliament in its recent sitting last month, and the Home Ministry's reply made “absolutely no sense” besides being an insult to the intelligence of Malaysians as the original books were widely available in bookstores and libraries.
In a written reply on April 10, the Home Ministry told Zairil that the translated Darwin, titled “Asal-usul Spesies” was banned because it “endangers public harmony” with its depiction of the “origin and creation of species that goes against Islamic teachings and is in contravention of the Islamic Materials Censorship Guidelines as well as the beliefs of the Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah...”.
On the other hand, the Home Ministry said it allowed the English version because there had been no “complaints regarding the existence of any infringements of Islamic aspects” as set by the federal religious authority, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department.
“How can the same book be considered a public danger and against Islamic teachings in one language, but perfectly acceptable in another?” Zairil asked further.
He noted that Darwin's seminal work was not the only book affected, with the banned translations of British author Karen Armstrong's “Islam: A Short History” and lighter reads, the most recent being Japanese comic, “Ultraman: The Ultra Power” also blacklisted.
He added that such discriminations were futile because the books and the knowledge contained within were easily available on the Internet.
Zairil urged the government to lift its restrictions on all publications and “to immediately end the intellectual persecution of Malaysians”.