Sunday, September 05, 2010

A rebuttal to Malaysia’s policy of censorship and fear

By The Anti Jihadist

For everyone who argues that Islam is supposed to be all about a ‘pluralistic’ society, have a look at this headline. From Saturday’s edition of the Star:

“PM wants MCMC to act against articles insulting Islam”

(Malaysian) Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Saturday called for stern action by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) against those who upload articles insulting Islam on their websites or social websites.

"The MCMC has to act. I hope they act firmly in this matter. This is something which cannot be allowed (to continue)," he said.

So, Mr. Prime Minster, what constitutes an ‘insult’ against Islam? This, of course, is left unsaid, and for all practical purposes, can be whatever the government says it is. Pronouncements such are these are liable to cause fear and self-censorship amongst pundits, bloggers and the intelligentsia. But this is precisely the point. And as for what sort of ‘stern action’ the Prime Minister has in mind for his enemies; again this is left unsaid. When the objective is to spread fear, it’s better to be vague than specific.

As events such as this shows the world time and time again, Muslims are almost universally against freedom of expression. A more cynical observer might say that Muslims are almost universally interested in having freedom of expression for themselves, but not for those who belong to other belief systems. What seems to interest Muslims the most, and Muslim-controlled governments especially, is the shutting down any sort of free discussion or debate. Malaysia, in fact, is ‘moderate’ in such matters, as ‘insulting Islam’ constitutes a capital crime in many other Muslim states. When Muslims repeatedly and loudly proclaim that their belief system is the perfect one, the true one, or the best one, what could Muslims possibly fear when others wish to debate the very subject?

Naturally, such a state of affairs bothers Muslims not the slightest. When was the last time you heard of a Muslim public protest in favour of freedom of expression? Cartoons and books and ‘infidel’ temples draw Muslim outrage, but what about when those who dare to say anything untoward about Mohammed or his ideology are silenced? Remember, silencing critics of Islam by threatening, arresting, torturing, imprisoning, exiling, or worse actually enjoys widespread Muslim support. The next Muslim who stands up for the right of infidels or anyone else to critique Islam, will be the first as far as I know.

What Najib and his ilk always fail to realize is how self-defeating their policies of censorship and fear are in the long run. History shows that to self-censor, to arrest freethinkers (or threaten to) is not only insidious, but self destructive. It ingrains the values of not thinking, not reasoning, but rote obedience and blind faith. It is a policy that encourages the dumb and blind, and drives away the smart and eloquent.

And Muslims keep wondering why they and their countries lag behind so many others in the world.

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