Monday, January 19, 2015

A letter to Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek – Eric Pausen’s twit and Charlie Hebdo massacre .

By: Choo Sing Chye

What you say as Communication and Multimedia Minister a few days ago should be the words spoken by the Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. 

I can see your intention is noble for calling JAKIM  to use a  “soft power” approach to correct Paulsen's misconceptions”.   (1) 

Let me quote Benedict de Spinoza (1632–1677), to reinforce what you had said above: 

the true aim of government is – Liberty – it is not supposed to rule, or restrain by fear nor to exact obedience, but contrawise, to free man from fear that he may live in all possible security, in other words, to strengthen his natural rights to exist and work without injury to himself or others”. 

And when you said, “In the context of freedom of expression, I feel there is no problem (for a live debate over RTM). We can ask the lawyer to come to RTM. If Jakim agrees, I have no issue with it” – it's professionalism your are talking about, not politics.  This should be the way to conduct business as a minister. (2)    

Anyway, I believe that the tiny sparks of the “46’s spirit” still lingers in you.    

But  sadly the platform for debate had already been chosen – the lockup.  

Yes, I totally agree with you when you said in the media that “Freedom of expression is not just expressing one sentence. You have to articulate it so that the people understand and can explain it further.”  (3) 

For the sake of  argument, can the government controlled media like RTM provide a platform and time to have Paulsen’s misconceptions annul by Jakim in a non-combative environment?

Remember Tun Daim Zainuddin’s statement in the Malaysian Insider, three days ago.   He said, “TV3 which would not give 2 minutes of air time to Pakatan, has aired the PKR press conference no less than 3 times. The NST and Utusan have also carried this news”.  (4)

Ironically, the above statement says it all. We don't need to ponder any further.

But, some 60 years ago Martin Luther King also faced the same problems of  media black-out by the White controlled media.  

But nonetheless, he overcame this debasing act and turned his non-violent movement into one of the most successful  movements in  US history.  

Encompassing this lead was the easy to use and easy to understand catch-phrase theme, “Democracy is the Freedom to change Unjust laws”.  

The theme of these little eight words was articulated so eloquently by Martin Luther King that it reverberated throughout the land and  pricked the conscience of White America.   

The march on August 28, 1963 from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial is celebrated as in one of the biggest  freedom marches in US history.  And all these climaxed  into one of the most enduring speeches  that Martin Luther King had ever made  - “I have a Dream”

This time, his dream of freedom, justice, peace and the brotherhood of  man was beamed throughout the US, thus ushering in a dawn of a  new America. 


Charlie Hebdo massacre 

Freedom of speech/expression is the fundamental condition for a thriving, and peaceful world.  

The Charlie Hebdo massacre had again opened an endless debate on Free Speech/Expression all over the world.  

How do we argue on this issue?

First, we must understand that the content of the caricatures should be put on trial and not the vehicle (the freedom to express) that delivers it.   

Even if we take a thousand years to debate on the practice of free expression, we will not find an answer to this issue, because we are not looking at it.  But what we should be looking at, is its contents and debate judiciously on its correctness or its inappropriateness.    

We have to seriously come to a benchmark where we can agree on certain viewpoints which do not qualify to be express freely without a moral boundary.

How wide should we draw this moral boundary?  Well, this is where we need a platform where all the ideas from all the religious leaders, politicians, philosophers, authors  and scientists to discuss this boundary.

Apparently this issue has gone beyond the benchmark of rationality to  say it is okay to publish these caricatures which metaphorically associate the image of Prophet Muhammad as a symbol of insult/hate is downright unethical.

First, drawing an image of Prophet Muhammad is disallowed in Islam and secondly, he did not say or do things that were promoted by ISIL, the Al Queda or other extremists.  

So,  do they deserve to die?  

NO!  They don’t deserve to die or to be jailed! The only crime that they were guilty off was their poorly conceived caricatures did not meet the standard of fair-comment. 

The innocent victims who were killed by ISIL, Boko Haram and Al Queda  too, do not deserve to die.    

Nobody deserves to die. But we have to relook  at this episode in a very different light from now on and altered our bias perception on certain things that are different from us.   

We can do this to prevent the moderate Muslims from being the target of “collective” insults  as result of these caricatures.   This will at least prevent the influence of terrorism from spreading to the moderate Muslims.

And finally, the best maxim that I could find to sum up this letter is: “Free Will - just because you could, it doesn't  mean you should”.

To commemorate Luther King's birthday on the 15th January, I decided to post the complete speech here.............. 

1) “Up to Jakim to debate Eric Paulsen says minister,” Malaysian Insider, Bernama, January 16, 2015

2) “Shabery: RTM can host Paulsen-Jakim debate,” Malaysian Insider,  January 15, 2015.

3) Ibid.,

4) “I know those behind media spotlight on me, says Daim.”  Malaysian Insider, January 15, 2015.

5) “Mock Islam, and expect a punch.” Sky News 16-1-2015

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