Kassim helps the Malay-Muslims think
by Azly Rahman
I read with sadness the arrest of Kassim Ahmad by the religious authorities. Why arrest that 81-year-old man who has shared his opinions for Muslims to be all the more enriched. Did people bother to read his works such as Characterisation in Hikayat Hang Tuah, Sidang Ruh, Universiti Kedua, Hadis: Satu Penilain Semula, Quo Vadis Bangsaku, and Teori Sosial Moden Islam and many others?
Why not take a moment to understand how honest that man Kassim Ahmad is in his calling to share his views to make his people more enlightened?
Instead of arresting him and charging him with “insulting Islam”, why don’t you religious authorities get together and write critiques of his work and engage him in more open dialogue. Let us even televise your forums.
You are a pathos in the society, religious authorities. You are promoting anti-intellectualism, with such an idiotic pride. I hope Kassim Ahmad’s plea of not guilty will get the authorities to come up with volumes of work to prove that he is “intellectually and academically guilty”. Some may not agree with his perspective but all of us should defend his right to make us more intelligent.
Just read his books. What is the problem with your intelligence, those who arrested him? Have we not seen enough stupidity in society, especially in these days where should be encouraging people to read widely? I may not agree with some the propositions an author is forwarding, but I will try to understand more the paradigm he/she is coming from and what novel approaches he/she is using to theorise.
Why not combat superstitious beliefs, tahyul-ism, and political secrecy and idiocy instead, by teaching our children to think freely.
“ ... Read... in the name of thy Lord who created thee... the first part of the verse of the Quran from Surah al’Alaq (The Clot) says … and what do you understand by these? Did it say that do not read and arrest those who want others to read?
Just read those books!
In early Communist China, Mao Zedong discouraged people from reading too many books. According to him, it is not necessary for the masses to have knowledge that will confuse them and turn them into revisionists.
Our nation is not undergoing a Maoist styled-Cultural Revolution. We are neither in the Iran of Ayatollah Khomeini. We are neither in the Age of Copernicus. We are definitely not in Year Zero in Kampuchea where die-hard readers get sent to death camps.
The nation need not follow the dictates of those who do not read the books and yet are banning them and arresting authors. Those who banned books are not good readers. A good reader will read the books and publish critiques without even discouraging people reading them.
I would hate it if the prime minister tells me what book I should avoid reading - he does not own my mind. Let me read it first and we will talk about it later. It is as if telling me not to “imagine that a pink elephant does not exist in my living room”.
The beauty of not banning books
Even worse if the prime minister imagines that some books can be a threat to national security. With this form of thinking, we are indeed trapped in a “national security straightjacket”. An author of a banned book became a prime minister of Malaysia many years ago. The Malay Dilemma was a banned book!
The political temper of the day determines the banned books of the year. When Dr Mahathir Mohamad became a prime minister, the book became a best-seller and there were more sequels. Suddenly a banned book became a benevolent manifesto of national development. Is this not the beauty of not banning books?
We will create more prime ministers amongst banned book authors. Many children in Malaysia will aspire to become a banned author. Then we will, become, like the French, a nation of frontier thinkers.
France produced Descartes, Rousseau, Danton, Marat, Robespierre, Diderot, Voltaire, Montesquieu, de Tocqueville, Beaumarchais, Balzac, Saint-Simon, de Beauvoir, Durkheim, Levi-Strauss, Piaget, Camus, Kafka, de Sassaure, Sartre, Merle-Ponty, Bourdieu, Lacan, Foucault, Althusser, Baudelaire, Proust, Hugo, Baudrillard, and Derrida - all these are thinkers whose work challenged the human mind globally.
We jailed our intellectual-dissidents and our profound thinkers such as Kassim Ahmad, Syed Husin Ali, Lim Guan Eng and many others, using the Internal Security Act. We imitated the British. To be, means, to be like the oppressor.
To oppress or not to oppress, that is not the question - we simply oppress. A dissident is still a dissident by any other name. Absolute power is the best form of power, absolutely.
We imitate the grandiose of the French in building our Putrajaya instead of emulating their culture of producing grandiose intellectuals. As long as we have our own Versailles to tell the world how wealthy a nation we are.
We need to seriously honour our public intellectuals by not banning their books or arresting them. How dare we call our nation a knowledge society when we do not have respect for new knowledge?
We should encourage frontier thinking and reward writers that possess strange ideas that are used to challenge our children intellectually. This is how nations will survive in a world of cut-throat globalisation.
We cannot let a small group of people have monopoly over democracy. We cannot let book burners kill the last flicker of our intellectual flame. Democracy must be democratised. Intellectualism must be ingrained into the minds of our children. Schools must live and breathe democracy.
Come back to our senses. At a time when Malaysia is at war with the international media and imploding due to the cult of secrecy the powers that be is embracing, we need more and more enlightened individuals to be groomed - those whose allegiance lie not in the State and its dictates but to Truth Evolving and in constant reflective mode.
But if we are to start arresting wise men and women for their good work for Humanity, we might as well embrace Tahyul-ism and Intelligentsia-ism as a hybrid state ideology.
So - if you cannot yet dialogue with Kassim Ahmad, learn more about philosophy of deconstructionism. What a ridiculous act we are seeing!
DR AZLY RAHMAN, born in Singapore and grew up in Johor Baru, holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in International Education Development and Masters degrees in four areas: Education, International Affairs, Peace Studies and Communication. He has taught more than 40 courses in six different departments and has written more than 350 analyses on Malaysia. His teaching experience in Malaysia and the United States spans over a wide range of subjects, from elementary to graduate education. He has edited and authored four books; Multiethnic Malaysia: Past, Present, Future (2009), Thesis on Cyberjaya: Hegemony and Utopianism in a Southeast Asian State (2012), The Allah Controversy and Other Essays on Malaysian Hypermodernity (2013), and the latest Dark Spring: Ideological Roots of Malaysia's GE-13 (2013). He currently resides in the United States. Twitter, blog.