The INTERLOK controversy

January 19, 2011

Censorship and Book Burning: The INTERLOK controversy

by Umapagan Ampikaipakan

THERE is something deeply ironic about Hindus burning books. It is, after all, a religious and cultural tradition that places such a high value on knowledge, on education. So much so that in the hierarchy of things to be worshipped, God comes only after teacher. So much so that its teachings prohibit its followers from even touching a book with their feet, let alone set it ablaze.

There is a growing gulf, between thought and action, between reason and recklessness. There is a lack of engagement between belief and the practice of it. We have spent a lot of the last few weeks embroiled in controversy. In heated debate. We’ve been talking about the ethics of book burning. We’ve been talking about the pitfalls of censorship. We’ve been talking about the role of literature and the responsibility of those who teach it. We’ve been talking about the importance of historical and geographical accuracy in fiction.

But in all of the noise surrounding Datuk Abdullah Hussain’s Interlok, the one thing that remains unaddressed is the reactions to and by the Indian community. It is the elephant in the room.

The knee-jerks have been depressing at best and downright reprehensible at worst. The lack of proper discourse, of actual debate, among those involved is inexcusable. Threats and ultimatums will only ever be met by further threats and ultimatums. Often resulting in a game of chicken, with each side waiting to see who will flinch first.

Because if this recent controversy has highlighted anything, it is the distinct lack of leadership in and among Indians in Malaysia. This stems from a community divided. Left to fend for themselves and all alone in the night.

More so since 2008 with an election that resulted in a more vibrant democracy but also in the further splintering of our body politic. The Indians in Malaysia were left stranded, lacking proper guidance and adequate representation. There were suddenly too many voices, all of them screaming for attention. They weren’t dissimilar but they were distinct. Each one reacting to a specific problem rather than addressing it.

It is a disconnect that has left Indians doomed to the kind of social and political disintegration that will eventually and inevitably affect the nation as a whole. Because they remain disparate. They remain fragmented. Tamils stand apart from Ceylonese who stand apart from Malayalees who stand apart from Sikhs. There are social barriers between them. There is the burden of that institutional memory left behind by the British.

And so they remain desperate. Each group seeking to carve out its own little space. Failing to realise that with every fracture comes only weakness. That it will eventually lead to the disintegration of the whole.

Now there is little doubt that Indians in Malaysia have come a long way since Merdeka. They have shed the squalor of their humble beginnings. Socially. Politically. It is progress that has been fuelled primarily by education, but also by economics, by a deep seated desire to rise above one’s station. They have become an actual influence. They have become a genuine partner in plotting the course of this nation.

It is something apparent in the way their attentions are being sought, and in every which way, by political parties looking for votes, by non-governmental organisations looking to increase their influence.

Because all of this recent controversy had less to do about the usage of the word “pariah” than it did with trying to regain some political clout. It was about being a worthy competitor. It was about contributing something to the national debate.

Which gives rise to that unavoidable question of what’s next? Where do they go from here? Because now, after coming so far, they have begun to languish in political wilderness. This is the real Indian dilemma. This lack of direction.

And it is a problem that can be solved only by proper leadership. Not of the political kind but of the intellectual kind. Because they’ve matured politically. Because they’re thriving economically. But there is still a distinct lack of thought leadership, of intellectual guidance. It is the missing link required in uniting the community. In making them an indispensable cog in the machinery of Malaysia.

47 thoughts on “The INTERLOK controversy

  1. The writer says that the Indian community needs leadership of the intellectual kind, not of the political kind. I think it needs both, that it needs proper and examplary leadership post Samy Velu.

    Intellectual leadership in MIC was cowed during that era because Samy was not comfortable dealing with Indian intellectuals, some of whom like the late K.Pathmanaban, founder of Melaka Manipal Medical College, London School of Economics educated Dr.R. Thilainathan and my University contemporary Dr. T. Marimuthu, Professor Rajah Rasiah and Professor Terence Gomez, just to name a few, are truly outstanding. I hold them all in high regard. But isn’t a common malady across the political divide in our country?–Din Merican

  2. This issue will not fester if Najib puts his foot down.
    It will die off once the PM made a firm decision.
    If you follow the issue from the start, it was only a row among interested groups.
    The book was burnt by PAS Indian supporters.
    MIC was quiet until DAP’s Gobalan raised the issue.
    Of course Palanivel has to join the fray for fear of being impotent to the Indian community which MIC is supposed to champion.
    Vel is easy to take care of, like his former boss. He will just nod to whatever Najib decides.
    The issue should end when the Ministry and literary qroups led by Prof. Tan Sri Ismail Hussein met last week.
    But Najib allows the MIC reps and the Ministry to have a meeting yesterday.
    The outcome of the meeting will be decided by the Cabinet, presumably today.
    Much as I love Najib, he tends to waffle on many issue.
    He wants to be popular. Being PM is not about being popular. Leave that to the opposition.
    So when Cabinet decides, it will look as though it is a unanimous decision.
    Safety in numbers. That’s Najib’s style.
    Rosmah is not around to counsel him.

    P.S. Prof Tan Sri Ismail Hussein and the late renowned artist, Datuk Ibrahim Hussein are Interlok’s author brothers.

  3. The Malayalees, Sikhs and Cylonese are a minority and have no clout.
    The bulk of the Indians in the country are the Tamils, led by their demi-god-like Samy Vellu for some 30 years.
    He divided them, ostracized others.
    Then came the Hindrafs but Najib split them up whilst they were in Kamunting, and funded them well to form mosquito Indian Parties.
    Indians are no more king-makers in any elections. They are mere empty vessels or rather toys for UMNO to play around with.
    Meanwhile Samy is sleeping soundly on his millions and feasting using golden plates and glasses while the unemployed are languishing in the prisons and mysteriously dying in police lock-ups.

  4. If after 40 years ‘Interlok’ has not made its mark internationally, then I would suggest it’s a 3rd rate book of insufficient literary merit for inclusion in O level syllabus, Poet Laureate notwithstanding. As is the case with several other books by local authors who are given the limelight it would appear, misguidedly under the NEP.

    Nevertheless, M’sians should stop this habit of running to the Cabinet for resolution on all and sundry issues including permission to pee. Does anyone in M’sia seriously think Cabinet members have the intellectual depth and capacity to pass judgement?

    Regardless, two matters should not be entertained – censorship and re-writing of history. Pariah and caste is part and parcel of Indian history and culture and no amount of denial can ever erase that in the same way many black Americans have to confront their African and slavery past. It is only by studying our history unvarnished, unsavoury as apects of it may surface, that the same mistakes will be avoided in the future.

    we are all of 1 Race, the Human Race

  5. Well Lawyer, empty vessels make the most noise and the disenfranchised have the biggest chips on their shoulder. All this, to give us an ‘Illusion of Power’ – no matter how puny. Hubris.

    Imagine getting upset about a phrase or a words in a book written 4 decades ago. Add that to the reality of the culture in which upward social mobility is constrained by birthrights..

    It’s about time these so called community leaders self-reflect on what males them so ineffectual. Barking in the dark indeed!

  6. burning a flag or money is a crime but burning a book…?

    let them practise their democratic rights, just ignore them.

    dpp – whats so great about just a word.
    do you know that if you call a german ‘nazi’ you can get arrested in germany? after six decades!
    such wounds don’t heal easily.
    maybe you should talk to these people first.
    I’ve been taught not to use this word out of respect for the underprivileged by my father.
    I’ve never uttered that word; thats sixty years. now you think its right time to teach the kids a new expletive.
    do you know as a kid of dark skin colour how you’d be derided by other kids?

    I am not trying to say who is right or who is wrong. its just my feelings.

  7. The offensive word derives from the root “Pariyan”, which is an outcast caste, which is still extant in culture. Yes, it’s degradatory. But it isn’t contagious. It’s similar to words like:
    “nigger”; “ferringhi”; “gailo”; “gaijin”; “kafir” etc.

    Don’t make an issue out of it? It’s in history and culture! However, when used in a literary work, it can and must be exposed as it is. Why fear words, however negative, which can be used to instruct and criticized? Trying to sweep it under the floorboards doesn’t allow for critical analysis. It is how the idiots who claim to be educators teach, that should worry us.

    I have not read this book, and don’t know the context in which they were used, but i think the reaction is way overboard. Book burning of any kind is definitely a no-no.

  8. CLF, I agree with you that it would be unacceptable to simply call any German, Black or Indian today a Nazi, Nigger or Pariah.

    But that’s not what’s happening with Interlok. Our children are not being taught to use the word ‘Pariah’ as a racial slur to embarass M’sian Indians. That word is being used in the context of a historical reality.

    By and large also, we can call someone, anyone, a Nazi or Pariah because the current usage of that word has expanded to the labelling of human behaviour. You can e.g. call the ousted Tunisian President a pariah in his own country or violent skin-heads in London or White Supremacists in USA and France as Nazi etc., etc., etc., can’t you?

    Surely, it would not be wrong to refer to Hitler and Goering etc. as Nazis or are you saying that too should be censored because some Germans may be sensitive to it?

    Our children are being taught the P word not to use it abusively against Indians, but in a particular context which they should be aware of, in the same way that Australia does not hide the fact that a good number of early white immigrants were convicted criminals from UK; (you recall that taunt that it took the best of British judges to send the worst of their own down under?) it may be embarrassing to the current generation on Oz, but you can’t and shouldn’t hide historical facts!

    More than all that, I think O Level children are mature enough to understand the storm in a teacup. Should Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’ be banned in USA and UK because some Jews might take offence against Shylock being portrayed as a vindictive steroetype moneylender?

    It’s the older generation here who are lashing out as though M’sian Indians are being typecast and labelled as Pariahs; they ought to know better!

    we are all of 1 Race, a Human Race

  9. More on Tunisia:

    Lyrics of The Internationale (modernised by Billy Bragg)

    Stand up, all victims of oppression
    For the tyrants fear your might
    Don’t cling so hard to your possessions
    For you have nothing if you have no rights
    Let racist ignorance be ended
    For respect makes the empires fall
    Freedom is merely privilege extended
    Unless enjoyed by one and all

    So come brothers and sisters
    For the struggle carries on
    The internationale
    Unites the world in song
    So comrades come rally
    For this is the time and place
    The international ideal
    Unites the human race

    Amandla! A luta continua

  10. It seems most of you are missing the point. We are not against the book as it was written about 40 years ago. The issue is why make it a compulsory text books for schools now? There seems to be a hidden agenda against Indians now. Now, if I write a book about the Malays, for example, and say that the Malay race is famous for incest with their own daughters (which is a fact) and that this is their trait, will this book now be made a compulsory text book for schools?
    Why not? You can write as long as it is factual. I am against censorship and book burning. So the reaction of the Indian community (I am sure all Indians are against the book) to INTERLOK is counter productive. What hidden agenda against Indians are you talking about? It is your imagination running wild here.–Din Merican

  11. Dear Gobi,
    The reason why i put up the youtube link was to show that there are people who don’t take everything literally. To call the band “Pariah Dogs” as above, doesn’t necessarily carry the negative connotations. Take my moniker, for instance – it’s the scientific name for the domestic “Dog” – man’s best friend.

    Perception is all in the mind, but the reality of the caste system is against all basic Human Rights. Let the kids be ‘educated’ that this is a very, very unsavory word especially when applied to others who are demonized and ostracized just because they are different, a point dpp has emphasized well.

    You too have made your point. But i, like Din really don’t think that there is agenda against anyone, unless you guys want to deem it so.

    How are we going to proceed with ‘nation building’ if every word becomes deliberated and monitored? Move on – but Monitor the Teachers! There are a lot of – yes, Pariahs lurking amongst them. Flush them out! These racists and fascist have no place teaching our kids.

    My gut feeling tells me that the Education minister and Establishment will back down.

  12. CLS

    I’ve twice already commented that Interlok is likely to be unworthy of inclusion in O Level literature syllabus. If you attack it from that viewpoint, great, I support you. Meritocracy must prevail.

    The ‘Pariah’ uproar and knee-jerk reaction by groups like the Hindu Sangam and MIC (and its new Head) is clearly a red herring.

    we are all of 1 Race, the Human Race

  13. Those who want Pakatan Rakyat to win Putrajaya SHOULD support UMNO-BN’s policy to retain the novel INTERLOK as a school literature text.

    I will be very sad if the novel is removed from the school textbook list.

    This is the best item to campaign in any by-election and especially in the coming GE where Indian votes are significant and will make a difference.

    Those stupid Indians who resort to book burning and making a big fuss about the book being used as a school text is SHORT SIGHTED.

    The trouble is Malaysian Indians don’t know chess. You have to sacrifice something to gain the big prize. Sometimes you sacrifice a castle to trap the king.

    Those BTN-trained bureaucrats in the Ministry of Education are doing Pakatan Rakyat a big favour. It is like handing a bullet to Pakatan to shoot UMNO-BN.

    Bodoh betul punya orang India

  14. Hahaha.. Going by your excellent reasoning Frank, we will also need books on “Inbreeding amongst the Malays – The Untold Story.” and “The Role of Chinese Prostitutes in Demographic Shifts in the FMS, 1800-1950”.

  15. we will also need books on “Inbreeding amongst the Malays – The Untold Story.” and “The Role of Chinese Prostitutes in Demographic Shifts in the FMS, 1800-1950″.- C.L. Familiaris

    You got it wrong. No we don’t NEED these kind of books.

    You got your left brain shifted to the right.

    You are Chinese, therefore you should know the principles of Tai-Chi.

    Use your opponent’s own energy to destroy him.

    I wonder whether Lim Guan Eng learns tai chi or not.

    Khalid Ibrahim should go and see a sifu and learn something from Tai Chi in how to handle his enemies in UMNO-BN and inside PKR.

  16. My gut feeling tells me that the Education minister and Establishment will back down.- C.L. Familiaris

    I seriously hope NOT. It will be bad news for Pakatan. Pakatan needs every bullet available to shoot UMNO-BN out of Putrajaya.

    I just hope the Indians are not in a stupor should UMNO-BN decides to replace sewing machines with toddy.

  17. Yup buddy, i do tai-chi (even as a nominal Christian, which makes some religious nuts are aghast!). Good for the sinews and cardio-respiratory circulation.. But the rationality and logic remains mainly lodged on the left hemisphere. Don’t use the right overmuch, otherwise i’d be speaking in ‘tongues’.

    LGE into jujitsu i heard. All that stuff just to avoid and parry those KIMMA types who infinitely worse than those Hindraf types. I wish he’d ban these nasi kandar hawkers, period. Bad for health.

    TS Khalid? I think he should take kalari payat – without the refreshing toddy afterwards, of course. Perhaps Kathy can make him contort into the Lotus position.

  18. sorry for you dpp. its quite pathetic. the elitist comments you write.

    can’t you understand the fact that for you that word is not insulting but for ‘indians’ of different castes and p—– themselves it is hurting and derogatory. the estate where I was born and brought up, there were about 200 families of indian labourers. of this only about 5 families belonged to this underprivileged, outcast people.

    my german dictionary translates p—— as ‘outcaste’. fine, you go to an indian by the road and call him ‘that’, he will tell you the meaning or kick you in the butt!

    we live in a multiracial society therefore we should be sensitive and understanding. history should be written based on facts and not purely on assumptions.

    and there are also a word category called euphemisms.

    my humble wish is you write whatever you want but don’t insult these poor people.
    the same is valid for all the minorities in this world. give them a chance.

    Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar

  19. Dian, I don’t know what you mean by my “elitist” comments. Din for example knows about my pukkah South Indian origins. Among ALL my M’sian Indian friends and acquaintanes of several decades standing, caste has never ever raised its head. That’s largely because we all grew up in M’sia away from the direct influence of India where caste is still alive today.

    “history should be written based on facts and not purely on assumptions.”

    Is it or is it not a historical FACT that many M’sian Indians trace their origins to the “lowest” caste in India. Then, what is there to hide and re-write? You want us to be like Maha Firaun trying to fool people about his very real Indian ancestry and claim to be “pure bumiputra”?

    To its credit, Interlok does not call Indians ‘Pariah” to insult them or encourage the use of that word to M’sian or any other Indians; it merely refers to a historical reality. Why should we Indians be ashamed of the past over which we had no control. And have we not done better than our ancestors here because we have cast off caste?

    we are all of 1 race, the Human Race

  20. Donplaypuks

    Nice knowing you. I go to your blog once in a while.lso see your postings in several blogs. I thought you are Chinese.From the postings of Frank, I am quite certain he’s Indian.
    Pak Abu, you are wrong again. Like you, Donplaypuks, I et. al, we are all Malaysians who want the best for our country.–Din Merican

  21. yes, dear Dpp,
    Din also knows my south Indian origin. if you want to help a disadvantaged group of people you have to give them dignity, pull them up and do not supply another adjective to insult them and their origin.

    with prosperity you come to belong to the upper class where the dividing line between the varoius caste is vague. go down to the lower income groups, it will be a different story. don’t go far from KL, go to Subang Jaya flats or Sungei Way (Kg. Lindongan flats) and get to know your fellow indians.

    nobody is asking to ban the book. we are only humbly requesting the authorities not to make this ‘bad word’ a household term among malaysians by introducing this book in classes.

    another thing son, not all indians were brought to malaysia by the Brits. my father came on his own. you can’t differentiate one caste from the other by looking at them, so many of other castes made use of the opportunity to look for a better life in malaysia. don’t you find Kallens to Chettiars to brahmins represented here? call them all malaysians, but not as malaysian indian P—— brought by the british.

    that is only one episode in the history of malaysia, don’t blow it up.

    malaysian indians have’nt cast off their castes yet. you could help them. help them to come up the social ladder. voila, the caste distinctions would fade away.

    have a nice evening!

  22. I thought you are Chinese.From the postings of Frank, I am quite certain he’s Indian.- Pak Abu

    Typical UMNO mentality. The gutter type. Always thinking and worrying whether others are Chinese, Indian or Malay.

    You are the classic representation of a racially paranoid UMNO Malay who cannot see beyond the color of another skin and the racial outlook of others.

    Bodoh punya orang Melayu.

  23. Racial issue will always plague Malaysia until all the vernicular schools are closed and media broadcasting no longer use a language being understood only by a certain ethnic. Ain’t that racism to its core?

  24. I am just responding to Donplaypuks who admitted he’s Indian.Is that wrong?- Pak Abu

    It is NOT wrong, It is damn stupid.

  25. some of you guys who deffends Interlok, have many reasons.
    Freedom of speech, literary freedom, historical facts, writer did’nt mean to insult, the word does not have an insluting connotation and so on,,,

    freedom of speech at the expence of racial unity? literary freedom or sweeping generalization? didn’t mean to insult or just didn’t care? does not have an insulting connotation? I’m pretty sure when a chinese or Malay calls an Indian the ‘P’ word,it was meant to insult… to doubts about that..saying that it does not is just a pathetic attempt to justify a rasist term..
    If a book was written obout the malays.. in the same manner… if the writer is non-malay, he would probably be killed…
    The ‘p’ word or any other racial insults should not be in any book……period.
    Indians, rise up.. know your rights… march forward with heads held high and chest forward. Dont let anybody define or judge you.. state your terms and demand your rights.

  26. Indians, rise up.. know your rights… march forward with heads held high and chest forward. Dont let anybody define or judge you.. state your terms and demand your rights.- rao

    Bad call. You should ask the Indians to use their brains in the ballot box and to reject this pariah UMNO outfit.

    The problem of the Indian is not the word “pariah”.The problem is the elitist Indians in MIC have been behaving like a pariah by marginalising their community especially those in the estates so much so in the Peninsular, they are the most marginalised next only to the Orang Asli.

    What do you want the Indians in the estates to do in rising up. DO what? They have been rising up everybody before dawn to tap rubber and working in the oilpalm plantations to eke out a living.

    Silly call. No wonder Indians remain hopelessly marginalised by your kind of politics.

  27. correction

    They have been rising up everym MORNING before dawn to tap rubber and working in the oilpalm plantations to eke out a living.

  28. All this makes for very interesting reading. I appreciate the premise that we are all Malaysians striving for a better Malaysia. My thought is that this mindset and attitude is the only way the country will break off its shackles and truly become an economic force to be reckoned with.

    As for the book issue, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Simply because I haven’t read it. I have a strong feeling all those empty vessels that are making the most noise haven’t either. It all probably escalated at the local coffee shop. Speaking from experience, you need to know and understand something before you can analyse or critique.

    Having said that, Agatha Christie had to change the title of her book “Ten Little Niggers”. Enid Blyton had her Golliwogs censored, as well as her descriptives such as “black as a nigger with soot”.

    Does Interlok fall within the same category? Is it expressing personal – or societal – prejudices common during its time? If so, shoot it down. If it is simply stating a provable and historical fact, leave it alone.

    Of course, whether or not Interlok is a literary masterpiece worthy of study is yet another important issue!

    As for teaching kids a new expletive, kids don’t need books for that. They are mean by nature and will make up their own. It’s easy, really. Look for evidence with your eyes and ears and attach a derogatory descriptive word to what you see. Pariah is mild by comparison.

    Plus, “Pariah” is commonplace, nowadays more associated with British politics than the Indian caste system.

  29. Bodoh punya org melayu – frank

    choose your word carefully, UMNO and malay is different, will you be offended if i say BODOH PUNYA ORG INDIA

  30. will you be offended if i say BODOH PUNYA ORG INDIA- Pak Ali

    Why should I?

    Only pariah orang Melayu, pariah orang Cina dan pariah orang India get offended sebab mereka semua orang bodoh malu bangsa. Like YOU.

    I would get offended if someone call me Bodoh punya anak Malaysia without a good reason.

  31. This Interlok matter is akin to asking the non-Malays to dig further into the Malay profile. Don’t ask for it, because we can bring the “SHIT” out and publish….

  32. When the Interlok ‘controversy’ first surfaced, I believed it will run out of steam because that is what usually happens with a lot of hot air. In this case, the voice of sanity, reason and comprehension was completely lost amidst the din and confusion.

    It has been depressing to see how ignorant the masses are and the deliberate attempts by some parties to muddle the issue. On what basis was the initial objection to Interlok was made? A book published in the early 1970s, it is a work of fiction depicting the intertwined lives of multi-ethnic Malaya during the pre-Independent years. Yes, perhaps the author got some of his facts wrong and made false assumptions or representations of different cultures. Maybe he committed the horrible crime of romanticizing some of his characters based on common stereotypes or failed to race-apportion his heroes and villains.

    However, Abdullah Hussain, 91 years old this year, is a storyteller – not a historian, an anthropologist, or god forbid, a politician! Since Keris Mas in 1981, there has been only nine other Sasterawan Negara thus honored. There are many other great Malay authors that were never recognized (Pak Sako was one of them). But how many of us have truly read and appreciate their body of work? How many of us have heard of their novels, poetry, drama and short stories, let alone thumbed through the pages of Salina, Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan, Naratif Ogonshoto, Sukma Angin, Tulang-tulang Berserakan – just to name a few of the better known novels?

    Abdullah Hussain need not apologize for Interlok, that much is certain. He wrote a novel and weaved a story he wanted to share. We cannot allow any further assault on the freedom of expression and artistic integrity in Malaysia. The act of defending Namewee but vilifying Abdullah Hussain reflects the blatant stupidity and hypocrisy of the masses who enjoy having their nose led by ethnocentric politics.

    PENA and GAPENA need to stand up and be counted in defending the already sorry state of affairs in the Malay literature. Writers, regardless of their language medium, must be outraged with the proposed creative censorship, and where will the authorities draw the line?

    Some have argued that we can safely point the finger on the Ministry of Education and blame the people who produced the abridged version for our Secondary school students. Some spoke without even knowing what KOMSAS stands for (KOMponen SAStera dalam Pengajaran Bahasa Melayu) or understanding why since 2008 we give out free, abridged works of literature giants to our kids (for both Malay and English education).

    All the selected books contain humanistic values and set the context for interpretive discussions, and not all are weighty Sasterawan Negara works (I remember Tragedi Empat Disember as my lower secondary reading material, pre-KOMSAS days). Different zones choose different books as recommended because it was thought that diversity is a strength (and how well the students can connect with the material).

    Surely, we have accused our Ministry of Education for their tendency to indoctrinate rather than to educate, but to propose that Interlok is a sinister ploy to brainwash Malaysians to victimise our fellow citizens of Indian descent borders on the insane. Interlok is a proposed novel for KOMSAS for secondary five (Form 5) pupils. Whether KOMSAS will achieve its intended objective is subjected to debate, but there is nothing to stop DBP or MOE to request for a more politically correct abridged version of Interlok for our teens.

    Surely, we know what happened to Mark Twain and the use of “nigger” in his most famous work. It seems that the Minister of Education more or less agreed to that suggestion, which is to come up with a more acceptable abridged version. Unfortunately, would that appease the crowd who doesn’t seem to comprehend the issues at stake?

    Many are asking for Interlok to be removed from the syllabus because it offends the Malaysian Indians. Perhaps someone can explain the character Menon in “the Return” (or the drunken brawl in the estates) by K.S. Maniam to them (another book used to be in the English curriculum).

    I suppose in the minds of some people, criticisms of one own’s race and observation of one own’s ethnic quirks is only legitimate and acceptable since it comes from the same skin pool? (cue: enter Mr. Ridhuan Tee Abdullah).

    This is a lesson for all Malaysians who seem to enjoy burning or banning books rather than reading them. Where will the foolishness end? At least there will always be a silver lining somewhere. Perhaps it is time for Abdullah Hussain to cash in and other Sasterawan Negaras who have not been selected for KOMSAS (and missed out on the lucrative royalties) to issue new editions of their work, unabridged.

    Perhaps in order to find fault with Shahnon Ahmad’s Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan, PERKASA will order a sizable quantity for public burning, followed by A. Samad Said’s Salina for acknowledging the existence of sex workers. Perhaps amidst all the brouhaha someone will actually read these Malay literature works and we will find a new lease of life for Bahasa Melayu.

    Ayuh saudara Swee Tin, apa lagi yang ditunggu-tunggu, publish a new novel and join the fray! Perhaps my teacher was right, Malaysians just don’t like to read. I believe that is linked to another problem – we don’t like to think and use our mental faculties too.
    We all allowed the authorities to mess up our Education System. Tinkering with it on piecemeal basis is not at all. We should revisit the Razak Report and appoint a new independent commission of educators, local and foreign, to study the Australian, Canadian, Singapore, English, US, French, German Japanese, Chinese and Indian education systems and make appropriate recommendations to the Malaysian Government. We need cultured and ethical Malaysians with excellent critical thinking skills and global perspective. It is going to take a few generations to develop such Malaysians.–Din Merican

  33. I think the government should ban the novel since it creates racial tension among Malaysian. Why don’t they replace the novel from Osman awang? i think his novel is more racial harmony.

  34. despite of all arguments, ideas and views i have read,
    I feel it serves the Indians right, for classifying and categorizing the race into different castes. This is a good lesson to my blood brothers who parted the Indian society into castes and still practising those silently. Yet, as an Indian ,
    I would definitely give a big NO to the interlok. for it does hurt the feelings of an Indian and also it will become a negative remark that will be used by the others to address the Indian.
    Also i can’t see the government’s rationale saying that this novel reflects to Malaysia kini and nation building and so on for there are many more good writers presented their art using the same theme such as k.s maniam in his writing In tandem. This piece of writing “INTERLOK” should be discarded.

  35. I’m sorry if m’sian indians are offended by the book. But there is always a villain and a hero in most novels, yes?

    People talk about racial harmony la, elitist comments la, teaching bad language to kids la… Come on man, racial disharmony is not something that comes out of a book and trust me, O level kids can swear better than most of you put together.

    It is so Malaysian to ban something just because we want to jaga hati one party or another. Our fear rules us to a point where we prefer to keep our children under the tempurung. This is doing more harm than good.

    Look at the quality of our graduates, they are a sad bunch of 4.0 cgpa/ deans list students who don’t have anything interesting to say.

    I personally believe if the same thing happened to the malays or chinese, the reactions will be the same as the indian’s reactions. Why can’t we have thicker skin? Why are Malaysians so sensitive and perasan?

    Janganlah cepat terasa, this sort of mentality is so counter productive. How are we to move forward if everyone is always walking on eggshells? I can tell you, it will be a verrrryyy slow progress.

  36. Hey Khalid, I read the interpreted version of the novel, and I seriously think its offensive… You can’t let a raging bull run free in the field right? Its bound to cause commotion mate… Seriously your view was at a primary level, and the way you issued your view was in a very unintellectual manner… So I suggest you go back to school and take up social studies before making unnecessary turmoil remarks online…

  37. I read patiently through most of your comments keeping my judgement reserved.

    I am not interested to discuss who burnt or said what. Focus at the heart of the issue. Focus on the real reasons rather than the various political stunts and unintellectual debates about it.

    Keep it straight and simple. Should the Interlok book be banned in Malaysia ? No.

    Reason? Because in a sane and democratic world, a writer should be able and allowed to write what he wants without hindrance. The best one could offer is an advise before it goes public. Its up to the people if they want to celebrate or subscribe to his views irrespective of whether the writer’s claim is factual or fiction.

    Yes for the longest time it was believed factually the world was flat. People were persecuted. Just because that factual notion was around for umpteen number of years, doesnt mean its always going to be right for all ages to come.

    New facts in life may come and may replace these stubbornly held so called factual beliefs.

    Yes, the book has been published since 40 years now. Is the Malaysian society highly educated and do they know how to critically judge or analyse a material at an acceptable level? In personal opinion its rather a big NO! The large chunk of the Malaysian population is busy with Tongkat Ali, Bak Kut Teh and Toddy. But let leave that at that.

    Should this book be introduced in school?

    The answer is No, nor should the book be altered for the sake of being introduced in school. This book maybe a literary Gem for some. But it certainly is no gem for 17 year olds, for that matter in any educational institution. YES THIS BOOK SHOULD BE BANNED AS A STUDY MATERIAL. READ IT OUTSIDE NOT INSIDE AN EDUCATIONAL CENTER BE IT SCHOOL OR UNIVERSITY.

    Its wrong to teach students how communities are stereotyped. You send kids to school to break that chain of stereotype. By breaking that chain you are trying to sprout togetherness..oneness….1Malaysia!

    The Malaysian Government has bastardised the education system to whore it for the satisfaction of political divisions. Why are educated bigots above not making noise about the glaring omission of Hang Tuah or Paramesware…

    Where is the history of Lembah Bujang? Whose eyse are you trying to pull a wool on? Some of you have written extensively about how the book describes the communities in the past etc, but why dont you go and bark in PutraJaya on the omission of factual Historical facts such as Lembah Bujang. Its archeologically proven too. This 91 year old author sadly shows how low his knowledge is when he indeed wrote his book. How the hell do people like him get accorded such high titles. You want students to read and understand that Kerala is north of Andhra Pradesh.?

    Who is going to correct the current 17 year olds? Are you gonna have a geography teacher at hand to explain the author had lost his bearings when he wrote about locations.

    The author himself sounds like a pariah in a well in writing this book. Its a shame that some of you are defending the usage of this book in the guise of literature. This is indoctrination to menyampahkan bangsa lain in Malaysia.

    Interlok is not an isolated issue and surprisingly morons who seem to dwell well on English are relatively short sighted above.

    On another note, why have they edited out all the negative points pertaining Malay, and only 20 to 10 percent on the Chinese and Indians. Now what does that tell you? Do you need to be some1 of a high IQ for this?

    This is why I judged that Malaysian are handicapped to call a spade a spade. Beating around the bush predominates the Malaysian Society. Its like a keris fight. Most of us will sleep off by the time the actual debate starts with foregone conclusion.

    Why dont we introduce a book about something positive about Hitler? I am sure there are books which highlight the positive aspects of him. He was not screwing Jews since the day he opened his eyes did he?

    Get real people.Maybe then they will produce better materials worthy of Sasterawan Negara.

  38. there is a poverty of intellectuall leadership in the country as a whole…that is the heart of the problem. the debate on interlok has not been very intellectual. what keeps the interlok issue alive is basically activism by activists looking at it as discrimination. thus activists here cut across racial boundaries not dissimilar from the discourse on malaysia being an islamic state. the problem is to maximise human rights and human liberty within the constraints that exist in malaysia where state and mosque are aligned.


    16 MARCH 2011

    MISA honouring 3 KKB school students as BRAVE MALAYSIAN

    Malaysian Indian Student Association (MISA) under the auspices of the Federation of Malaysian Indian NGOs (PRIMA) and the blessings of National Interlok Action Team (NIAT) is organising an Award Presentation to the brave students of KKB who have recently returned the Interlok book back to their school. Their action is in line with the directive of our Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who have instructed that the books not be used for teachings until further instruction.

    We are very proud of these students who have stood up against racism. As such, we will be honouring them with the title ‘Wira Watan Jati’ on that day.

    We would like to invite everyone to be present. Details as follows:

    Date : 20 March 2011
    Time: 3.00pm.
    Venue: Prima Headquarter
    260-2, Batu 2 1/2 Jalan Ipoh,
    51200, Sentul, Kuala Lumpur.

    Thank you.

    For further information, please contact:

    Gobi Krishnan
    Vice President/Organising Committee Chairman
    Malaysian Indian Student Association (MISA)

    Mobile: 012-2146409

  40. Wake up folks! It’s a political matter. BN simply don’t care about us Indians anymore. They know they have the Malay votes now. What’s the 2-3% Indian votes to them?

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