Police take artwork over alleged religious insult

August 29, 2013

MY COMMENT: I am stunned after reading Aidila’s report.  How can a piece of art criticising President George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq be regarded as an insult to Islam? What has become of us, especially our Police? We seem to have lost our sense of perspective. It is perhaps too much to say that we are heading towards a Maoist Cultural Revolution which led China into an psychological abyss, only to be saved by Deng Xiao Peng in 1978. But we are getting close. We are being very touchy when it comes to Islam and race. It is time for Prime Minister Najib to rein in those over enthusiastic mullahs and the Police. –Din Merican

We are being very touchy when it comes to Islam and race. It is time for Prime Minister Najib to rein in those over enthusiastic mullahs and the Police.

We are being very touchy when it comes to Islam and race. It is time for Prime Minister Najib to rein in those over enthusiastic mullahs and the Police.

Police take artwork over alleged religious insult

by Aidila Razak@http://www.malaysiakini.com

Police have taken a piece from the M50 Selamat Hari Malaysia art exhibition as part of its investigation into an alleged religious insult by artist Anurendra Jegadeva.

The piece ‘I is for Idiot’, part of the ‘ABC For The Middle-Age Middle Classes’ body of work, was taken this afternoon from the Publika Mall where it is being displayed.

anurendra jegadeva m50 290813Curators have taken down the rest of Anurendra’s work, that was showing at the mall’s throrughfare, for safekeeping.

It is understood that a police report was lodged yesterday against the piece for an alleged insult to Islam, as it included Arabic words commonly used in Islamic prayer, which mean ‘In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful’.

Anurendra has not been detained but he may be called in to give a statement to Police on the matter tomorrow. The artist is expected to release a statement on the matter soon.

The work features a chimpanzee in a helmet and jacket riding a bicycle while in the background is a military pilot and the words “Mission Accomplished”.

Under the bicycle is a flag with red and white stripes, skull and crossbones and stars, and the Arabic words printed in mirror image.

NGO sees multi-layer of insults

However, Islamic NGO Muafakat which lodged the report, perceived the flag as the Malaysian flag and that the chimpanzee as a depiction of Islam or Muslims.  In his blog, Muafakat secretary-general A Karim Omar said that the work “appears to say that Islam is for idiots”.

anurendra jegadeva m50 290813He added that the Arabic words printed in mirror image “clearly show that the artist’s ill-intentions” as the works ‘J is for Jesus’ and ‘K is for Krishna’ “did not have any elements of insults”.

He said that police are investigating the matter under Section 298A of the Penal Code which deals with insults to religion.

The M50 Selamat Hari Malaysia show features 50 Malaysian artists, touching on a broad range of subjects including thorny issues of corruption and poor governance.

It is co-organised by Balai Seni Visual Negara, MapKL@Publika and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Earlier, landscape artist Ng Sek San’s work Malaysian Spring which was adopted by pro-Pakatan Rakyat individuals in the lead-up to the 13th general election was not allowed to be part of the M50 show. As a compromise, his work is showing at the mall’s Art Row, next to the M50 exhibition along with two other artists.

19 thoughts on “Police take artwork over alleged religious insult

  1. Din,

    I agree totally with you. We, both of us, are Malays and Muslims. Neither you nor I see anything objectionable in the works of Art by Jegadeva. The self appointed religious police are making a mockery of the religion. The vogue expression seems to be “Insulting Islam”. It is a vague term that is so subjective that it has become meaningless.

    Perhaps some people have not got the message that Art is expected to make us think, to move us emotionally, aesthetically and intellectually. The artist sees reality in a unique way, and his view of reality should enrich our own perspectives of the world around us. That is the wonder of art.

    Just as the poet needs the freedom to use words as metaphors of reality, the artist must have the creative freedom to express his metaphors in forms, shapes and colours. Without poetry and works of art, life is drab, boring and meaningless. We need poetry, we need music, and we need art to live decently as human beings.

    You are right, Din, we may be on the way to becoming another North Korea or its Islamic versions, Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan, or Iran. Why are intelligent, moderate Muslims so cowed and so reluctant to speak up?
    Most moderate Muslim want to avoid the inconvenient truth; that is why the system has become increasingly bigoted and repressive. I am reminded of what Edmund Burke said,“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Disaster strikes when reasonable men and women mind their own business.

    To change, we need to get out of our comfort zone and take some risk for the benefit of our future generation. Have a good day, DC, and time to meet with Dali Hashim for lunch.–Din Merican

  2. “We are being very touchy when it comes to Islam and race. It is time for Prime Minister Najib to rein in those over enthusiastic mullahs and the Police — Dato Din Merican

    Characterizing it as “touchy” is a gross understatement. Over here there is this Islamophobia among religious bigots. Back home in addition to xenophobia which has riddled our foreign policy, Malaysians have all sorts of phobia to deal with. Politics permeate all spheres of life. Everything is being politicized. Sports, the arts and music. Soon Malaysians will be burning books.

  3. And people like Anzani will say, “Never mind. They will get justice in the Life hereafter”. What of atheists like Frank? Frank does not think there is life after death.

  4. Dato,

    This is utter crap!! And I drove around our kampong where we both live, found complete change from the past:VERY few flags for Merdeka.Even my neighbor who used to have the national flag every year is not doing it this year.My drive this afternoon to pick up my grandson from school was another eye opener: almost no flags in Damansara and from there drove back only one black proton car with the flag and NKVE was jammed.As LKS said two days ago a lot of us feel betrayed by this Bolehland gomen and the victim is our beloved country.We have to change this.God I feel shitty this Merdeka.Endless Posibilities.

  5. Aiyah….. No way Anybody will do anything contructive to reduce the sensitiveness. Just let the it BE. We are turning in to a nation of seeing enemy every where.

  6. Alleged insult to Islam by a non-Muslim? This should have caused a riot among non-Muslims and Hindus. It is their right to free expression that is at the other end of the stick – a right that is guaranteed under the Federal Constitution.

  7. Take it Easy, why are some of us & Authorities getting uptight with Art-works ? One can read it in many Different ways, we need not screw-up our mind. Why not read them in two or three different ways : ” I ” not just Islam, it can be Indians or Incas who worship Idols , not just ” Idiots ” but Incorrigible too…..

    The next one, not just ” Krishna “, but could be meant for the ‘ Kera “, the Chief being Hanuman, the Monkey God, (btw, there are so many temples we see in ” India “, the snake temple, temple of the rats, etc and all treated or ‘ worshipped ‘ as gods….just thinking, man may have reincarnated there ? )

    How about ” J ” ? there’s a word in BM ” Jigolo “, those who prefer the Rear…no wonder some in the West are fighting for Gay Rights so passionately….

    If Police & Authorities want to indict somebody in Court in such artworks, it must not be capable of Two or More Inferences arising, because that will create a ” doubt ” in the Mind/s of Learned people who give a boot to the case/s. Remember Altuntuya, there were several different Inferences in the chain of Evidence, created by the ‘ gaps ‘ in the prosecution case…..so QED !

  8. “We are being very touchy when it comes to Islam and race. It is time for Prime Minister Najib to rein in those over enthusiastic mullahs and the Police. ”

    Why wait for the PM to do something?

    We all know that the PM and his government and the politicians are not going to do anything about this.

    We all know that the non-Muslims can do little about this, lest they are arrested or intimidated for insulting Islam.

    The only people who can actually do something about this are the moderate Malays and Muslims (“the Moderates”). They stand to lose most because their race and religion is being put in an extremely bad light GLOBALLY by these small groups of extremists. So, why are the Moderates not standing up against their bigot brethrens? Why are you not standing up and be heard? What is it about these extremists that you are afraid of?

    Din and the Muslim readers / posters?

  9. Mission Accompolished. I ‘loved’ this slogan when I saw in strung above the idiot Bush aboard a US battleship. It showed most Americans were like their then president idiots. So our POLIS, by confiscating this art work and interrogating the artist, are apparently thinking that Malaysians are idiots.
    Well, on this eve of the anniversary of Malaya independence why don’t ‘syiok’ ourselves with some other stories. Yesterday I came across a report on how a single mother Muslim turned her sorrow into happiness for others. She donated the organs from her 11-year old daughter who was killed in a crash.

  10. These people can’t seem to appreciate Art and always thinking they are under attack. How do you insult Islam the religion? They have accused the beauty queens of insulting Islam. Can’t differentiate between insulting and not adhering to the tenets of Islam. What to do suruh pergi sekolah belajar tak mau, hantar overseas pun always look for Malaysian ghetto, rugi sahaja, elok belajar kat sekolah pondok.

  11. Just the other day the Information and Communications Minister Shabery was moaning that arts and culture are not being appreciated and given the space to grow. That came in the wake of Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, advising cinemas in the state not to screen the film Tanda Putra alleging that an event of history is being depicted as fiction. But to the Minister it’s art.

    And now we have ONE Muslim NGO deciding for all Malaysian Muslims that the letter “I” in the confiscated art piece stands for Islam. And the authorities agree?

    Well, Dato Din, what can I say but agree with my friends that Malaysia is on a downward spiral. However I take comfort in the fact that there are enough brave voices to reverse the plunge.

    And oh yes, Mr Bean, since you have been totally consumed by my “constant” harping on “in the Hereafter”, I do fervently hope we’ll meet in “the Hereafter” as you are currently comfortably ensconced in the US and won’t be available for a cuppa at Central Market.

  12. If ‘K is for Krishna’ and ‘J is for Jesus’, shouldn’t J Anu’s next similar artwork in this series be ‘M is for Muhammad’ or ‘A is for Allah’.
    But it is offensive to Muslims to draw a portrait of Muhammad.

    Krishna and Jesus were like HUMAN incarnation of God/god.
    ‘I is for Islam’ does not rhyme with this series bc Islam is not a person or human or God/god, but a religion.
    ‘I is for Islam’ is similar to ‘C is for Christianity’ or ‘H is for Hinduism’.

    So, logic tells us that J Anu’s ‘I is for Idiots’ refers to President Bush Jr, and not to Islam. The words “Mission Accomplished” also point to this fact.
    This is plainly a misinterpretation of a pro-Muslim artwork.

    But whether those “tow-balik” Arabic words for praying to Allah are offensive to Muslims or not, I’m not sure.

  13. Din :

    Works by two (2) other artists were pulled down from the M50 show aside from J Anu’s. These works were pulled down on the recommendation of a so called ” Content Auditor ” from Balai Seni Lukis Negara ; after J Anu’s work became subject of a police report.

    I have seen all the 3 works in question : None Insulted the Religion of Islam. And the other two painters are Malay Malaysians : if that’s of any interest.
    Horse, there is only word I can use (pardon me for my limited Malay vocabulary) to describe this kind of action and that is BODOH. –Din Merican


  14. Din :

    Last i heard ; J Anu will be required to submit a statement at 7pm this evening at Sentul Police Station. The curator schedule will be tomorrow afternoon – between 2pm to 5pm.
    Apparently the public prosecutor has instructed police to investigate issue further.

    You are right. This is one hell of a BODOH thing to happen on the eve of an auspicious day for the country.


  15. Humans are pattern-seeking creatures. Many times we see what we want to see, or what we sub-consciously look for. Knowing who the original complainant is, it is no surprise, therefore, that he “saw” an insult, and saw patterns that fit his own “contextualization” of the artwork, because that’s what he does – go out of his way to look for things that are “offensive” to Islam, in his eyes, by his context.

    Why are is the government and its institutions pandering to such individuals and organizations (example: Pembela/Muafakat etc.), and who gave them the licence to decide and frame what is acceptable and what is not for the consumption of the entire Malaysian population?

  16. Like the rest of the good sirs over here, I would oppose the state authoritarianism over the hijacking of religious agenda over this issue (as with others that need not to be mentioned), but neither I condone the backwards writing of the very first part of the phrase in the Quran. It’s an established vilification, a dead metaphor at its best manner of an unimaginative crassness.

    Careful framing is perhaps needed to counter what is seen as still water, and how it should flow in this ever progressive hyperreflexivity of time/space defined the speed of over thousands tweets per minute travelling and cultivated across a borderless world, and especially when jumping into the complexity of sosio-economic-political context. Radicalism, on the other hand, doesn’t even suggest it needed to be obvious, but rather addressing one’s own haven or hell with dignity and conviction. I commented along the same line albeit much shorter at malaymailonline, but it seems pseudo-Anaïs Nin/Thatcherist had nullified me as an anachronistic, just as I’d like to share with some my decorum here as well, it is the other way around.

    We live in the flight of both transcendence and immanence where symbols have been carried over the time, given new layers meaning, simulacra upon simulacrum, yet there are stations that remain fixed, the essentially that breathes through the living, separating with non-living. Local artistic communities should also ask why we still do not have our own very David Hockney, for example. Otherwise, just as JAKIM, we can really be contented with what this has got best to offer — now pardon my French, K.L…. Kepala Lancap, aggregating its bad politics cheaply like its the ’56 the fact we’re supposedly in the 56th year of Independence.

    It is this fact I miss my London days so much.

    Adagio or allegro. Situate better in this post-capitalist world, or stay your lane, and stick to your game.

    Adios & salam from Kota Bharu.

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