Book burning by Malaysian Indians sparks debate
Wednesday, 19 January 2011
Kuala Lumpur, January 19: Burning of copies of a book that refers to caste system among Malaysian Indians, allegedly by some Hindu groups, has triggered an animated debate.
The point being made is whether the Hindus, who worship books as a symbol of knowledge, should be burning it to register a protest about its content.
A commentator has said it signifies "a gulf between reason and recklessness", and of the "distinct lack of leadership in and among Indians in Malaysia".
Some non-government organisations (NGOs) lodged a police complaint alleging that one of the persons behind the book burning was M. Manoharan, a legislator who was jailed for organising a protest rally in 2007 under the banner of Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf).
At the centre of controversy is "Interlok", a book by Abdullah Hussain that has been made compulsory Malay literature reading for Form Five students this year. It refers to caste system among ethnic Indians.
Multi-racial Malaysia is home to 2.1 million ethnic Indians, a bulk of them Tamils.
Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), the largest Indian-based party and its nominee in the government, Human Resource Minister S. Subramaniam, has called for the book being withdrawn or at least the offending parts being deleted.
The MIC has called for the book to be taken out of the curriculum, saying that the word "pariah" used to describe the caste system was a sensitive topic among ethnic Indians.
Deputy Education Minister Puad Zarkashi, who chaired a meeting Tuesday, said: "The issue was discussed intellectually and rationally. We also explained the criteria and methods used in choosing literature text, such as the theme and plot."
Six Indian representatives, including Malaysia Hindu Sangam president R.S. Mohan Shan, MIC education bureau chairman T. Marimuthu and Universiti Malaya's Indian Studies Department head S. Kumaran were among those who attended the meeting.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Malay Civilisation and World Institute deputy director Teo Kok Seong said people should "refrain from jumping to conclusions".
"While 'pariah' is a taboo word, we need to first look at the context in which it is used. In Interlok, it is used to simply describe a particular caste and not to malign an entire community - the whole novel in fact promotes racial unity."
--IANS (From The Siasat Daily, Hyderabad, India)
Komen: Berita pembakaran salinan naskhah novel Interlok, karya Dato' Abdullah Hussein mendapat perhatian akhbar harian The Siasat Daily dari India hari ini, 19 Januari 2011. Sehingga saat ini Timbalan Menteri Pelajaran Malaysia masih di peringkat menghantar laporan ke kabinet. Harap sangat kejadian membakar naskhah novel ini tidak berulang dan berpanjangan.
Jika berita pembakaran ini sudah sampai ke luar negeri, implikasinya tentu serius kerana ia dibimbangi akan meibatkan hubungan antara dua negara. Tidak diduga pula pengarangnya Datuk Abdullah Hussein berada dalam sitiasi yang serba salah begini. Karyanya yang diterbitkan puluhan tahun dahulu tidak pernah diungkit sehingga ia menjadi buku teks wajib di peringkat SPM.
Tidak siapa pun menilai novel itu sebagai satu bentrokan sosial ketika DBP menerbitkannya. Atau novel ini tidak pernah dinilai terlebih dahulu sebelum ianya layak diterbitkan. Alasannya novel ini mungkin merupakan pemenang satu pertandingan. Bagus juga kalau ada dalam kalangan anggota panel pertandingan yang masih ada memberikan alasannya mengapa novel ini patut menang pertandingan, paling-paling daripada sudut perhubungan kaum.
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