Categorised | Letters to the Editor

Lift ban on cartoons, repeal PPPA

Cover of Zunar's 1Funny Malaysia

Cover of Zunar's 1Funny Malaysia

THE Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) Malaysia and the Writers Alliance for Media Independence (Wami) condemn the Home Ministry’s banning of 1Funny Malaysia, Perak Darul Kartun and Isu Dalam Kartun. These cartoon compilations are by Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar.

According to online daily Malaysiakini, whose subsidiary Kinibooks is the publisher of 1Funny Malaysia, the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Seri Mahmood Adam justified the ban thus: “All three publications have been banned for … contents that can influence the people to revolt against the leaders and government policies. The contents are not suitable and [are] detrimental to public order.”

The report did not state when the ban was imposed, merely quoting the official as saying so on 24 June 2010.

CIJ and Wami hold that no books should be banned to prevent the circulation of ideas, and that the people should be free to seek and receive them. However, we are particularly appalled by the ban’s rationale, which reveals the civil service’s flagrant partisanship toward the government of the day.

The civil service, by name and mandate, is supposed to be above politics and serve the public. This includes protecting the people’s right to express what they think of the elected government. The ministry is being nonsensical by linking criticism of the ruling government with public disorder when [criticism of those in power] is a hallmark of a functioning democracy.

The ministry also resorted to the undemocratic measure of confiscating the books for “study” in August 2009 and January 2010, a move that has intimidated retailers from selling them.

We call for an immediate lift of the ban and the repeal of the Printing Presses and Publications Act under which the ban is being imposed. Once again, the law is being abused by the state as a political tool for hegemonic purposes rather than to maintain social order.

Yip Wai Fong
CIJ communication and publications officer

Wong Chin Huat
Wami president

CIJ Malaysia is a non-profit organisation that aspires for a society that is democratic, just and free, where all peoples will enjoy free media and the freedom to express, seek and impart information.

Wong Chin Huat is also a columnist with The Nut Graph.

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33 Responses to “Lift ban on cartoons, repeal PPPA”

  1. Dr Syed Alwi says:

    Depends on what type of cartoons. If you mean the Lainie type of satire regarding Islam – then I support the ban. Tolong jangan kurang ajar terhadap agama Islam!

    True – we need satire regarding politicians but not against Islam or any other religion. Religion is sacred.

  2. Lainie says:

    The Home Ministry is such a severely annoying entity, to say the least.

  3. Lainie says:

    Syed Alwi: if politicians aren’t sacred, but religion is, what happens when you combine politics and religion?

    • Dr Syed Alwi says:

      Dear Lainie,

      Then you back off! Islam is off limits. You cannot satirise Islam. If your cartoon was depicted in Pakistan or the Middle East – there would have been riots. Thank your lucky stars that you live in Malaysia and not some Arab state.

    • Dr Syed Alwi says:

      Dear Lainie,

      Who are you to criticise Islam ? Yes – Islam needs a reform. But let the Muslim world do it. You – as a Non-Muslim – should stay out of Islam’s business. If you cannot accept that – well – too bad. Muslims the world over are not going to sit down and let you satirise Islam any old way you like.

      Like I said – if it was Pakistan – there would have been riots over your cartoon. You are lucky its Malaysia!

      • ben says:

        Dear Dr.,

        What if she’s the daughter of a high-profile Singaporean minister? I guess nothing happens and a few muffled “sorry”s.

        The problem here in Malaysia involves more than religion alone. If our Malay Muslim political leaders is perceived to show moral integrity reflecting of their religious values, I suppose this entire issue wouldn’t have had happened.

        Which is why your argument against mosque-state separation does not work.

        You cannot ask people to back off simply because you assume them to be insulting of your religion, when in truth, they just want a social critique message to be communicated – desperately.

  4. yeo kien kiong says:

    I guess its either “poligion” or “relidick”.

    It is best to criticise one’s religion because love goes all the way.

  5. Subashini says:

    Dr. Syed Alwi, I beg to differ. What’s religion to one person is a good joke to someone else.

  6. Nadia Ali says:

    Cake is sacred. Please do not make jokes against cakes or any other type of pastries!

  7. Lainie Yeoh says:

    Dear Syed Alwi

    Indeed I am lucky it’s Malaysia, there are worse places out there — as there are better.

    Who am I to criticise Islam? If I were to ever start, I will get the answer and let you know.

    Meanwhile, you have yet to sufficiently address what I asked about the combination of politicians (non-sacred) and religion (sacred). What happens there? You keep saying Islam is sacred, but fail to address the possible failings of human beings.

    • Dr Syed Alwi says:

      Dear Lainie,

      No one doubts that [humans are] weak. No one doubts human failings. BUT what you cannot do is to satirise Islam. What you did is NOT acceptable. You made Islamic teachings appear silly in your cartoon.

      If you argue from a rational point of view – then even all organised religion looks silly. Why? Because its all on faith. Why not criticise Islam’s five times a day prayer requirement? Why not criticise Islam’s Halal & Haram? Polygamy? Circumcision for both male and female? Hajj?

      So you see – when it comes to religion – the rational mind must take a back seat. I too can criticise Chinese practices. Both involving politics as well as – separately – religion. Now why do I not do that? Because of the larger interest in the common good. I therefore expect a quid pro quo on your part.

    • Dr Syed Alwi says:

      On another note Lainie,

      Yes – human failings can make Islamic teachings less than perfect in its implementation. I do not doubt that. But if you can accept such an argument – that human failings lessen Islamic teachings – then why do you satirise it? Isn’t it obvious that the same argument applies to any and all organised religion? And therefore – in the context of Malaysia being a Muslim country – you should NOT satirise Islam !

      Besides – so what if human failings make the implementation of Islamic teachings tricky? That does NOT give you the right to satirise it. Not in a Muslim country anyway!

      • Lainie says:

        Dear Syed Alwi,

        Does Islam teach that humans are beyond reproach? Or does it say that about politicians? Or that it needs to be protected from discourse and discussion (and of course, these shouldn’t be lumped together as criticism)?

        That being said, I think I disagree with you on how to treat political Islam — I find that your approach protects politicians, not religion, or the people.

        Shi-Hsia: Aiyo that’s a terrible image to portray. It’s certainly not the intention — if anything, Shanon used to take even longer to approve my comments because I work here, and I am subject to the same comments policy as everyone else.

        (ps: I have Portal and am about to install it anytime now — heard it’s awesome).

        • Dr Syed Alwi says:

          Dear Lainie,

          It is the Adab of Islam which does NOT allow for satirising of Islam. There is NO separation of mosque from state in Islam.

          I think you have to be sensitive towards Islamic moral codes and Islamic ethics – before you go around drawing cartoons.

          • JayCKat says:


            Lainie, religion and state are one and the same in Islam. As an unwashed heathen you do not have the qualification to question or judge religious matters on Islam. And by the same token you have not the qualification to question matter of an Islamic state. Debate on Islamic matters is closed to non-converts.

            @ you have no rights.

            And gentlemen, that is the problem of Islam today, in the world of multi-religions and multi-cultures all pressed together.

            Satire is what people use when they can not speak of the matter directly. Thus they frame their voice and observation in humor so that they may speak. It follows the western tradition of the court fool. Only the fool could critic the king, for the words of the fool was just the inane rambling of a fool.

            Debate on religion is always sensitive. Thus satire thrives here. But Islam takes offense even with satire, and thus no one can speak on the subject. No one may critique Islam for its practices can clash with the religion of the people who are their neighbors. For some of its practices are offensive to the local culture or religion.

            To here a defender of Islam speak, it always seems that all others must be sensitive to Islam while Islam give little care about the sensitivity for others.

            And the last problem… at present there is no clear boundary between religion and state in Islam. Furthermore there is no clear boundary between private and public life in Islam. This is why Islam doesn’t play nice with others.

  8. Lainie Yeoh says:

    Nadia Ali: Never will I sully the good name of (fully, half, or yet-to-be) baked goods around the world, although unethical bakers should always be brought to task to meet some minimum standards of baking goodness.

    YKK: poligion or relidick? T_T

  9. colinpoh says:

    Something for you pious types to contemplate;
    “Religion is the work of the devil.”

  10. tkbutt says:

    What happens when you mix perfectly clean white garbs with smelly soiled socks? I don’t have to be a cleaner to know that the [whites] become soiled and smell like dirty feet to everyone. My child nephew would realize that too.

  11. Hwa Shi-Hsia says:

    @Syed Alwi: If Muslims want non-Muslims to stay out of Islamic business, then Muslims should stay out of non-Muslims’ business. For example, stop kacauing practising Hindus or Buddhists and insisting that they’re Muslims just because their father or mother was, and forcing them into rehabilitation centres, etc. Stop trying to con Orang Asli into repeating some words they don’t understand and then tell them, “that was the Syahadah, congrats, you’re now a Muslim.”

    We live in a multi-religious society. If you want respect, give respect.

    @Nadia Ali: But the cake is a lie! Just kidding…look up Portal if you don’t get the joke.

    @Lainie: While I agree with you, I find TNG’s practice of having staff reply to readers’ comments to be a bit unpleasant. It’s as if a newspaper sent its staff to kopitiams to scold readers who disagreed with them. Surely you’ve got enough of a like-minded reader base to rely upon to argue with contrarians.

    • Ding Jo-Ann says:

      Dear Hwa,

      Thank you for your comment. At the risk of sounding like I’m coming down to the kopitiam to make a point, I think the comparison with newspapers is not an entirely accurate one. My personal opinion is that one of the main innovations of the online media is the opportunity to engage with readers in public dialogue on a scale that the print media is unable to do. In a country where people are constantly told to stop public debate due to sensitivities, I think any forum which promotes polite and rational discussion and even disagreement is healthy. As we invite readers to comment on and challenge our views, we also should have some space to respond so that we can add to the public discourse. To disallow that would be to frustrate the very benefits that the online medium confers.

      Of course, if we are unnecessarily or overly defensive, that is certainly unattractive. But even so, readers should be free to draw their own conclusions on the discussion. I do see and appreciate your point, but in the interests of healthy public debate, I would have to humbly disagree.

  12. Sean says:

    “Cake is sacred”
    Iran agrees with you

  13. phang says:

    Dear Syed Alwi,

    If a politician practices corruption using the name of Islam, can I satirize him? Would you ban my comic?

  14. Peter says:

    Dr Syed Alwi,

    Can you please give links to the offending cartoons drawn up by Lainie? I want to learn what is considered “offensive”.

    And I’d also like the opinions of other Muslims on TNG other than Dr Syed Alwi on those cartoons.

    Just want to ascertain that it’s not a “personal” standard being set around here.

  15. ywcgabrielle says:


    Would it make any difference if Lain[ie] was Muslim?

    As for riots, that’s not a very Islamic thing, or is it?

  16. Dr Syed Alwi says:

    Listen up here. Why are you Non-Muslims so intent on satirising Islam ?

    • Peter says:

      Let’s not make this into “Islam is the victim again”.

      We, humans, like to satirise anything and everything.

      You are the one who brought “Islam” into these discussions.

      • Dr Syed Alwi says:

        Dear Peter,

        In Islamic morality – one cannot satirise Islam. Especially in a Muslim country like Malaysia. What Lainie did IS very wrong. She made Islamic teachings look silly. In a Muslim country where Islamic ethics and morality is practiced – she has transgressed. TNG would be well advised not to provoke the Muslim community unnecessarily.

        No – you cannot and should not – satirise Islam in a Muslim country.

        • Peter says:

          Dear Dr Syed Alwi,

          You have done a lot of finger pointing and issue vagued sweeping statements and threats. This is not really constructive especially when you claim you represent the Muslim community (if indeed you can represent them).

          I think to be fair to all, you will need to point out some specific cases and let’s discuss how they have “made Islamic teachings look silly”.

          I just want to make sure that we are not influenced by one man’s personal (or a small group’s) standard on what is considered offensive (which is very subjective) just because he is/they are loud enough.

          • Dr Syed Alwi says:

            Dear Peter,

            Why don’t you see her cartoon regarding Miss USA visiting Malaysia? And read all the comments below it.

          • Peter says:

            Dr Syed Alwi

            Are you referring to this:


            I’ve read the comments as well.

            The cartoon reflects the reality that if any Muslims lady were to participate in a beauty pageant in Malaysia, she will be penalised by Islamic law. So if Miss USA (a Muslim) were to show up here in Malaysia, she could be technically penalised as a Muslim under Islamic law. If that is a fact as reflected in the cartoon, how can it be offensive?

          • Dr Syed Alwi says:

            Dear Peter,

            You cannot satirise Islamic teachings! Not according to islamic ethics and morality. In the first place – had Miss USA visited any Muslim country – she would have to face a barrage of criticisms from Muslims. And this is true in ANY Muslim country. Not just Malaysia. But like I said just now – one cannot satirise Islamic teachings! Especially in a Muslim country like Malaysia. It’s rude.

  17. Char says:

    For God’s sake. I saw the comic.

    If it’s guilty of anything it would be that it’s not particularly good.

    It doesn’t warrant such a long, drawn-out religious debate. Criticise the comic if you will, advise not chastise.

    Show some strength and restraint. It would do much more for your credibility.

    It’s like crying wolf. One day, the world will stop listening.

    • Dr Syed Alwi says:

      Dear char,

      Maybe you are not insulted because you are not Muslim to begin with. But many Muslims – both on TNG and elsewhere – are quite offended by those cartoons. We Muslims take offence at such a mockery of Islamic teachings and practices.

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