Aliran: Civilised discourse not an option, it's essential

  • Letters
  • Friday, 19 Apr 2019

ALIRAN condemns the recent assault on freedom of speech by cyber bullies, abetted by officials who need to examine their priorities and review their standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Aliran is shocked and disheartened to hear that Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa has seen it fit to initiate investigations into an incident-free book launch on April 13 at the Gerakbudaya bookstore in Petaling Jaya.

The book "Unveiling Choice" - and the discussion surrounding it - principally revolves around the difficulties faced by Muslim women in opting to wear or not wear a hijab.

It is a discussion that is important as around the world, we continue to see instances of the coercion of women in wearing the hijab (for example, in Iran) but also in taking it off (for example, in France).

There is a need to discuss and analyse the roots of such coercion and insistence on controlling what women can or cannot wear.

As the panel members put it, “It was an intellectual discourse based on the women’s lived realities, looking at the phenomenon from sociological and historical perspectives, alongside discussions on the socio-political realities of Malaysian girls and women today.”

But, following a social media backlash led by cyber bullies, many of whom had not attended the launch - which, unfortunately, seems to be the case a lot of the time in digitised Malaysia.

This depressing pattern and tactic of demonisation based on misinformation was common prior to the 2018 General Election.

In Malaysia Baru, this must stop. It stops with our "leaders" acting in ways that will make it stop - not in ways that cater to the dictates of what is essentially mob rule.

It stops by us allowing civil discussions about the environment surrounding us to grow - and not be stifled and silenced by bullies, shouting down others using the excuse of race and religion.

Most times, the misogynistic and racist language used by these bullies reflects badly on what constitutes their religiosity.

It stops by us - and, more, the authorities - no longer harassing and victimising those, especially young Malaysians, who are helping to make us think about a better, kinder and more inclusive tomorrow.

It stops by otherwise decent leaders such as Mujahid acting based on their conscience and not based on political expedience.

In a supposedly new Malaysia, civilised discourse especially on things considered controversial is not an option; it is essential.



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