Cynical cartoons not suitable for Malaysia, says Zahid

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KUALA LUMPUR: “Cynical cartoons” can easily be misconstrued and therefore are not suitable for Malaysian culture, said Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

“If we are knowledgeable people, don’t use that knowledge to lampoon others, even in the form of satire. Use your intellect to share knowledge, not to make light of others.

“That is called ‘intellectual egoism’. It may be permissible in other cultures, but in the Malaysian culture, it shouldn’t be so,” he told a press conference here today.

He was referring to a cartoon titled “Monkey Act” published by Nanyang Siang Pau, which courted controversy and landed the Chinese daily in hot water.

Nanyang’s “Monkey Act” cartoon was published on April 8. It featured two monkeys sitting on a tree named “Act 355”, in reference to the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, while a group of other monkeys were fighting under it.

On the tree, one monkey wore a songkok labelled “Speaker”, and the other labelled “Hadi Awang” had a turban on.

The daily had apologised for publishing the cartoon, and removed it from its digital edition. But PAS and Umno groups were not satisfied with the public apology and demanded that Nanyang’s publication permit be revoked.

The home ministry then issued a show-cause letter to the daily, saying that the cartoon had made a mockery of Parliament and Islamic matters and that this could affect public order.

Zahid, in a speech at a forum titled “Budaya Ilmu Kekuatan Negara” earlier today, had said satirical cartoons could offend members of the public.

“We don’t have to be seen as professionals and intellectuals who feel joy seeing others get into trouble, or split up,” he said.