When satire fails be ready for brickbats, says Pak Samad

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PETALING JAYA: It was an open call to commit mass murder and the contents were too alarming for any to think it was just a satire or a joke.

That was why an open letter calling for the killing of Shia Muslims in Malaysia on the website of a publishing house was taken down hours after publication.

When FMT contacted the publishing house for comments, the response from its owner was terse, to the point of berating the reporter.

It turned out that the letter was intended to be a satire.

But a casual reading of the essay raised many questions and whatever humour attempted failed miserably, with the author now possibly looking at charges of sedition or inciting murder.

For national laurette A Samad Ismail, writers attempting satire should be well prepared to bear, and deal, with the consequences of their works.

“They ought to understand that their actions spark public opinion and it can either be negative or positive,” said the 82-year-old, better known as Pak Samad.

On Saturday, Selangor-based Thukul Cetak, whose catalogue includes leftist titles, ran a piece by one Jefry Musa, urging a pro-government religious establishment to encourage the killing of Shia Muslims.

The letter was addressed to Umno Youth member Dr Fathul Bari Mat Jahya, who has in the past called for tough actions against the spread of Shia Islam.

It praised the recent Saudi purchase of arms worth hundreds of billions of dollars from the United States, saying it was a step closer to annihilating the Shia Muslims by carrying out IS-like attacks.

“It is easier if we kill the Shia instead of wasting time discussing about it with impostors (taqiyah),” the letter went on.

But not everyone was amused at such writing. One member of the Shia community, among those the “satire” had targeted, said it was in bad taste.

“An IS-leaning person may be ignorant enough to read that as a call to arms and go out to carry out attacks,” Zahra (not her real name) told FMT.

“Nobody makes a joke about murder,” she added.

Pak Samad said satire writers should take responsibility for their writings, saying there is a reason why people turn to satire to express an opinion.

“Writers write satirically because they want to protect themselves while still being able to convey their ideologies.”

He said every writer, including himself, was driven to write with the purpose of conveying their worldview to the public.

“Most writings are based on the writer’s own perspective and experiences.

“Each of us writes with the sole purpose of passing on thoughts and understandings to the majority.”

The conundrum behind the controversial article was later answered by the writer himself, Jefry, in an open letter to FMT later.

The writer explained that the article was meant to be a reminder of the diversity of traditions among the Malay community.

In the letter, he admitted having adopted a tough stance against Shia and proposed that this ideology be eradicated from Malaysia.

However, he mentioned that he does not blame the public for criticising his article.

“I do not blame readers. In fact, I support them in criticising such writings,” he wrote.

In the letter, Jefry also preached that being tolerant and accepting diversity was important to curb violence and uphold peace.

He added that people should not be threatened by differences in ideologies and beliefs.

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