Why ban sources of knowledge?


PETALING JAYA: A social activist who advocates the reading habit has decried the recent banning of books, saying he agrees with novelist Faisal Tehrani that it brings shame to the country.

Ahmad Sukri Shahrom, who runs weekly activities for the Buku Jalanan Perak book movement, told FMT he regarded all books as sources of knowledge and he therefore saw no meaning in labels that authorities attach to them, such as “right wing” and “left wing”.

He was referring to the government’s description of the banned books as threats to the nation because they allegedly contain left-wing ideas.

Faisal Tehrani, the author of several banned books, recently said he found it strange that the government had decided to continue with its censorship policy even as the National Book Council was lobbying for Kuala Lumpur to be declared Unesco’s World Book Capital for 2020.

Sukri said the banning of books such as those written by Faisal and the recently deceased Kassim Ahmad was “a big loss” to the reading public.

Malaysian Book Publishers Association president Ishak Hamzah took an opposing view, saying he saw no reason for Malaysians to protest against the banning of books with “sensitive” contents.

“We have different cultures, religions and races in Malaysia,” he said. “The home minister must have reasons for banning them.”

Even with some books banned, he said, Kuala Lumpur could still earn the Unesco award. “The title is given to a capital city, not to a country. Unesco will be looking at the number of reading activities in the city.”

He said Kuala Lumpur was host to plenty of activities related to books. “We have the National Library, Kota Buku, Balai Seni Lukis Negara and many others to show many activities are going on.”

The Unesco award is given to the city with the best programmes dedicated to books and the reading culture. It was first given in 2001 to Madrid. This year’s winner is Conakry, Guinea.