The IGP, another language teacher


By Ravinder Singh

We had a language lesson from the Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh just days ago about “kecuali sari” (except for sarees), and then the Pahang Mufti said his “kafir harbi” statement did not mean that any violence should be perpetrated against “those who oppose Islam”.

And now, there’s another language lesson from the nation’s top cop.

Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar is reported to have said that his words “come back if you dare” to Malaysian Islamic State operatives overseas, shortly before the Puchong bombing, were not a challenge to the terrorist group.

“I did not challenge them. What I said was ‘come back if they dare’. I did not challenge them,” he told the press during a Hari Raya event at the Police Training Centre.

Does one have to use the word “challenge”, or say “I challenge you” in order to issue a challenge?

“Come back if they dare” simply means if they are brave enough, they should come back. Now, does that not amount to challenging the other party to do something?

Let’s go back to childhood. Sometimes, when boys had any differences, they would drag the opponent to an open space. A line would be drawn on the ground and they will face off behind the line.

One of them would tell the other “cross the line if you dare”. If the line was crossed, there would be a fist-fight, but if the other backed down and said “sorry” for whatever he had done to offend the other, things would be settled without taking up the challenge.

The Oxford dictionary gives the meaning of “dare” as “to persuade somebody to do something dangerous, difficult or embarrassing so that they can show they are not afraid”.

A meaning of “challenge” is given as “an invitation or a suggestion to somebody that they should enter a competition, fight, etc.”

So, I don’t see how the words “come back if you dare” don’t mean “come back and fight us if you are brave enough”, and how does that not amount to a challenge.

In using language, the speaker may have one thing in mind, but his words will be interpreted or given meaning by the listeners.

The IGP did not use the word “challenge”, but what meaning would be attributed to his words by the IS to whom they were directed? Was thought given to this?

How do others who heard or read those words interpret them if not as a challenge?

I am getting confused with all these language lessons.

“Terlangsung perahu boleh balik, terlangsung cakap tak boleh balik.”

Ravinder Singh is an FMT reader.

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