Saturday, 3 August 2013

Can't we all just get along?

It's strange isn't it how your day could be ruined in an instant. What caused the sudden disruption in my euphoria? I had come across a news article about Caroline Criado-Perez who had received rape and death threats on Twitter.

And what on earth could possibly warrant such a reaction? Not that anything could justify such actions; she had campaigned the Bank of England to put Jane Austen on a new bank note.'d think that in 2013 we'd have progressed as a society but all you have to do is check Youtube comments and you quickly realize we still have a long way to go. People seem to not have any respect or consideration of how remarks can be so destructive. So far the police have arrested a 21 year old man in connection with the Tweets.

Meanwhile, the news in Malaysia hasn't exactly been uneventful these past few weeks. Guns and sedition have gotten most of the papers attention. Several shootings have taken place. One involving a banker who was killed in a parking lot in KL; the other involving Malaysian Crime Watch Task Force chairman R. Sri Sanjeevan whose condition still has not stabilised. Apparently he had a list containing the names of police officers under investigation which would have exposed corrupt cops involved with drug trafficking. Coincidence?

I'm a big fan of Real Time with Bill Maher; he usually has interesting guests and he covers a wide range of subjects. I don't necessarily agree with all of his views but I enjoy watching his show nonetheless. Maybe it's because he's able to speak his mind without fear of arrest. I only mention this because what is considered freedom of speech in one country might be labelled sedition in Malaysia.

Recently a couple, Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee were arrested and they both have been charged with sedition among other things. Before this they both had gained notoriety for blogging about their sex lives and they weren't too shy about it either. Apparently the internet is not just made up of sugar, spice and everything nice. There's also an extra ingredient. Chemical XXX (If you don't get the reference then you unfortunately did not have much of a childhood. Powepuffs 4Eva).

Earlier this month they had uploaded a “seditious” photograph of themselves posing with a pork dish on the eve of the holy fasting month Ramadan and wishing festive greetings. The photograph had the caption “happy breaking fast with Bak Kut Teh, aromatic, tasty and appetizing”.

When he was asked by the Star Online on why he had uploaded the photo Alvin said "No reason. Just a joke, I guess." He also added "I was just curious to see how people will perceive it. It seems not everybody is on the same page as us. It is dark humour. It is just our attempt to see how it will be perceived. It is just trying to be humorous on the matter."

So I guess the joke is on them. When they received a lot of negative comments from the public they did upload an apology onto their Youtube channel. If you do check the video out don't read the comments. It just devolves into hate. Of course posting violent and racist comments is not considered seditious.

Where do I stand on this issue? Did I like his picture? Of course not; it was stupid insensitive and tasteless. But was it seditious? I think they were both just testing the boundaries of our society. And clearly there are people who aren't ready for insensitive jokes.

I recommend a dose of Bill Maher, Ricky Gervais, Joe Rogan and Frankie Boyle to help build up their tolerance. Of course, there are actually some people who would then report them to the police. But the law is the law and in Malaysia “to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia” is sedition. Among other things. Maybe the law is flawed? (Hopefully that's not seditious). 
I just checked the “sedition act” on Wikipedia and apparently “to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Malaysia or in any State” is sedition. So I take it back. The law is just fine as it is. And I would also like to add that the Royal Malaysia Police are doing a fine job. And God Bless Malaysia and it's patriotic people.

You might ask me “Faiz, you clearly approve the arrest of the man who posted the death threats on Twitter, what's the difference here?” The difference is that the man threatened Caroline Criado-Perez. Alvin Tan was telling a joke (admittedly a bad one).

People have the right to behave like assholes but of course just because they have that right doesn't mean they should use it all the time. If being an asshole was a crime then yes he would be guilty of that. And so would a lot of other people. I would be guilty of that too. Especially when I'm driving or when I'm stressed or maybe right now when I'm blogging.

The couple are currently facing three different charges:

a) Section 5 of the Film Censorship Act 2002 for publishing indecent photographs online between July 6 and 7. If found guilty they can be fined not less than RM10,000 or not more than RM50,000 and or imprisoned for not exceeding five years;
b) 298A Penal Code for promoting enmity between different groups of religion or race and doing acts prejudicial to maintaining harmony by publishing an offensive Ramadan greeting which carries a minimum jail term of two years or a maximum of five years; and
c) Section 4(1) (c) of the 1948 Sedition Act for posting seditious material through the offensive greeting which carries fine maximum fine of RM5,000.
After being remanded for eight days in jail the couple have both been released on bail. They both pleaded not guilty to all three charges and their trial is on the 24th of August.
Of course it doesn't end there. This week Maznah Mohd Yusof a dog trainer was arrested and remanded for two days by the police on the charge of sedition. Did she make a ill advised joke? Nope. THREE years ago she had uploaded a video of her bathing her dogs on Hari Raya (which is the celebration when Ramadan is over) and wishing viewers “Selamat Hari Raya”.
It only became viral this week and as usual some people got offended and went straight to the police and filed a report because the video was considered to be “insulting” to Muslims. The Director General of the Islamic Development Department said the video is unforgivable. He said that it is a deliberate attempt to provoke Muslims by equating dogs with Muslims. It's amazing how people can interpret things. Someone might look at his comments and decided he was an idiot. Just saying..
Maznah has had to defend her actions saying that she never meant to insult Muslims or Islam. She wanted to remind people to celebrate Hari Raya with animals as well as humans. In her message posted on Facebook she asked: “Is this Islamic? To those who called me a dog, I am very happy to be equated with an amazing creature of God. If you don’t know the nature of true dogs, and don’t bother about it, why do you accuse? It is because of Malay Muslims like these that Islam’s good name is tarnished,” she said.
Several Muslim NGO's lodged a police report against Maznah after being “shocked and insulted” to discover the video on their Facebook timeline. “I, who champion for Islam in this Muslim group, feel the individual has committed a grievous insult towards all Muslims in Malaysia” read one police report.
These NGOs claimed to represent the majority of the Malays in the country. That's news to me; for the record they don't represent myself or anyone I know. And to all the people and NGOs who filed a report against Maznah I'd just like to say that “you guys seriously need a better hobby instead of bullying people.”
Nurul Izzah Anwar a opposition lawmaker also voiced her opinion that the arrest was completely unnecessary. She said “I believe it’s high time that we addressed real crime and actual threats — and stop allowing bigots to dictate national agenda.” Now she is someone who represents me and hopefully most Malaysians. Thank You.

Last week I wrote about a Principal of a school who got in trouble over a makeshift canteen. Well, this week he went to the police to lodge a complaint because he had received the death threats. And a politician has called for the mother who went to the press to complain to be charged with sedition. Oy Vey..this is why we can't have nice things. We just end up ruining everything.

This is a pretty long post so I'm going to end with one final piece from the news. So now not only is Big Brother watching you; you're neighbours might be as well. I say this because recently Kuala Lumpur police chief DCP Datuk Mohmad Salleh advised all residents and landlords of condominiums and flats to keep an eye out for their neighbours and tenants.

This is because according to him “In Kuala Lumpur it has become a trend, especially foreigners namely Iranians and Nigerians, to rent condominiums or apartments and turn them into drug processing centres,” he said at a recent press conference.

Why is he asking neighbours to spy on each other and foreigners. Can't the police just ask the NSA for help? After all they're already spying on everyone. And I like the fact he singled our Iranians and Nigerians in his press conference. Not all foreigners are bad; I live next door to a Nigerian prince and everything seems above board.

I don't know much about the law and I don't mean to criticize the police but technically haven't they broken the Sedition Act by specifically mention Nigerians and Iranians? According to the Wikipedia entry on the Malaysian Sedition Act;

Under section 3(1), those acts defined as having a seditious tendency are acts with a tendency:
(e) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia
I'm just saying the police need to be a little more careful with what they say. We clearly take sedition very seriously in Malaysia. Sigh..if things keep going on the way they are how long before we have a Ministry of Love and the Thought Police? (If you don't get that reference, then read a book people)
I don't mean to be seditious of course, this is just one man's opinion. I'm a patriot just like every other Malaysian. I'd just like to repeat that the Royal Malaysia Police are doing a fine job. And God Bless Malaysia and it's awesome people. See you next week..hopefully.

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