Malaysia's book bans archaic: Think-tank

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's Home Ministry is continuing the archaic tradition of policing language, sex and religion by banning books in the Internet age, according to a recent report by the Penang Institute.

The think-tank's report titled "The Policing and Politics of the Malay Language", which was released on Tuesday, states that the ministry banned 1,695 books from 1971 to this year, reported the Malay Mail Online. They included 556 Malay books, 516 books in English and 450 in Chinese.

Analyst Ooi Kok Hin also noted that a Malay translation of evolution theorist Charles Darwin's On The Origin Of Species had been banned, but not its original version in English. Most of the banned Malay books were on topics related to sex and pornography.

The report stated that the use of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) by the Home Ministry to blacklist publications did not reflect positively, especially in the current era where much information is readily available on the Internet and in all languages.

"It is also crucial to ask whether it is realistic for the Home Ministry to conduct language policing and book banning in this day and age," Mr Ooi said in his concluding remarks.

He said that banning books or certain titles would only draw public attention to them and that online versions of these books meant they could be downloaded.

"Unless the Home Ministry is planning to be on the constant lookout for other book versions and translations, it is safe to conclude that the book ban is not only ineffective, but also counterproductive," he added.

The Home Ministry has come under fire from free speech advocates and civil society groups after its recent ban on a number of books on moderate Islam.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2017, with the headline 'Malaysia's book bans archaic: Think-tank'. Print Edition | Subscribe