Malaysia bans book that allegedly insults national coat of arms

The book cover (left) features an artwork that resembles the national coat of arms.
The book cover (left) features an artwork that resembles the national coat of arms.PHOTO: SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Home Ministry has gazetted a ban on a book after its cover caused an uproar for purportedly insulting the national coat of arms.

According to a federal gazette published on Wednesday (July 1) by Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin, the publication was likely to be prejudicial to public order, security, national interest, alarm public opinion and contrary to any law, and therefore is "absolutely prohibited throughout Malaysia".

The printing, importation, production, reproduction, publishing, sale, issue, circulation, distribution or possession of the publication has thus been prohibited under the ban.

The cover of book, titled Rebirth: Reform, Resistance, And Hope In New Malaysia, bears an artwork that resembles the national coat of arms, which displayed an unclothed child, two human-faced tigers and a crocodile at the bottom in place of the national motto "Unity is Strength".

Released earlier this year, the book features articles by political analysts and journalists, and includes reports on the 2018 General Election and was edited by Kean Wong.

It caught the attention of the authorities recently after Umno Youth chief Asyraf AWajdi Dasuki rallied the public for action against the author, editor and publisher of a book on Sunday, the Free Malaysia Today news portal reported.

Police said they have received 32 complaints to date over the cover art.

While no arrests have been made, Bukit Aman has confirmed the seizure of 313 books on Tuesday, the same day when the book publisher, Mr Chong Ton Sin, issued an apology, saying it was not his intention to insult the national coat of arms.

Several politicians, including Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, have urged the Home Ministry to punish anyone involved in the publication on the book. 

"To me the act is very rude, and we cannot compromise. I am confident police would investigate thoroughly and I hope whoever is guilty should be severely punished," Mr Saifuddin said.

But civil rights group, Lawyers for Liberty have decried the controversy as a manufactured attempt to strong-arm citizens from exercising their freedom of speech.

They pointed out that the artwork used on the book cover is not new, and was used in an exhibition in Kuala Lumpur as early as 2014.