DPM: Political satire misunderstood in Malaysia

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said today the government had failed in their war on drugs, as the number of users and addicts have continuously increased in recent years. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 — The media should stay away from so-called "intellectual egoism" on matters like religion which may offend the sensitivities of others, the deputy prime minister said today.

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi also advised the media to refrain from using linguistic concepts such as cynicism which may be misconstrued by certain parts of society who do not understand political satire.

"If something that is good is caricatured or cartoonised with a cynical language or in the form of satire, that knowledge is something new that will affect the people.

"We don't have to be intellectuals who feel good when other people are in trouble, they are broken up," he said during a discussion session at forum today.

Ahmad Zahid added that parties that exploited the intellectual understanding of others for their own benefits show "intellectual egoism".

He was commenting on the recent uproar over a caricature of PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia published by local Chinese newspaper Nanyang Siang Pau.

The Umno vice-president claimed that while cynicism may be accepted in other cultures, it is still considered foreign in Malaysian culture.

"Maybe it's permitted in the ethics of other cultures but in the Malaysian culture it shouldn't be so," Zahid said.

The Home Minister also reminded the importance of cross-cultural communications for all Malaysians regardless of race and religion to prevent incidents like that recurring in the future.

"We have to understand among ourselves. The Muslims should respect the non-Muslims. The Malays should also understand the Chinese and Indian culture," Ahmad Zahid said.

Nanyang came under fire after it published a cartoon titled “Monkey Act” on April 8, two days after Hadi tabled his controversial private member’s Bill in Parliament to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, also known by its Malay short form, RUU355.

The vernacular paper has since apologised for the caricature, which featured a monkey with a songkok labelled “Speaker” while the other sported a turban and identified as “Hadi Awang” atop a tree named “Act 355”, and removed it from its digital edition.

The Home Ministry has called up the publication and issued a show-cause letter the caricature was deemed to have made a mockery of Parliament and Islamic matters that could affect public order by “encouraging malice, enmity, hatred and prejudice towards other races”.

Despite that, PAS and Umno groups held protests and filed police complaints demanding stern action, including withdrawing Nanyang’s publication permit, for what they see as an insulting act to Islam, the religion of over 60 per cent of Malaysians.