Pas’ insensitive decision to cancel the Thaipusam holiday in Kedah in January was lambasted by many, including the MIC. MIC deputy president M Saravanan blasted the Kedah menteri besar for reportedly displaying ignorance and bias towards Hindus.
Besides the MIC, members of other parties, including former Prime Minister Najib Razak, soundly condemned and blasted Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, in the strongest terms to express their outrage. Without pulling their punches, they denounced him, as can be seen in the following selected responses:
- Sanusi’s decision has “the potential of spreading the fires of racism and threatens the racial harmony in the country”
- Sanusi’s decision is “an affront to multiculturalism that we celebrate and a sign of intolerance”
- Sanusi’s announcement “hurt the feelings of the Hindus because it looks like their celebrations, traditions and cultures are being disrespected”
- Sanusi has given “a negative impression of Malay-Muslims to non-Malays and non-Muslims”, whereas Islam has never discriminated against any race
- … questioned whether Sanusi’s move was “tantamount to extremism and racism”
- Sanusi’s decision was “insensitive” to the Indian community in Kedah
- Sanusi “does not honour the spirit of Malaysia’s diversity” and as a multiracial and multireligious country
- Sanusi’s action was even more embarrassing as he represents Pas, which touts itself as the ideal approach to a Malay-Muslim government
- Sanusi disrespected the rights of minorities in this country
- Sanusi’s decision is both “irrational and wholly disproportionate in the circumstances”
- Sanusi has violated the rights of the minority in this country
- Kedah government’s decision defied logic
- Sanusi’s move “arrogant and ignorant”
- Sanusi’s decision is “illogical, unacceptable and infringes on the rights of the minorities”
If you count the words in all their full statements, they would have run into many thousands. But these words did not upset the menteri besar or his minions. The attitude seemed to be: You can scream for all I care!
But a cartoon, a single cartoon, upset Pas followers and enraged them so terribly and strangely – something that thousands of words had failed to do. Did this single cartoon express more vitriolic sentiments compared to all the above examples put together? For God’s sake, it was only a picture!
Why this insane action to go after Zunar because of a mere cartoon?
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It is claimed that a visual caricature has the power to convey an idea so instantly and dramatically! No wonder it is truly said a picture can convey a thousand words. That was how effective Zunar’s cartoon was – probably!
So he had to be silenced. It was as simple as that!
If the menteri besar felt scandalised, why didn’t he take a civil suit and sue Zunar for defamation? That would have been the proper thing to do.
But instead, he apparently wanted the state and the police to get involved in this controversy. So, three police reports were lodged with the police in Kedah. And the police got into the picture and summoned Zunar to the Padang Terap Police station in Kedah. Zunar, who is domiciled in Kuala Lumpur, had to travel all the way to Kedah for a two-hour session with the police on 7 May 2021, involving about 20 questions posed to Zunar.
Even before he is charged, he has been put through a lot of inconvenience and stress, which is most unfair. He did not commit the perceived offence in Kedah. He drew his cartoon in KL. Why couldn’t he be investigated in KL?
Malaysians will be surprised that the three police reports against Zunar had so much effect on the police requiring them to act. Compare this to a thousand over police reports made all over the country against two Muslim converts, Zamri Vinoth Kalimuthu and Firdaus Wong Wai Hung, who had wantonly disparaged and insulted the other faiths, but their case was closed – NFA, no further action!
When it comes to a political party’s interest as against society’s wellbeing, which should have precedence; which should deserve greater attention and swifter action?
Be that as it may, the police did not act immediately, meaning it wasn’t a case that was urgent or posing a grave danger to the state. That was why, even though the three police reports were made against Zunar in January, the police did not act urgently. It took them over four months to attend to this case. They only took the statement from Zunar on 7 May 2021.
What was his offence?
The probe was carried out under Section 505(c) of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act.
Section 505(c) concerns “intent to incite” or “likely to incite any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community of persons”.
Zunar did not draw his cartoon with “intent to incite.” There is no evidence – and none has been established – that his cartoon was “likely to incite any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community of persons”.
The very fact that no one reacted adversely or overtly and that there were no disturbances would mean it was a mere presumption that had no basis. When there was no likelihood of any danger ever taking place even after four months since the cartoon was drawn, why was it necessary to probe Zunar? What necessitated this investigation? None! As such, it was totally unnecessary and a complete waste of precious police time.
The police should not be seen as being at the beck and call of a political party. They should be seen as being independent and looking after the wellbeing of the nation, without being beholden to anybody.
What is happening should not be viewed as an isolated case. Harassment usually starts with an individual and later it will spread to others. That’s how the system works!
This is why we must stand in solidarity with Zunar, who has been waging the good battle on our behalf and facing so much hardship and so many court cases. Whatever he does, it is not for himself but it has always been for the larger interest of the nation.
It is wisely said that “the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened”.