In trying to deflect criticisms of Pas’ three-decade ban on cinemas in Kelantan, Deputy Menteri Besar Mohd Amar Abdullah argued that Kelantanese no longer needed cinemas as they could now have Netflix in their own living rooms as an option.
This statement came about in what seemed like his struggle to justify the act of his party’s youth wing chief, Ahmad Fadhli Shaari, watching the Mat Kilau movie – much acclaimed particularly by Malay nationalists – in a cinema in Kuala Lumpur recently.
Fadhli’s presence in the cinema jars with his strong stand in 2016 against having cinemas in Kelantan, as he felt that such entertainment outlets could lead to social problems.
That is why his latest stance sparked an outcry on social media, smacking of double standards for, if it is wrong to be in a cinema in Kelantan, then it should be also wrong to do so elsewhere.
Despite the irony, Amar insisted that Fadhli showed that Pas did not block people from being entertained or from watching films. Strange logic, this one.
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In offering Netflix as an option, it is hoped that Amar is aware that not many Kelantanese can afford the subscription streaming service operated from the US.
In short, a monthly fee for Netflix can be prohibitive in a state where the poverty rate is high and where putting food on the table is more crucial than having the latest episode on a premium streaming service.
Moreover, Netflix enthusiasts in Kelantan, as in any other place, would need more than just electricity to get it going.
Unlike subscribers of Astro, which now also offers Netflix, they would need an internet connection, which may be as difficult as getting clear water from the tap in Kelantan has been over the years.
Yet more importantly, we hope Amar is also aware he has opened a Pandora’s box with his offering to the people of Kelantan.
For the uninitiated, including Pas members, Netflix offers a range of films and television shows, many of which are able to drop liberal jaws.
This is because the streaming service is able to bring into homes, among other interesting and informative fare, couples in compromising positions, irrespective of their sexual preferences, and climaxing in various languages, while viewers munch their kuaci or popcorn.
Sexual promiscuity at the click of the button, which is obviously not Sharia-compliant.
In other words, a Pas bent on banning many things has in effect opened up the floodgates to the “immorality” of supposedly devilish Western origin into Kelantan.
Of course, with the exception of the German Mercedes-Benz.
In a sense, Amar’s statement is an indirect admission that the world has been made borderless particularly by the internet, so that audio-visual materials need not be contained and delivered within a physical space, such as a cinema, where you spend one or two hours watching a film.
However, this also means that even without cinemas, social problems can still occur in Kelantan, which is already known to have issues of drug addiction, rape, incest, HIV infections, domestic violence and divorce.
While you may argue that such social issues also exist in other parts of the country, that they persist in Kelantan under the watch of a nanny apparatus should make us wonder whether there are underlying causes that might have been neglected or overlooked.
For instance, poverty and unemployment could lead to various social problems, such as drug use, rape, incest and other forms of escapism that might not be kosher.
Of course, this does not necessarily imply that morally questionable activities are the preserve of the dispossessed. Corruption, for example, can also tempt the powerful and the well-to-do despite their religious upbringing.
Netflix may well be an escapism that the state government can do without. – The Malaysian Insight