As we come to terms with the terrible events that occurred at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, I think we need to be cognizant of what these attacks really mean, and how our response to these events (even in far away Malaysia) has severe repercussions on our future.
As a Blogger and Techie, I’m 100% for absolute ‘no holds-barred’ Freedom of expression.. I’ve written so much on the subject it begins to bore people, but we have so little freedom of expression in this country, we must fight to preserve what we have, and rise up to pursue even more.
The pursuit of freedoms of which we do not enjoy is necessary, thanks to laws like the Sedition Act of 1948. An act so grossly out-dated it’s embarrassing that we still have it on the books. People forget that Malaya was at war in 1948, and when the act came into effect, we had already begun one of the darkest period of our history–the Malayan Emergency. This was a time when planes were dropping bombs in the jungles and rubber tappers had to be escorted with arm guards, the laws needed at a time like aren’t the laws you need now.
Because unlike World War 2, the emergency was part of a larger ideological war–one where Ideas were dangerous. So we put laws that limited the dissemination of ideas which was wrong, but then we kept them even after the last elements of the communist insurgency had left–which was definitely wrong. Soon we used these laws clampdown on everything from questioning Malay rights to criticizing education policies (education policies that were later reversed by the way!).
How can using a law, enacted during a dark period of war be considered relevant for peace time? These things really should come with expiry dates.
And lest you think this only impacts Malaysia–every country at War will go to extremes in the law.For example, the US enacted their own sedition act in 1918, just before they were setting off to take part in the ‘Great War’–only for the act to be repealed in 1920. This in a country where the first thing they amended in their constitution was to explicitly guarantee Freedom of Speech–the lesson to take away is that whenever people’s security is threatened, they’d give up their freedoms. The Patriotic act would have never seen the light of day weren’t it not for September 11th.
But let us find solace in the last verse of the Star Spangled Banner which reads “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave”–and just like Roti Canai and Dhall, you can’t have one without the other. You can’t live in the Land of the Free, unless you are Home to the Brave, because cowards give up their freedoms at the first sight of danger. To keep your freedom you have to fight to protect them, and never give them up. Because if these laws are anything to go by, once we enact laws to curb freedoms, we seldom repeal them.
Which brings us to the point, protecting freedom requires courage. It requires us to say we don’t want to trade security for freedom, we’d rather live insecure than un-free. And that takes courage, but also common sense. Because if you don’t like that, there’s a place where you can get all the meals you want, a roof for the head and be totally secure…it’s called prison.To get total security, you need to give up ALL your freedom.
And that’s what the terrorist REALLY want you to do, because the real point of terrorism isn’t to kill people, It’s to terrorize them.
To get people to change their way of life, and force upon them a sense of fear so crippling that they will never live free again. If we are to defeat the terrorist, we must not just condemn these acts, but condemn the weak and cowardly among us who would give in to this terrorizing and suggest that we ‘beef up our laws’ and ‘grant more powers to the government’–these are not words of strength, these are code words for giving up freedom and they come only from the lips of the meek. These are the defeatist who would allow the terrorist to win.
We must protect freedom wherever they exist–we already have so little. So when I see people being charged for selling IS merchandise, and politicians claiming we need laws to curb freedom of speech to avoid another Charlie Hebdo, I think to myself where are the brave in Malaysia? Why do the spine-less invertebrates get so much publicity, why isn’t anyone defending our right to freedom of speech (even if it offends, and especially if it offends), why isn’t anyone defending the rights of someone to sell merchandise of an organization? If you’re going to charge someone for selling merchandise of organizations that you don’t agree with–I suggest you start with those that sell swastikas and the book shop that sells Mein Kempf,better yet don’t charge them at all. Because who are you to make such assumptions of what agreeable and what isn’t–what is dangerous and what isn’t?
Isn’t this still a free country? And selling a t-shirt is hardly a crime in a free country is it?
If we are really such cowards as to be afraid of t-shirts…I fear we can never be land of the free, but that’s completely our fault.