Saturday, March 19, 2011

Don't Censor 'Interlok'

We cannot agree with the proposal to censor 'Interlok'. Books, when censored, are immediately stripped of their value.

Writers may be good or writers may be bad. You may read their books, or you may dismiss them, that is your individual choice. But you cannot change what they have written, to suit yourself, current values or political situations. Interlok, is, in any event, a mediocre novel, and if we were to write a book review, it would be scathing.

But not one word in 'Interlok', including the demeaning 'pariah', should be changed. 'Interlok' is a product of it's times, and the perceptions of an individual writer, and now, due to the controversy surrounding it, it is a book of some significance even if it is, factually inaccurate and poorly researched.

Having said that, we are against it being used, or taught, in secondary schools. Malaysia's educational system does not promote, in our opinion, critical thought and analysis. Students who are products of such an educational system may lack the maturity to handle the book with the appropriate detachment or the critical eye and review that all books merit.

It may, however, be used, in tertiary institutions, and perhaps in view of the notoriety it has attained, it must.

The Education Ministry was short-sighted in including the book in the school curriculum. They now find themselves trapped between two opposing groups, unable to turn left or right, in the middle of what could very well be an election year. They have only themselves to blame for the predicament they are in.They will have to find the strength, somehow, to do the right thing, remove it from the schools, and introduce it in universities instead.

But do not destroy literature, whether you like it or no, by attempting to introduce a hundred changes, to one book written decades ago. It is wrong and it is regressive and it is what this Special Panel on 'Interlok' seeks to do. For those who are educationists or writers, and sit on this panel, how dare you, sirs, to be a party and complicit in such abominable attempt.

And do not burn books.

Only the barbaric, the crass, and the unlearned would burn a book. As well as those who do not read, and therefore cannot understand, that books are, to some of us, faithful companions. Every one of us, would be uneducated, ignorant and unseeing, if it were not, for books.

Books should be treasured companions, or not, but it hurts us to see them used, to feed some flame.

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