Oh Dear, Darwin Banned in Malaysia


(What is the criteria to ban a book? What constitute a great endangerment of public harmony? It gets rather ugly when a book is banned just because it goes against one’s personal values and beliefs. Cartoon source: http://www.incidentalcomics.com)

Still saying that the implementation of hudud will not impact the non Muslims? Well, think again.

This little revelation hardly made front page but it had left me with mixed feelings:-

According to the Home Ministry’s website, there are a total of 1,532 banned publications, with the most recent publication to face the government’s wrath being, inexplicably, a comic entitled Ultraman: The Ultra Power.

While the very act of banning books cannot possibly be justified, there is another trend that makes even less sense. There appears to be certain books that are banned only in the Malay language, while there are no restrictions whatsoever on their English versions.

One such example is the seminal book, The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, which is available for sale at many bookstores in Malaysia. However, its Malay translation, Asal-usul Spesies, is listed as a banned book under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1982.

Charles Darwin’s famous book is not the only publication to suffer such a fate. One other example is Karen Armstrong’s Islam: A Short History, which is freely available at bookstores and university libraries in Malaysia, while Sepintas Sejarah Islam, the Malay translation, is also listed as a banned book.

In the last Parliamentary session, I submitted a question on The Origin of Species, enquiring why the Malay translation of the book is banned while the English version is allowed.

According to the written reply by the Home Minister (see attachments), the book is banned because it “endangers public harmony.” Explaining further, the Minister also states that the “translated book depicts a view of the origin and creation of species that goes against Islamic teachings and is in contravention of the Islamic Materials Censorship Guidelines as well as the beliefs of the Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah….”

Meanwhile, the English version is allowed because the Home Ministry has “not received any complaints regarding the existence of any infringements of Islamic aspects…” according to the very same guidelines by Jakim.

The explanation by the Home Minister not only makes absolutely no sense, it is also a veritable insult to the intelligence of Malaysians. How can the same book be considered a public danger and against Islamic teachings in one language, but perfectly acceptable in another?

Worse, is the Home Minister also effectively telling Malaysians that knowledge is reserved only for those who are English-literate? Is a Malaysian who can only speak and read in Malay considered not mature enough to make informed decisions? As most people who fall into the latter category are Malays, the question then arises whether there is a deliberate policy to keep Malays ignorant.

Not only is such discrimination abominable, it is also ineffective because books and knowledge can be easily accessed and obtained on the Internet.
Therefore, I call upon the Home Minister to lift restrictions on the sale and distribution of all publications, and to immediately end the intellectual persecution of Malaysians.

Zairil Khir Johari
Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera
DAP Assistant National Publicity Secretary


Banning a book because it upsets certain section of the people is nothing new in this country. And we are not alone on this.

But the thing is, is the book banned on very valid reasons or we ban a book because we don’t understand the subject matter and do not know how to react to it positively? The fact that translated book that has nothing to do with religion is banned in Malaysia on excuse of religion shows how far we are in terms of critical thinking and how much we are exposed to the real world affairs. If that is the case, it sets a dangerous precedent and what happens if other religion resort to the same measures. Hindus don’t eat beef so should they call for a total ban of cow meat into the country? That would be silly, right?

Now, before anyone comes along and say that why the non Muslims are worried about this as the English version is readily made available, think on the long term impact of simply banning Science related books just because it goes against the teaching of Islam

You still remember this?

Parent’s Action Group for English (PAGE) is not giving up on its campaign to get the authorities to allow science and mathematics to be taught in English (PPSMI). Its president, Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, said the lingua franca of science is English, which is also the language of the internet.

“The government cannot expect students to switch to English (in international fields) effortlessly after learning maths and science in Malay for so long. “Students should start learning science and maths at kindergartens so that they won’t be faced with the problem of language transition to English later,” she said.


Mind you, this affects both Muslim and non Muslim students. The shortcomings of teaching science and mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia instead of English has been numerous, from the lack of teachers able to read and speak proper English (some people simply fear the language and take no initiative to learn) to the lack of reading & technical materials in Bahasa Malaysia (once again, it goes back to non having enough competent people to translate the existing books) and it has come to a point where even the Old Man was restless:-

“The Government is focusing too much on Bahasa Malaysia. The Malays, however, are not experts in science and technology. This kind of knowledge comes from the West and the information is mostly in English,” he added.

Noting that the Government had instead followed the advice of National Laureate Datuk A. Samad Said by reverting to teaching both subjects in the national language, Dr Mahathir said this would only hamper the country’s development.

“He (Samad) only knows about Bahasa Malaysia. He is not a Science man. I am a Science man and I can still speak in Malay,” he pointed out, adding, “This is why I keep talking about it.”


Thus, putting the science books (even though translated) under the scrutiny of the religious people will only make things worse. Don’t they know that water and oil will never mix? Same goes for science and religion. In the end, does anyone really cares if the country would be a loser at the end of the day?

As I had said earlier, this leaves me with mixed feelings. I don’t know whether to be angry or feel pity on the fact that one of the more famed books in the study of evolution gets banned just because it does not “conform” to Islamic teachings and it endangers public harmony. What constitutes endanger public harmony anyway? I know a couple of things that also endanger public harmony but nothing had happened.

To some of us, the theory of evolution may just be science fiction but it is also not a myth too. After all, one cannot dismiss the fact that all living creatures and plants in this world is subjected to the process of evolution one way or another.

It was the same case when Galileo came out to tell that the Earth revolves around the Sun and not the other way around. Despite proof, the religious dunggus were only interested on Galileo’s blood (well, not really but he was kept under house arrest nonetheless). At the end of the day, the mainstream science will never conform with religion – there will be some give & take here and there but no one from either side of the view will come and admit that the other view is absolutely right.

This is one reason why you should not mix religion and politics together – you will end up getting dumb decisions. Today they ban the translated The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin but tomorrow, who knows, they may just ban all other translated science books. And once that is done, still unsatisfied, they will even then ban the English books. And the there is no prize for guessing who would be the biggest losers at the end of the day. What then the students would be using for cross reference?

So don’t be surprised, one way we will wake up and realized that the “science” books allowed and available are those written by a small time preacher from a small village deep in Taliban lands and it will anything but science.


One School System Revisited

Read previous posts on the One School System & National Language:-

JMD raised something rather interesting in his post “One School System – It’s now or never

In one hand, those who desire to see a more unified and integrated society are labeled as racists while on the other hand, those who support the Chinese and Tamil schools had labeled themselves as victims. Never mind the fact that Chinese and Tamil schools are in fact, schools that were established based fundamentally and historically on racial grounds. But according to these opposition members, vernacular schools are not racist. The One School system is!

Are we racist in trying to get all our children to be together? I am sure we are not.

It is just a matter of time when we have a complete segregation of society where the two main race will not interact with one another in a lifetime. Do we really want this?

Anthony Loke must be delusional if he still wants to blame the government for not giving assistance for the students in Chinese vernacular schools to increase their proficiency in Bahasa Malaysia. But then again it is not vintage DAP if they do not blame the government for everything.

The most cost effective way is for everyone to enroll in national school where Bahasa Malaysia is the main medium of instruction.

(Read further and we may understand now why the Opposition may not be ready to run the country yet)

When my son was about embark his journey into primary school early this year, one of the tougher decision that faced me and my wife was whether we should enroll him into national school or a nearby more prominent Chinese school.

I say “tough” because the dilemma was presented to us by our family members, close relatives and family friends. Between me and wife, the decision was all too simple and easy – we already opted for national school for our kids many, many years before. After all, we too went through national school when we were young and I guess we did alright when we left school. Further, there is no other better place to learn up the national language and interaction with fellow Malaysians than in national schools.

For us, education is a matter of effort, preference and options – it does not necessary that you need to go to a Chinese or Tamil school to get good education (going to private schools will of course be another ball game but then how many ordinary Malaysians are well off to send their kids to private schools?) and in this high-tech age, it comes from Internet and other avenues as well.

So, we dismissed our relatives’ concerns and enrolled our son in a national school. When we went to his school during the first day, we noticed that in my son’s class; almost 98% of students were Malay students. We gathered that the missing non Malay students were in the nearby Chinese and Tamil schools. The remaining non Malay students in the class including my son had trouble speaking Bahasa Malaysia fluently and had to contend with speaking only English with the other fellow students and not mingle well with the rest who only spoke Bahasa Malaysia.

It looked like a problem to us and my wife even insisted on sending our son for tuition on Bahasa so that he can pick up fast and not left out on the education and interactions with fellow students and teachers. But I decided that sending our son to tuition would be a waste of time (and money) as we were sure that although he may struggle for a few months, he will pick up the language on his own. Now, he can speak and write Bahasa fairly good and get well with rest of his fellow classmates. So there is really no issue with language at national schools.

So, what is stopping us from going to the same school, learning to interact with each other and strive for the betterment of our beloved nation? Why the different schools and the sorry excuse that Bahasa Malaysia, being our national language is not important for advancement in career and further studies? Doesn’t speaking in one language means we will be more united?

Before we put the blame on cheap politics, we also need to address the concerns of the parents who still send their kids to Chinese and Tamil schools. It is not much and it is not impossible for the Government address them, considering that education system in this country forms the back bone of nation building.

What are the concerns?

1. Quality of teaching and teachers.

When we wanted our son to go to national school, the main concern raised by our relatives was the quality of teachers in national school. Some, I am afraid have not even mastered the other main language – English. Chinese school on the other hand may not have fared better (you need to master Mandarin instead) but they seems to have better teachers. They even have programs for students for the weekends and the amount of homework given may even frighten the bolder ones. When it comes to education policies in our national schools, we seem to have gone backwards with not teaching Mathematics and Science in English.

But that seems to be changing – in 2011, the Government introduced KSSR (Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah) and one of the thrust of the new curriculum which focuses on six key areas namely communication, spiritual attitude and values, humanitarianism, literacy in science and technology, physical and personal development is to produce holistic individuals

And what I have seen so far from the books and methods of teaching in Standard 1, it looks like we are on the right path. We may need to fine tune the curriculum here and there in the future but I won’t say it is worse than before. It looks in par with Chinese and Tamil schools but less stressful (excluding the stress that my son gets at home, of course)

2. Preservation of Chinese and Tamil language in schools

Frankly speaking, I don’t see how Chinese and Tamil students will lose touch of their own language by going to national schools if efforts are done to have special classes on the said language. Tamil school was my last option for my son but even after enrolled in national school, he picked up the Tamil language fairly better than the rest of us. The school has dedicated teachers for Chinese and Tamil language and the non Malay students are made to participate in these classes without any negative impact on the core syllabus and mastery of the Bahasa Malaysia and English.

But there is no point mastering Chinese and Tamil if one cannot master the national language, Bahasa Malaysia and English first. As true blood Malaysian, it is rather shameful if you are still struggling to speak and write in Bahasa long after you have left school.

As of many things in this world, when we start with something new or radical, we are going to face problems. But if that new and radical thing will ultimately solve sticky situations like racial tolerance, unity, etc, then we should strive for it. One School System is the best solution for national integration, no doubt about that – the question remains, for how long we are going to keep our national treasures, our young ones grossly segregated.

Indeed, One School System – It’s now or never…