Is there a ban on “Non-Islamic religious elements” by LPF and MCMC?

By Tuaran MP Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau


KOTA KINABALU: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and three related ministers are urged to clarify if there is a ban of ‘non-Islamic religious elements’ on TV, movies and other broadcasting media imposed by the protocols of the Film Censorship Board (LPF) and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). If this is not true, new circulars should be made to such effect.

This was revealed in the now u-turned exclusion of the carol “O Holy Night” in the “A Christmas Carol, Sarawak in Diversity” event to be aired by TVS, the broadcaster owned by Sarawak, on December 3.

While the exclusion has been swiftly reversed under public outcry, and conveniently blamed on ‘miscommunication’ in a joint statement by TVS and the State Government’s Unit for Other Religions (UNIFOR), the earlier revelation reported by FMT on 24 November over-christmas-events-snub-of-o-holy-night/

In explaining why, the Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) decided to boycott the event, the report reveals that “The organiser of the event, TVS, a state-owned television station, said it could not accede to the request as “O Holy Night” contained religious elements.

It said this was in line with the protocols of the Film Censorship Board (LPF) as well as the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).”
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi who oversees LPF, Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil who oversees MCMC, and Sarawak-born National Unity Minister Aaron Ago Dagang are urged to make an unequivocal statement on this matter, instead of letting TVS to take the blame for alleged ‘miscommunication’.

If the presence of such ban is unfortunately true, it can only mean there is an explicit attempt to deny non-Islamic faith their legitimate space in TV, Movie and other broadcast media, to make such realm a monopoly of Islam.

The Sarawak Government should be commended for organising through TVS this event, to be attended by Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg, but its noble effort has apparently been tarnished by Malayan exclusivism.

If true, such ban has severe implications harming Malaysia’s national interest:

  1. It is tantamount to a malicious misinterpretation of Article 3 of the Federal Constitution which makes Islam as the religion of Federation, a provision supported by all Malaysians, to the extent of undermining freedom of expression under Article 10(1)(c) and religious freedom under Article 11, thus sowing the seed of national disunity.
  2. It is an affront to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) which underlined religious freedom as a fundamental characteristic of Malaysia. Religious freedom is upheld as part of the core identity of Sabah and Sarawak, not only by Christians, Buddhists, Taoists, Animists, atheists and other non-Muslims, but also by Muslims who celebrate their families and social ties with other Borneo Malaysians. Such betrayal of MA63 would make a strong contrast of Malaysian Borneo to Indonesian Kalimantan, where all religions including indigenous religions are celebrated and protected. Further attempts to make Malaysia a country where only Islam can appear in public sphere threatens the territorial integrity of Malaysia. Malaysian Borneans must not be pushed to find themselves sharing a closer vision of multicultural nationhood with their Indonesian cousins than colonialist-minded Malayans who try to “Malayanise” their homelands.
  3. It helps to fuel Islamophobia around the world by showcasing how Muslim majoritarianism would limit the freedom of non-Muslims when the demographic and political strength of Muslims grow.

This is most unfortunate as Sabah, Sarawak and Indonesia – as part of the multiculturalist Nusantara civiliation — have long shown harmonious co-existence of Muslims and non-Muslims is both possible and cherished, much like the Medina city under the leadership of Prophet Mohamad in 622-632 AD (1-10 Hijrah). It goes without saying that this also draws cynicisms and ridicule to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s noble ideal of Malaysia Madani, which is based on the Medina experience and important for Malaysia to stay territorially united.

To put this matter to rest, LPF and MCMC must issue their new circular to deny the existence of such ban from now on. They must not become the stumbling blocks in national unity and government policy.

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