Malaysia

Nazri: Free speech for all, even Ibrahim Ali

By Clara Chooi
May 20, 2011

Nazri said it was hard to prosecute Ibrahim for sedition as his threats have not caused violence. — file picNazri said it was hard to prosecute Ibrahim for sedition as his threats have not caused violence. — file picKUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — Standing by his decision not to haul up Datuk Ibrahim Ali for threatening a “crusade” on Christians, Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz has pledged the same treatment for all similar transgressions in the future.

“It is not just the opposition politicians but also those in the Barisan Nasional (BN). In fact, anybody at all... bloggers and so on,” he told The Malaysian Insider when contacted.

The de facto law minister said this was because the existence of the new media like blogs, Facebook and Twitter had forced the government to relax its control over an individual’s right to free speech.

“We cannot practise selective persecution. So if we were to act against Ibrahim, then we have to act against bloggers or newspapers or Twitter users. And yet, these people are also protected by the Bill of Guarantees (BoGs),” he said, referring to the government’s pledge not to censor the Internet under the 10-point BoGs of the Malaysian Multimedia Super Corridor.

Nazri stressed, however, that this did not mean he backed Ibrahim, whom he previously clashed with in the media, and called on all Malaysians to judge wisely statements made by any individual.

“The landscape has changed. Sensitive matters are now being discussed in the open.

“When something is mentioned all the time, it becomes less sensitive and this is a good thing because then things can be mentioned but people will not take offence to it,” he said.

Nazri pointed out that if Ibrahim had made a similar statement 40 years back, he would have likely triggered a riot among the country’s various races.

“But it has been days since he made the statement and yet, we do not see any riot on the streets. People are no longer as sensitive as they were before.

“Now, people just laugh at Ibrahim and call him a clown,” he said.

Ibrahim threatened Christians with a crusade. — file picIbrahim threatened Christians with a crusade. — file picHe said it was likely because PAS members, all of whom are Muslims, as well as Umno members, rejected Ibrahim’s views.

“So you cannot even say that Ibrahim’s words have caused the Malays to rise against the Christians.

“It is no longer a shock to Malaysians when these issues are raised because of the new media... we have been talking about it openly all the time.

“If you speak, for example, of Article 153, people are no longer as sensitive as before and is this not a good thing?” he said.

Nazri claimed that wielding the Sedition Act or any such legislation against an individual would be a difficult, saying it has to be proven in court that the person’s words or actions had led to violent circumstances.

“But in this case... how to prove? Did anything happen? None,” he pointed out.

Ibrahim threatened Christians nationwide during a rally in Gombak on Saturday with a crusade or holy war should they proceed with their purported agenda to usurp Islam.

The Perkasa president thundered to an audience of some 200 at Kampung Changkat here that he was willing to take the fall for his statement in order to defend the dignity of Islam.

Although he complained of fatigue from his nine rallies from Kelantan to Gombak since last Friday, the Pasir Mas MP also said his blood was boiling with rage and “hairs standing on end” following recent reports of a Christian conspiracy between religious leaders and opposition party politicians.

“In Kelantan earlier, I declared before the police, I told the security forces present that if they want to send my messages to Bukit Aman (police headquarters), please go ahead.

“Please record my words — if there is any party in Penang, especially the Christian priests who are being backed by the Penang DAP, should continue with their agenda which we already know, I would like to offer that if they want to hold a crusade, we can,” he charged.

Ibrahim was referring to the recent row over a controversial newspaper report in Utusan Malaysia entitled “Kristian Agam Rasmi?” (Christianity the official religion?) in which it was alleged that DAP leaders and Christian priests were conspiring to take over Putrajaya, abolish Islam as the religion of the federation and install a Christian prime minister.

The report was based entirely on unsubstantiated blog posts by two pro-Umno bloggers, one of whom is currently under investigation by police. The second blogger has since deleted the entire contents of his blog.

Christian leaders and DAP members have denied the reports and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was also forced to host a meeting with the religious chiefs to solve the issue but Ibrahim insisted on Saturday that the report was true.

Utusan Malaysia’s Christian conspiracy report is presently under police investigation.