Sunday, December 03, 2006

Index Librorum Prohibitorum, Malaysian style

You might not be aware that, in this day an age, Malaysia also has an index of prohibited books.

Banned book list baffling

PETALING JAYA: What do books such as The Heart of Tantric Sex, Practice of Business Statistics and Poems & Prayers For Children have in common? Allegedly, they cannot be sold in Malaysia.

However, confusion reigns over whether the books have, in fact, been restricted from entering the country.

Importers and distributors claim that while many of the books could be easily brought in through KLIA, the Internal Security Ministry had disallowed entry via Johor.

The ministry, however, insists that only books with inappropriate content are disallowed entry.

The confusion over the restriction on the books came to light on Oct 31 when the titles of the 109 disallowed books were posted online by local bookstore Silverfish Books (www.silverfishbooks. com).

Titles such as Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, published in 1980 and voted the Booker of Bookers Prize in 1993 was disallowed, as were titles by other notable authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Anthony Burgess and Alan Hollinghurst.

While the list included controversial books (most of which contain sexual, or culturally, politically and religiously-sensitive elements), there were also some innocuous sounding titles said to have been restricted.

Among them were Read-Aloud Children’s Classics, Counting Adventures Sound Activity Book by Disney, Sea Sale: SpongeBob Squarepants and The Wiggles Shop Wiggly Jukebox; fantasy novel Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan, and Practice of Business Statistics.

Deputy Internal Security Minister, Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said disallowed entries were different from gazetted bans.

“If the distributors feel that any of the restrictions are unfair, they can always appeal by sending the book to our Putrajaya headquarters for review. We will see what the problem is and correct it if necessary.”

He added that there were no blanket bans on any authors, including Rushdie, whose controversial 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, resulted in the late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issuing a fatwa calling for his death.

“We ban titles, not authors,” he said.

Silverfish Books proprietor, Raman Krishnan said that while Fu was right, what happened on the ground was different.

“It’s a problem localised in Johor and it is getting out of control. Books that come in via KLIA without any problems are not allowed via Johor,” he said, citing Midnight’s Children as an example.

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