‘Satanic Verses’ for SPM English, can ah?
Pix from Guardian
If Abdullah Hussain is Malaysia’s Sasterawan Negara, Sir Salman Rushdie is a Sasterawan Negara-Negara, a literary giant of global repute who has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his contributions to the field of writing.
Rushdie has also received from France the Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and from Harvard University, an Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Cultural Humanism award. His efforts have won the prestigious Whitbread (twice), Bookers, and literary prizes from the European Union, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and India among others.
One of his best books Midnight’s Children was voted the Booker of Bookers.
Some of Abdullah’s staunch defenders claim that Interlok is only fiction, so why the big fuss over a mere story that teaches us historical lessons?
Well, Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses is also just a work of fiction. As a multiple international award winner, it has got the one up on Abdullah’s consolation prize winner.
Interlok is a Komsas (Komponen Sastera) for SPM Bahasa Melayu.
But let’s just engage in a hypothetical exercise here and put the shoe on the other foot. Now imagine if Satanic Verses were to be made a literature component in our SPM English language paper. Rather than reinventing the wheel, we’ll just recycle the arguments of those supporting Interlok’s inclusion in BM.
Why take issue, Satanic Verses is only a historical novel, what. We will amend one or two words, take out the offensive paragraph, publish a glossary and append a teacher’s guide.
An article titled ‘Justice for Interlok’ by ‘Sen Tyng Chai’ defending the contentious novel copies the Ridhuan template to a ‘tee’. By the way, Mr Chai appears to be following the Western convention of putting surname at the back.
If we may borrow the following phrases from Chai (he talks about Interlok but we’ll apply them to Satanic Verses) going by the axiom of what’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander:
“Imagine the surprise when the controversy dragged on, with threats of book burning, demonstrations and protests,” wrote Chai in his defence of Interlok, but which one can write about Satanic Verses too.
“we have buried the novel with our wilful ignorance, prejudice and fear”
“why the wild allegations and derision?”
“disinformation and distortions”
“also defamed his work and reputation as writer”
In the case of Rushdie, the demos in Malaysia have defamed his work and reputation as an internationally acclaimed writer.
Mr Chai, the valiant defender Abdullah Hussain asked: “It is the ones who make the louder noise that get heard?” and heckles the “bias of these self-appointed guardians of public interest”. May we say, ditto Salman Rushdie?
Why take the “the path of least resistance” and not meeting the challenge of understanding its content by banning Satanic Verses entirely? In fact, several other titles by Rushdie are banned in Malaysia too.
Comparatively, all that the hundreds of protesting NGOs are asking is for the withdrawal of Interlok from the school syllabus; anyone interested can still buy it from the bookshops anytime.
Or do you agree to Satanic Verses being made a literature component for Malaysian students taking the SPM English language paper? No, no, no we’re definitely NOT proposing such a thing. Just hoping to make people think.