Malaysia does not need hate speech laws

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

“The concept of ‘micro-aggression’ is just one of many tactics used to stifle differences of opinion by declaring some opinions to be ‘hate speech’, instead of debating those differences in a marketplace of ideas. To accuse people of aggression for not marching in lockstep with political correctness is to set the stage for justifying real aggression against them.”
– Thomas Sowell

COMMENT | As someone who is routinely accused of hate speech, this article may come off as self-serving. Just before May 9, a group of “young Malay professionals” claimed that I should be investigated for stoking religious and racial sentiments. Add to this the reception of my article on “civilising Islam” from the Malay far right, this means that for some people I am/was the poster child for hate speech laws.

Never mind, for in all those articles I was merely offering an opinion on public comments of what political and religious operatives of the state said in the name of religion or on racial privilege. Facts were not important – only the emotions the articles brought forth.

In most of the comments section of those articles in the Malay far-right media, racial and religious invectives were used against me and the majority of comments were ad hominem, instead of addressing the points I raised.

When we talk of hate speech, Pakatan Harapan supporters are quick to point to Umno or PAS or any of the numerous political operators or provocateurs that ply their trade in the public spaces of this country.

They never really address the hate speech emanating from the base against anyone who goes against the groupthink that is pervasive in the then-opposition, now establishment media. Political correctness (which is bad enough) only applies to partisan correctness.

Here’s the thing though. Who defines hate speech? More importantly, who has the power to sanction speech they deem hateful? I’ll give you an example.

Gobind Singh Deo talks of the need for hate speech laws because of what Raja Petra Kamarudin said about Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department director Amar Singh’s turban. For the Sikh community this was an attack on their religion.

From a news report: “He also pointed out that Malaysians were a multiracial and multi-religious society, and therefore, such attacks against anyone to go unnoticed should not be allowed.”

Except, of course, that hate speech occurs every day in this country...

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