Malaysiakini Letter

‘KD Freedom of Expression’ scuttled?

K Temoc  |  Published:  |  Modified:

Dear Editor (my response to Commander S Thayaparan’s article),

Firstly, I wish to thank Commander (Rtd) S Thayaparan for his eruditely written take on my earlier piece ‘Charlie Hebdo - an onion that needs to be peeled’ though sadly it has a number of incorrect allegations against me, and secondly, to apprise him of why I disagree with some of his accusations against me.

The worst accusation he hurled against me has been “K Temoc does the usual linking of the carnage of American neo-colonialism to the Charlie Hebdo slaughter. It is an old tactic used in liberal rhetoric that is meant to overshadow the slaughter itself (in guise of nuance) thus establishing identity politics.”

Pray tell me, my dear Commander Thayaparan, where was it in my article that had me “... linking of the carnage of American neo-colonialism to the Charlie Hebdo slaughter.” Yes, please re-read my article to see if you can discover that supposed ‘linking’ in the murky waters of your angry response. If you can find it I’ll call you uncle and buy you two beers (grin).

The Commander has been very very naughty in suggesting that non-existent ‘linking' which I had supposedly done. I know naval officers especially those who are submarine-qualified are trained to torpedo enemy vessel from below the sea surface (assuming in the first place they succeed in submerging their submarines) but it’s altogether another thing to torpedo a debating foe way below his belt.

Again, he did just that when he wrote: “The writer starts off the piece confusingly with “I have to call what happened in Paris on Jan 7, 2015 as an ‘incident’ (and not yet a terrible tragedy), at least until we can separate the two issues and examine each carefully and objectively...” and ends “finding the hypocrisy of Charlie Hebdo as offensive as the slaughter of their cartoonists”.

and

“In other words, to someone like the writer, the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo ends up an ‘incident’ and not a tragedy because they were hypocrites when it comes to the ideal of freedom of expression.”

Very naughty, Commander. You’re putting words in my mouth or writing, that the senseless killings were on par with Charlie Hebdo ’s hypocrisy on the issue of freedom of expression.

Both your paragraphs basically accused me of what I had attempted to forestall in my opening paragraphs of my article, namely, the emotional conflation of two separate issues, namely, (1) the wanton evil killings in Paris by Islamist terrorists and (2) the claimed ‘freedom of expression’ when in reality the latter didn’t exist in Charlie Hebdo , and what I had feared, that in the aftermath of the chaos the sympathy for the former would blind people to the reality of the latter.

Separating two kettles of fish

And that has been why I refused to term the Paris events as a tragedy (only the killings were tragic) UNTIL I could separate the two distinctly different kettles of fish, notwithstanding the general superficial observations they were interconnected, the myth that Charlie Hebdo suffered the assault because they were paragons of freedom of expression.

I provided events to support my belief that ‘freedom of expression’ had not been practiced by Charlie Hebdo and to a certain extent by European authorities and their media.

In fact, on the senseless killings I asserted unequivocally that “There must be no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ when it comes to the absolute necessity for humanity to resoundingly condemn acts of evil, as had been the case at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, and indeed also in the case of the horrendous slaughter of Mohammed Deif’s family in Gaza on Aug 19 last year.”

And in my concluding paragraphs I stated the same, drawing distinction between the two separate issues. Lamentably, Commander Thayaparan in his wrong accusations has inflicted the most unkindest and unfair cut on me.

I’m also sad that he has accused me of singling out Jewish oppression, but doesn’t the word ‘oppression’ means exactly what it is, and thus, does it matter which race or religion oppressed who? I would like to remind him I did also include US oppression, not just Jewish ones.

Anyway, accusing me of singling out Jewish oppression (instead of looking at the oppression per se) is like being accused of being anti-Malay or anti-Islam in Malaysia, where the more one attempts to defend himself against such accusations, the worse it becomes for the accused.

I could if he wishes include Saudi oppression of Shiite Muslims, Chinese oppression of Tibetan people, Hindu extremists’ burning an Australian Christian missionary and his children alive in a car, and their oppression of Indian Muslims, and vice versa in Pakistan, etc.

Fortunately as a thick-skinned blogger I’m quite used to false accusations against me where I have been accused of being variously a DAPster and MCA-Umno paid cybertrooper though sadly never a MIC or PKR cybertrooper. I’m still waiting for the alluded numerous cheques from DAP and MCA head offices and Purajaya. I dream on!

Talking about bloggers, a well-known Malaysian blogger (we know who he is, don’t we) had once informed his readers that most Malaysians lack reading skills. While I don’t wish nor dare to accuse Commander Thayaparan of this, I sense that sometimes when people are angry they read their opposition’s writing in the way they had already pre-judged them.

Commander Thayaparan must have been annoyed by what he saw as my less than favourable reference to him and had come sailing out on KD Marah with all guns blazing, but alas, before he could launch more torpedoes after the one that got me just below my navel (smile) he inadvertently scuttled his own vessel a la Graf Spee .

Sadly, in accusing my views as being riddled with assumptions and condescension, he himself has been grossly guilty of them. And frankly I am too old to be his ‘son’ (smile) but I am prepared to respectfully differ to his seniority, status and superior writing skills (though not his arguments), and address him as Aneh.

Plight of those in other parts of the world

Aneh also stated: “Does the ‘Je suis Charlie’ mean that the people who adopt it are ignorant of the plight of those in other parts of the world? Does the adoption of this moniker mean that people are ignorant of the hypocritical stance of their governments, as the writer seems to imply? Does the adoption of this moniker mean that people are ignorant of the hypocrisy of freedom of expression?”

Now, hasn’t Aneh been guilty of making assumptions in his above assertions, a ‘sin’ he has accused me of? I invite him to peruse the comments in various Malaysian media interactive forums to see whether his faith in his naive belief above would continue to hold?

He then wrote: “Put it another way, do people who proudly chant ABU (Anything But Umno), really think that the alternative is perfect? In the case of the French, perhaps they are choosing to claim allegiance to an ideal (freedom of expression) something that Islam has a problem with and commiserating with their fellow citizens. Could this be it?”

Again another of his assumptions and good faith in the French people, many of whom are by now decidedly fed-up with the Muslims in their country (as is the case today in Australia), mind you, not that I blame them. But the point I had been making in my previous letter is that for me, Je ne suis pas Charlie if the Paris march had been about eulogising Charlie Hebdo as a paragon of expression of freedom.

That would be like me saluting Benjamin Netanyahu for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. A very nauseating thought.

As for our own ABU, much as I respect, admire and indeed adore Haris Ibrahim, I disagree with his ABU right from Day 1 (exercising my freedom of expression - grin) because one horrendous outcome of ABU had been the replacement of a good man like Saifuddin Abdullah, yes from Umno and so what, with a less-than-admirable person who believed that babies abandoned by single mothers through illicit births had been the result of Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Day celebrations and whose colleagues have been either recent Deucalion-wannabe or one who informed our supposedly august Parliament that “If we see women who don’t have husbands and are divorced not because their husbands are dead, (it must be because) they are ‘gatal sikit’.”

Well, Aneh, you have to ask those people who proudly chanted ABU especially those who voted in Temerloh in the last election, whether they had really thought carefully before they voted out Saifuddin Abdullah? That's the problem with an angry mob having a catchy chant, or an equally emotional one in Paris!

Then Aneh said of his Tambee (moi, smile): “I do not dispute anything the writer wrote about the hypocrisy of Charlie Hebdo , even though they have a history of insulting every state and religious sacred cow on the planet.”

Europe’s most sacred cow

Not so Aneh, as I have narrated in the case of Maurice Sinet who was sacked by Charlie Hebdo in 2008 because he had the offensive temerity to touch on Europe’s most sacred cow.

I could go on and on refuting Aneh's words against me but I have to apologise to Aneh for not doing him proper honour with just this short response today because I somehow missed his article until one of my blog visitors informed me early this morning, thus I am pressed to finish it before the Friday cut-off time for letters to Malaysiakini .

However, I am very happy to note that Aneh has since his statement about “those very ideals that Charlie Hebdo fought to maintain in its own sometimes crude way,” has now revised it to the “various degrees of freedom of expression”.

Based on that, we could draw a rating of 0 to 10 where 10 represents absolute freedom of expression. I, arbitrarily of course, would gauge Austria at 6 for jailing David Irving, Britain at 7.5 for its silly treatment of Prince Harry and a 6.5 for undemocratically suspending Ken Livingstone, while Charlie Hebdo would be found in the nasty netherworld of a negative 5 or further back, for both its ill treatment of Maurice Sinet and its misuse of the freedom of expression to abuse, vilify and provoke people’s scared beliefs, be it Islam, Christianity, Judaism, etc. What Charlie Hebdo has done has been beyond journalistic satire.

Mind, there is a temptation for Tambee (moi) to shout triumphantly ‘Land Ahoy’ and dismiss Aneh’s revised statement on freedom of expression as a grudging euphemism of the reality I had presented, but I believe he has made quite a compelling case for his “various degrees of freedom of expression” which I will consider as a moderation of my harsh criticism on European hypocrisy on topic. Nandri Aneh (grin).


K TEMOC is a Penangite who enjoys being an independent blogger and loves to share his opinion on Malaysian and world affairs without fear or favour, though currently he is politically inclined towards DAP, only because the political party has thus far shown faithfulness to its promise of competency, accountability and transparency.

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