Festival of Intolerance – a flood of entries

The announcement of our inaugural Festival of Intolerance has encouraged a flood of entries. The two most notable are both from overseas – one from Vietnam and another from Malaysia. 

Here is Vietnam’s bid for entry, as reported on page 8 of yesterday’s Australian Financial Review:

Hanoi | Vietnamese police have detained a second blogger in a week in the latest crackdown on dissent in the communist country.

Blogger and writer Nguyen Quang Lap was taken into custody and his house searched in the southern hub of Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday.

The Ministry of Public Security said in a statement on its website police were investigating Lap’s “law violations”, but didn’t elaborate.

The Labor newspaper quoted Lap’s wife, Ho Thi Hong, as saying the family was informed by security police that he was detained for posting articles that oppose the ruling Communist Party.

Lap, 56, often reposts other bloggers’ political and social writings critical of the communist government.

Lap’s arrest is unusual because he is considered part of the mainstream of Vietnamese literature.

Lap has been a regular on state media and has won prizes backed by the Vietnamese government.

Last week, police in Ho Chi Minh City detained blogger Hong Le Tho, 65, for alleged anti-government postings.

International human rights groups and some Western governments, including the United States, have criticised Vietnam for jailing people for peacefully expressing their views. Hanoi maintains only law breakers are put behind bars.

The latest crackdown comes more than a month after prominent blogger Nguyen Van Hai was freed and put on a flight to the US.

Vietnam earlier this year released 12 prisoners of conscience.

Press freedom group Reporters without Borders says Vietnam has a total of 34 bloggers in prison.

which is quite a sobering statistic for this blogger. Thank heavens I live in Australia.

And here is Malaysia’s bid – not as strong as Vietnam’s, but quite striking nevertheless, given that it holds itself to be a democracy – from the Weekend Australian of October 18-19 this year:

Liberal Islamic scholar Ulil Abshar Abdalla has been banned by the Malaysian government from entering the country to speak at a forum on the threat posed by religious fundamentalism.

The forum is being held at the headquarters of the Global Movement of Moderates established by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that Dr Ulil, an Indonesian, had ben barred entry because “he would mislead the Muslims in the country if he is allowed to spread his brand of liberalism here”.

Mr Najib said yesterday, after Malaysia had been elected to a temporary UN Security Council seat, that the country would advance “a Malaysian vision of peace and moderation”.

Dr Ulil, 47, said the ban was a case of conservative groups wanting to impose a “monoculture of conformism” on Muslim society.

“As sad as this ban might be, it won’t work. Authority might ban my entrance to Malaysia. But Islamic progressive ideas can’t be stopped,” he said.

He quoted 18th-century philosopher Thomas Paine. “To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason … is like administering medicine to the dead.”

Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said Jakarta hoped Kuala Lumpur would not ban other Indonesians from entering Malaysia for religious discussions.

“Malaysians wanting to come to Indonesia to discuss religion” would be welcome, he said. “Differing perspectives on religion should not be a cause for worry – they can be bridged by dialogue.”

Malaysia’s ambassador to Jakarta, Zahrain Mohamed Hashim, warned that if Dr Ulil were allowed into his country, he might spread the teachings of minority Islamic sect Ahmadiyyah.

But Dr Ulil said he was a member of one of Indonesia’s two most established and biggest Sunni Islamic organisations – Nahdlatul Ulama – and had only expressed the view that Ahmadiyyah should not itself be banned unless it acted in breach of the law.

He has criticised the Islamic council of clerics for prohibiting Muslims from offering Christmas greetings to Christian colleagues.

Zaid Ibrahim, a lawyer and former Malaysian minister suspended from the ruling UMNO party six years ago, said that “the jihadist menace is a subject everyone is talking about”, and that the ban underlined that the government itself was now fundamentalist.

‘[H]e would mislead the Muslims in the country if he is allowed to spread his brand of liberalism here’. Heavens to betsy, we can’t have that. Perhaps the Malaysians should also muzzle the Home Minister – just in case he were to mislead the Malaysian people about something.

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About Stebbing Heuer

A person interested in exploring human perception, reasoning, judgement and deciding, and in promoting clear, effective thinking and the making of good decisions.
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