The Malaysian alternative -->

Perhaps the Met could take a page from a recent court decision in Malaysia. At the end of December, Lau Bee Lan, a High Court Justice, settled a challenge by ruling that it was legal for a Catholic paper sold “only on church grounds and bearing the label FOR NON-MUSLIMS ONLY, to use the word ‘Allah’ in its Malay language edition.” What a scandal! Well, certain members of the religion of peace thought it scandalous enough to firebomb several Christian churches in Kuala Lumpur. According to one commentary,

it is unclear at this point how much damage the affair has done to Malaysia’s international standing as a moderate Muslim country, but it has been considerable. The images of firebombed churches have flashed across the world’s major media, delivering a blow to the country’s standing. The Home Ministry brought in scores of foreign diplomats to brief them in an attempt to shore up the country’s tolerant standing.

Meanwhile, there is this linguistic tangle to contend with:

The government can only be called confused over the language issue. On Jan. 18, Nazri Aziz, a minister in the prime minister’s department, said three states and the Federal Territories—Penang, Sabah and Sarawak and possibly Kuala Lumpur would be allowed to use the word Allah but that it would be prohibited in the others. In the states of Pahang and Malacca, the word nabi (prophet) is banned and the Malay word for Bible (Injil) is banned in 10 states. The Bahasa Indonesia version of Charles Darwin’s classic “On the Origin of Species,” which is very close to Bahasa Malaysia, is banned in Malaysia although the English original is freely available.

Where is Evelyn Waugh when you need him? And this, remember, is in “tolerant” Malayasia.

Our friend Mark Steyn recently observed that such linguistic timorousness reveals the toxic core of political correctness. Many of us associate political correctness with American college campuses, where self- infatuation combines with an allergy to telling the truth to produce that circus of mendacity with which the academy has entertained the world over the last couple of decades. But Mr. Steyn is right that political correctness is not just an academic phenomenon. At bottom, it is a refusal of reality, a refusal to call things by their real names, hence the propagation of a lie. If political correctness in a university setting is often comical, sometimes repulsive, in its attack on free expression, in the broader world, it can be deadly.

New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 28 Number 6, on page 2
Copyright © 2023 The New Criterion |

Popular Right Now