Friday, July 3, 2015

Tarnished by BTN, indie groups say they want to foster critical thinking


BY MELATI A. JALIL
Published: 3 July 2015 9:00 AM

Buku Jalanan is a free book library movement which is political, but non-partisan, says one of its coordinators. – Facebook pic, July 3, 2015.

Buku Jalanan is a free book library movement which is political, but non-partisan, says one of its coordinators. – Facebook pic, July 3, 2015.
Attacked by Putrajaya's National Civics Bureau (BTN) as a possible threat to the government in elections, independent movements and book publishers in Malaysia say they are non-partisan and only want to create public discourse among youth.
Founder and managing director of Lejen Press Muhammad Aisamuddin Md Asri said they were not pro-opposition but wanted to foster social criticism and political ideas in the novels they published as a way of informing their readers, many of whom were university students, about current issues in Malaysia.
“In Lejen’s books, we touch on social criticism that is happening in our country (and look at) what went wrong. We not only criticise the government but also the opposition like the state governments. We criticise both sides,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
"We never instruct our writers to write something against the federal government and to write only the good things about the opposition.”
Stressing Lejen's neutrality, he said they did not pick sides and had also participated in Putrajaya-sponsored events.
"We never join any event that is pro-opposition, in fact, we joined many events organised by the government, like Hari Belia,” he said adding that they had even invited a Barisan Nasional (BN) MP to write for them.
Aisamuddin, or better known as Aisa Linglung (pic), said one of their best-selling novels was "BABI – Bercinta Di Balik Api" – about an illegitimate child on a journey to understand his religion, which his own family no longer practised.
“We want our readers to be aware of issues in this country because most of our readers are university students and we believe they are the ones who will be in politics and business some day," Aisa said.
Aisa and Lejen were recently red-flagged by BTN in a dossier on the independent arts, music and literature movement in Malaysia. 
The document, which was available online and since removed, said the movement had reach among young people and could affect the outcome of general elections at the expense of BN, the ruling coalition.
Lejen has about 150,000 followers on social media accounts since it first started in 2011. 
But Aisa, however, believed that Lejen's reach was wider as sales at book fairs each year would double.
Zikri Rahman from Buku Jalanan described the free book library movement as a cultural entity which was also political, but non-partisan.
"Even though we are non-partisan, we are political, we (believe) there is a need to have knowledge to be involved in politics and it all starts with reading."
Buku Jalanan holds discussions every two weeks to discuss a book, an activity Zikir, one of the group's founders, said was good for strengthening society intellectually.
“We celebrate the diversity in reading materials, but the books must be able to generate debate so that we have intellectual discourse in Malaysia.”
Buku Jalanan first started in Shah Alam in 2011 and has now spread around the country, catering mainly to university students.
Following BTN's attack against them, various independent groups in the local arts and literature scene have demanded an apology from the government agency, which critics say has become a tool for Putrajaya to indoctrinate civil servants into being loyal to the government.
The groups have claimed that the dossier, used as a teaching module in BTN workshops, was reckless and made without verifying any of the information in it. – July 3, 2015.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/tarnished-by-btn-indie-groups-say-they-want-to-foster-critical-thinking#sthash.d4JPD31t.dpuf

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