Malaysia Dateline

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What next, dress code for religious programmes, asks Raja Bahrin

Amanah’s Kuala Terengganu MP Datuk Raja Bahrin Shah today said Malaysia already had enough race-related problems and there was no need to further polarise it by interfering in the arts scene, as seen in the controversy over the new rulings for the  (FFM).

“Where or how do we draw the line? Are we going to have dress code next for ‘religious programmes’ where all must wear Baju Melayu and not robes or western suits?” he asked.

He lamented that race-based polarisation had invaded every facet of Malaysian life.

“Being an architect where freedom to express is also vital, I can appreciate the frustrations shown by Afdlin Shaukee and Mohd Noor Kassim in protesting,” he added, referring to the decision by the duo to boycott this year’s FFM.

Organisers of the annual film awards recently decided to split the Best Movie Award into two categories, Bahasa Malaysia and non-Bahasa Malaysia, leading to claims of racial segregation.

The decision means movies such as “Ola Bola” by Chiu Keng Guan and “Jagat” by Shanjhey Kumar are now grouped into the non-Bahasa Malaysia categories, avoiding stiff competition to other movies which are not as criticially acclaimed.

Actor and producer Afdlin said he was boycotting the awards ceremony over the decision, followed by cinematographer Mohd Noor Kassim, who was nominated for the film “Bravo 5”.

Raja Bahrin said he was convinced there were more in the local film industry who are “tired of race being used to divide, segregate and bully”.

“Interestingly both who withdrew from the Festival awards are prominent Malay and Muslim personalities,” he said.

He urged the authorities to “get real”, saying everyday Malay dramas were always using a mix of other languages.

“Even the late P. Ramlee Malay classic films used English in his humour. Remember his ‘Good morning ladies and gentlemen, tukang besi tukang cement’?

“We Malaysians loved it,” he said.

He said Malaysia was increasingly drifting from a melting pot of cultures to a “cracking pot”.

“What is certain now is that we are no longer being inclusive but getting increasingly more exclusive. This is not in the true spirit of the Islamic teaching of ‘Rahmatan Lil Alamin’ (mercy to the worlds),” he said, before adding: “Oops, pardon me for using Arabic, which means ‘Rahmat untuk sekelian alam’.”