Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi had decided that no action would be taken against the New Straits Times (NST) over the publication of a cartoon strip that had in a way offended Muslims.
At first I decided to ignore the controversy but after reading Kalimullah Hassan's article in Sunday Times and being asked by my friends to comment, I decided to do so.
Two reasons were given by Abdullah for not taking action against the NST:-
1. The newspaper did not carry the controversial caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that had sparked outcry throughout the world, and
2. NST had apologised unreservedly over the issue.
Abdullah said the issue was considered over as the newspaper had expressed regret over what had happened.
I beg to differ with Abdullah. I am disappointed that he practices double-standard.
Abdullah, in his capacity as Internal (Home) Security Minister, had earlier suspended Sarawak Tribune indefinitely and Guang Ming Daily's evening edition for two weeks for reproducing images containing the controversial caricatures.
Yes, the NST did not publish the said caricatures but it publish the Wily Miller Non Sequitur syndicated cartoon in its edition of Feb 20. It showed a street-artist sitting on a chair next to a sign which read: "Caricatures of Muhammad while you wait." A box caption stated: "Kevin finally achieves his goal to be the most feared man in the world".
The cartoon was indeed insensitive and insulting to Muslims. To us, the name Muhammad refers to our Holy Prophet. The box caption was further insult when it stated that Kevin (the street-artist) achieved his goal to be the most feared man in the world. Feared by the Muslims, that was the message.
Kalimullah defended the newspaper by saying that it did not publish the caricature, so it did not offend nor was insensitive to Muslims. What a joke!
In his teens, Kalimullah was involved in the so called Islamic dakwah (propagation) movement, the India-based Tabligh. I knew he was not serious in that activity for when in his 20's and 30's, as a journalist he was a different man.
He had also served as press secretary to former deputy prime minister Ghafar Baba but only for a short period when he had to vacate the post. He was not cleared by the police. Why?
Before migrating to Penang from Kroh, Perak, he was involved in "importing" clothings including fake jeans from south Thailand for sale in Malaysia, Penang included. Could this be the reason why he was not cleared by the police?
When he was attached to Singapore's Straits Times, he was seen as an important "link" for he was closely associated with Abdullah. That could be the reason why certain quarters described him as working for the Singapore government or in clandestine world, a spy. Could this be another reason why he was not cleared by the police?
Abdullah was responsible for appointing Kalimullah as chairman of Bernama, the national news agency and when Abdullah Ahmad (Dollah Kok Lanas or DKL) was removed as NST editor-in-chief, Kalimullah was appointed by Abdullah to head the Umno-linked newspaper.
Kalimullah removed Ahmad Talib as group editor of NST in favour of Hardev Kaur and brought in Brendan Pereira, his pal from Singapore's Straits Times as editor and when Hardev retired, she was replaced by Pereira. Hishamuddin Aun, a Berita Harian journalist, was promoted as editor-in-chief over more senior editors.
NST's "unwise" decision (to quote information minister Zainuddin Maidin) to publish the Non Sequitur strip was made under the leadership of Brendan Pereira, as group editor of NST and Hishamuddin Aun as editor-in-chief, both are Kalimullah loyalists.
Could the "close" relationship between Kalimullah and Abdullah had influenced the Prime Minister's decision not to take action against the NST?