Monday, August 10, 2009

Ban the Karma Sutra?

Pornography –

1. the depiction of erotic behaviour (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement
2. material (as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behaviour and is intended to cause sexual excitement
3. the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction

In its latest quest to exercise its Talibanistic tendencies, the Umno regime seems intent on implementing “
an internet filter to weed out 'undesirable' content.”

Of course this brings up the obvious, but most pertinent and consequential concern as to what will end up in the government’s fishing net when it tries to ‘weed out undesirable content’ from the endless oceans of the web. I for one have deep reservations, to say the least, of trusting a motley crew which has on previous occasions proposed or contemplated some truly farcical and even comical regulations.

It seems that pornography on the net is an obvious villain of the government in this episode of the imposition of its morality. Aside from the above concern, I wonder exactly why the regime seems so preoccupied now about so-called ‘undesirable content’ on the internet? Was there suddenly some moral epiphany among some of the religious zealots or bureaucrats? Did these people just now discover the internet? One has to wonder about the timing of all this renewed attempts at governing morality. Now I would also be very sympathetic to any view that wonders about the credibility of a regime like that to espouse morality.

But be that as it may, I am left to shudder at the thought of seeing the morality police again using its… shall we say, peculiar standards, to once more redefine our civil liberties. Let me get to the heart of the matter: Are we going to expect the Information Communication and Culture Ministry to define what is and is not pornography? And how exactly will they decide? One common definition of pornography noted above would seem quite reasonable on the surface. But will Rais Yatim have a team of sexology experts – or perhaps a group of religious bigots – decide what they deem is consistent with the above definition of pornography? Incidentally,
since Mahathir is in favour of such a ban, perhaps he might be made an advisor to the government on pornography as well, and assist in what should be weeded-out.

Maybe they will find the Karma Sutra to be pornographic. After all, it could well fall into the government’s fishing net of what is classified as ‘undesirable content.’ And as with several others of its attempts – or by allowing religious agents - to enforce morality, will they once again infringe on the religious rights of others? After all, Tantric Hinduism and Buddhism have deep roots that directly link back to
the Sanskritic-Hindu text of the Karma Sutra. Will the regime again be the one to decide not only what information we can access but even how we may practice our religion and heritage?

I'm reminded, by the way, of the absurd attempt by the National Fatwa Council to ban yoga for Muslims – in part claiming that because yoga is rooted in Hinduism, it is therefore inappropriate for Muslims. But this business of controlling so-called pornography has the potenital of infringing on genuine civil liberties.

What if the Information Communication and Culture Ministry (and perhaps in consultation with the National Fatwa Council and its expert advisor on pornography) deems that the Karma Sutra is a text which “depicts erotic behaviour intended to cause sexual excitement”? Well, aside from the fact that you would assume that these people would have to read the Karma Sutra – online, of course – before they would come to such a conclusion, one has to wonder….how exactly will Rais Yatim’s team of experts decide?

It’s one thing to talk about morality. It’s quite another to get on your high horse – especially when you yourself are inept at it - and dictate morality to others.

G. Krishnan