THE Thought Police of George Orwell’s 1984.
What a wonderful creation. The ultimate symbol of authoritarian madness; where your very own personal thoughts are controlled.
The Thought Police, or Thinkpol in the novel’s Newspeak, became for generations the shorthand of the behaviour of dictatorships and undemocratic governments everywhere.
If one feels that oppression and suppression were getting out of hand, one says things like “Well, it’s just like the bloody thought police, isn’t it?”
Of course in reality, most of the time people exaggerate. I mean, seriously, how can governments control what goes on in your head? They can control your speech, they can control what you read, but they can’t really control what you think. Or can they?
They can’t but they jolly well will give it their best shot.
Two weeks ago there was a press conference held by a man named Wan Sulaiman Wan Ismail. Wan Sulaiman hails from Perak and is a small businessman.
He was charged earlier this year by the Perak Islamic Affairs Department (Jaip) for “deriding Quranic verses and the Hadith”.
What was this man’s crime? How did he “deride” the Quran and the Hadith? Why, by studying his own religion and when faced with questions and issues that puzzled him, going to the religious authorities to ask for advice and to have a discussion.
That is how Wan Sulaiman got into trouble. In his own study (and wasn’t the very first line of the very first revelation to Muhammad: “Read”?) he found questions he could not answer. He went to the very people who hold themselves out as the authorities of Islam, the Perak Mufti’s office, Jaip, the Perak State Mosque and the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).
From what I gathered, he was not there to cause trouble but merely to deepen his understanding.
The authorities were not happy as to how he was thinking and being unable to force him to think like them, decide to prosecute him.
Think about that for a second.
You can’t convince someone to think like you, so you prosecute them.
Think of how obscene that last sentence was. That is what is happening.
Wan Sulaiman was not a preacher, he was a private man. We know that the Government can control our freedom of expression (excessively), but to control our private thoughts?
Just to tell you what else they did, when they raided his home they took away his private notes (reminiscent of 1984’s Winston Smith and his diary). And when they found some of his notes pasted on a wall, they said that this was an offence as those thoughts were hanging in a “public space”. It was a wall in his house!
Now this poor man sits waiting for his day in court. His business has suffered, his family has shunned him, and he is suffering because he thinks differently from the authorities.
The Thought Police may not be so fictional after all.
A fund has been set up for Wan Sulaiman at https://freedom fund2015.wordpress.com/
Azmi Sharom (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own. The STAR Home News Opinion A Brave New World 10 June 2015