It was perhaps inevitable: yesterday afternoon, agents of Malaysia’s Home Ministry breezed into the biggest bookstore in KL, Kinokuniya, and confiscated all of Farish Noor’s books. I say inevitable, given what Farish is to Malaysia: a kind of Socratic gadfly patrolling the borders of Malaysian politics, tugging here and prodding there at the unquestioned assumptions of public discourse, at the incompetence of authority, at irrationality, at abuses of history and language, at dangerous rhetoric. Over the phone, his reaction to news of the ban on all his books was a kind of wry amusement, an audible shrug. “I guess now the books will sell,” he observed. “Congratulations,” I said.
I should point out, perhaps to the Home Ministry, that Farish’s books have been out on Malaysian shelves since at least 2002; several have gone into second editions and third print-runs, and I, myself, own most of them. (Come and get me, boys). This blanket ban, arriving some six years later like the last runner puffing up to the finish line, attests to two things: magisterial incompetence, and positively catatonic reading habits.