I have been closely following the news and the controversy about the novel "Interlok" by National Laureate Abdullah Hussein. This book has been suggested to be used by Form Five students starting from this year. Today this is the excerpt from the news that I read from The New Straits Times:
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin gave his assurance that the amendments to the novel Interlok would be completed before it is scheduled to be used in the Form Five syllabus in March. Muhyiddin, who is education minister, said the line-up for the independent panel would be announced soon and would comprise representatives from various literary organisations, including those from the Indian community and Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP).
Read more: 'We'll make changes to novel first' http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/09telok/Article#ixzz1CRUpkDwm
Then, I went to find more information from MI (Malaysian Insiders). I found this:
‘Interlok’ novel not racist, says scholar
January 10, 2011BESUT, Jan 10 — The portrayal of the caste system in the novel “Interlok” by national laureate Abdullah Hussein reflects the social reality during the period depicted in the novel, and not a form of insult to any community, an academician said today.
Prof Dr Awang Sariyan, the Malay studies chair at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, China, said the National Laureate had based his work on the social reality of the era depicted in the novel.
“The novel reflects the social reality at that time and it tells the stories of migrations of workers, including from India,” he told Bernama via email.
Awang Sariyan was asked to comment on the controversy surrounding the novel which was made the literature textbook for Form Five studies starting this year.
Several groups claimed that the novel contains elements deemed offensive to the Indian community.
He called for a rational discourse when discussing the text, saying making it a political issue would complicate matters.
Meanwhile, in Kuala Lumpur, Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Nik Hassan Shuhaimi Nik Abdul Rahman, the deputy director of University Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of the Malay World and Civilisation urged politicians and academicians to sit together and discuss the content of novel to dispel any negative perceptions towards it. — Bernama
My reaction to this:
I have never read this novel yet though it has been written almost 40 years ago! But the controversy has intrigued me to try and get my hand on this novel and read it to find out. As I love literature so much, it's good to read this kind of novel because it depicted the true historical background and social reality. Thus, using this book as the textbook for SPM is not wrong because the issue is purely political. Any work of literature can be viewed positively or negatively based on our own interpretation. The author just shared his own view but the rest is up to the readers. I bet those who are opposing and claimed this novel has racism element haven't really read this novel. Why don't we just study and really look at this novel objectively instead of reading the bit and pieces.