Gobind Wants Hate Speech Laws, RPK Apologises to Sikhs for Turban Jibe

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Sikh community decries controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin’s remarks on the turban as derogatory, racist and demeaning of their religion.

There is a need to push ahead for laws which regulate hate speech, says Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo.

He said the law must also focus on more effective and efficient extra-territorial reach so as to facilitate the prosecution of persons who commit such offences from overseas here in Malaysia.

Referring to a turban remark against Director of the Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department Datuk Seri Amar Singh by a blogger, the minister said it was an uncalled-for attack against him (Amar Singh) and the Sikh community.

“It deserves nothing less than the highest degree of condemnation. It undermines the most basic values we Malaysians uphold, which is mutual respect for each other. 

“This is an example of why we need to push ahead for laws which regulate hate speech.

“These laws must also focus on more effective and efficient extra-territorial reach so as to facilitate the prosecution of persons who commit such offences from overseas here in Malaysia,” he said in a Facebook posting on Sunday (Sept 30).

Raja Petra Kamarudin, in a post on his blog, Malaysia Today on Friday (Sept 28), titled ‘Amar Singh’s Turban Must Be Too Tight’ had made a derogatory remark about his turban when responding to the senior cop’s statement challenging Raja Petra’s allegation that police stole RM43.3 million following raids at various premises linked to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in May over the 1MDB scandal.

Amar on Sunday described the blogger’s remarks about his turban as “racist” saying it was demeaning to ridicule a person due to race.

The Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC) – the umbrella body of Malaysian gurdwaras – said the remarks levelled against Amar would only serve to further stigmatise the usage of the turban, which is an integral part of the Sikh faith.

“Raja Petra’s remarks…that Amar’s ‘turban must be too tight that it restricted the flow of blood to his brain’, and further that Amar needs to ‘remove his turban to clear the brain once in a while’ are clearly derogatory, racist and demeaning of the Sikh religion.

“These racially-tinged remarks are likely to create hate and disrespect for the Sikh turban as they have gone viral, resulting in the Sikh community being greatly offended.

‘This has pressured the MGC to take immediate steps to condemn these racial slurs,” MGC president Jagir Singh said in a statement.

According to Jagir, the turban represents honour, self-respect, courage, spirituality and piety.

“Further, the turban reminds every Sikh of his duty and commitment to uphold truth and justice at all times.

“The 10th Guru of the Sikhs had also ordained that the turban will also be a symbol that would make a Sikh stand out from the rest so that a person in need of help and support will seek out a Sikh,” he explained,

Meanwhile, Raja Petra posted an apology to the Sikh community on his blog today:

Malaysia Today

My Apology to the Sikh Community

Police reports have been made against me. I have also received numerous threats. But that is not why I am apologising for my quip that Amar Singh Ishar Singh’s turban may be too tight.

I was told a Sikh’s turban is a very sacred item and they do not take too kindly to anyone making fun of it. For that I would like to sincerely apologise.

I also sent personal apologies to Gobind Singh Deo and Amarjit Sidhu. These two, plus Manjeet Singh Dhillon and the late Karpal Singh, acted as my lawyers during my various trials and ISA detention ten years ago back in 2008. They also helped me in other ways, which I am not at liberty to mention, and which helped me to settle down in the UK after I left Malaysia in February 2009.

And they all did this without me asking (they volunteered their services), and without asking for a single sen in payment. I will be eternally grateful to Gobind, Amarjit, Manjeet and the late Karpal. So would I want to repay them by insulting their Sikh faith?

Kenang budi is supposed to be a Malay trait and virtue. To insult the faith of those who did so much for you and asked for nothing in return is not kenang budi. It is the opposite of kenang budi.

I can argue that I did not consider my quip an insult to the Sikh faith or that this was not my intention. But it is not what I intended that matters but how what I said was received. And I also apologise to Amar Singh Ishar Singh because, as much as I may disagree with him, that disagreement should not be reduced to the level of insulting his religion.

Related reports:

Sept 29, Amar Singh Surprised at RPK’s Racist ‘Turban’ Retort

Sept 28, Najib: Neither Umno nor I are Accusing Police of Theft