Flashing the middle finger is not a crime

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By Hafidz Baharom

Malaysians should admit that we have all given the “one finger salute” every now and then when our choler is at its limit. And of course, some of us will resort to curses and shouts of ridicule as well.

However, do these constitute a crime?

Of course not.

Media reports have now surfaced that activist and lawyer Siti Kasim is about to be brought in for questioning by the police for waving her “middle finger” at the audience of a forum discussing shariah law.

Personally, I think she handled the situation in the best way possible, if anyone bothered to watch the video. Here is a woman in a roomful of men, discussing a religion where everyone is deemed equal, with only two women in the audience, without a single representative from their gender, in a discourse about legal actions that affect all of us.

That is to be admired; instead, Siti was heckled and jeered at with some men even trying to shut her down for bothering to ask a question.

Thus, the middle finger was extended to the men, who from the looks of it, could not seem to allow a woman to speak her piece.

Somehow, this is a crime? Why?

As I’ve said before, being rude is not a crime. Offending the feelings of others is also not a crime.

If you feel offended, you might as well unload at a mamak stall over an iced coffee (cheaper than Nescafé) to your friends. Or get a punching bag.

Why on earth are there Malaysians going to the police for simply being offended? The police are not your mother, father or even teachers and headmaster for you to go complain about your feelings every time you get offended by someone.

In this sense, I can understand why Cenbet is asking for the police to take action against people filing trifling police reports, but let us take it even further. I have an idea for the Inspector-General of Police and the Royal Malaysian Police Force.

If the person lodging a report of being offended – this is other than a violent act, robbery, theft, or even an accident or loss for that matter – cannot even specify the legal basis of their complaint, arrest the person lodging the report.

After all, we have enough lawyers out there willingly giving advice for free through the press and through pro bono work, thus not requiring for us to open a law book ourselves.

Because honestly, I would expect our police force – specifically the district of Shah Alam which is interviewing Siti Kasim tonight (Oct 10) – are very busy.

Other than investigating a middle finger, officers in this police district headquarters are also handling attempted break-ins in Section 7, car accidents from multiple locations judging by the number of tow trucks with damaged cars on Persiaran Kayangan, and even late night racing along the same road.

Knowing Siti Kasim personally, I can vouch for a few things. My initial interaction with her was with her telling me I should be housed in Kamunting for supporting the Internal Security Act (ISA). We get along just fine now.

At the same time, she is an advocate for the rights of our indigenous population, the Orang Asli community. Be it the death of six kids in Pos Tohoi when they ran away from school after being intimidated by their teacher, to the barricade against logging companies and giving assistance to those affected by the Kelantan floods, she has done so much for this community, that it puts the parties supposedly responsible for their welfare, to shame.

She advocates freedom of speech unless it is against the law, as we saw with Ibrahim Ali telling people to burn Malay language bibles a few years back. I supported her then since we have a Christian population which communicates using our national language.

Thus, I ask again, why arrest someone for a rude gesture? Or even in the case of Jeff Ooi, for issuing a rude tweet?

If rudeness begets rudeness then fine, be rude.

It isn’t criminal to say and do rude things to get your point across, be it waving your butts in front of someone’s house or even giving chauvinist males the middle finger.

But when you go so far as to threaten death, rape and even a harsh beating up, that is already criminal intimidation. And if such threats are made real as evidenced by Red Shirts supporters kicking the head of a Bersih convoy motorcyclist, it is already assault and battery.

Hopefully some young professionals out there based in Shah Alam who go about quoting Voltaire, now know the difference. – FMT

By Hafidz Baharom is an FMT reader.

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