In a BBC radio interview with a female Libyan journalist following the declaration of support by the interim leader of Libya, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, for the reintroduction of polygamy, the content and tone of the encounter were equally illuminating.
The interviewee, Tripoli Post journalist Khadija Ali, outlined both the rationale for, and her support of, not just polygamy but a raft of measures demonstrating her country was not going to be told what to do by “Europeans”.
The interviewer seemed taken aback when the interviewee said that it should have been clear to anyone watching that the Libyan rebellion was motivated by Islam.
Ali asked the interviewer, James Menendez, why anyone in the West could have been oblivious to this, with Western journalists being given access and insights into the nature of the leadership of the groups arranged against the evil Gaddafi? Then, the interview ended abruptly, only to be rebroadcast an hour later with this tell-tale conclusion excised.
On a different scale, but in some ways belonging to the same brand of journalism, was a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald: “A sex guide from Malaysia’s Obedient Wives”.
The article delivered, as one expert on Malaysia put it, “some richly deserved ridicule” – reporting the “Obedient Wives Club’s sex guide” (which it did not name but simply termed “the book”) was about “ways a Muslim man can have sex with all of his wives at the same time. Under strict Islamic tradition a man can have up to four wives if he can provide for them all.”
Malaysian Insider Online, however, had no hesitation in publishing the book’s full title: “Islamic Sex – Fighting Jews to Return Islamic Sex to the World”.
Malaysian Insider noted that the book contained explicit sex details, but did not comment further on the title in its initial reportage.
In a short essay two weeks after the news broke, Malaysian writer Dina Zaman referred to the title, writing dismissively “They cannot be serious about this: Having kosher sex meant that the Jews would be destroyed? How? What position would help destroy the Zionists for good?”
The simple fact is that the Obedient Wives Club, which published the book with an obsessive, prurient concern with details of sexual intercourse, advocates specific behaviours as means to counter an imaginary Jewish domination of Islam.
Further, while the discussion of the book in Malaysia and the region has included many strong criticisms for its advocacy of polygamy and its graphic content, the antisemitic psycho-political obsession has barely been the cause of comment.
It is hardly a coincidence that Malaysia’s official state pavilion at the October 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair was, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, “the worst offender… in the sheer number of antisemitic conspiracy theory texts.”
A number of the titles were Malaysian imprints of the antisemitic rantings of American expatriate Michael Collins Piper, whose writings are generally promoted by Western racists who would hold Malaysians, and other “non-Whites”, in complete contempt.
An “original” title was by Tahir Mohammad Zai, of Saba Islamic Media, called Countdown to 9/11: Islam Under Siege, which had a cover decorated with Stars of David.
Given that Egypt displayed books such as Recalcitrance of the Jewish Women, The Israelites in the Quran; Their Secrets, The Old Testament Critique, plus a number of attacks on the Torah and the Talmud and polemics against “Judaisers”, it was quite an achievement, by Malaysia to outdo them.
Last year, a public debate raged in Malaysia as to which of two significant political movements was more anti-Jewish, with crude antisemitism, conspiracy theories and some bizarre theological concepts prominent in mainstream media debate.
It is important to note that Malaysia is a complex society which includes diverse religious, ethnic, political and cultural practices and beliefs.
Jews are an obsession for some and an important part of the world-view of others, and it will require considerable effort to help free them from racist impediments to a rational understanding of the world and a consequent ability to play a constructive role in international affairs.