On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Pick on a worthy issue

IT was merely a news item in a newspaper known more for its sensational news on crime and celebrities. Most Malaysians probably did not even know about the controversy as it was ignored by major dailies, but it did make its way around the world. 

From the United States to Down Under, the call by the National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students to ban Gwen Stefani’s concert in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 21 was given coverage. 

The student group claiming to have 10,000 members achieved notoriety with a statement by its vice-president Abdul Muntaqim who purportedly said that the singer’s performance and attire were not suitable for Malaysian culture. 

He reportedly said “it promotes a certain degree of obscenity and will encourage youths to emulate the Western lifestyle”.  

Union president Mohamed Hilmi Ramli warned that the concert be cancelled, “failing which we will ask the authorities to intervene”. 

Fuyoh! I am not sure whether Abdul Muntaqim and Mohamed Hilmi have watched Stefani’s videos but, seriously, my friend, no MTV fan can agree with you that flat-chested Stefani would fall under the sexy category. 

Like many Malaysians, I am deeply troubled by the perception of these students.  

The American singer, who is a mother of one, does not have an image problem and neither is she a frequent rehabilitation visitor, like Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan. If we look at our own shores, we have Jamal Abdillah. I don’t recall the union pressing for a ban of his shows. 

Yes, we can expect the diva, who has sold over tens of millions of albums worldwide, to kick up a storm with her Harajuku Girls, the four back-up singer-dancers from Japan, but certainly none of us would suffer moral decay, as the paranoid students fear.  

The students are of course entitled to their views although I am surprised that they even deserve a space in that newspaper or that a reporter could have called them up for reaction to spice up the story and create controversy. 

But how we wish that these students would speak up with the same passion against corruption, racism and abuse of power, which their predecessors had done at Universiti Malaya. 

As an undergraduate from 1968 to 1971, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was the president of the National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students and his cause then was rural poverty and hunger. It certainly was not pop concerts! 

We have also not seen any statement from them to protest against the cruelty of the Talibans, which Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar has spoken against. Shame on them that they have to pick on a trivial matter like Stefani’s concert. 

This is not the first time. I remember during the 1980s, when I was a student at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, that these PAS-inclined students demonstrated against the Alleycats’ concert in campus. 

Here was a group of non-Malay singers performing Bahasa Malaysia songs to a packed audience of racially-mixed students and just outside were the demonstrators. Around the same time, another group of students staged a protest against Sheila Majid at Universiti Malaya. 

PAS, for example, used to protest against pop concerts, using the same argument. But even the Kelantan state government has loosened up a bit by allowing concerts by Malay singers, never mind if the audience at these shows are gender segregated. 

Realising the need to win young voters and shed its ultra-conservative image, the party leadership has attempted to take a more moderate view, even acknowledging that entertainment is acceptable.  

Presumably, younger leaders like Datuk Husam Musa and Datuk Kamaruddin Jaafar have managed to re-brand PAS to be more palatable.  

PAS leaders like Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Nik Aziz Nik Mat used to argue differently, but for the sake of political expediency, different views are now being put up. 

Still, there are rumblings from certain sections of the party against TV3’s successful Jom Heboh series of concert-trade promotion shows, supposedly because of the free mingling of sexes. It is hardly convincing but there are enough PAS supporters who hold this view.  

Despite the huge publicity given to the student body’s statement by newspapers and websites abroad, including one headlined Malaysia says no to Gwen Stefani show, and an introductory paragraph in Music, a popular American pop music site, that said “Those crazy Malaysians are at it again – citing indecency and provocativeness, the National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students has called Gwen Stefani obscene and offensive,” the fact is that it does not speak for the rest of Malaysians.  

Some of us lucky ones are going to Stadium Putra to party to Stefani’s music and have fun!