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‘Books should be read, not banned’

 | August 3, 2017

Lawyers for Liberty chief Eric Paulsen says as a modern democracy, Malaysia should not follow the path of repression, totalitarianism with books banned on a whim.

eric-paulsen-three-books-1PETALING JAYA: Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has criticised the government for its “trigger happy” approach in using the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) to arbitrarily ban books.

LFL executive director Eric Paulsen said using clauses in the PPPA on “prejudice to public order, “morality” or “security” as the reasons for the ban of some books just did not hold water.

“Malaysia, as a supposedly modern democracy, should not continue down the path of repression and totalitarianism where books can be banned on a whim.

“Books should be read, not banned, confiscated and destroyed,” Paulsen said in a statement.

He also questioned the government on why it was afraid of differing viewpoints and knowledge, as found in three books that were recently banned by the home ministry.

“The banning of ‘Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation – Islam in a Constitutional Democracy’ by G25, ‘From Majapahit to Putrajaya: Searching for Another Malaysia’ by Dr Farish A Noor, and ‘Menuju Reformasi Perundangan Islam’ by Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im raises serious concerns regarding the government’s commitment to fundamental freedoms, academia and intellectual knowledge.

“By no stretch of the imagination have any of these books at any time remotely threatened public disorder or security to justify the authorities banning them,” Paulsen said.

He also highlighted the fact that all three books banned were not released recently.

“None of the three books are recent publications, with the latter two being in print for over a decade.

“Therefore, the government’s ban can only be described as irrational and out of step with reality, especially in the age of the Internet and social media,” Paulsen said.

He added that the decision to ban these books only makes a mockery of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s claim that Malaysia was a model of moderate Islam.

In calling for the government to revoke the ban on the three books, Paulsen said “book banning is a relic from a bygone era, an irrational policy that can only set back the prime minister’s ambitious Transformasi Nasional (TN50) plan.”

“It has no place in any modern and civilised society, much less among the top 20 nations of the world as Malaysia aspires to be by 2050.”

Suppression of debate

Paulsen also warned of the counter-productive measure of banning these books, as it conflicts with the government’s own efforts to curb extremism in the country.

“The suppression of debate on the current narrative regarding religion, particularly Islam, can only further embolden the intolerant environment that is unaccepting of different viewpoints and especially of minority rights, and has led to increasing numbers of individuals being radicalised.

“Hundreds of Malaysians have been arrested by the police for suspected Islamic State-related activities and many more are fighting or supporting them in Syria, Iraq and the Philippines,” Paulsen said.

The banning of the the G25 book, “Breaking the Silence”, had especially come under much criticism from a host of politicians, activists and the G25 members themselves.

The book is a collection of scholarly articles by G25, calling for a more moderate approach to Islam and for the Federal Constitution to be upheld in order to tackle intolerance and extremism.

According to LFL, “Menuju Reformasi Perundangan Islam”, a translation of the book “Toward an Islamic Reformation” by Prof Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im of the Emory University School of Law, a distinguished scholar of constitutionalism and human rights in Islam, calls for the reformation of shariah law and for it to be in line with international law and human rights.

“Renowned historian Dr Farish A Noor’s ‘From Majapahit to Putrajaya’ critically analyses the contemporary rise of Malay nationalism and Islamic extremism in Malaysia and Indonesia.”

No basis for ban on G25 book

‘Ban on G25 book utterly ridiculous’


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