PETALING JAYA: Banning a book that aims to counter extreme and bigoted views of Islam is proof that the government fears a different and moderate interpretation of the religion.
This was the opinion of Chandra Muzaffar, one of the contributors to the book titled “Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation – Islam in a Constitutional Democracy”.
The book was authored by G25, a group of 25 prominent Malays. According to the government, it was banned because it was deemed prejudicial to public order.
Chandra, who is director of the International Movement for a Just World, said the move to ban the book was “utterly ridiculous”.
“It’s a collection of essays which intended to show that extremists and bigoted thinking on matters pertaining to the practice of Islam in the country should be combated in an intellectual manner.
“That’s what the book aimed to do, and to show the extremists’ attempts to interpret Islam in a manner that suits the interests of certain groups,” he said to FMT.
Chandra, who is also the chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan 1Malaysia, said if anything, the book had in fact upheld the basic fundamental principles of the Federal Constitution.
“It’s utterly ridiculous to ban books like this. I would say the ban is an attempt to curb balanced, rational and open-minded thinking on matters pertaining to the practice of Islam in Malaysia.”
He added that the book was not just about the practice of Islam, but about living up to the principles of the constitution, which the government would have known “if they had read the book”.
Chandra’s contribution to the book was an essay titled “Justice and Equality in Islam”.
“It is based on the concept of justice and equality in universal terms. It’s not even related to Malaysia,” he said.
Universiti Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom expressed the same view, telling FMT that the book was never meant to cause any problems.
He said it was a “measured piece of work” which offered a different viewpoint on the current narrative regarding religion, particularly Islam, in Malaysia.
“We were just questioning critically the present situation in the country. How is this affecting public security or public safety? It’s illogical, but not surprising, given the present government.”
The ban on the book was made under the Printing Presses and Publications (Control of Undesirable Publications) (No. 12) Order 2017, and signed by Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on June 14.
However, Azmi said the authorities had not explained how the book was prejudicial to public order.
“This is just another example of the Malaysian government suppressing free speech,” he said, adding that the publisher, Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Pte Ltd, was a company that focused on academic works.
The ban was gazetted into law yesterday and can be viewed on the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) e-Federal Gazette.
“The printing, importation, production, reproduction, publishing, sale, issue, circulation, distribution or possession of the publication which is likely to be prejudicial to public order, likely to alarm public opinion and likely to be prejudicial to public interest is absolutely prohibited throughout Malaysia,” the gazette read.
According to theSun, the book which was first published by Marshall Cavendish in December 2015, discusses the impact of Islamic bureaucracy in Malaysia and its consistency with the provisions of the Federal Constitution.
It also addresses its socio-political dimensions and cultural-economic implications on Malaysian society.