Turkish author Akyol freed, thanks supporters

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KUALA LUMPUR: Prominent Turkish author-writer Mustafa Akyol, who was detained by the religious authorities yesterday on suspicion of speaking on Islam without proper credentials, was released today, according to the Federal Territory Islamic Department (Jawi).

In an immediate reaction on Twitter, Akyol thanked supporters and well wishers.

“I am now free, after 18 hours of detention. Thanks so much for all who helped, supported, and prayed,” he said.

Jawi director Abdul Aziz Jusoh said Akyol was freed at 12noon after the completion of investigation by the department’s enforcement officers.

He said Jawi was satisfied that Akyol had not been informed by the organiser of his visit, the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF), that credentials were required from the religious authorities for anyone to teach Islam in Malaysia.

Akyol was detained last night by police at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and taken to the Jawi office where his statement was recorded.

He was preparing to leave Malaysia after the cancellation of a forum featuring him.

Aziz said Jawi received a complaint from the public that the Turkish national was taking part in an event organised by IRF on Sept 24.

“The event involved a roundtable discussion on the topic ‘Does freedom of conscience open the floodgate to apostasy?’ at the Heritage Room, Royal Selangor Golf Club.

“Jawi then issued an order to Mustafa Akyol to come to the department on Sept 25 to assist its investigation.

“However, because he failed to make an appearance on that date to give an explanation, Jawi applied to the Federal Territory Shariah Court to issue a warrant of arrest on him under Section 58(2) of the Shariah Criminal Procedure Act (Federal Territories) 1997 for the offence of teaching religion without credentials.”

Aziz advised organisers of religious lectures to ensure the speakers they invited have the proper credentials from the authorities.

He said speakers without such credentials could be charged under Section 11 of the Shariah Criminal Offences Act 1997 and, if found guilty, be fined not more than RM5,000, or jailed not more than three years or both.

The organiser could also be charged for abetting and faced the same penalties on conviction, he added.

Akyol, on his fifth trip to Malaysia for a lecture tour, had gone to KLIA yesterday afternoon to board a flight to Rome via Istanbul, but soon after lost communication with his wife.

He was supposed to have boarded a Turkish Airlines flight to Rome at 11.35pm last night, before continuing his journey to Boston. Akyol is a senior visiting fellow at the Wellesley College.

Akyol’s presence in Malaysia has ruffled some Muslim conservatives, who accused him of breaching a law requiring those speaking on Islam to have official credentials.