Zaid: Government scared of speakers, writers who ask people to think

Zaid-Ibrahim-mustafa-akyol-turkish-1PETALING JAYA: DAP’s Zaid Ibrahim has condemned the detention of Turkish author Mustafa Akyol on Monday night at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

The former minister said this was a sign that the “Umno government” did not know how to differentiate between intellectual Muslim preachers and those like Zakir Naik, who only knew how to raise hatred.

“They are scared of the author who demands us to think. Those of the same religion can have different views. The excuse about credentials is just to restrict different viewpoints,” he told FMT.

Akyol was detained at the KLIA on Monday as he was preparing to board a flight to Rome on his way back to the United States.

This came after he was served a summons to appear before the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) for teaching religion without official credentials, an offence under the Shariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act.

Akyol was released yesterday afternoon after being questioned by Jawi.

He had often spoken out against both Islamists and secularists in his home country, and is a staunch advocate of free speech in Muslim countries.

He has also criticised Muslim governments for using undemocratic laws in the name of religion.

Meanwhile, the Muslim NGO, Sisters in Islam (SIS), welcomed the news that Akyol had been released.

The NGO condemned the detention as a grave abuse of power by Jawi in its attempt to limit and monopolise the discourse on Islam in Malaysia to only those who subscribed to one particular point of view in Islam.

SIS said Malaysia was a country that continuously promoted itself as a moderate Islamic nation.

As such, SIS said it was perplexing to see that a religious authority could use and abuse its power to clamp down on individuals it deemed “unfit” or “unqualified”.

“A line should be drawn to end this absurdity in suppressing and oppressing voices that may differ from the popular narrative on the grounds that certification by a state religious authority is required for a person to speak on and share their knowledge on Islam.

“It is essential for us to provide a space, especially within the public sphere, to allow for discourse and debates, especially in regard to religion.

“If we could allow for individuals to recite hate, prejudice and racism under the name of religion, why is a man like Mustafa Akyol, who is known to advocate moderate and peaceful Islam, under scrutiny?” said SIS in an email reply to FMT.

The Muslimah NGO called on the government to take this issue seriously and stop the abuse of power by religious authorities.