Does Zahid understand scholarly research, asks academic

tajuddin-zahidPETALING JAYA: A university professor has asked if the deputy prime minister understands the function of scholarly research and doctorate (PhD) supervision following the latter’s statement that prominent Turkish author Mustafa Akyol’s book has been banned as it does not conform to local norms.

UCSI professor Tajuddin Rasdi said academics were always pushing the boundaries of knowledge through scholarly research.

“Expanding the knowledge boundary always conflicts with what is considered the ‘norm’ of the day.

“Questioning and developing questions are the key to knowledge development,” he told FMT, adding that the best academics were the ones who had the deepest and most number of questions in mind.

He was commenting on the recent statement by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on the ban imposed on the book, ‘Islam Without Extemes: A Muslim Case for Liberty’ written by Akyol.

“Had we allowed it to be distributed, it could have national security implications,” Zahid had said.

‘Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty’, a best-seller, discusses the question of freedom and liberty in Muslim societies, a topic close to Akyol’s heart.

Besides Akyol’s work, several works by Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF ) director Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, novelist Faisal Tehrani and politician Wan Ji Wan Hussin have also been banned.

The government had said the works were “likely to be prejudicial to public order” and could “alarm public opinion”.

Akyol’s book, ‘Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty’, was the sole English publication banned. It has been an international best-seller since it was first published in the US in 2011.

The Bahasa Malaysia version of the book, ‘Islam Tanpa Keekstreman: Berhujah Untuk Kebebasan’ was also banned, along with two of Farouk’s books – ‘Wacana Pemikiran Reformis (Jilid 1) and (Jilid 2)’.

Faisal’s book ‘Aku ___ maka aku ada’ was his latest work to be declared taboo by the authorities.

In May 2015, four of his books – ‘Sebongkah Batu di Kuala Berang’, ‘Karbala’, ‘Tiga Kali Seminggu’ and ‘Ingin Jadi Nasrallah’ – were banned by the home ministry.

Tajuddin said that in traditional religious education, challenging the norm was not encouraged and that was why religious knowledge had decreased over time.

“The west thrived and developed much knowledge today after religious authorities were defeated in their efforts to control thinking.

“If the religious department does not grow in their thinking and insists on banning books that go against the ‘norm’ then we should close down all PhD programmes.

“In science, we are now talking about the multi-verse and not just one universe and science is also talking about the string theory and both theories may conflict with traditional religious cosmological views,” Tajuddin said.

He asked if such research should also be banned as it was against the religious norm in Malaysia.

“Banning books by acknowledged academics is a dangerous trend towards becoming a degenerate society.”