High Court upholds ban on 3 books on Islam

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court today upheld the previous government’s ban on three books published by the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF), saying it is satisfied with the former home minister’s excuse in imposing the ban.

“It was based on his own opinion after taking into account the opinions of experts.

The contents of the book are likely to be prejudicial to public order and interest and likely to alarm public opinion,” said judge Nordin Hassan.

He said the authorities were also convinced that the books were not in line with Sunni Islam and could also cause confusion among Muslims in Malaysia.

IRF in its submission had called for the ban to be quashed on grounds that then home minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi acted beyond his powers.

It also said matters of Islam should not come under the federal government, adding that Putrajaya had no power to regulate issues related to religion.

The three books are “Islam Tanpa Keekstreman: Berhujah Untuk Kebebasan”, a Malay translation of a book by Turkish academic Mustafa Akyol, as well as two volumes from a series edited by IRF director Dr Farouk Musa.

The three books were published in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

IRF had sought a declaration that the ban was a violation of the Federal Constitution, and that Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 was unconstitutional.

‘No moral courage’

Dr Farouk Musa.

In an immediate reaction, IRF’s Farouk said he feared the court decision today would only encourage the authorities to control books on Islamic topics.

“It seems to me the minister of home affairs has the absolute discretion in banning books that do not conform to the version of Islamic authorities like Jakim,” he told FMT after the court dismissed the challenge.

IRF had earlier argued in court that the books had not sparked civil unrest or showed signs that they were a threat to public order, reasons given by the home minister in banning them.

Farouk said the Pakatan Harapan government lacked moral courage in undoing the previous government’s wrongs especially in matters of Islam.

“It should have embraced the diverse opinions among the Muslims and just depart from the previous regime’s understanding that every opinion on Islam must be endorsed by Jakim,” he said, referring to the Malaysian Islamic Development Department.

“Unfortunately they do not have the moral courage to do so. To me the whole thing is basically about freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 10 of our Constitution.”