By Ramon Navaratnam
I believe most moderate Malaysians are depressed and dismayed and even shocked, that the home ministry has thought it fit to ban the G25 book entitled “Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation – Islam in a Constitutional Democracy”.
The basis for the ban is that the book “is likely to be prejudicial to public order, public opinion and public interest”.
The ministry should state clearly the evidence of any resulting public disorder and openly explain whose public opinion and public interest has been prejudiced or badly hurt by this G25 book.
The authors, as described by G25 spokesperson, former Malaysian ambassador Noor Faridah Ariffin, are some of our leading national intellectuals, inluding Prof Shaad Faruki, Prof Chandra Muzzaffar, Prof Azmi Sharom and Ratna Osman, the outspoken director of Sisters of Islam.
Given this background, it is no wonder that Faridah is “flabbergasted” at the drastic action taken by the home ministry.
Indeed most moderate Malaysians are stunned by this unfortunate decision which raises even bigger questions in the public’s mind, especially at this time before the next general election (GE14).
These questions are:
- Is the government becoming more intolerant of moderate views?
- Are our fundamental freedoms of free speech, freedom of expression and indeed, other basic freedoms, now under greater threat?
- If the ban on the G25 book is politically inspired and designed to please non-moderates, then are we losing the battle against the extremists, parochialists and bigots?
- Are we using the concept of “state capture” to suppress contrary but constructive views and thus undermine sound public debate in a healthy democracy?
- Are we heading for a non-secular state and if so, then all the more that we, the general public should be better informed.
Many other questions can be raised as this decision to ban the G25 book can have far reaching implications and cause deep doubts and concerns as to the future direction in our way forward to the National Transformation 2050 (TN50) and beyond?
I therefore appeal to the home minister to review the ban and to withdraw it – even if he has to insist that some passages in the banned G25 book be revised.
This can be done with mutual agreement, in consultation with the G25’s able authors.
But for the sake of our national credibility and our nation’s future and to be consistent with our prime minister`s constant and fervent call for the promotion and practice of wasatiyah (moderation), I urge the government to withdraw the ban on the G25 book .
I believe the larger public will appreciate the withdrawal of the ban.
Ramon Navaratnam is chairman of the Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies.
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