Malaysia

Ban on Irshad Manji’s book lifted

The author at the launch of book last year. The Malaysian Insider pic, September 5, 2013.The author at the launch of book last year. The Malaysian Insider pic, September 5, 2013.The ban on the controversial book, Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta, which was translated from the English version written by Canadian author Irshad Manji, has been lifted.

The High Court in Kuala Lumpur today lifted the ban after allowing ZI Publications’ application for a judicial review of the ban order.

Judge Datuk Zaleha Yusof found that the publisher had the legal right to bring the action against the respondents as it was affected by the ban order.

ZI Publications is the publisher of the 388-page book, which is a translation of the original Allah, Liberty and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom.

The respondents in the case are the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), Jais director-general, Jais enforcement chief, Selangor Syarie prosecution chief, Selangor state government and the Malaysian government.

In her decision, Zaleha questioned that if the book was prejudicial to public order, why was there no action taken to ban the English version of the book.

“Why was the prohibition order made only when it was translated into the national language? As I understand it, the root of the respondents’ concern (over the book) is religious confusion.

"As the authority only decided to ban the book when it was translated into the national language, does it mean that only Malay-speaking readers would be confused while the English-speaking readers would not?"

Zaleha said she could not help but to ponder on this as the steps taken to ban the book were only carried out when the book was translated into the national language.

She said the book had been in circulation for about two weeks before it was banned, while its original version in English has been in the market since June 2011.

Hence, she held that the court had the jurisdiction to hear and decide the matter, adding that the ban order by the minister can be questioned.

"Every legal power must have limits, otherwise we will have a dictatorship," she added.

ZI Publications and its director, Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid, who is the son of Kita president Datuk Seri Zaid Ibrahim, filed a judicial review application in July last year to quash the ban order and sought a declaration that the order was unlawful.

They argued that the ban order was ultra vires under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 as the book was not a publication contrary to morality and public order but merely a scholar’s opinion pertaining to the current approach in the administration of Islam.

The respondents, however, argued that the ban order was not made in bad faith or any improper motives which could justify the court to quash the order.

They also said that there was no evidence that ZI Publications was authorised to translate and reproduce the book in Malaysia. – September 5, 2013.

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