KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 — Sisters In Islam (SIS) today urged the courts to maintain the lifting of a ban on a book it published, ahead of a Court of Appeal hearing next Monday on the book’s status.
The book, titled “Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism”, was banned by the Home Ministry on July 21, 2008 on the grounds that it would threaten public order.
The ban was challenged in court where High Court judge Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof overturned the government’s decision on January 25, 2010.
However, the government filed an appeal against the High Court decision on February 3, 2010, more than two years ago.
“SIS maintains that Justice Mohamad Ariff’s decision was courageous, principled and commendable. We hope the Court of Appeal will honour and stand by the judicious decision made by the High Court,” the Muslim women’s NGO said in a statement today.
SIS said that Mohamad Ariff had said in his judgment in favour of SIS that “there are no objective facts to show that the book would ‘disturb public order, confuse Muslim women or confuse those with shallow knowledge of Islam’.”
The group pointed out that during the book’s circulation two years before the ban, “there was no evidence that public order had been threatened as a result of the book’s contents.”
The book, which SIS says is a compilation of scholarly essays, “highlights areas and approaches that are problematic with regards to the administration of Islam in Malaysia, in particular the implementation of Islamic Family Law and syariah criminal laws.”
SIS said the ability to maintain the rights of Muslim women was “intertwined with freedom of expression.”
“We must be able to openly discuss, without fear, critical issues that are related to Muslim women, in particular when they impact our everyday lives.
“In reversing the ban, the judge effectively safeguarded not only a constitutional liberty, namely freedom of expression, but a means by which to uphold women’s rights.”
The Barisan Nasional administration appears to have increasingly taken a conservative stance on books and culture, from a ballet dance troupe controversy to the cancellation of the Erykah Badu concert.
The Home Ministry last month banned the Malay version of a book by liberal Muslim activist Irshad Manji titled “Allah, Liberty and Love”.
In April, the Singapore Dance Theatre was allegedly denied a permit to perform in Malaysia, purportedly due to the ballet “costumes” and “foreign performers”.
In February, Puspal cancelled the permit issued to R&B singer Erykah Badu after English daily The Star ran an “offensive” image of the American artiste with temporary tattoos of the word “Allah” in Arabic script.