6 June 2012

Irshad Manji's new book banned, among others

Irshad Manji, right, with a fan at a 19 May launch of
Irshad Manji, right, with a fan at a 19 May launch of "Allah, Liberty and Love" in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She had plans to launch it days before, but two universities and a bookstore pulled out after pressure from religious groups and the government
Malaysia: Irshad Manji's new book banned, among others

Human Rights Watch and the Malaysia-based Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) have criticised the government's decision to ban a book on liberal Islam by Canadian Muslim activist Irshad Manji.

On 29 May, Home Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein banned Manji's "Allah, Liberty and Love", saying it was "prejudicial to morality and public order." The same day, some 20 officers raided the offices of the Malay language publisher, ZI Publications, seized the book and arrested ZI's owner Ezra Zaid, reports Human Rights Watch.

"Malaysian authorities say they are protecting morality by banning Manji's book, but this is just old-fashioned state repression," said Human Rights Watch.

CIJ called it "a pretext for the wanton exercise of power under the guise of religious order."

According to the members, Deputy Home Affairs Minister Abu Seman Yusop said the book was banned because it could "deviate Muslims from their faith" and "insulted Islam," and that there had been "numerous complaints" against it.

He said he had acted based on a report by the Islamic Development Department (Jakim), which found the book had elements that "could confuse the public."

Under the Printing Presses and Publication Law, the Home Affairs Minister has "absolute discretion" to ban books, from possession to reproduction and distribution, says Human Rights Watch.

Manji called the ban "an insult to a new generation of Malaysians."

Manji had managed to launch "Allah, Liberty and Love" at a hastily arranged event in Kuala Lumpur last month after two other venues pulled out of hosting the event, according to local publisher ZI Publications.

"Fantastic event in KL! Great energy - except 4 cops who told latecomers that event is banned. Didn't stop us. Congrats 2 all," Manji wrote on Twitter.

CIJ, which signed an appeal with more than a dozen other concerned groups, noted that book banning is not new. "The trend started much earlier with the banning of works by Karen Armstrong, Salman Rushdie, Khalil Gibran, Irvine Welsh and Iris Chang, among others," the groups said in a statement.

They note that the ban has even been used against local authors, such as Faisal Tehrani and Kassim Ahmad and cartoonist Zunar.

Book banning is a draconian measure that is not only ineffective but contrary to the spirit of dialogue and engagement that Malaysia desperately needs," said the groups, who are calling for the authorities to stop banning books altogether.

Putting free expression issues in perspective.

Sign up to receive IFEX In Context.


IFEX members working in this country 1

More from Malaysia
  • Freedom on the Net 2017: Malaysia

    Several websites remain blocked for reporting on a billion dollar corruption scandal implicating Prime Minister Najib Razak, including the publishing platform Medium

  • Malaysia HRW Report: Events of 2016

    Malaysia's human rights situation continued to deteriorate in 2016, with human rights defenders, activists, political opposition figures, and journalists facing harassment and politically motivated prosecution. Those criticising the administration of Prime Minister Najib Razak or commenting on the government's handling of the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal have been particular targets.

  • Freedom of the Press 2016: Malaysia

    Reporting on the alleged misuse of the 1MDB state investment fund sparked criminal defamation proceedings against at least four news outlets, and two others were temporarily suspended.

More from Asia & Pacific


  • The Campaign for Justice: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14

    Journalism in South Asia is far from an easy profession, as the 12th annual review of journalism in the region "The Campaign for Justice: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14" portrays. But this year's report also tells the story of the courage of South Asia's journalists to defend press freedom and to ensure citizens' right to information and freedom of expression in the face of increasing challenges to the profession and personal safety.

  • THE STORIES WOMEN JOURNALISTS TELL: Women in Media in South Asia

    The report is the first created by the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) looking specifically at the experience of women journalists in the South Asia sub-region

At this point, would publish: "Home page"
IFEX is a global network of committed organisations working to defend and promote free expression.
Permission is granted for material on this website to be reproduced or republished in whole or in part provided the source member and/or IFEX is cited with a link to the original item.