Malaysia sparks anger with ban on mod­er­ate Is­lam book

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ac­tivists and au­thors in Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity Malaysia re­acted with out­rage yes­ter­day after au­thor­i­ties banned a book aimed at pro­mot­ing mod­er­ate Is­lam, as con­cerns mount about grow­ing con­ser­vatism. The book, “Break­ing The Si­lence: Voices Of Mod­er­a­tion-Is­lam In A Con­sti­tu­tional Democ­racy”, is a collection of es­says whose pub­li­ca­tion was or­ga­nized by a group of prom­i­nent Mus­lim Malaysians push­ing a more tol­er­ant form of Is­lam.

The ban, signed by Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Ah­mad Zahid Hamidi, said that print­ing or pos­sess­ing the book was “likely to be prej­u­di­cial to pub­lic or­der” and “likely to alarm pub­lic opinion”. Any­one breach­ing the ban on the book-which was pub­lished in neigh­bor­ing Sin­ga­pore-can be jailed for up to three years. Malaysia rou­tinely bans books, movies and songs that may con­tain sen­si­tive ma­te­rial re­gard­ing re­li­gion or sex, but crit­ics say the gov­ern­ment has been clamp­ing down harder in re­cent times.

The book was the brain­child of a group of high-rank­ing for­mer civil ser­vants and diplo­mats known as the “G25”-for the num­ber of its found­ing mem­bers-which was formed to push back against in­tol­er­ance, and some of the es­says were writ­ten by its mem­bers. Chan­dra Muzaf­far, one of the au­thors fea­tured in the collection, said the ban showed the gov­ern­ment’s “au­thor­i­tar­ian ap­proach to Is­lam”.

“It’s a collection of es­says which is in­tended to show that ex­trem­ists and big­oted think­ing on mat­ters per­tain­ing to the prac­tice of Is­lam in the coun­try should be com­bated in an in­tel­lec­tual man­ner,” he told AFP. Ma­rina Ma­hathir, a rights ac­tivist and daugh­ter of for­mer long-serv­ing pre­mier Ma­hathir Mohamad, said the ban-signed last week-was aimed at si­lenc­ing gov­ern­ment crit­ics. “It is about si­lenc­ing any­body who has a dif­fer­ent view,” she said.

Crit­ics say the gov­ern­ment clam­p­down on any­thing deemed unIs­lamic has ac­cel­er­ated in re­cent times as Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak’s party seeks to ap­peal to its Mus­lim Malay base amid spec­u­la­tion elec­tions could be called in the com­ing months. In July the hit song “Des­pac­ito” was banned on state TV and ra­dio due to its racy lyrics after pres­sure from an Is­lamic po­lit­i­cal party. More than 60 per­cent of Malaysia’s pop­u­la­tion of over 30 mil­lion are Mus­lim, but the coun­try is also home to sig­nif­i­cant re­li­gious mi­nori­ties. —AFP

KUALA LUMPUR: In this photo il­lus­tra­tion taken in Kuala Lumpur, a man holds the book “Break­ing The Si­lence: Voices Of Mod­er­a­tion - Is­lam In A Con­sti­tu­tional Democ­racy”. —AFP

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