Publisher IRF gets court nod to challenge govt ban on books by founder, Mustafa Akyol

Islamic Renaissance Front chairman and director Datuk Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa (first left) and his lawyers, Khoo Guan Huat (second left) and Tunku Farik Ismail (first right). ― Picture by Ida Lim
Islamic Renaissance Front chairman and director Datuk Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa (first left) and his lawyers, Khoo Guan Huat (second left) and Tunku Farik Ismail (first right). ― Picture by Ida Lim

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 29 ― The Islamic Renaissance Front Berhad (IRF) can go on with its legal challenge of the Home Minister's ban on two books by its founder and a third book by Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol, the High Court ruled today.

Tunku Farik Ismail, one of the lawyers for IRF, said the court had granted leave for the publisher's judicial review application to be heard.

The judge had said the government lawyer's preliminary objection should be raised later during the hearing on the substantive matters of IRF's case.

“Because he said this is not the time to raise any objections,” he said after a hearing in chambers before High Court judge Datuk Kamaludin Md Said.

Muslim think-tank IRF had on November 7 filed for leave for judicial review of the Home Minister's book bans on September 6.

The Home Minister had on September 6 issued an order to ban the Malay-language Wacana Pemikiran Reformis (Jilid I) and Wacana Pemikiran Reformis (Jilid II) written by IRF founder Datuk Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa and published by IRF on June 10, 2012 and October 2014 respectively.

Dr Ahmad Farouk, who was also present today, confirmed that these two books ― which are two volumes of anthologies on Discourse in Reformist Thought ― are already “out of print”.

In a separate order on September 6, the Home Minister also banned both Mustafa's Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty which was available since 2011, and its Bahasa Malaysia translation Islam Tanpa Keekstreman: Berhujah Untuk Kebebasan that was published by IRF on January 23, 2016.

In IRF's lawsuit, it is seeking for a court order to quash the two book ban orders otherwise known as Printing Presses and Publications (Control of Undesirable Publications) (No. 31) Order 2017 and (No. 32) Order 2017, as well as a declaration that these two orders are null and void as they are unconstitutional.

The organisation that seeks to promote Muslim intellectual discourse also sought for a declaration that Section 7 of the Printing Presses Publications Act ― which the Home Minister cited as conferring him the powers to ban the books ― is unconstitutional, null and void.

IRF's lawsuit will come up for case management on December 13.

Senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan, who acted for the Home Minister, said he had raised a preliminary objection on IRF's bid to have Section 7 declared unconstitutional in the judicial review, as it should go by way of Article 4 of the Federal Constitution where it has to be brought before the Federal Court.

“We raised preliminary objection but then the court said it can be dealt in the substantive stage,” he told reporters.

Under Article 4 which states that the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land, proceedings for a declaration of a law as invalid for being inconsistent with the Constitution shall not be commenced without leave of a Federal Court judge.

Earlier, Tunku Farik said IRF's legal team had informed the High Court that they had already filed a separate application at the Federal Court to challenge the constitutionality of Section 7.

No date has been fixed yet for the Federal Court application which was filed on November 24.

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