Ezra Zaid’s firm raided over ‘confusing’ book content, Shariah court told

Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid holds a picture of the Bahasa Malaysia translation of Irshad Manji’s book ‘Allah, Love and Liberty’ outside the courtroom at the Shariah Subordinate Court in Petaling Jaya on February 22, 2018. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid holds a picture of the Bahasa Malaysia translation of Irshad Manji’s book ‘Allah, Love and Liberty’ outside the courtroom at the Shariah Subordinate Court in Petaling Jaya on February 22, 2018. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PETALING JAYA, Feb 22 — Selangor religious enforcers had raided Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid’s publishing company ZI Publications Sdn Bhd for publishing a book with “confusing” content that allegedly went against Islamic teachings, the Shariah court was told today.

Sulastri Ishak, who worked as a Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) officer from 2009 to late 2012, said she had received in May 2012 a book censorship report from an Islamic Development Department Malaysia (Jakim) officer who commented on the book’s background and its “confusing” content.

“The report is related to the content of the book written by Irshad Manji that has elements contrary to Islamic faith and laws,” she told the Shariah court here, having also described the book as having dubious elements.

Sulastri, who was then assistant director of the implementation and policy unit in Jais’ research and development division, said she had then lodged a complaint with the Jais enforcement division after reading the censorship report and determining ZI Publications to be the publisher.

When asked by Selangor Sharie prosecutor Sofian Ahmad if she had referred to any other materials before making the complaint, Sulastri replied: “I did not base it on anything, I just read from the book censorship report.

Today was the first day of trial and Sulastri was the first prosecution witness.

Ezra is facing a charge under Section 16(1)(a) of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995 as the director and main shareholder of ZI Publications for allegedly publishing a book written by Irshad Manji and titled Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta with contents purportedly contrary to Islamic law in terms of faith.

The offence which Ezra is charged with is punishable by a maximum RM3,000 fine or two-year jail or both.

Sulastri said she was an observer in Jais’ May 29, 2012 raid of ZI Publications and seizure of 180 copies of the book, where she testified to have read a copy of the book’s content that was “suspected of being dubious”.

“Among the content suspected of being dubious is regarding the word ‘Allah’ that the writer claims refers to an Arabic word for God where the writer meant that God is love and liberty to be shared by everyone,” she said, adding that the book’s contents matched the Jakim report.

Under cross-examination by Ezra’s lawyer Zulkifli Che Yong, Sulastri confirmed that she had not read or researched the book and that it was not within her knowledge that the book was against Islamic teachings.

Zulkifli then questioned if she viewed the opinion of Jakim as a federal body to be binding on Muslims in Selangor.

Sulastri initially said Jakim’s opinion was binding although it was a federal body as it covered the entire country, but later said it was not binding on Muslims in Selangor “because it is not fatwa”.

Trial before Petaling Jaya Shariah Subordinate Court judge Shukran Yusof is set to resume on April 19 and June 28.

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