Lift ban on G25’s book already, free speech watchdog tells Putrajaya

G25’s lawyer Surendra Ananth said the court has fixed 31st January as the new hearing date after the Pakatan Harapan government stated it will need some time to decide whether to continue the ban. — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli
G25’s lawyer Surendra Ananth said the court has fixed 31st January as the new hearing date after the Pakatan Harapan government stated it will need some time to decide whether to continue the ban. — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 3 ― The Coalition for Freedom of Expression (CFOE) today urged the Home Ministry to promptly lift the ban on a book on Islam by pro-moderation group G25, after Putrajaya said it is still reconsidering the decision.

The civil society group said the ban on the book titled Breaking the Silence: Voices of moderation Islam in a constitutional democracy that was carried out by then Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in June 2017 was arguably unconstitutional.

“Any restriction on the freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 10 must be for a legitimate reason as set out in the Constitution and must be necessary, proportionate and reasonable.

“The banning of this book does not fall into any of the categories that would constitute a legitimate restriction,” said the coalition made of civil societies Aliran, Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), KRYSS and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram).

Yesterday, G25’s lawyer Surendra Ananth said the court has fixed 31st January as the new hearing date after the Pakatan Harapan government stated it will need some time to decide whether to continue the ban.

CFOE said it was inconceivable that a book of articles by distinguished former civil servants which explores the concept of moderation in Islam in the context of Malaysia as a constitutional democracy can be a threat to public order.

“Lifting the ban on this book should be straightforward and carried out promptly.

“The Pakatan Harapan government should not prolong or be complicit in the arbitrary silencing of critical and reasoned voices which was carried out by the previous government,” it said.

Apart from lifting the ban, CFOE also urged the immediate abolishment of the Printing Presses and Publications Act, under which the ban was made as promised by Pakatan Harapan in its election manifesto.

“We also call for a moratorium on the banning of any books under this Act in the meantime,” it added.

The book had aimed to promote discussions and dialogue on a moderate practice of Islam and was to be part of G25's consultative process to address the excessive politicisation of religion in Malaysia.

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