AUGUST 1 — Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) categorically urges the government to immediately rescind its recent order to ban Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation – Islam in a Constitutional Democracy on the grounds that book is “likely to be prejudicial to public order, public opinion and public interest”.
GBM urges Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, to immediately publish his book reviews to prove that he has read the book and demonstrate how this scholarly work can be “prejudicial to public order, public opinion and public interest”. A PhD himself, the Minister must be able to make an academic argument before banning an academic work.
Breaking the Silence was authored by a group of prominent public figures (which includes former Malaysian ambassador to the Netherlands Datuk Noor Faridah Ariffin and the constitutional law Prof. Datuk Dr. Shad Saleem Faruqi among others). The book called for the checking of extremist religious trends in the country’s public discourse and a timely reminder of the vision of moderation which have guided our society since independence.
The ban makes hollow and hypocritical the recent statement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, that moderation is one of the core values of the nation. Such move not only impinges on the constitutional rights of Malaysians to free speech but also portrays the government of the day to be intolerant, anti-moderation and anti-intellectual.
We urge all Malaysians especially Parliamentarians to demand the immediate abolition of Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) which allows arbitrary and irresponsible banning of book by Home Ministry. In fact, the entire PPPA should be reviewed to ensure it facilitates and not undermines the nation’s intellectual development.
A democratic society should be able to accept different point of views and allow public discussion on important issues that afflict the nation. Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation – Islam in a Constitutional Democracy makes an important contribution to raising public consciousness and discussion on disturbing extremist trends in the public space that is threatening well-being of the nation. As the famous poet Heinrich Heine once said “Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human being too.” The government’s action of banning the book amount to the modern version of book burning.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.