Borders Bookstores’ strongly worded press statement against the Islamic Department’s raid and charge on their employee is the latest topic to go viral on popular social networking site, Facebook.
Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd’s chief operating officer (COO) Yau Su Peng issued the release after its store manager Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz was charged by the Federal Territory Islamic Department (JAWI) for distributing a banned book. Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd own and operate all Borders stories in the country.
Nik Raina was charged for contravening the Islamic Law or Hukum Syarak by selling Canadian author Irshad Manji’s book, “Allah, Liberty and Love”. If convicted she faces a RM3,000 fine or a maximum of two years' jail or both.The two-page media release, which was shared from Borders’ Facebook page, went viral with over 1,000 shares. The numbers were increasing by the hundreds each hour, generating active exchanges among users.
User Bobby Ang says, “It's not JAWI that's ridiculous, it is a blatant attempt by higher powers to again, stir racial and religious issues by using one of their many divisions. I hope people see the hidden agendas instead of blatantly accusing Islam, Muslims or Fatwa. This act is purely political, not Islamic.”
Another user Fahar Ibrahim says, “No matter how trumped up the charges are, it seems that it is spelled in the Syariah Criminal Offence. No conviction if there is a good lawyer representing them. However, looking at some of the comments above (in the Facebook thread) though, I see that the powers that be are successful in further polarising Malaysians.”
User Azdiah Azura Abdullah asked a question, “How could Borders didn't (not) know about this ban but other bookstores know and didn't have Irshad Manji books on shelves?”Other users expressed sympathy for Nik Raina, as shown by Maylin Adzaman’s comment “Oh my God. I am lost for words. :( I pray Ms. Nik will be freed. This is absurd!”
The press release was issued following the raid on the bookstore’s branch in the Gardens Mall in Mid Valley City on May 23. JAWI officers had seized the books, which was at that time not banned by the Home Ministry, according to Yau. The government had gazetted the ban on May 29, which was only made public on June 14.The COO said Nik Raina also attended an investigation after the raid with several colleagues and a Borders’ lawyer but claimed the team was treated roughly by JAWI. Nik Raina was also issued with an arrest warrant. At the same time, Nik Raina was refused legal representation. “We view this as outright victimisation and violation of the constitutional and legal rights of our employees,” said Yau.
“There was also no fatwa or any form of notification issued by the department to Borders,” she said, adding that there was no way that the bookstore would have known the books was objectionable.Yau also claimed that a day after the raid in the Gardens’ branch, JAWI officers visited the Bangsar Village 2 branch to question another Muslim female employee. “When informed by her that the books have been taken off the shelf as directed and returned to the company’s head office, she was accused of lying. They proceeded to do a physical search of the premises, which did not turn up any of Irshad Manji’s books.”
The statement further states that the management had applied to the High Court for a judicial review of JAWI’s actions and wrote to the Home Affairs Minister and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for Islamic Affairs for assistance.Yau maintained that the management had always co-operated fully with authorities and instructed its Muslim and non-Muslim employees to assist JAWI in its investigations, despite the company not being subject to JAWI’s jurisdiction.