By Lisa J. Ariffin
KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 – Despite the government disallowing any events involving lesbian writer Irshad Manji, her appearance today in Kuala Lumpur to promote her latest book went on without a hitch.
The author (picture) who is here to promote her book “Allah, Liberty and Love,” has cancelled all her other public events, but spoke to about 30 fans here, most of them non-Muslims.
“What banned? It doesn’t look banned to me,” Manji said of the promotion, prompting laughter and applause from the audience.
When asked to respond if the book is to be banned in Malaysia, publisher ZI Publisher director Ezra Zaid said he would leave it to the Home Ministry’s jurisdiction.
“We will leave it to the Home Ministry to decide what is best,” he said, pointing out that two scheduled promotional events had to be cancelled in light of public backlash.
“We are lucky to have this promotion here at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall. Although it was on such short notice, many fans were able to attend.”
This morning, Islamic affairs minister Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom insisted that the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and home ministry will not allow any events involving the Ugandan-born Canadian author, saying her “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender” (LGBT) ideology contradicts the laws of the Malaysia.
The minister in the prime minister’s department cited Article 3(1) of the Constitution which makes Islam the official religion and other Acts of Parliament as well as state Islamic enactments.
But Bar Council constitutional law committee chairman Syahredzan Johan told The Malaysian Insider there are no laws prohibiting an individual from speaking about LGBT activities.
“There are laws against homosexual acts but not against being a homosexual or barring a homosexual from speaking about it. Not even in the state Islamic enactments. So I don’t know what authorities or police can do.
“This use of Article 3(1), if interpreted that way, means you should also ban gambling or other activities against Islam, not just homosexuality,” he said.
Manji, whose other book “The Trouble With Islam Today” has been banned in Malaysia, announced on Thursday she had cancelled all her promotional activities but “I am committed to holding one public discussion in Kuala Lumpur” before leaving.
The 48-year-old said on micro-blogging site Twitter that Borders bookstore and Monash University cancelled her events citing security concerns and pressure from the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) respectively.
Following her promotion here today, Manji will be leaving for New York tonight.