By Shannon Teoh
KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 — ZI Publications will file a series of judicial reviews over the arrest of its owner Ezra Zaid and the ban and seizure of a book written by a lesbian author who professes to be a Muslim.
The Selangor Islamic Religious Affairs Department (Jais) yesterday raided the publisher, which has courted controversy by publishing Canadian author Irshad Manji’s book “Allah, Liberty and Love” in Malay, seizing 180 books, according to ZI.
ZI said in a statement today this was the second such seizure by religious authorities after the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) also seized the books, which were banned by the Home Ministry, last week.
“These concerted actions first by Jawi, and now Jais, indicate that certain religious bureaucrats do not respect that any deprivation of liberty must only be made in accordance with the law — both in terms of the letter of the Constitution as well as its spirit.
“Sadly, this was utterly absent yesterday. It exposes the fact that there are Napoleons within these departments who believe they can act in a lawless fashion,” said Ezra, who was brought before the Syariah Court in Shah Alam yesterday.
According to ZI, Ezra posted bail of RM1,800 and the judge also ordered that the son of former Cabinet minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim be charged within 60 days with a mention date fixed for July 18.
“Irrespective of how the discretion to proffer a charge is exercised by the relevant authorities, Ezra Zaid will now file a suit for judicial review against his arrest and a legal challenge to the validity of the section under which he is being investigated.
“This will subsequently be followed by a judicial review against the seizure of books by Jawi last week, as well as a judicial review on the book ban by the Home Ministry,” ZI said.
According to the warrant issued by the Shah Alam Syariah Lower Court yesterday, the raid was conducted under Section 16(1)(a) or (b) of the Religious Publications Offences against Islamic Law.
The Home Ministry banned Manji’s book last week, citing teachings that contravene the Quran and Hadith, several days after the book hit shelves nationwide.
However, even before the ban was imposed, Jawi had confiscated copies of the book from a literary chain store in Bangsar.
Manji, who openly supports lesbian, gay and bisexual and transsexual lifestyles in Islam, was in Malaysia on May 19 to launch the book and went ahead with a single public forum despite the government banning any promotional events.
In 2009, Malaysia also banned her book, “The Trouble With Islam Today”.