By Ida Lim
KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 – Publisher ZI Publications says that the seizure of lesbian author Irshad Manji’s controversial books on Islam by a religious body is illegal and the company is now looking at taking legal action against them.
Yesterday evening, Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department (JAWI) seized copies of the Malay language translation of “Allah, Liberty & Love” published by ZI Publications, and the original English version at a Kuala Lumpur bookstore.
“The English version of Irshad Manji’s book, Allah, Liberty & Love, has been published since June 2011 and there has been no issue taken with the book... until we published a Malay translation of the book (Allah, Kebebasan & Cinta),” said Ezra Zaid, director and owner of ZI.
“Either way, we published this book in the spirit of free inquiry – incidentally, something which Islam itself cherishes – and acting strictly in accordance with our right to free speech and expression as guaranteed by Article 10 (1)(a) of the Federal Constitution,” he said in a statement today.
Ezra said that although Article 10 constitutional rights can be “regulated”, “section 13 of the said Act is unconstitutional as the Federal Constitution does not permit state governments to enact laws restricting free speech and expression.”
JAWI officers had during the raid referred to section 13 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997.
Section 13 of the Act makes it an offence to publish and distribute any material that goes against Islamic laws, but allows confiscation only if a specific court order is given.
“To date, ZI Publications has never been informed that the book is contrary with any religious laws,” Ezra said.
The company is “considering all legal options, which includes filing a suit for judicial review against JAWI’s actions, together with a claim for damages arising from the sales the publisher has lost as a consequence of their illegal actions.”
The company also pointed out that the Home Ministry has not gazetted the banning of Allah, Liberty & Love and its Malay version, saying that the sale and purchase of the two books remains lawful.
Last Sunday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom had urged the Home Ministry to investigate Irshad Manji’s “Allah, Liberty & Love” book.
He reportedly said the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) had studied the book and found it to contain words that insults Islam.
“The decision to ban the book is the prerogative of the Home Ministry. We (Jakim) can only advise them as our analysis found that the book is dangerous for the Muslims,” Jamil said.
Last week, the Ugandan-born Canadian writer Irshad caused quite a stir during her visit to Malaysia to promote her “Allah, Liberty & Love” book.
Her other book “The Trouble with Islam Today” has been banned in Malaysia.