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31st January

Two Faces of Malaysia...

Malaysian book censors ban 11 books about islam

The Two Faces of Islam book Malaysia has banned 11 books for allegedly giving a false portrayal of Islam, such as by linking the religion to terrorism and the mistreatment of women.

The government ordered the books, most of them released by U.S. publishers, to be blacklisted earlier this month because they are not in line with what we call the Malaysian version of Islam, said Che Din Yusoh, an official with the Internal Security Ministry's publications control unit.

Some of them ridicule Islam as a religion, or the facts are wrong about Islam, like associating Islam with terrorism ... or saying Islam mistreats women, he said. Once you mention something which is not correct, it's not proper.

The banned books include eight English-language ones, such as The Two Faces of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and its Role in Terrorism, Secrets of the Quran: Revealing Insights Into Islam's Holy Book and Women in Islam. There are also three books written in the local Malay language.

Government authorities regularly review the contents of books and publications that could have sensitive material, mostly regarding religion and sex, Che Din said.


18th August

Update: Book Banners...

Malaysian book censors ban 2 more books about islam

Women's Studies Interational Forum Malaysia's state censors have banned two books on Islam saying they gave a misleading view of the religion.

The Home Ministry banned the English-language Muslim Women and the Challenge of Islamic Extremism and the Malay-language Strange but True in Prayers.

An official with the ministry's publishing unit confirmed that the books had been banned but did not elaborate.

The activist group Sisters in Islam, which published the book on Muslim women, criticized the ban. Norhayati Kaprawi, an official with the group, said the book was an academic work in which female activists and scholars studied the impact of extremism on Muslim women's lives: For me, it's very ironic that the book itself is a victim of extremism. Does that mean women cannot even discuss extremism? What do they want us to do? Lie down and shut up?


30th October

Update: Religious Censors Trump State Censors...

Malaysian court case arguing whether state censors can ban books about religion

Muslim challenge Islamic fundamentalism extremism The ban on a book published by Sisters in Islam (SIS) is illegal, irrational, and inconsistent with the Federal Constitution, the Malaysian High Court heard.

SIS also contended that then Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, who ordered the ban, had no authority to do so.

In their submissions, counsel for SIS Malik Imtiaz Sarwar and K. Shanmuga told Justice Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof that under the constitutional framework, Islam was a state matter and as such, fell exclusively within the purview of the state governments.

The minister does not have the requisite legal competence and/or authority to arrive at conclusions on matters pertaining to Islam. It would be necessary for the state religious authorities to have firstly concluded on the matter (where it pertains to Islam) before the minister could exercise his discretion,Malik Imtiaz said at the first day of hearing yesterday, adding that these pre-conditions were not met.

On Dec 15 last year, SIS Forum (Malaysia) had applied for leave for a judicial review of an order banning the 215-page book entitled Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism. It is a compilation of essays based on research by renowned international scholars and activists, and the book was edited by sociologist Prof Noraini Othman of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Institute of Malaysia and International Studies.

The ministry had banned the book under Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 on grounds that it was 'prejudicial to public order' .

Hearing continues on Nov 18.


31st January

Updated: Court Trumps Religious Censors...

Malaysian court unbans book bout challenges facing muslim women

Muslim challenge Islamic fundamentalism extremism Free speech advocates have been rejoicing after a Malaysian court quashed a government ban on a book about the challenges facing Muslim women.

We were hoping, we were praying that this would mark a good day for all Malaysians, said Professor Norani Othman, the editor of the banned book, Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism , a collection of essays by international scholars. It's a good day for academic freedom.

In July 2008, the Ministry of Home Affairs banned the book, published in 2005 by Sisters in Islam, a Malaysian nongovernmental organization, on the grounds that it was prejudicial to public order and that it could confuse Muslims, particularly Muslim women.

Sisters in Islam filed a judicial review in the Kuala Lumpur High Court in December 2008 on the basis that the ban was unconstitutional because it infringed upon freedom of speech and religion and gender equality.

Justice Mohamad Ariff Yusof said that he had failed to find that the facts of the case supported the decision to ban the book on the grounds that it could disrupt public order: There are just seven pages of text which are objected to out of 215 pages in the book, he said. The book itself was in circulation for over two years in Malaysia before the minister decided to ban it.

He ordered the government to pay court costs incurred by Sisters in Islam.

Noor Hisham Ismail, the senior federal counsel who represented the ministry, said he could not yet say whether the government would appeal the decision.

Professor Norani, the book's editor and a sociologist at the National University of Malaysia, said she was overjoyed by the decision and hoped that it would encourage others to produce books that questioned the politicization of Islam.

Update: 'Obvious Errors'

31st January 2010. Based on article from

Muslims have been advised to stay away from book, Muslim Women and The Challenge of Islamic Extremism . It can create doubt and disharmony among the people in the country, according to the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM).

Its director general, Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz Wan Mohamad said the contents of the book contravened the Islamic Publication Materials Censorship Guidelines issued by Jakim in 1996.

Several obvious errors were found (in the book), he said in a statement today. He said among others, the book stated that Islamic family laws and Syariah criminal laws were promoting prejudice and discrimination against women.

The book also questioned the fatwa institution and the ban on non-Islamic scholars from discussing Islamic issues. It also promoted the re-interpretation of the verses in the Quran, especially those on gender bias, he said.