PUTRAJAYA: The government lost its bid yesterday to set aside the lifting of a ban on the controversial book, Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta (Allah, Liberty and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom) in the Court of Appeal, which ruled that a ban on the Bahasa Malaysia translation was illogical since the English version by Canadian author Irshad Manji was already on sale.
The appellate court’s three-man bench led by Datuk Baliah Yusof Wahi said the English version had been in circulation for a year before the Malay version was published, making a ban on the translation an irrational move.
“There is no evidence to show that there was disruption of public order,” Baliah added.
On Sept 5, 2013, the Kuala Lumpur High Court lifted the ban after allowing an application by the publisher, ZI Publications, for a judicial review. Judge Datuk Zaleha Yusof also found that the publisher had the legal right to take action against the Home Ministry as it was affected by the order banning the 388-page book. Other respondents were the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), Jais director-general, Jais enforcement chief, Selangor Syariah prosecution chief and the Selangor state government.
In her decision, High Court judge Zaleha asked why no action had been taken to ban the English original if the book was indeed prejudicial to public order.
“Why was the prohibition order made only when it was translated into the national language? As I understand it, the root of the respondents’ concern is religious confusion.
“As the authorities only decided to ban the book when it was translated into the national language, does it mean that only Malay-speaking readers would be confused while the English-speaking readers would not?”
She said the book had been in circulation for about two weeks before it was banned, while its original English version had been on the market since June 2011. Hence, she held that the court had the jurisdiction to hear and decide the matter, adding that the ban order by the minister could be questioned.
ZI Publications and its director, Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid, the son of former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, filed a judicial review application in July 2012 to quash the ban and seek a declaration that the order was unlawful.
They argued that the ban order was ultra vires the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 as the book was not a publication contrary to morality and public order, but merely a scholar’s opinion pertaining to the current approach to the administration of Islam.
The respondents, however, argued that the ban order was not made in bad faith or with any improper motives which could justify the court quashing the order. They also said there was no evidence that ZI Publications was authorised to translate and reproduce the book in Malaysia. — The Malaysian Insider
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on January 14, 2015.