KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian group made up of prominent Malays known for pushing a more moderate view of Islam has filed a judicial review challenging the Home Ministry's move to ban its book, the Malay Mail Online reported on Monday (Oct 16).
The G25 said the application was filed at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on Friday after it was kept in the dark over why its book, Breaking The Silences: Voices of Moderation Islam In A Constitutional Democracy, had been banned.
The group said Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had signed the ban on June 14 and it was gazetted a month later on July 27.
It said it took the court action after failing to seek an explanation for the ban from Datuk Seri Zahid, who is also the Home Minister, and despite an intervention by former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who wrote the book's foreword.
"We are still baffled as to why the book was banned, having been kept in the dark on the grounds for the ban and the parts which are deemed 'prejudicial to public order and cause alarm to public opinion'", it said in a statement.
"This is especially when the purpose of the book is merely to explore the concept of moderation in Islam, in the context of Malaysia as a constitutional democracy with a national aspiration to be a fully developed country and a model for the Muslim world," it added.
The G25 is a group initiated by 25 prominent Malays who are mostly former senior civil servants.
Launched on December 5, 2015 by prominent Umno leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the book is a collection of essays from 22 academics, lawyers and social activists that discusses "the impact of Islamic bureaucracy in Malaysia and its consistency with the provisions of the Federal Constitution", a description of the book said.
The group said that it aims to educate the public, through its statements and the book, that moderation in politics and religion must be practised for peace, stability, and economic progress, as well as good governance in the administration of the country, The Star reported.
"G25 will continue in its efforts to promote discourse and knowledge sharing on issues of public interest in the practice of Islam and good governance, all of which will eventually impact the economic performance of the country," it added.
The Home Ministry has come under fire from free speech advocates and civil society groups after its recent ban on a number of books on moderate Islam.
A report by the Penang Institute think-tank last Tuesday said the Home Ministry was continuing the archaic tradition of policing language, sex and religion by banning books in the Internet age.
The report stated that the use of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) by the Home Ministry to blacklist publications did not reflect positively, especially in the current era where much information is readily available on the Internet and in all languages.
According to the report, the ministry banned 1,695 books from 1971 to this year. They included 556 Malay books, 516 books in English and 450 in Chinese.