Borders manager charged over banned book

The manager of a Borders book store in Kuala Lumpur was arrested and charged with distribution of a book banned for blasphemy. Trouble is, she was arrested before the book was officially banned.

A bookstore manager was charged in the Syariah High Court here with distributing a banned book by Canadian author Irshad Manji.

Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz, 36, was accused of distributing the book titled Allah, Liberty and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom, which had been translated into Bahasa Malaysia.

She allegedly committed the offence at Borders bookshop at Level 3, The Gardens Mall in Mid Valley City here on May 23.

She faces a RM3,000 fine or maximum two years’ jail or both under Section 13(1) Syariah Criminal Offences Act (Federal Territories) 1997, if convicted.

What’s this horrendous diatribe from which Allah . . . er, the people must be protected?

In Allah, Liberty and Love, Irshad Manji paves a path for Muslims and non-Muslims to transcend the fears that stop so many of us from living with honest-to- God integrity: the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning our own communities. Since publishing her international bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today, Manji has moved from anger to aspiration. She shows how any of us can reconcile faith with freedom and thus discover the Allah of liberty and love—the universal God that loves us enough to give us choices and the capacity to make them.

Among the most visible Muslim reformers of our era, Manji draws on her experience in the trenches to share stories that are deeply poignant, frequently funny and always revealing about these morally confused times. What prevents young Muslims, even in the West, from expressing their need for religious reinterpretation? What scares non-Muslims about openly supporting liberal voices within Islam? How did we get into the mess of tolerating intolerable customs, such as honor killings, and how do we change that noxious status quo? How can people ditch dogma while keeping faith? Above all, how can each of us embark on a personal journey toward moral courage—the willingness to speak up when everybody else wants to shut you up?

The article in the Star provides further information which is more disturbing than someone being arrested for breaking a law. It seems she couldn’t have broken the law, because the book wasn’t officially banned yet:

Berjaya Books (Borders Malaysia) chief operating officer Yau Su Peng has expressed the company’s disappointment over the charge.

She said the raid on May 23 was made at a time when Irshad’s book had not been banned and neither was there a fatwa or any form of notification issued by the Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department (Jawi) to Borders.

“There was no way for Borders to know that Jawi considered the books to be objectionable,” she said, adding the Home Ministry only gazetted the banning of Irshad’s books on May 29 and published the fact on June 14.

“Berjaya Books has, at all times, cooperated fully with the authorities and has instructed its employees, both Muslims and non-Muslims, to assist Jawi with its investigations despite the company not being subject to the jurisdiction of Jawi as it is a non-Muslim entity,” added Yau.

So what exactly is going on here? Religious police raid a non-Muslim business, which isn’t subject to their authority, and arrest someone for selling a book that isn’t yet banned . . . which ban apparently wouldn’t apply to the non-Muslim business in the first place!

AsiaOne provides some updates.

Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd and two others have been allowed to challenge the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Depart-ment’s (Jawi) raid, search and seizure of Irshad Manji’s controversial book at a Borders bookstore.

High Court (Appellate and Special Powers) judge Justice Rohana Yusuf held that the application for leave by Berjaya Books, which owns Borders, has merit.

In the application for leave filed on June 18, Berjaya Books and two others applied for an order to quash the decision by Jawi officers in raiding, searching and seizing publications at their premises and examining their staff on May 23.

They have sought to strike out the order to give evidence under Section 58(1) of the Syariah Criminal Procedure Code (Federal Territories) against Fung and Nik Raina.

They want an order for Jawi to produce all records and documents over its actions to be reviewed by the court.

Among others, they have asked for a declaration that the Syariah Criminal Offences Act (Federal Territories) and Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act were only applicable for Muslims.

They sought for a declaration that Jawi’s action was invalid as its enforcement on May 23 was made before the Home Ministry made any prohibitory order.

They asked for Jawi not to proceed with any prosecution against Nik Raina until the disposal of the judicial review application.

The applicants also sought compensation over the trauma, fear, losses and difficulty sustained by the applicants over Jawi’s actions.

They named Jawi, the Home Minister and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Islamic Affairs) as respondents.

Will the court uphold justice? It looks like we will see in September. Meanwhile, the Muslim religious police are still patrolling in Malaysia, looking for someone to arrest.

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