22 March 2018

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08/03/2017 MALAYSIA

Kuala Lumpur bans book that promotes moderate Islam: 'it's not Islamic'

The authors are a group of former senior public officials and Muslim diplomats. The printing or possession of the book "is likely to affect social order" and "allay the public." Penalty up to three years in prison for those who do not comply with the prohibition. One of the authors: "Intolerance and bigotry must be fought in an intellectual way."


Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Malaysian Muslim civil and intellectual rights activists protest the government's decision to ban a book promoting moderate Islam. Controversy and fears of growing conservatism supported by the authorities are mounting in the country.

The book titled "Breaking silence: Rumors of moderation - Islam in a constitutional democracy" is a collection of essays published by a group of major Malaysian Muslims who promote a more tolerant form of Islam.

By signing the ban last week, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi reiterated that the printing or possession of the book "is likely to undermine social order" and "allay the public." Anyone who violates the ban on the book - published in neighboring Singapore - risks a prison sentence of up to three years.

Malaysia regularly bans books, films and songs that could contain sensitive material about religion or sex, but critics say the government has recently raised the bar on censorship. The book is the result of the work of a group of former senior public officials and diplomats known as the "G25" - for the number of its founding members - to fight intolerance.

Chandra Muzaffar, one of the authors of the collection, said the ban revealed the government's "authoritarian approach to Islam". "It is a collection of essays that will demonstrate that extremists and bigoted thinking about Islamic issues in the country should be fought in an intellectual manner." Marina Mahathir, a rights activist and former daughter of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, says the purpose of the measure is to silence the critics of the administration.

They argue that the government's recent attempts to censor anything deemed "non-Islamic" have been stepped up since Prime Minister Najib Razak's party is seeking to appeal to his Malaysian Muslim base in view of the elections that could be held in the coming months. Following the pressure of an Islamic political party, in July, its administration banned TV and state radio from broadcasting the popular hit "Despacito" because of its daring text.

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