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Plan for judicial review to challenge book ban

The Group of 25 (G25), a Malaysian moderate group made up of Malay former high-ranking civil servants, will file a judicial review next month to challenge the Home Ministry’s ban on its book aimed at promoting moderate Islam.

In this photo illustration taken in Kuala Lumpur on August 1, 2017, a man holds the book "Breaking The Silence: Voices Of Moderation - Islam In A Constitutional Democracy". Photo: AFP

In this photo illustration taken in Kuala Lumpur on August 1, 2017, a man holds the book "Breaking The Silence: Voices Of Moderation - Islam In A Constitutional Democracy". Photo: AFP

The Group of 25 (G25), a Malaysian moderate group made up of Malay former high-ranking civil servants, will file a judicial review next month to challenge the Home Ministry’s ban on its book aimed at promoting moderate Islam.

G25 member Sheriff Kassim said yesterday the move was made after the ministry failed to respond to its letter last month questioning the ban on the publication, Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation — Islam in a Constitutional Democracy.

“To date, there is no answer from the ministry, so we are going (to file a) judicial review in October,” he told TODAY after speaking at a seminar on Malaysia in a Constitutional Democracy, organised by the Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute.

“According to our lawyers, we have a good case, so let’s see what happens.”

The book is a collection of essays and its publication was organised by a group of prominent Muslim Malaysians pushing a more tolerant form of Islam.

It was the brainchild of G25 — for the number of its founding members — which was formed to push back against intolerance, and some of the essays were written by its members.

The ban on the book was signed by Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, noting that printing or possessing the book was “likely to be prejudicial to public order” and “likely to alarm public opinion”.

Anyone breaching the ban on the book — which was published in Singapore — can be jailed for up to three years. Malaysia routinely bans books, movies and songs that may contain sensitive material regarding religion or sex, but critics say the government has been clamping down harder in recent times.

Mr Sheriff said the ban was unjustified because the essays touched on issues related to democracy and different interpretations of Islamic thoughts and values.

“There are bound to be differences of views and what we are asking is for the ministry to allow freedom of expression. In our letter to the ministry, we stated that we have no reason to produce a book which will cause national security problems,” he said. EILEEN NG

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