Home Civil Society Voices 2017 Civil Society Voices Book banning, thought control and academic meddling: Civil society responds

Book banning, thought control and academic meddling: Civil society responds

Mustafa Akyol - Photograph: Malay Mail Online

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We, the undersigned civil society organisations and individuals, register our gravest concern and strongest objection to a series of crackdowns on intellectuals from 25 September to 3 October 2017.

These include the arrest of Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol, the harassment and persecution of Akyol’s host Dr Farouk Musa of the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) and the banning of 22 books, including discursive writings by Akyol, Farouk Musa, scholar Faisal Tehrani (Dr Mohd Faizal Musa) and cleric Ustaz Wan Ji Wan Hussin.

“Religious teaching without tauliah [proper accreditation]” (Section 11 of Act 559 in this case) is a Sharia offence normally reserved for errant preachers in mosques and surau.

Actions by the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Affairs Department (Jawi) against Akyol for allegedly committing such an offence prior to an aborted forum in Nottingham University Malaysia and against Dr Farouk Musa for allegedly abetting Akyol, set a dangerous precedent with far-reaching implications for academic freedom and certainly freedom of speech in Malaysia.

Are intellectual discourses in universities involving Islam now being regulated by state Islamic religious departments? Do universities need to get clearance from the religious departments before inviting any speakers on any topics related to Islam? As Islam is being applied in almost every sector in Malaysian society, are the religious bureaucrats now the de facto thought police for the nation to decide what thoughts we can and cannot have?

We also view the recent banning of books by Akyol, Farouk Musa, Faisal Tehrani and Ustaz Wan Ji under Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act as a further attempt at mind control. Section 7 permits the banning of publications that are or are likely to be “prejudicial to public order, morality, security”, “to alarm public opinion” or be “prejudicial to public interest or national interest”.

We ask, how did Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi find Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty and its Malay translation Islam Tanpa Keekstreman: Berhujah Untuk Kebebasan by Mustafa Akyol, the two volumes of Wacana Pemikiran Reformis edited by Dr Farouk Musa, “Aku_maka aku ada” (I _ therefore I am) by Faisal Tehrani, and Ulamak yang Bukan Pewaris Nabi (Those clergy who are not the Prophet’s successors) by Ustaz Wanji, to be harmful to public order, morality, security, public opinion, public interest or national interest? Are ideas like moderation, reform and liberty now enemies of the state?

The crackdowns on intellectuals during these two weeks is not an isolated development but a serious and dangerous escalation in a long and ongoing process of thought policing to close the minds of Malaysians, especially Muslims. If we do not speak up for Akyol, Farouk, Faisal, Wan Ji and others whom the state want silenced, soon there will be no one left to speak up for us when we are silenced.

We call upon all Malaysians to firmly demand the federal government and all other relevant state parties to:

  • end all harassment, investigations and charges on Dr Farouk Musa of the Islamic Renaissance Front and their past and future intellectual guests;
  • lift the ban of these books as well as other books that promote intellectual discourses and moderation;
  • abolish the Printing Presses and Publications Act and to replace it with a human-rights-compliant publication law;
  • uphold freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution and to end all thought policing on academics and academia.
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Endorsed by:


1. Aliran
2. Amateur
3. Angkatan Skuad Mubaligh
4. Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (WargaAman)
5. Article 19
6. Baramkini
8. Buku Jalanan Kajang
9. Buku Jalanan Seremban
10. Buku Jalanan UIA
11. Buku Jalanan Rembau
12. Buku Jalanan Shah Alam
13. Centre for Independent Journalism
14. Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0)
15. Engage
16. Federation of Malaysian Indian Organisation (Prima)
17. G25
18. Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm)
19. Himpunan Hijau
20. Institute for Leadership and Development Studies (Lead)
21. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (Jerit)
22. Jawantankuasa bertindak kuala lumpur tak nak insinerator (KTI)
23. Johor Yellow Flame (JYF)
24. Kairos Dialogue Network
25. Kedai Buku Mak Ali
26. Kelab Bangsar Utama (KBU)
27. Kelas Pencerahan
28. Kolektif Ketepi
29. KuBu (Kuliah Buku) UIA
30. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
31. Lingkaran Islam Traditional (LIT)
32. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)
33. Malaysia Design Archive
34. Malaysian Indians Progressive Association (Mipas)
35. Malaysian Indians Transformation Action Team (Mitra)
36. Malaysian Youth Care Association (Prihatin)
37. Malaysia Youth & Student Democratic Movement (Dema)
38. Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet)
39. Merdeka University Bhd
40. Monash University Malaysia Staff Association (Mumasa)
41. Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation (MSN)
42. National Human Rights Society (Hakam)
43. Oriental Heart’s and Mind Study Institute (OHMSI)
44. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (Gerak)
45. Persatuan Alumni PBTUSM Selangor & KL
46. Persatuan Kakitangan Akademik Universiti Malaya (PKAUM)
47. Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (Proham)
48. Persatuan Rapat Malaysia (Rapat)
49. Projek Dialog
50. Pusat Komas
51. Research For Social Advancement (Refsa)
52. Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (Sawo)
53. Sahabat Rakyat
54. Save Rivers
55. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
56. Sisters in Islam (Sis)
57. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
58. Tenaganita
59. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
60. Teori Timur
61. Tindak Malaysia
62. Universiti Terbuka Anak Muda
63. Writers Alliance for Media Independence (Wami)

(Please note that the following institutional affiliations are for identification purposes only and do not imply endorsement by the institutions)

1. Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr. Abdul Rahman Embong, National University of Malaysia
2. Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, University of Malaya
3. Prof Edmund Terence Gomez, University of Malaya
4. Distinguished Prof. Chong Kok Boon, Chongqing Education Commision
5. Prof Ismail Mohd.
6. Prof Khoo Boo Teik, The National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Tokyo
7. Prof Living Lee Chai Peng, University of Malaya
8. Prof Sharmani Patricia Gabriel, University of Malaya
9. Prof Syed Farid Alatas, National University of Singapore
10. Prof Wan Abdul Manan Wan Muda, University of Science Malaysia
11. Prof Zaharom Nain, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
12. Assoc Prof Azmi Sharom, University of Malaya
13. Assoc Prof Faisal S Hazis, National University of Malaysia
14. Assoc Prof Dr Helen Ting, National University of Malaysia
15. Assoc Prof Isham Pawan Ahmad, International Islamic University
16. Assoc Prof. Khoo Gaik Cheng, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
17. Assoc Prof Lee Hwok Aun, Iseas
18. Assoc Prof Rosli Mahat, Formerly University of Malaya
19. Assoc Prof Sumit Mandal, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
20. Assoc Prof Uma Devi Palanisamy, Monash University Malaysia
21. Asst Prof Leong Kar Yen, Tamkang University, Taiwan
22. Asst Prof. Fadzilah Din, International Islamic University Malaysia
23. Dr Andrew Aeria, Aliran
24. Dr Ariffin S M Omar, Senator
25. Dr Azmil Tayeb, Aliran
26. Dr Cecilia Ng, formerly Universiti Putra Malaysia
27. Dr Chan Chee Khoon, Formerly University of Science Malaysia
28. Dr Chandra Muzaffar, Yayasan 1Malaysia
29. Dr Charis Quay Huei Li, Université Paris-Sud.
30. Dr Christopher Chong Eu Choong, Aliran
31. Dr Fiona Lee
32. Dr Francis Loh Kok Wah, Aliran
33. Dr Irma Ismail
34. Dr Johan Ariffin Samad
35. Dr Johan Saravanamuttu, Adjunct Fellow, NTU
36. Dr Julian Hopkins, Monash University Malaysia
37. Dr Khairil Izamin Ahmad
38. Dr KJ John, OHMSI
39. Dr Lai Suat Yan, Gerak
40. Dr Lim Chee Han, Penang Institute
41. Dr Lim Teck Ghee, Formerly University of Malaya
42. Dr Lyana Khairuddin, University of Oxford
43. Dr Mary Cardosa, Consultant, Hospital Selayang
44. Dr Maszlee Malik, International Islamic University Malaysia
45. Dr Maznah Mohamad, National University of Singapore
46. Dr Mahyuddin Ahmad, University of Science Malaysia
47. Dr Muhammad Adli Musa, International Islamic University
48. Dr Muhammad Irwan Ariffin, International Islamic University
49. Dr Mustafa K Anuar, Penang Institute
50. Dr Ngo Sheau Shi, University of Science Malaysia
51. Dr Ngu Ik Tien, University of Malaya
52. Dr Ong Kian Ming, Penang Institute
53. Dr Ong Kok Chung
54. Dr Patricia Martinez
55. Dr Phoon Wing Keong, Vice President, Malaysian Chinese Research Centre
56. Dr Por Heong Hong, University of Malaya
57. Dr Prema Devaraj, President of Aliran
58. Dr Ramy Bulan, University of Malaya
59. Dr Show Ying Xin, amateur
60. Dr Simon Soon
61. Dr Sivin Kit, Centre for Religion and Society
62. Dr Tan Beng Hui, independent researcher
63. Dr Toh Kin Woon, Penang Institute
64. Dr Wong Chin Huat, Penang Institute
65. Dr Wu Yu Ping, National University of Singapore
66. Dr Yeoh Seng Guan, Monash University Malaysia
67. Dato’ Seri Mohd Hishamuddin Yunus, former Court of Appeal judge
68. Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, former KSU of ministry of Finance.
69. Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, Former Sec-Gen of the Malaysian Ministry of Transport
70. Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir
71. Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, president of Hakam
72. Dato’ Azzat Kamaludin, advocate and solicitor
73. Dato’ Dennis Ignatius, former High Commissioner to Canada
74. Dato’ KJ Abraham, OHMSI advisor
75. Dato’ Mohd Ariff Yusof, former Appeals Court Judge
76. Dato’ Noor Farida Ariffin, G25 and former ambassador to the Netherlands
77. Dato’ Redzuan Kushairi, former ambassador to Uzbekistan and member of the Royal Council State of Perak
78. Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah, Youth Academy
79. Dato’ Syed Ahmad Aidid, Former high court judge and member of G25
80. Ahmad Fuad Rahmat, Projek Dialog
81. Altaf Deviyati, Litaran Islam Tradisional (LIT)
82. Altaf Ismail (IMAN)
83. Alwyn Goh, senior staff researcher
84. Amin Ahmad, Lead
85. Andrew Khoo
86. Anil Netto, Aliran
87. Azmyl Yunor, Sunway University
88. Azrul Mohd Kalib, Bebas
89. Beverly Joeman, Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia
90. Carole Chung, concerned citizen
91. Chan Yit Fei, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
92. Chang Teck Peng, former lecturer at New Era College
93. Chong Ton Sin, SIRD
94. Dina Zaman, writer
95. Ehsan Shahwahid, Islamic Renaissance Front
96. Eugene Yapp, executive director, Kairos Dialogue Network
97. Faridah Stephens
98. George John, independent investor
99. Gopal Sundaram, former assistant governor, Bank Negara Malaysia
100. Henry Loh, Aliran
101. Ho Yock Lin, immediate past president of All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
102. Ismail Hashim, Universiti Selangor
103. Ivy Josiah, former Suhakam commissioner
104. Jahabar Sadiq, editor
105. Jannie Lasimbang, former Suhakam commissioner
106. Jasmine Ng, OHMSI advisor
107. Josh Hong, writer
108. Kassim Muhamad, Paksi
109. Kee Thuan Chye, writer
110. Liau Kok Fah, chairperson of Civil Rights Committee of KLSCAH
111. Lim Hong Siang, writer
112. Maria Chin Abdullah, chairperson of Bersih 2.0
113. Masjaliza Hamzah, human rights advocate
114. Muhammad Afiq Bin Mohamad Noor, Lingkaran Islam Tradisional
115. Nathaniel Tan, writer
116. Ng Yap Hwa, executive director of Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
117. Nidhal Mujahid, Penang Institute
118. Ong Kok Hin, Penang Institute
119. Ong Lai Mun, Engage
120. Rama Ramanathan, Engage
121. Ramli Abdul Samad
122. Ratna Osman, Sisters in Islam
123. Rozana Isa, Sisters in Islam
124. Seah Hong Yee, Engage
125. Susan Loone, journalist
126. Tang Ah Chai, chief secretary of KLSCAH
127. Tan Kong Beng, OHMSI advisor
128. Tan Yew Sing, former president of KLSCAH
129. Tarmizi Anuwar, Kelas Pencerahan
130. Terence Fernandez, media specialist
131. Thomas Fann, chairman of Engage
132. V Gayathry, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
133. Vince Tan Hoo Seh
134. Wang Lay Kim, University of Science Malaysia
135. Xifu Abdul Naser Tun Abdul Rahman Ya’kub, Angkatan Skuad Mubaligh
136. Yalini Easvaralingam, independent researcher
137. Yee I-Iann, artist
138. Yeong Pey Jung, Penang Institute
139. Yong Yew Wei, Vice president of KLSCAH
140. Zairil Khir Johari, Penang Institute
141. Zakiah Koya, journalist
142. Zamri Vinod, presiden Angkatan Skuad Mubaligh Msia
143. Zurairi AR, journalist
144. Dr Ang Sze Wei, University of Hong Kong
145. Sivarajan Arumugam
146. Chua Kim Boon, president of Selangor State Dongzong

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Chronology of intellectual crackdown since 25 September 2017:

25 September 25

● A forum organised by Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) at Nottingham University Malaysia titled “The Islamic Jesus” featuring Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol was cancelled under the pressure of Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (Jawi).

● The arrest of Mustafa Akyol in KLIA before his departure and subsequent detention for 17 hours for “religious teaching without tauliah (proper accreditation)” under Section 11 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997.

28 September

  • A gazette banning of 21 books in one day (decision by Home Minister on 6 September) which including Mustafa Akyol’s book Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case For Liberty and its Malay translation “Islam Tanpa Keekstreman: Berhujah Untuk Kebebasan”:
    ● “Wacana Pemikiran Reformis” (Jilid I & Jilid II) edited by Dr Farouk Musa, executive director of IRF
    ● “Aku __ maka Aku ada” by Faisal Tehrani (Dr Mohd Faizal Musa), researcher at UKM
    ● “Ulama yang bukan Pewaris Nabi” by Ustaz Wan Ji Wan Hussin, clergy-politician
    October 2
    ● IRF chairman Dr Farouk Musa is charged with abetting Mustafa Akyol to give “religious teaching without tauliah (proper accreditation)” under Section 43 Act 559 of the Sharia Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997.

3 October

Sapuman: Man of Steal by political cartoonist Zunar is banned

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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