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Federal Court Dismisses Government Appeal on Decision to Lift Ban on SIS Book

Sisters in Islam (SIS) lauds today’s decision by the Federal Court to dismiss the Minister of Home Affairs’ appeal against the Appeals Court decision to lift the ban on a book published by SIS.

SIS maintains that the Federal Court’s decision to dismiss the Government’s appeal and honour the judicious decisions made by both the High Court and the Appeals Court signals the Judiciary’s firm commitment to upholding fundamental liberties as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

This was the government’s second attempt to reinstate the ban on the book, Muslim Women and the Challenge of Islamic Extremism. Its first appeal to reinstate the ban was rejected by the Appeals Court on 27 July 2012, on the grounds that there was no evidence to show that a book that had been in circulation for two years caused a threat to public order.

Upholding the High Court’s decision, Appeals Court Justice Datuk Abdul Wahab Patail criticised the Government’s initial ban as “an outrageous defiance of logic that falls squarely within the meaning of unreasonableness, and of irrationality.”

The book was first banned by the Government on 31 July 2008 on grounds that it was “prejudicial to public order”, and that its contents, among other things, “would confuse the Muslim community, especially women”, and “those who have shallow religious beliefs.” SIS filed for a judicial review on December 15, 2008, following which the High Court overturned the ban on January 25, 2010.

The book is a compilation of essays based on research carried out by renowned international scholars and activists. As High Court Justice Mohamad Ariff rightly pointed out in 2010, the book is academic in nature. It highlights areas and approaches that are problematic with regards to the administration of Islam in Malaysia, in particular the implementation of Islamic Family Law and the Syariah Criminal laws, and their impact on the rights of Muslim women. As citizens of a democratic country, Muslim women have the right to discuss how laws and policies impact their everyday lives, especially in ways that are discriminatory and harmful and seek ways to redress the injustice caused.

Sisters in Islam
14 March 2013