On 25 June 2012, the Court of Appeal will hear the Minister of Home Affairs’ appeal against the High Court decision to lift the ban on a book published by Sisters in Islam (SIS).
The book, Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism was first banned by the Government on 21 July 2008. High Court judge Justice Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof overturned the ban on 25 January 2010, ruling that the book is not a threat to public order. The High Court’s decision was appealed by the Government on 3 February 2010.
In his full written judgement, the learned Judge explained there are no objective facts to show that the book would “disturb public order, confuse Muslim women or confuse those with shallow knowledge of Islam”. Moreover, the book had been in circulation for over two years prior to the ban. During this time, there was no evidence that public order had been threatened as a result of the book’s contents.
He also concluded that the Minister’s decision constituted “an error in law” on the grounds of ‘illegality’ and ‘irrationality’ and that it was ‘wholly disproportionate’ to the concern expressed.
The book is a compilation of essays based on research carried out by renowned international scholars and activists. As Justice Mohamad Ariff rightly pointed out, 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.
These essays attempt to discuss issues that are related to the rights of Muslim women. The ability to maintain these rights are inexorably intertwined with freedom of expression. We must be able to openly discuss, without fear, critical issues that are related to Muslim women, in particular when they impact our everyday lives. In reversing the ban, the judge effectively safeguarded not only a constitutional liberty, namely freedom of expression, but a means by which to uphold women’s rights.
SIS maintains that Justice Mohamad Ariff’s decision was courageous, principled and commendable. We hope the Court of Appeal will honour and stand by the judicious decision made by the High Court.
Sisters in Islam
23 June 2012