Book cover of From Majapahit to Putrajaya
PETALING JAYA, 4 Dec 2008: The Home Ministry confiscated a book by public intellectual Dr Farish Noor on the grounds that it did not contain the publisher’s or printer’s address.
“This book has no full address,” the Home Ministry’s acting director for Selangor, Zainal Osman, told The Nut Graph, in reference to Farish’s From Majapahit to Putrajaya, published by Silverfish Books.
Copies of From Majapahit to Putrajaya were seized from leading bookstore Kinokuniya on 15 Aug 2008, in a joint inspection carried out by officials from the ministry, Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (Jais), Jabatan Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan (Jawi) and Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (Jakim). Kinokuniya has since ceased selling the title.
The first clause of Section 11 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984 stipulates that “Every publication printed or published within Malaysia shall have printed legibly in Bahasa Malaysia or the English language on its first or last leaf the name and address of its printer and publisher.”
According to Zainal, while the book does contain “Silverfish Books, Kuala Lumpur” on its first page, this is not sufficient to fulfil the requirements of the law. “We can already charge the publisher and bookseller in court,” he asserted.
If convicted, they are liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or to a fine not exceeding RM5,000, or both.
Silverfish Books proprietor Raman Krishnan explained to The Nut Graph that From Majapahit to Putrajaya did not contain a terrestrial address because they became obsolete very quickly. “In the 10 years since [Silverfish Books] opened, we have shifted addresses three times,” Krishnan said.
“Instead, we have our website and email address on our books,” he said. “These are permanent. We have not changed them since we started. If you want me to put in my street address, I will, but it doesn’t make any sense anymore.”
Farish’s book, a collection of essays about contemporary Malaysia, was also under scrutiny because it touches on issues concerning Islam. “Because we have no expertise on this matter, we have sent it to Jakim for study,” Zainal said.
This was the reason the investigation is taking so long, Zainal explained. By contrast, inquiries conducted solely by the Home Ministry typically have a cut-off point of three to four months.
“It’s difficult for me to say,” Zainal said, when asked to speculate when Jakim would arrive at a decision with regards to the book.
Pending a verdict, however, From Majapahit to Putrajaya is still legal. “The book has not been banned,” Zainal said. “If [Farish] wants to publish again, he can but he must include the publisher’s full address.”
Raman believed Jakim’s investigation will be in vain. “They will find nothing un-Islamic in the book.”
In any case, Silverfish Books has withdrawn From Majapahit to Putrajaya from the market with immediate effect, and will reissue the books later with their full street address.