KUALA LUMPUR, 18 Nov 2009: A former home minister had acted arbitrarily in banning a book, Muslim Women and the Challenge of Islamic Extremism, published by Sisters in Islam (SIS), the High Court heard today.
Counsel K Shanmuga said the order issued by the then minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, to ban the book was irrational and contravened the freedom of speech and expression under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.
The book did not pose any threat to public order, said Shanmuga, who was representing SIS in the judicial review of the order made by Syed Hamid on 5 Nov 2008.
“Although the book was in publication for two years, the respondent (Syed Hamid) failed to give any opportunity to the applicant (SIS) to be heard, prior to making the order and did not give any reason for the banning of the book,” he said.
The counsel contended that the order was not made to preserve public order, but to prevent legitimate criticism of the way in which Islamic laws and the system of administration of Islamic personal laws were conducted in Malaysia and internationally.
The book, a collection of essays by activists and international intellectuals, was edited by sociologist Prof Norani Othman of the Malaysian and International Studies Institute, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
The book was banned by the respondent on the reason that it inclined towards confusing the Muslim community, especially women, and attempted to interpret statements about Islam according to the opinion of the authors [themselves].
SIS, in its application for judicial review, claimed that the ban on the book was outside the ambit of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and the Federal Constitution, and wanted the ban lifted.
On 25 Aug 2009, the court granted SIS leave to commence the judicial review proceeding against Syed Hamid.
Judge Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof fixed 8 Dec 2009 to hear submissions from senior federal counsel Noor Hishamuddin Ismail, appearing for the respondent. — Bernama