Stop Crackdowns on Intellectuals in Malaysia!
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We, the undersigned individuals, register our gravest concern and strongest objection to a series of crackdowns on intellectuals from September 25 to October 3.
These include the arrest of Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol, the harassment and persecution of Akyol’s host, Dr Farouk Musa of 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 Syariah offense 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 Publication Act (PPPA) 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 “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 on-going 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 demand the Federal Government and all other relevant state parties:
(a) To end all harassments, investigations and charges on Dr. Farouk Musa, IRF and their past and future intellectual guests;
(b) To lift the ban of the abovementioned books as well as other books that promote intellectual discourses and moderation;
(c) To abolish the Printing Presses and Publications Act and to replace it with a human-rights-compliant publication law;
(d) To 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;
Note : This is a joint statement drafted by a group of civil society organisations in Malaysia, the coordinating unit is Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy, any queries please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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