Malaysia's Ministry of Internal Security has banned 18 books on Islam and religion for their alleged potential to "disrupt peace and harmony".
The ban was ordered in accordance with the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984, which prohibits the reproduction or distribution of materials that disrupt peace and harmony. The banned books - six of which are in Malay, with the rest in English - include works of noted Islam scholars Karen Armstrong and John Esposito.
The Kuala Lumpur-based women's rights group Sisters-in-Islam is protesting the ministry's decision. "We are particularly concerned over the increasing number of books on Islam and religion that are being banned," the group said in an appeal to be sent to the ministry. "The space for discourse is narrowing and Malaysian readers are being deprived of ideas and debates by renowned scholars and writers, published by reputable institutions such as the Oxford University Press."
Sisters-in-Islam is rallying for civil support to lift recent and past orders to ban other books. It called for a transparent and open process to be employed by the government if books are to be banned. "There should be opportunity for readers and authors to question the decisions being made and the reasons behind the bans," the group said.
Sisters-in-Islam says over 45 books have been banned by the ministry since 2003.
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is walking a tightrope between ensuring open discussions about liberalism and pluralism in Islam, and maintaining a strong political base among Muslim conservatives. The government earlier this year revoked the publishing licenses of a few local newspapers for either running articles related to the controversial Danish cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad, or reprinting these cartoons.
The 18 books recently banned by Malaysian authorities:
1. The Bargaining for Israel: In the Shadow of Armageddon authored by Mona Johulan and published by Bridge-Logos Publishers, United States (USA).
2. Islam (Mathew S Gordon, Oxford University Press)
3. Lifting the Veil (Trudie Crawford, Apple of Gold, United States)
4. A Fundamental Fear of Eurocentrism and the Emergence of Islamism (Bobby S Sayyid, Zed Books Ltd, United Kingdom)
5. Islam Revealed - A Christian Arab's View of Islam (Dr Anis A Shorrosh, Thomas Nelson Publishers, USA)
6. What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam (John L Esposito, OUP)
7. Mini Skirts Mothers & Muslims (Christine Mallouhi, publisher not available)
8. The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Karen Armstrong, Harper Collins, UK)
9. Kundalini For Beginners (Ravindra Kumar, Health Harmony, B Jain Publishers (P) Ltd, India)
10. Sacred Books of the East (Epiphanius Wilson, J-Jeiley Asian Educational Services, India)
11. Sharing Your Faith with A Muslim (Akbidayah Akbar Abdul-Haqq, Bethany House Publishers, USA)
12. Cults, World Religions and The Occult (Kenneth Bon, Chariot Victor Publishings, UK)
13. Petua dan Doa Pendinding, Penawar, Penyembuh Penyakit (Awang Mohd Yahya, Unsie Publisher, Kuala Lumpur)
14. Hakikat & Hikmah 7 Hari Dalam Seminggu (Abu Nashr Al-Hamdanly, Pustaka Ilmi, Batu Caves, Selangor)
15. Pemuda Bani Tamim Perintis Jalan Imam Mahdi (Abu Muhammad, Penerbit Giliran Timor)
16. Kontroversi Hukum Hudud (Kassim Ahmad, Forum Iqra Berhad, Penang)
17. Risalah No.2 Dilema Umat Islam-Antara Hadis dan Quran (Kassim Ahmad, Forum Iqra Berhad, Penang)
18. Siri 7 Amalan-Amalan Bid'ah Pada Bulan Syaban (Ustaz Rasul bin Dahri, Percetakan Putrajaya Sdn Bhd)