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Friday, September 28, 2012

Home minister trying to validate JAWI’s actions, says Borders

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 28 — Borders Bookstore has said that the home minister is trying to validate the actions of the Federal Territories Islamic Department (JAWI), which include the seizing of books without a ban or a fatwa (religious edict).
Borders owner Berjaya Books and two Borders employees had on June 18 won leave for a judicial review of the actions of JAWI, the home minister and another minister, for among other things, the seizure of books by liberal Muslim author Irshad Manji.
File photo of a customer browsing through books at a Borders store in Kuala Lumpur. — Reuters pic
“... I express the Applicant’s deep regret that the Honourable Minister of KDN is clearly attempting to validate JAWI’s actions that are wrongful as there was no Prohibition Order or fatwa at the material time,” Borders chief operating officer Yau Su Peng wrote in her affidavit filed on September 26.
She was replying on behalf of all the applicants to the home minister’s September 5 affidavit.
JAWI enforcers had raided the bookstore and seized Manji’s book titled “Allah, Liberty and Love” last May 23, but Borders note that the Home Ministry had only gazetted the book ban on May 29 and published it on June 14.
The home minister had in his affidavit said he did not need to inform Borders about the ban of the book if JAWI wanted to act based on syariah laws.
He had also written that “although there had been no Prohibition Order on the date on which the book was confiscated by JAWI, JAWI is empowered to seize the book because the book had contravened section 13 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997. Seizure can be done by JAWI under the applicable laws without any prohibition order from KDN (Home Ministry).”
The Printing Presses and Publications Act covers matters such as the sale, circulation, distribution of publications “which is within the purview of duties and responsibilities of the Honourable Minister of KDN”, Yau wrote.
“Therefore, the position adopted by the Honourable Minister of KDN in paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 is regrettable and amounts to an abdication of his constitutional duties and responsibilities,” she added.
The applicants’ lawyers have advised her that matters such as the sale and distribution of books do not fall under the Syariah Criminal Act, she said.
Lawyers also told her that JAWI’s actions, “which were premature and in complete disregard to the provisions of the Printing Act, have caused an unnecessary conflict of laws between federal laws and laws enacted under state provisions. Therefore, JAWI’s Actions under the Syariah Criminal Act are null and void.”
She said that Borders was concerned if the home minister’s stand that JAWI can take actions without any notice of a ban “reflects the true legal position.”
“... Borders, as a member of the business community, is duly and legitimately concerned if the stand taken by the Honourable Minister of KDN reflects the true legal position, i.e. that JAWI can proceed to raid, confiscate, seize, examine, investigate, arrest and prosecute corporate bodies or its employees without any prior notice via a Prohibition Order or a banning notice.”
She said that Borders has over 200,000 books at all times, and “it would be impossible for Borders or its employees to be able to read or scrutinise the contents” of every single one.
The bookstore’s practice is to stop the sale of books after being informed of its ban through a prohibition order from the Home Ministry.
Yau said Borders does not have any Islamic experts to determine if a book violates hukum syarak (Islamic laws), and this is not a requirement under the law.
As laypersons, Borders and its employees rely on notices from the Home Ministry and the state religious authorities to inform them of bans of any books that go against hukum syarak, she said.
But JAWI did not give notice that the book’s contents were against hukum syarak, she said.
She also said that the High Court, and not the Syariah Court, should decide on all matters raised in the judicial review.

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