The Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision to lift the ban on ‘Muslim Women and The Challenge of Islamic Extremism’, a book published by Sisters in Islam (SIS), has gone down well with most NGOs.
However, answers ranged from an emphatic ‘no’ to an emphatic ‘yes’ on whether Muslims should stay away from the book, as the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) warned yesterday.
Mohamad Isa Abdul Ralib, president, Malaysian Syarie Lawyers Association
Jakim should appeal the court’s decision to overturn the SIS book ban. I cannot comment on this particular book because I have not read it, but Jakim is the authority on this matter.
We are worried that there are some overly liberal books that confuse the akidah (Muslim faith). People should be careful when they read these books.
Maria Chin Abdullah, executive director, Selangor Community Awareness Centre
I think that women’s groups and NGOs welcome this judgment because there has to be some respect for freedom of expression. There have no reason why they should ban the book.
It contradicts the freedom we are guaranteed under the constitution. Jakim should let women decide whether they want to read the book. We can make our own decisions.
Dr Ma’amor Osman, secretary-general, Muslim Consumer Association
I agree that people should follow Jakim guidelines if they want to read the SIS book. There are different answers to the same question, but only those with knowledge know the truth.
Religious interpretation should be left to the experts. Everyone can read any book they want, but you will be deceived if you cannot decide what is right and wrong.
Roselainy Abdul Rahman, deputy head of women’s affairs, Jamaah Islah Malaysia (JIM)
SIS books usually appeal to the intellectual crowd or those who already have problems with Syariah law. Even though I don’t agree (with views in the book) that Syariah law discriminates against women, we are all for open discourse.
JIM has always been in discussion with SIS and even if we disagree with them, we always seek information before judging them. Both SIS and the authorities have been misrepresented in the past.
Rasammah Bhupalan, co-chairperson of the Commission on Law and Human Rights, National Council of Women’s Organisations (NCWO)
The lifting of the ban is very significant. In most religions, women are traditionally expected to be silent.
It takes immense courage for a women’s organisation to make a thorough study as SIS has done, and for this the NCWO has great respect for them. Since they have not deviated from the faith, we believe that they will always be able to withstand criticism.