Sisters in Islam (SIS) has called for the immediate stop in the investigation against law professor Shad Saleem Faruqi over an op-ed published in a national newspaper last month.
In a statement, the advocacy group said that Shad, as an academic whose interest and expertise lies in constitutional matters and Islamic policies, had acted within his professional boundaries when he commented on religious radicalism in his recent article in The Star daily.
"Where do we draw the line in identifying individuals that disrupt public peace and those that promote peace, harmony and tolerance through academic discourse?
"Or does the provision only apply to certain institutions and individuals?
"We should take cognisance of Imam Malik’s statement that ‘Diversity of opinion is Allah’s gift to the ummah,’ and any imposition of one particular opinion would be tantamount to destroying this divine gift," said SIS, adding that the probe against Shad was a "blatant abuse of power in an attempt to subdue freedom of expression."
The Universiti Malaya professor is being investigated under Section 504 of the Penal Code, which deals with intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of peace, and carries up to two years imprisonment, a fine, or both upon conviction.
The Malaysia Islamic Strategic Research Institute (Iksim) had lodged a report over Shad's article “Religious radicalism on the rise” that was carried by The Star, in which he had argued against the institute's position on secularism, on the Federal Constitution being subservient to Islam, and on the enforcement of religious laws.
SIS also urged an end to the "systematic demonising and shutting down of diverse voices" concerning matters related to Islam.
"As Malaysians who value democracy, the rule of law and values that promote harmony, tolerance and peace within society, we call upon academics, activists and the public to speak up and push back against the intimidation of academics and the suppression of academic freedom."
Yesterday, civil rights group Lawyers for Liberty voiced similar concerns, saying the probe against Shad amounted to an attack on academia and the freedom of speech.