Activist Maryam Lee has been summoned by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) to co-operate in an investigation which she believes is in relation to a discussion held in April at the launch of her book Unveiling Choice, which is about the removal of the headscarf.
In a statement today, Maryam said she received a formal letter that contained an order for her to give a statement to assist an investigation in accordance with Section 58 (1) of the Syariah Criminal Procedure Enactment (Selangor) 2003.
“My presence is required for an investigation under Section 10 (a) of the Syariah Criminal Enactment (Selangor) 1995, which criminalises ‘any person who by words which are capable of being heard or read or by drawings, marks or other forms of representation which are visible or capable of being visible or in any other manner: (a) insults or brings into contempt the religion of Islam […]’
"Though the letter does not say the reason for the investigation, I believe it is most likely related to the contents of my book, Unveiling Choice, published earlier this year,” she said.
This comes after Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for Religious Affairs Mujahid Yusof Rawa said in April that he was “seriously concerned” about the event, and had contacted Jais about it.
“I trust and believe that Jais will conduct a fair and good investigation,” he said at the time.
Maryam had launched the book at a forum entitled “Malay Women and De-Hijabbing”, held at the Gerakbudaya bookstore in Petaling Jaya.
Besides Maryam, the other two speakers at the forum were lawyer Dian Sofia and journalist-editor Mohani Niza.
Posters of the event described the book as Maryam’s personal account of "de-hijabbing," which she hoped would "inspire empathy and compassion towards women like her who went through an intellectual and spiritual journey that meant making decisions that sometimes go against cultural norms."
The event received backlash from conservatives on social media.
In her statement today, Maryam called for statements of solidarity from civil society organisations.
She also asked her readers to send their testimonies to the authorities explaining how the book is not insulting Islam, and calling for them to drop investigations against those sharing personal journeys of women taking off their hijab.
"In situations like this, it is important for us to remind the government that freedom of expression is not a crime and freedom of religious beliefs is not an insult to Islam, and that the protection of these freedoms is essential to uphold human rights for all," she said.