KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 ― A High Court decision to lift a government ban on a book on Islam pours doubt over the basis of a religious body’s continued prosecution of Borders’ employee Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz on the matter, argued lawyer Rosli Dahlan.
The court ruling yesterday saw local publisher ZI Publications Sdn Bhd winning a legal challenge against the government, with Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Datuk Zaleha Yusof overturning the home minister’s ban against “Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta”, the Bahasa Malaysia translation of Irshad Manji’s book.
In the Borders’ cases, the books seized by the Federal Territories Religious Department (JAWI) include both the Bahasa Malaysia version and the Canadian author’s original English title, “Allah, Liberty and Love”.
“If the book is not prejudicial as decided by the judge and the ban was wrong, that goes directly to the issue ― what did Borders and Nik Raina do wrong?” Rosli said when asked about the significance of the judge’s decision yesterday.
Nik Raina, the bookstore manager of the Borders’ branch at The Gardens shopping mall, still has a charge against her in the Syariah court, despite previous efforts to get JAWI to comply with an order to drop the prosecution.
“If the judge now holds the ban was wrong, then there is no basis to proceed with the charge at all,” Rosli argued.
“Thus, the charge against Nik must be immediately withdrawn and JAWI shouldn’t be dragging its feet,” he said.
Despite the Kuala Lumpur High Court ordering JAWI in March this year to withdraw the charge under Section 13 (1) of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997, the religious body has yet to officially retract it in the Syariah court.
Section 13 (1) is an offence that includes the distribution of books that are contrary to Islamic laws, and carries a penalty of a RM3,000 fine or a jail term of up to two years or both.
The charge against Nik Raina was initially set for withdrawal in court on August 28 this year, but it was later pushed to September 3 reportedly due to the transfer of the judge.
The September 3 court date has since been moved to next Tuesday.
On March 22 this year, two Borders’ staff and Borders via Berjaya Books won a judicial review application against the actions of JAWI, the home minister and the minister in charge of Islamic affairs.
Despite the victory by Borders, an appeal has since then been filed against the High Court decision at the Court of Appeal.