The manager of a Borders bookstore in Malaysia has been charged with distributing a book by controversial writer Irshad Manji.
A statement by the owners, published on the Borders Malaysia official Facebook page on Wednesday, in support of the manager has gone viral.
Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz, 36, from the Borders store at The Gardens Mall, in Mid Valley City, was charged on June 19 in the Shariah High Court with distributing “Allah, Liberty and Love,” which was published in June 2011.
The charge, under Section 13(1) of Shariah Criminal Offences Act (Federal Territories) 1997, carries a fine of up to $1,200 or up to two years in prison, or both, upon conviction.
Following the charge against Aziz, Borders Malaysia Chief Operating Officer, Yau Su Peng, expressed the company’s disappointment over the accusation by the Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department (Jawi).
Peng said Aziz had “done no more than perform her duties as a store manager and that she did not have influence or control over the selection of books at Borders.”
Peng also contended that the raid on the bookstore was made at a time when the book had not been banned, and that there was no prior notification or warning to Borders prior to the raid that any book was in question.
The statement can be read, in its entirety, on the Borders corporate website.
The agency had banned the book on the grounds that it contains elements which “misleads the public,” is “detrimental to public order,” and is against Shariah law as prescribed in the Qur’an and Hadith.
The owners have instructed employees, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to assist JAWI with its investigations, despite the company not being subject to the jurisdiction of JAWI, as it is a non-Muslim entity.
No plea was recorded Tuesday against Aziz. She has been granted bail and the next court date is set for September 19.
Her lawyer, Rosli Dahlan, said the shop has filed a lawsuit to declare the raid illegal because Islamic officials raided the store before the book ban was officially announced. Rosli reinforced that Aziz had no authority over deciding which books the store sells and is being singled out because those in charge of merchandising were Chinese non-Muslims. Non-Muslims cannot be charged in Islamic courts, which run parallel to the country’s civil courts and administer civil matters for Muslims.
Manji released the book, together with a Malay-language translation, at an event in Kuala Lumpur on May 19 amid criticism by Muslims.
Her previous internationally-acclaimed book, “The Trouble with Islam Today,” is already banned in Malaysia, where books are frequently banned, especially those deemed obscene or against Islamic teachings.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on the government to reverse the book ban, saying it was “old-fashioned state repression” and “cowardly.”
Manji describes her book, Allah, Liberty and Love, as being about “how to reconcile faith and freedom in a world seething with repressive dogmas.”
She says that the ban “is an insult to a new generation of Malaysians. Censorship treats citizens like children. Censorship denies human beings their free will to think for themselves.”
“The irony is that this book makes the case for faith. It empowers readers to reconcile Allah and freedom, showing that Muslims can be independent thinkers and profound believers in a loving God,” she added.
Allah, Liberty and Love “paves a path for Muslims and non-Muslims to transcend the fears that stop so many of us from living with honest-to- God integrity: the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning our own communities.”
One of the most vocal Muslim reformers today, Manji draws on her experience in the trenches to share stories that are often touching, frequently funny, and always revealing. The book discusses such topics as what scares non-Muslims, liberal voices within Islam, honor killings, and how people forgo dogma while still keeping faith. Above all, it shows how each of us can embark on a personal journey toward moral courage and have the willingness to speak up even when everybody else wants to shut you up.
For more information on the Banned Books Awareness and Reading for Knowledge project and the complete list of titles covered, please visit the official website at http://www.deepforestproductions.com/BBARK.html