Yayasan 1 Malaysia is disappointed to learn that the Ministry of Home Affairs has banned Faisal Tehrani’s Perempuan Nan Bercinta . The reason given for the ban gazetted on the 22nd of April 2014 was that it was “likely to be prejudicial to public order.”

The Ministry has not explained why or how the book is prejudicial to public order. Did it give rise to any uneasiness or unrest within the populace? Did tensions escalate following the novel’s appearance? The Ministry owes an explanation to the people.

The novel was published by the Institut Terjemahan dan Buku Malaysia (ITBM) and printed by the Percetakan Nasional Malaysia in 2012. Both are government linked entities. More significantly, it was launched together with books by other authors by Prime Minister Dato Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak.

If, as it is alleged by some quarters, the novel is banned because it is inclined towards Shiism, it should be clearly understood by all and sundry that Shiism is a legitimate and integral part of Islam. Writings on Shiism should not be construed as deviant. The Malaysian government, like all other members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), subscribes to this position. After all, a number of our leaders have endorsed the Amman Message of 2005 which recognises the validity of all eight mazhabs, including Shiism.

The ban on Faisal’s novel also raises fundamental questions about the freedom of expression in our society. It is a freedom that is vital for artistic creativity and intellectual vibrancy in any community. Unless a work of art threatens social harmony in a stark manner, it should be allowed to discover its niche in the market-place.

Besides, banning books and the like in this day and age does not serve any purpose since they can be made so easily available through the alternative media.

It would be in the public interest therefore for the Ministry of Home Affairs to lift the ban on Perempuan Nan Bercinta.

 

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