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ZI Publications wins bid to remove ban

KUALA LUMPUR: ZI Publications Sdn Bhd today succeeded in its bid to remove the ban ordered by the Home Ministry on the Malay translation, 'Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta', of a book by Irshad Manji.

High Court Judge Datuk Zaleha Yusof allowed the publishing company's judicial review application to quash the prohibition order by the Home Ministry under Section 7(1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 in May last year against the printing, distribution or possession of the book.
ZI Publications' lawyers K. Shanmuga and Nizam Bashir said that with this ruling, the book, published by their client, was now free for circulation in the market.

Senior Federal Counsel Noor Hisham Ismail, representing the respondents, said he would take further instruction from the Attorney-General's Office on the next course of action.
ZI Publications director Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid said he was happy with the verdict.

On May 29, 2012, ZI Publications translated and published in Bahasa Malaysia the book originally authored by Irshad Manji in English as 'Allah, Liberty and Love'.

In her ruling, Justice Zaleha held that ZI Publications had locus standi to bring the action against the respondents (home minister, deputy home minister and the government) as the company had been adversely affected by the ban order.

"If it's true that the book is prejudicial to public order, why was no action taken to ban its English version when it was first circulated.

"Why was the prohibition (order) only made when it was translated into the national language? As I understand it, the root of the respondents' concern is 'kecelaruan keagamaan' or religious confusion," said Justice Zaleha.

She also said that as the authorities had only decided to ban the book when it was translated into the national language, she wondered whether it meant that only Malay-speaking readers would be confused.

"I can't help but ponder on this because steps taken to ban the book only came about when the book had been translated into the national language," she said.

Justice Zaleha also said that it must be emphasised that the book had been in circulation for about two weeks before it was banned, while its original version in English had been in circulation locally since 2011.

On July 9, 2012, the publisher filed the judicial review application for a declaration that the ban order was void, unlawful and of no effect as it was ultra vires Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and in violation of Article 10(1)(a) and 8(1) of the Federal Constitution relating to freedom of speech and expression.

The company claimed that the book only contained opinions in the form of brief summaries criticising current approaches in the administration of religion, which it said were not harmful.