Malaysia: Joint Statement by civil society on book banning, thought control and academic meddling

We, the undersigned civil society organisations and individuals, register our gravest concern and strongest objection to a series of crackdowns on intellectuals from September 25 to October 3.

These include the arrest of Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol, the harassment and persecution of Akyol’s host, Dr Farouk Musa of Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) and the banning of 22 books, including discursive writings by Akyol, Farouk Musa, scholar Faisal Tehrani (Dr. Mohd Faizal Musa) and cleric Ustaz Wan Ji Wan Hussin.

Religious teaching without tauliah [proper accreditation]” (Section 11 of Act 559 in this case) is a Syariah offense normally reserved for errant preachers in mosques and surau.

Actions by the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Affairs Department (JAWI) against Akyol for allegedly committing such an offence prior to an aborted forum in Nottingham University Malaysia, and against Dr. Farouk Musa for allegedly abetting Akyol, set a dangerous precedent with far-reaching implications for academic freedom and, certainly, freedom of speech in Malaysia.

Are intellectual discourses in universities involving Islam now being regulated by State Islamic Religious Departments? Do universities need to get clearance from the religious departments before inviting any speakers on any topics related to Islam? As Islam is being applied in almost every sector in Malaysian society, are the religious bureaucrats now the de-facto thought police for the nation to decide what thoughts we can and cannot have?

We also view the recent banning of books by Akyol, Farouk Musa, Faisal Tehrani and Ustaz Wan Ji under Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) as a further attempt at mind control. Section 7 permits the banning of publications that are or are likely to be “prejudicial to public order, morality, security,” “to alarm public opinion,” or “prejudicial to public interest or national interest”.

We ask, how did Home Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, find “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty” and its Malay translation “Islam Tanpa Keekstreman: Berhujah Untuk Kebebasan” by Mustafa Akyol, the two volumes of “Wacana Pemikiran Reformis” edited by Dr. Farouk Musa, “Aku_maka aku ada” (I _ therefore I am) by Faisal Tehrani and “Ulamak yang bukan pewaris Nabi” (Those clergy who are not the Prophet’s successors) by Ustaz Wanji, to be harmful to public order, morality, security, public opinion, public interest or national interest? Are ideas like moderation, reform and liberty now enemies of the state?

The crackdowns on intellectuals during these two weeks is not an isolated development but a serious and dangerous escalation in a long and on-going process of thought policing to close the minds of Malaysians, especially Muslims. If we do not speak up for Akyol, Farouk, Faisal, Wan Ji and others whom the state want silenced, soon there will be no one left to speak up for us when we are silenced.

We call upon all Malaysians to firmly demand the Federal Government and all other relevant state parties:

  1. To end all harassments, investigations and charges on Dr. Farouk Musa, IRF and their past and future intellectual guests;
  2. To lift the ban of the abovementioned books as well as other books that promote intellectual discourses and moderation;
  3. To abolish the Printing Presses and Publications Act and to replace it with a human-rights-compliant publication law;
  4.  To uphold Freedom of Expression, as enshrined in Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution and to end all thought policing on academics and academia;

Endorsed by:


1. Aliran

2. Amateur

3. Angkatan Skuad Mubaligh

4. Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (WargaAMAN)

5. Article 19

6. Baramkini


8. Buku Jalanan Kajang

9. Buku Jalanan Seremban

10. Buku Jalanan UIA

11. Buku Jalanan Rembau

12. Buku Jalanan Shah Alam

13. Centre for Independent Journalism

14. Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0)


16. Federation of Malaysian Indian Organisation (PRIMA)

17. G25

18. Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm)

19. Himpunan Hijau

20. Institute for Leadership and Development Studies (LEAD)

21. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)

22. Jawantankuasa bertindak kuala lumpur tak nak insinerator (KTI)

23. Johor Yellow Flame (JYF)

24. Kairos Dialogue Network

25. Kedai Buku Mak Ali

26. Kelab Bangsar Utama (KBU)

27. Kelas Pencerahan

28. Kolektif Ketepi

29. KuBu (Kuliah Buku) UIA

30. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)

31. Lingkaran Islam Traditional (LIT)

32. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)

33. Malaysia Design Archive

34. Malaysian Indians Progressive Association (MIPAS)

35. Malaysian Indians Transformation Action Team (MITRA)

36. Malaysian Youth Care Association (PRIHATIN)

37. Malaysia Youth & Student Democratic Movement (DEMA)

38. Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)

39. Merdeka University Bhd

40. Monash University Malaysia Staff Association (MUMASA)

41. Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation (MSN)

42. National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)

43. Oriental Heart’s and Mind Study Institute (OHMSI)

44. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (GERAK)

45. Persatuan Alumni PBTUSM Selangor & KL

46. Persatuan Kakitangan Akademik Universiti Malaya (PKAUM)

47. Persatuan Promosi  Hak Asasi Manusia (PROHAM)

48. Persatuan Rapat Malaysia (RAPAT)

49. Projek Dialog

50. Pusat KOMAS

51. Research For Social Advancement (REFSA)

52. Sabah Women’s Action  Resource Group (SAWO)

53. Sahabat Rakyat

54. Save Rivers

55. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)

56. Sisters in Islam (SIS)

57. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

58. Tenaganita

59. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy

60. Teori Timur

61. Tindak Malaysia

62. Universiti Terbuka Anak Muda

63. Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)


 (Please note that the following institutional affiliations are for identification purposes only and do not imply endorsement by the institutions)

  1. Prof. Emeritus Datuk Dr. Abdul Rahman Embong, National University of Malaysia
  2. Prof. Emeritus Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, University of Malaya
  3. Prof. Edmund Terence Gomez, University of Malaya
  4. Distinguished Prof. Chong Kok Boon, Chongqing Education Commision
  5. Prof. Ismail Mohd.
  6. Prof. Khoo Boo Teik, The National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Tokyo
  7. Prof. Living Lee Chai Peng, University of Malaya
  8. Prof. Sharmani Patricia Gabriel, University of Malaya
  9. Prof. Syed Farid Alatas, National University of Singapore
  10. Prof. Wan Abdul Manan Wan Muda, Gerak Exco
  11. Prof. Zaharom Nain, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
  12. Assoc. Prof. Azmi Sharom, University of Malaya
  13. Assoc. Prof Faisal S. Hazis, National University of Malaysia
  14. Assoc. Prof. Dr Helen Ting, National University of Malaysia
  15. Assoc. Prof. Isham Pawan Ahmad, International Islamic University
  16. Assoc. Prof. Khoo Gaik Cheng, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
  17. Assoc. Prof. Lee Hwok Aun, ISEAS
  18. Assoc. Prof. Rosli Mahat, Formerly University of Malaya
  19. Assoc. Prof. Sumit Mandal, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
  20. Assoc. Prof. Uma Devi Palanisamy, Monash University Malaysia
  21. Asst. Prof. Leong Kar Yen, Tamkang University, Taiwan
  22. Asst. Prof. Fadzilah Din, International Islamic University Malaysia
  23. Dr. Andrew Aeria, Aliran
  24. Dr. Ang Sze Wei, University of Hong Kong
  25. Dr. Ariffin S M Omar, Senator
  26. Dr. Azmil Tayeb, Aliran
  27. Dr. Cecilia Ng, formerly Universiti Putra Malaysia
  28. Dr. Chan Chee Khoon, Formerly University of Science Malaysia
  29. Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, Yayasan 1Malaysia
  30. Dr. Charis Quay Huei Li, Université Paris-Sud.
  31. Dr. Christopher Chong Eu Choong, Aliran
  32. Dr. Fiona Lee, University of Sydney
  33. Dr. Francis Loh Kok Wah, Aliran
  34. Dr. Irma Ismail
  35. Dr. Johan Ariffin Samad
  36. Dr. Johan Saravanamuttu, Adjunct Fellow, NTU
  37. Dr. Julian Hopkins, Monash University Malaysia
  38. Dr. Khairil Izamin Ahmad, International Islamic University Malaysia
  39. Dr. KJ John, OHMSI
  40. Dr. Lai Suat Yan, Gerak
  41. Dr. Lim Chee Han, Penang Institute
  42. Dr. Lim Teck Ghee, Formerly University of Malaya
  43. Dr. Lyana Khairuddin, University of Oxford
  44. Dr. Mary Cardosa, Consultant, Hospital Selayang
  45. Dr. Maszlee Malik, International Islamic University Malaysia
  46. Dr. Maznah Mohamad, National University of Singapore
  47. Dr. Mahyuddin Ahmad, University of Science Malaysia
  48. Dr. Muhammad Adli Musa, International Islamic University
  49. Dr. Muhammad Irwan Ariffin, International Islamic University
  50. Dr. Mustafa K Anuar, Penang Institute
  51. Dr. Ngo Sheau Shi, University of Science Malaysia
  52. Dr. Ngu Ik Tien, University of Malaya
  53. Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Penang Institute
  54. Dr. Ong Kok Chung
  55. Dr. Patricia Martinez, formerly University of Malaya
  56. Dr. Phoon Wing Keong, Vice President, Malaysian Chinese Research Centre
  57. Dr. Por Heong Hong, University of Malaya
  58. Dr. Prema Devaraj, President of Aliran
  59. Dr. Ramy Bulan, University of Malaya
  60. Dr. Show Ying Xin, Amateur
  61. Dr. Simon Soon
  62. Dr. Sivin Kit, Director of Centre for Religion and Society
  63. Dr. Tan Beng Hui, Independent researcher
  64. Dr. Toh Kin Woon, Penang Institute
  65. Dr. Wong Chin Huat, Penang Institute
  66. Dr. Wu Yu Ping, National University of Singapore
  67. Dr. Yeoh Seng Guan, Monash University Malaysia
  68. Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, Former KSU of Ministry of Finance.
  69. Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, Former Sec-Gen of the Malaysian Ministry of Transport
  70. Dato’ Seri Mohd Hishamuddin Yunus, Former Court of Appeal Judge
  71. Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir
  72. Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, President of HAKAM
  73. Dato’ Azzat Kamaludin, Advocate and Solicitor
  74. Dato’ Dennis Ignatius, Former High Commissioner to Canada
  75. Dato’ KJ Abraham, OHMSI Advisor
  76. Dato’ Mohd Ariff Yusof, Former Appeals Court Judge
  77. Dato’ Noor Farida Ariffin, G25 and former ambassador to the Netherlands
  78. Dato’ Redzuan Kushairi, Former Ambassador to Uzbekistan and Member of the Royal Council State of Perak
  79. Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah, Youth Academy
  80. Dato’ Syed Ahmad Aidid, Former high court judge and member of G25
  81. Ahmad Fuad Rahmat, Projek Dialog
  82. Altaf Deviyati, Lingkaran Islam Tradisional (LIT)
  83. Altaf Ismail, IMAN
  84. Alwyn Goh, Senior Staff Researcher
  85. Amin Ahmad, LEAD
  86. Andrew Khoo
  87. Anil Netto, Aliran
  88. Azmyl Yunor, Sunway University
  89. Azrul Mohd Kalib, BEBAS
  90. Beverly Joeman, Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia
  91. Carole Chung, Concerned Citizen
  92. Chan Yit Fei, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
  93. Chang Teck Peng, Former lecturer at New Era College
  94. Chong Ton Sin, SIRD
  95. Chua Kim Boon, President of Selangor State Dongzong
  96. Dina Zaman, Writer
  97. Ehsan Shahwahid, Islamic Renaissance Front
  98. Eugene Yapp, Executive Director, Kairos Dialogue Network
  99. Faridah Stephens
  100. George John, Independent Investor
  101. Gopal Sundaram, Former Assistant Governor, Bank Negara Malaysia
  102. Henry Loh, Aliran
  103. Ho Yock Lin, Immediate Past President of All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  104. Ismail Hashim, Universiti Selangor
  105. Ivy Josiah, Former SUHAKAM Commissioner
  106. Jahabar Sadiq, Editor
  107. Jannie Lasimbang, Former SUHAKAM Commissioner
  108. Jasmine Ng, OHMSI Advisor
  109. Josh Hong, Writer
  110. Kassim Muhamad, PAKSI
  111. Kee Thuan Chye, Writer
  112. Liau Kok Fah, Chairperson of Civil Rights Committee of KLSCAH
  113. Lim Hong Siang, Writer
  114. Maria Chin Abdullah, Chairperson of Bersih 2.0
  115. Masjaliza Hamzah, Human rights advocate
  116. Muhammad Afiq Bin Mohamad Noor, Lingkaran Islam Tradisional
  117. Nathaniel Tan, Writer
  118. Ng Yap Hwa, Executive Director of Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
  119. Nidhal Mujahid, Penang Institute
  120. Ong Kok Hin, Penang Institute
  121. Ong Lai Mun, ENGAGE
  122. Rama Ramanathan, ENGAGE
  123. Ramli Abdul Samad
  124. Ratna Osman, Sisters in Islam
  125. Rozana Isa, Sisters in Islam
  126. Seah Hong Yee, ENGAGE
  127. Sivarajan Arumugam
  128. Susan Loone, Journalist
  129. Tang Ah Chai, Chief Secretary of KLSCAH
  130. Tan Kong Beng, OHMSI Advisor
  131. Tan Yew Sing, Former President of KLSCAH
  132. Tarmizi Anuwar, Kelas Pencerahan
  133. Terence Fernandez, Media Specialist
  134. Thomas Fann, Chairman of ENGAGE
  135. V. Gayathry, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
  136. Vince Tan Hoo She, Youth Progressives of Malaysia
  137. Wang Lay Kim, University of Science Malaysia
  138. Xifu Abdul Naser Tun Abdul Rahman Ya’kub, Angkatan Skuad Mubaligh
  139. Yalini Easvaralingam, Independent researcher
  140. Yee I-Iann, Artist
  141. Yeong Pey Jung, Penang Institute
  142. Yong Yew Wei, Vice President of KLSCAH
  143. Zairil Khir Johari, Penang Institute
  144. Zakiah Koya, Journalist
  145. Zamri Vinod, Presiden Angkatan Skuad Mubaligh Msia
  146. Zurairi AR, Journalist

Chronology of Intellectual Crackdown Since September 25

September 25

  • A forum organized by Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) at Nottingham University Malaysia titled “The Islamic Jesus” featuring Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol was cancelled under the pressure of Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (JAWI)

  • The arrest of Mustafa Akyol in KLIA before his departure and subsequent detention for 17 hours for “religious teaching without tauliah (proper accreditation)” under Section 11 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997.

September 28

  • The gazette banning of the 21 Books in one day (decision by Home Minister on September 6) which include Mustafa Akyol’s books, “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case For Liberty” and its Malay translation “Islam Tanpa Keekstreman: Berhujah Untuk Kebebasan”

  • “Wacana Pemikiran Reformis” (Jilid I & Jilid II) edited by Dr Farouk Musa, Executive Director of IRF

  • “Aku __ maka Aku ada” by Faisal Tehrani (Dr Mohd Faizal Musa), researcher at UKM

  • “Ulama yang bukan Pewaris Nabi” by Ustaz Wan Ji Wan Hussin, clergy-politician

October 2

  • IRF Chairman Dr Farouk Musa is charged for abetting Mustafa Akyol to give “religious teaching without tauliah (proper accreditation)” under Section 43 Act 559 of Shariah Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997.

October 3

  • Sapuman: Man of Steal by political cartoonist Zunar is banned