PETALING JAYA: Turkish author Mustapha Akyol who was arrested in Malaysia last month has hit out at Putrajaya’s banning of books, especially those by Islamic intellectuals and activists, suggesting that it was an attempt to impose ignorance on the people.

In a Twitter posting today, he said he wanted to “remind” the government about what prohibiting books was about.

“Let me remind Malay government, with all due respect, what ‘book banning’ means,” he said, inserting a link to his op-ed published in the New York Times in March last year titled “How Muslim Governments Impose Ignorance”.

He also tweeted a line from the article in which he said that “so far, the Malaysian government has not banned my book.”

“It would come 1.5 years later,” he added in the tweet, referring to the Malay edition of his book “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty” published by the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) and since banned by the home ministry.

On Oct 9, the ministry announced that the book along with 21 other publications were recently banned because their contents could be detrimental to public order, alarm the public, breach existing laws, damage public morals and harm public interest.

Akyol was detained by the Federal Territories Islamic Department (Jawi) on Sept 25 this year after he had come to Malaysia to give a series of lectures organised by the IRF.

IRF director Ahmad Farouk Musa was reported to have said that Akyol was summoned by Jawi for questioning over a charge of “teaching Islam without credentials”, following which the religious authorities pressured the organisers of a forum featuring him to call the event off.

According to Jawi, Akyol was arrested based on a “complaint from the public” over a speech he made at a roundtable discussion titled “Does freedom of conscience open the floodgate to apostasy?” at the Royal Selangor Golf Club in Kuala Lumpur.

In a column in the New York Times later, Akyol said the incident was proof that there was “a major problem” in Islam today, with “a passion to impose religion, rather than merely proposing it, a mindset that most Christians left behind at the time of the Spanish Inquisition”.

In the op-ed the link of which he tweeted today, Akyol said that many Muslims, including those who censor books or punish “heretics”, longed for the “golden age of Islam” and lamented that Islamic civilisation was no longer great.

“Few seem to realise, however, that the greatness of Islam was made possible thanks to its openness to foreign cultures and ideas,” he said.

He also said the government in Malaysia was brazenly condemning “liberalism” and “human rights-ism.”

“These censors like to think that by protecting believers from dangerous ideas they are doing a great favour to Muslim societies. They are doing the opposite,” he said.

“Their thought-policing only helps enfeeble and intellectually impoverish Muslims,” he added.-FMT NEWS-

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