Abdullah should introduce the “best practice” of good governance requiring reasons to be given for every government decision, such as why 11 books were banned last month after being freely available for decades, one going back to 1971
Media Conference Statement (3)
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Tuesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should introduce the “best practice” of good governance in requiring reasons to be given for every government decision, such as why 11 books were banned last month after being freely available for decades, one going back to 1971.
Why was Karen Armstrong’s A History of God (1993) and Muhammad – A Biography of the Prophet (1992) banned when they were available in local libraries, bookshops or homes for more than a decade? The same applies to Phil Parshall’s "The Cross and the Crescent" (1989), the National Geographic Society’s classic "Great Religions of the World" (First Edition 1971) and Fatima Mernissi’s “Women and Islam" (1991).
Is the government suggesting that the censors who had not found these books offensive for more than a decade – and for 34 years in the case of National Geographic Society’s “Great Religions of the World” – have suddenly woken up to discover that they are subversive and seditious? What is this new culture and mindset that is prevailing among Abdullah’s mind-menders as to make these books suddenly so offensive as to justify the criminalization of their possession?
The ban of Fatima Mernissi’s “Women and Islam” - a “historical and theological inquiry” by the Moroccan Professor of Sociology at the Mohammed V Rabat University - is most ironic, coming at almost the same time as Malaysia’s hosting of the first-ever Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Ministerial Meeting on the Advancement of Women, with the main theme on gender equality, empowerment and development.
Fatima Mernissi, who grew up in a harem along with her mother, grandmothers and other sisters in Fez, Morocco, is a leading advocate of gender equality in the Islamic world.
In her now banned book, Fatima Mernissi observed that when completing the work she had come to understand that
“if women's rights are a problem for some modern Muslim men, it is neither because of the Koran nor the Prophet, nor the Islamic tradition, but simply because those rights conflict with the interests of a male elite. The elite faction is trying to convince us that their egoistic, highly subjective and mediocre view of culture and society has a sacred basis ... Islam was not sent from heaven to foster egoism and mediocrity. (Fatima Mernissi, Women and Islam, 1991, p. ix.)”
This extract is from the Internet and as Fatima Mernissi has her own homepage, http://www.mernissi.net, is the Malaysian government going to jam her website to make it inaccessible to Malaysians surfing the Internet?
Another reason why the ban on Fatima Mernissi’s 1991 book is most extraordinary is Abdullah’s constant advocacy that in Islam, the “gate of ijtihad” was never closed hundreds of years ago and that the “gate of independent resoning” remains open – a mindset that does not square with book banning.
The government must publicly give full and acceptable reasons for the ban of each of the 11 books last month or lift the ban.
* Lim Kit Siang,
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman