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Canadian author says Malaysia lost tolerance after difficult launch

Lesbian writer Irshad Manji launches the Malay version of a new book amid criticisms that she promotes ideas against religion and human nature
©Irshad Manji

A Canadian Muslim gay activist launched the Malay version of her controversial book on liberal Islam in Malaysia, despite official efforts to ban all her public events.

Irshad Manji and her local publisher ZI Publications eventually managed to pulled off the launch for ‘Allah, Liberty and Love’ (Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta in Malay) in front of a 50-odd crowd yesterday (19 May), after two other venues pulled out of hosting her.

The 44-year-old New York University (NYU) professor praises on Twitter the 'moral courage' of each participant, tweeting 'FANTASTIC event in KL! Great energy - except 4 cops who told latecomers that event is banned. Didn't stop us. Congrats 2 all.'

Political parties and non-governmental organizations have opposed her visit, claiming the Ugandan-born lesbian writer insults Islam with her writings and attitude.

Jamil Khir Baharom, minister in charge of Islamic affairs, also said Islam officials and the Home Ministry would not allow the author’s roadshow upon complaints, citing her ideology and openly gay lifestyle.

According to Manji’s website, the book aims to show everyone ‘how to reconcile faith and freedom in a world seething with repressive dogmas.’

In an interview with Free Malaysia Today, she says the Muslim-majority country’s reputation as ‘open, tolerant and pluralistic’ is long gone.

She believes it was because the moderate Muslims are in fact not very moderate, saying they are not only 'useless' but that their 'silence and passivity' allow extremists to get away with violence and intimidation.

‘When Martin Luther King said that the Bible was being used to justify racism, the Christians told him to stop creating tension,’ she explained. ‘And he reminded them that tension already existed if the Bible was being used for such purposes.’

‘I think the same message’s needed for Muslims today especially in Malaysia where the word moderate seems to have this wonderful tone to it but the reality is very different.’

Islam officials are now reviewing Manji’s new book, but her first book, The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith, has already been banned.

Manji talks about her views on Allah below:

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