Thursday, June 21, 2012

The high-handedness of JAWI

The following statement was released by Yau Su Peng, the Chief Operating Officer of Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd which owns and operates the Borders bookstore chain in Malaysia.  This was in response to the raid conducted by JAWI, in which Nik Raina, the store manager at The Gardens Mall outlet in Mid-Valley City, was charged yesterday in the Kuala Lumpur Syariah Court for distributing the book ‘Allah, Liberty and Love’ by Canadian author Irshad Manji, which has been banned in Malaysia.

Borders outraged by victimisation of its staff

Statement by the COO of Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd, Yau Su Peng
Kuala Lumpur [19th June 2012]

In view of the reports in the press today about an employee of Borders being charged in
the Syariah Court for violation of Syariah laws, Borders is compelled to issue the following

The management of Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd who own and operate the Borders bookstore
chain in Malaysia is very disappointed that our store manager Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz
has today been charged by Jabatan Agama Wilayah Persekutuan (JAWI) in the Kuala
Lumpur Syariah Court for distributing a book by Canadian author Irshad Manji deemed to
be against the Islamic Law (Hukum Syarak) and banned in Malaysia. The charge was
brought under Section 13(1) of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act

Nik Raina was accused by JAWI of contravening the Hukum Syarak by distributing or
selling Irshad Manji’s book entitled “Allah, Liberty and Love”. If convicted Nik Raina faces
a RM3,000 fine or a maximum of two years' jail or both.

The charge follows a raid on the Borders bookstore at The Gardens Mall in Mid Valley City
on 23 May 2012 by JAWI (a unit of the Prime Minister’s Department) which seized books
by Irshad Manji that, at that time, had not been banned by the Kementerian Dalam Negeri
(“KDN”). There was also no fatwa nor any form of notification issued by JAWI to Borders.
There was no way for Borders to know that JAWI considered the books to be
objectionable. We understand that the Home Affairs Ministry only gazetted the banning of
the Irshad Manji books on 29th May 2012 and that fact was published on 14 June 2012.
Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd has at all times cooperated fully with the authorities and has
instructed its employees, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to assist JAWI with its
investigations, despite the company not being subject to the jurisdiction of JAWI as it is a
non-Muslim entity.

On 5 June 2012, Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd wrote to both the Minister for Home Affairs,
Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin bin Tun Hussein, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s
Department for Islamic Affairs, Senator Mejar General Dato’ Seri Jamil Khir bin Haji
Baharom, seeking their assistance and intervention with regards to JAWI’s action but has
yet to receive any reply from either Minister to date.

The management of Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd fully supports our employee Nik Raina who
has done no more than to perform her duties as a store manager. As store manager, she
does not have influence or control over the selection of books in Borders. The seized
books were not at the time of seizure declared to be banned by KDN. Neither did JAWI
notify Berjaya Books concerning the seized books.

The day after the raid Jawi came with members of the media to the Borders store in
Bangsar Village 2 to interrogate another Muslim female employee. When informed by her
that the books have been taken off the shelf as directed and returned to the company’s
head office, she was accused of lying. They proceeded to do a physical search of the
premises, which did not turn up any of Irshad Manji’s books.

In full cooperation and compliance with all directives by JAWI, Nik Raina also attended an
investigation on the 30th May 2012 with two other colleagues accompanied by Borders’
appointed lawyer. Instead, they were treated roughly by JAWI personnel and were issued
a Waran Tangkap. JAWI also refused to allow legal representation to Nik Raina. We view
this as outright victimisation and violation of the constitutional and legal rights of our

In the same vein, the management of Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd fully supports and will
continue to support our employees whom may be subject to persecution while performing
their assigned duties. This support was demonstrated by the presence of the management
team of Borders at the Syariah Court today.

The actions of JAWI upon Berjaya Books employees may influence the considerations of
corporations when hiring Muslim employees.

Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd has on 18 June 2012 also applied to the High Court of Malaya for
a judicial review of the actions of JAWI. The Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister in
the Prime Minister’s Department for Islamic Affairs have also been named as respondents
in the application for judicial review.

For media enquiries, please contact Liza Ramli on +6019 387 4612
or e-mail

Note to Editors
Borders in Malaysia is operated by Berjaya Books Sdn. Bhd. and is now wholly owned by Berjaya
Corporation. Borders Malaysia goes beyond offering quality books, with educational and
entertainment items. The first Borders Malaysia store opened its doors for business in 2005 at
Berjaya Times Square, Kuala Lumpur. Today, there are six Borders Malaysia stores. They are
located at The Curve, Mutiara Damansara; The Gardens, Mid Valley City; Tropicana City Mall,
Petaling Jaya; Bangsar Village II, Bangsar and Queensbay Mall, Penang. Borders Malaysia offers a
selection of almost 200,000 book and magazine titles. The urban bookstore chain believes in
developing the culture of reading and aims to promote English literacy. To achieve this it looks to
making reading and learning fun and exploratory. Another key characteristic of Borders is the
personal service and the warm, reader-friendly ambience. There are also Borders Express stores,
which cater to the specific needs of niche customers; there are two currently, located at Berjaya
Times Square and Bangsar Village II.

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