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In “Moderate” Malaysia, Saying “God is Love” Is “Un-Islamic”

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The Malay Mail Online reported Thursday that “religious enforcers had raided Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid’s publishing company ZI Publications Sdn Bhd for publishing a book with ‘confusing’ content that allegedly went against Islamic teachings, the Shariah court was told today.” The offending book went against Islamic teachings for stating a principle that most Americans who haven’t read the Qur’an assume is part of the teachings of Islam: “God is love.”

Sulastri Ishak of the Selangor Islamic Religious Department in Malaysia explained to the Sharia court that authorities moved against the publishing company because of a report that the department had received about the offending book: “The report is related to the content of the book written by Irshad Manji that has elements contrary to Islamic faith and laws.” The Selangor Islamic Religious Department seized 180 copies of the book when they raided the publishing house.

Wait a minute. Isn’t Malaysia supposed to be “moderate”? And isn’t Irshad Manji a leading “moderate” Muslim writer?

Irshad Manji has not been much heard from in recent years, but about ten or twelve years ago she was the Moderate Muslim Du Jour (a position since occupied by luminaries including Zuhdi Jasser and Maajid Nawaz), a hip young spiky-haired smiling lesbian Muslim who opposed the terrorists who had hijacked her peaceful religion, showed that Islam wasn’t all bin Laden and Mohamed Atta and the scowling Khomeini, attacked “Islamophobes” like that “right-winger” Robert Spencer to prove her Islamic bona fides, and gave the world the message that it was cool to be Muslim, and that Islam properly understood was the coolest thing of all.

The book by Manji, as published by Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid’s publishing company, was entitled Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta – that is, Allah, Liberty and Love. For publishing it, Zaid faces a $765 fine, two years in prison, or both.

What is so bad about this book? Sulastri Ishak explained: “Among the content suspected of being dubious is regarding the word ‘Allah’ that the writer claims refers to an Arabic word for God where the writer meant that God is love and liberty to be shared by everyone.”

Allah is a God who is love and liberty to be shared by everyone? Can’t have that! Blasphemy! Jail this man!

Why don’t we see more genuine Islamic reform? This story illustrates one reason why. It’s an interesting spectacle: in the West, Irshad Manji makes a comfortable living traveling around and speaking to non-Muslim audiences about how true Islam is not the Islam of jihad terrorists, but is all about liberty and love and tolerance and peace. Meanwhile, back in Malaysia, a Muslim country that has long been renowned for its “moderation,” her writings about Islam have landed her Malaysian publisher in Sharia court for their “un-Islamic” content, which turns out to be precisely the things that she is telling eager audiences in the West about Islam.

So apparently it is not just those Muslims who scream “Allahu akbar” while murdering people who misunderstand their religion, which is actually all warm and fuzzy at its core, if only it were properly understood. It’s also the Islamic authorities in “moderate” Malaysia, who have found Ezra Zaid worthy of being tried for the crime of propagating the idea that Allah is love and liberty. Apparently as far as they’re concerned, Allah is not love and liberty, but hatred and slavery.

Perhaps Irshad Manji herself should return to Malaysia, where she spoke amid immense controversy and under heavy guard a few years ago, and explain to the authorities who are trying Ezra Zaid that they are misunderstanding their religion of peace and tolerance. But considering that a member of her entourage was assaulted and sent to a hospital in neighboring Indonesia during that last book tour, and that Malaysia has only grown less “moderate” in the intervening years, she might find such a trip to be dangerous in the extreme.

Why is the misunderstanding of this cuddly religion so widespread, such that even Manji’s attempts to set straight Muslims who misunderstand their own faith end up getting people attacked and put on trial? It’s a mystery that even the great Manji herself has not yet explained.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His new book is Confessions of an Islamophobe. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.

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