Borders bookstore in Malaysia was raided by the federal territory religious department (Jawi) last month over a book titled “Allah, Liberty and Love.”
Written by Irshad Manji, the book was later banned as it’s said to contradict Islamic teachings.
Bookstore manager 36-year-old Nik Raina Nik Aziz was charged this week at the Syariah court for distributing and selling the book.
If convicted, she can be fined up to US$1,000 or jailed up to two years.
The company said Nik Raina has been victimised and is demanding that the charge against her be dropped.
The chief operating officer (COO) claimed that she has no knowledge of the ban at the time of the raid. In fact, the notice only came from the Home Ministry a week later.
As store manager Nik Raina was not involved in the book selection process, adding that she is grossly mistreated and want all charges against her be dropped immediately.
Yau Su Peng, COO, Borders Malaysia, said: “This current event has really broken her down. There are a lot of concerns of the safety of her family, pressures being put on them from around, she kept on saying to me “I understand why I have to go through this, but my family, my friends not all of them will understand what’s this all about, to them I am already guilty”. For me, that’s really sad because all she was doing was performing her duty.”
Ms Yau is now worried about her other staff who are mostly Muslim.
She said she may have to reconsider the hiring policy from now on.
“You are asking me whether (am I) going to relook our hiring policies and consider excluding Muslim – my personal reaction to that is absolutely not. As a business person, I have to say, it has crossed our mind.
The incident has triggered heated debate on social media.
Hundreds of comments were posted on Borders facebook page with many lauding Borders in defending their staff while others said the issue was being sensationalised.
Women’s leaders have also lashed out against Jawi.
Zurainah Musa, divisional chief, Wanita UMNO, Cheras, said: “I just cannot comprehend how a government, a ministry can come into a bookstore that sells books – not liquor – and raid it and victimise a poor innocent store manager.”
She urged the government to rein in the conduct of religious officers in line with prime minister Najib Razak’s call for a global movement of moderates.
When approached, Najib promised to look into the matter although religious affairs usually fall under the purview of heads of state.
Separately, Borders is taking out a civil suit against the religious authority.
The application for judicial review will be heard on Monday.