Introduction of Freedom of Speech
As a subset of freedom of expression, freedom of speech has become particularly threatened in Malaysia of late. Even academics and some state-appointed ulama have been targeted under Malaysia’s syariah criminal legislation for speaking their minds in ways that challenge official interpretations of Islam.
Without the ability to speak and enter into dialogue, society becomes impoverished of ideas on how to improve itself. When it comes to matters specifically related to Islam, we find that this results in interpretations that become intensely politicised by those in social and political power. These then become frozen in time because they are not open to constructive debate.
SIS itself has been targeted by both state and non-state actors for exercising our right to free speech. This highlights the gendered dimension that censorship of speech often takes as well. We recognise that we are not alone in this, however, and that a variety of Muslim voices – from a wide range of ideological leanings – is continually silenced by the authorities. Our position is that the only way for Islam to continue being relevant in the lives, hearts and minds of wider society is for its numerous interpretations to be open to public discussion.