KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 28 — Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol revealed today that he was detained by Malaysian Islamic authorities this week for a talk he was going to give on the commonalities between the Abrahamic religions.
In a New York Times opinion piece, the United States-based Akyol said he was only released partly because former Turkish president Abdullah Gul had pulled some strings with a Malaysian royalty.
“When they were done with their questioning, they handed me a piece of paper with Malay writing on it and told me that I shouldn’t speak again without proper authorisation,” wrote Akyol, relating his experience questioned by religious officers after a talk on apostasy.
Muslim group Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) had earlier this week said Akyol did not understand the summons since it was in Malay, and authorities did not explain the consequences of not turning up for questioning when they talked to him in both English and Malay.
“They also warned me away from my next planned talk, which was going to be about my most recent book, The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims,” he added.
“We heard that you will speak about commonalities between Islam, Judaism and Christianity… We don’t like that kind of stuff,” one officer had allegedly told Akyol, as related by him.
Akyol said he was already set to leave when the police arrested him based on an arrest order by the Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department (Jawi).
From there, he said he was brought to a police station, another station, and then locked up in Jawi’s headquarters before he faced the Shariah court the next morning.
“To be fair, nobody was rude to me, let alone cruel. Still, I was distressed: I had been arrested in an alien country whose laws and language I did not understand,” the author said.
“I had no idea what would happen to me — and, most painfully, when I would see my wife, Riada, our two-year-old son, Levent, and our two-month-old baby, Efe.”
The visiting fellow at Wellesley College, Massachusetts related that at the trial, one of the officers there “proudly” told him that he had to go through his ordeal in order to “protect religion.”
“But I have an important message for her (which I didn’t share at the time): By policing religion, the authorities are not really protecting it. They are only enfeebling their societies, raising hypocrites and causing many people to lose their faith in or respect for Islam,” he said.
The organiser of the seminars featuring Akyol, Muslim group IRF, said Jawi had accused Akyol of committing an offence under the Federal Territories Shariah law for teaching about Islam without official credentials from the Federal Territories Islamic Council.
On Sunday, Akyol spoke at a roundtable discussion at the Royal Selangor Golf Club about apostasy and gave a public lecture at the Renaissance Hotel here about the relevance of democracy.