Nurul Izzah sues Utusan for defamation over apostasy row

Zurairi AR, The Malaysian Insider

PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar filed today a defamation suit against Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia, claiming the newspaper had twisted her remarks at a recent forum to endorse apostasy among Malays — a highly sensitive issue in mainly Muslim Malaysia.

In the suit filed at the High Court here, the opposition rising star named the Malay daily’s editor, Datuk Aziz Ishak, and Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Berhad as the defendants.

The Lembah Pantai MP is demanding the paper publish an apology on its front page over the reports she said have elements of “fitnah aqidah” or faith defamation.

Nurul Izzah is also asking for a permanent injunction against the daily to bar it from publishing further similar articles.

She did not specify an amount for compensation.

The first-term lawmaker is represented by lawyers Mohd Hanipa Maidin and Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah.

Hanipa, who is also PAS legal adviser, told reporters he hoped the court will expedite the case.

The PKR vice-president has been under attack from several religious hawks and Umno politicians following her remarks at a public forum on “Islamic State: Which version, whose responsibility?” in Subang Jaya on November 3.

The conservatives alleged that her remarks meant she supported Muslims renouncing Islam and turning “murtad” or apostate.

But she has reportedly denied that she is supporting apostasy among the country’s Malay-Muslim community, who make up some 60 per cent of the 28 million total population and whose vote is crucial to form the next government at the 13th general election due soon.

Umno, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s mainstay, has some three million members but the Malay-Muslim vote is split three ways with the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) pact’s Islamist party PAS and its urban-based reform ally PKR drawing increasingly greater support.

Race and religious issues are inseparable in Malaysia, where the Malays are constitutionally defined to also be Muslims.

The country’s supreme law states that Islam is the religion of the federation but also provides for other religions to be practised freely.