The Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim) will ask the government to lift the ban on three books by religious historian Karen Armstrong.

Its vice-president, Azril Mohd Amin, said Abim will write to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the religious authorities soon to ask for the ban on A History of God; Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet; and The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam to be reviewed.

"We hope the government will consider this as it is always good to get feedback and listen to what others feel about the religion," he said to theSun today.

"Armstrong has made some very fair judgments on certain issues in Islam. We can learn from that. And we can see that she is also sincere in her opinion."

Earlier, Azril told a press conference to announce the three-day Inter-Civilisational Youth Engagement Programme (Iyep) 2007 that Abim had yet to make an official call for the ban to be lifted because its members had different views on the matter.

"Officially, we have not looked into the issue in-depth yet. But the minority among us in Abim feel that, as a non-Muslim, Armstrong has no authority to speak about Islam," he said.

"That is the general feeling. But, we are always open to discussion."

Last year, the Internal Security Ministry banned The Battle for God for being "detrimental to peace and harmony". Her other two books were banned in 2005.

On Saturday, at a public forum on "The Role of Religion in the 21st Century" organised by the Foreign Ministry's Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations, Armstrong said openness and freedom of thought were crucial to building better understanding about religions.

"Banning books is not helpful to the human spirit. Malaysians are grown-up and are quite capable of sorting out for themselves (what is good and what isn't)," she said in response to a question.

She said she could not believe that the faith of Malaysian Muslims was so weak that reading her books alone would send them into a "flat spin".

Armstrong, a former Roman Catholic nun whose books focus on the political implications of religion and theology, has been labelled an "apologist for Muslims" by Western critics because she speaks about an Islam that is just and compassionate.

She will talk about "Building a Universal Civilisation of Peace" at Iyep in Kajang tomorrow.

Iyep is co-organised by the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), Abim and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, with the cooperation of the Inter-Religious Engagement Project 21 and the World Council of Muslims for Inter-Faith Relations.

JUST president Dr Chandra Muzaffar said Iyep will be attended by 50 youths from around the world, who will formulate and adopt an action plan towards bridging the gap among religions.

From The Sun. By Husna Yusop and Jacqueline Ann Surin