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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rule of law or rule by law?

Whether these people can or cannot leave Islam is a matter for the Muslims to resolve. This has nothing to do with the church and the church cannot be subjected to Islamic laws. As far as the church is concerned, these people are no longer Muslims. But if there is no such thing as ‘ex-Muslims’, then a law needs to be passed stating so. Then the confusion will be cleared up. Then the church would be barred from preaching to anyone born a Muslim since the word ‘murtad’ would no longer be in the Muslim vocabulary.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Malaysia has tens of thousands of lawyers. But how many lawyers actually ‘practise law’ or are most in this only for the money? Seldom do we hear lawyers speak out on what is right and what is wrong. It should be the job of lawyers to educate Malaysians as to what the law is all about. Only then can it be said that they are true to their profession.

Laws are man-made. Sometimes we say that these are God’s laws or this is what God ordained. Invariably, all laws are made by man but blamed on God. Why are the lawyers not telling us this?

Just because it is law does not make it right. Are we talking about rule of law or rule by law? “What’s the difference?” you may ask. A lot of difference! And it is the duty of lawyers to educate us on the difference between the rule of law and rule by law.

Queen Elizabeth I ordered Parliament to appoint her as Governor of the Church. Since she was a woman, she could not be appointed as a proper head of the church like her father and brother before her -- which would tantamount to the position of the English Pope. So they made her the governor instead.

Then Elizabeth banned the practise and belief of the wafer as the body of Christ and wine as the blood of Christ. All the Catholic Bishops opposed this and they instigated the citizens to defy this new ‘heretic’ law.

The Bishops were all rounded up and imprisoned and replaced with Protestant Bishops. The Catholics were forced to go underground and to practise their faith in secret and behind closed doors. There were pockets of rebellion all over the Kingdom, even as far as Scotland where they deposed their Catholic Queen (later they chopped off her head as well).

Of course, this conflict between the Church and the Throne was not new. Even back in the days of Henry II, 400 years earlier, there was already a conflict and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, was assassinated because of his conflict with the King over the rights and privileges of the Church.

So, was Elizabeth right? Of course, she had the power. But just because she had power and just because a law had been passed does this make it right? Who was Elizabeth to decide that this is what God ordained? Did God speak to her? Or was this merely a political move?

You see: England, then, was only South England. From York onwards, this was Catholic country. So, by getting rid of the Catholic faith, this meant England could unite and Scotland, if it turned Protestant, would become part of English territory.

Scotland was also aligned to France. And France was Catholic and the age-old enemy of England. So, by ‘occupying’ Protestant Scotland, this meant that the danger of a French invasion (through Scotland) would be eliminated.

So there you have it. It was not about what God wanted. It was about what Elizabeth wanted. And Elizabeth wanted Scotland under her control. And she wanted the French Catholic Queen kicked out of Scotland. And she wanted the French army kicked out of Scotland. If not, her throne would be in jeopardy of a ‘Catholic’ invasion with a new Catholic Queen from Scotland installed onto the throne.

In short, Elizabeth had to control and dictate what is and is not acceptable religious beliefs and practises to be able to control England and get rid of the Scottish-French threat to her throne.

Elizabeth used religion to hold on to power.

Today, we celebrate Merdeka. But how are we celebrating Merdeka? By raising the flag? By sleeping at home? Merdeka should be celebrated by respecting the ‘Merdeka Agreement’, which is basically the Federal Constitution.

How can we say we are remembering or honouring Merdeka when we do not respect the Constitution? The Constitution was the foundation of Merdeka. Without the Constitution there is no foundation and therefore no Merdeka.

This, the lawyers should tell the people far and wide, the length and breadth of Malaysia. The basis of our laws is the Constitution. However, many of our laws violate the Constitution.

Many things ail Malaysia. But I want to talk about only one ailment today. And this ailment, the latest in a series of ailments, is the conflict between Church and State brought on by the DUMC raid and the allegations made against the Church.

The DUMC raid was not the only conflict between Church and State. Earlier, we had the Allah issue, the Bahasa Malaysia Bible issue, and so on. It appears that all along the way the Church is in conflict with the State.

But has this not been so for more than 1,000 years? The Church has always had its differences with the State (or more like the State resented the power the Church had over the people and thus started the ‘turf war’ between the State and the Church).

Anyway, Article 3 and Article 11 of the Constitution are very clear (by right, lawyers ought to be talking to you about this, not me). Let us consider what it says.

Islam is the religion of the Federation. No dispute.

Other religions may be practised in peace and harmony. No dispute.

The Ruler is the Head of the religion of Islam in his State. No dispute.

Every religious group has the right to manage its own religious affairs. No dispute.

Every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it. No Dispute.

There should be no propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam. No dispute.

So, where is the dispute then?

Let’s look at “Every religious group has the right to manage its own religious affairs”. What does this mean? If the Christians want to publish a Bahasa Malaysia Bible, would this be under the clause of “manage its own religious affairs”? Can the government then dictate what language the Bible can and cannot be published?

Let’s look at “Christianity cannot be propagated to persons professing the religion of Islam”. But what if that person has announced that he or she has left Islam?

Now, you may say that once a person is born to Muslim parents then he or she is automatically a Muslim and a Muslim is a Muslim for life and cannot leave Islam. But that is between the Muslim and his ‘Church’. Once a Muslim renounces Islam (murtad), he or she is an apostate. Technically, he or she is no longer a Muslim.

The State may say that he or she is still a Muslim. That’s according to the government. But in the ‘eyes’ of God, he or she is no longer a Muslim. He or she has become a murtad.

So, where is the crime here?

Actually, the issue is not that complicated. It is just that the lawyers would rather not get involved in this issue because it is very sensitive and Malays are a very emotional people who would run amok if they think that they cannot win by words and need to resort to violence to win an argument.

A true lawyer would educate us. Most lawyers, however, would remain silent and allow the ignorance to continue. And this ignorance has caused a lot of confusion.

In short: Christians cannot preach to Muslims. That is the law. But if that person has left Islam, technically, he or she is no longer a Muslim but an ex-Muslim. So, it is not against the law to preach Christianity to these people (who are technically not Muslims any more).

Whether these people can or cannot leave Islam is a matter for the Muslims to resolve. This has nothing to do with the church and the church cannot be subjected to Islamic laws. As far as the church is concerned, these people are no longer Muslims. But if there is no such thing as ‘ex-Muslims’, then a law needs to be passed stating so. Then the confusion will be cleared up. Then the church would be barred from preaching to anyone born a Muslim since the word ‘murtad’ would no longer exist in the Muslim vocabulary.

However, as it stands now, the word ‘murtad’ does exist. And this means Islam recognises the existence of 'ex-Muslims'.

So, where do we go from here? And why are the lawyers not speaking up?

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Article 3

1. Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.

2. In every State other than States not having a Ruler the position of the Ruler as the Head of the religion of Islam in his State in the manner and to the extent acknowledged and declared by the Constitution, all rights, privileges, prerogatives and powers enjoyed by him as Head of that religion, are unaffected and unimpaired; but in any acts, observance or ceremonies with respect to which the Conference of Rulers has agreed that they should extend to the Federation as a whole each of the other Rulers shall in his capacity of Head of the religion of Islam authorize the Yang di-pertuan Agong to represent him.

3. The Constitution of the States of Malacca, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak shall each make provision for conferring on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be Head of the religion of Islam in that State.

4. Nothing in this Article derogates from any other provision of this Constitution.

5. Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be the Head of the religion of Islam in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan; and for this purpose Parliament may by law make provisions for regulating Islamic religious affairs and for constituting a Council to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in matters relating to the religion of Islam.

Article 11

1. Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.

2. No person shall be compelled to pay any tax the proceeds of which are specially allocated in whole or in part for the purposes of a religion other than his own.

3. Every religious group has the right -

(a) to manage its own religious affairs;

(b) to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes; and

(c) to acquire and own property and hold and administer it in accordance with law.

4. State law and in respect of the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan, federal law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.

5. This Article does not authorize any act contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality.

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