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Monday, November 28, 2016

Islamophobic media hit the panic button

By Danial Ariff Shaari

I wish to respond to an article ‘Hadi’s bill a cause for concern’ carried by the Malay Mail Online (MMO) on Nov 25, and which was originally published in the Sin Chew Daily (SCD) on Nov 24.
The Sin Chew editorial is obviously paradoxical when its inherent oxymoron can be found within a single meandering sentence. Here is the extract:
“Perhaps, if we just look at the bill per se, non-Muslims may not even need to be overly sensitive over it — as those people [Umno and PAS leadershave claimed — but once the issue is placed within the realistic frame of Malaysia, the crisis could be just lurking around the corner and we absolutely have good reasons to be worried.”
In one sentence, they admit that there is no need to be overly sensitive and worried but immediately after the comma, they also claim that there is indeed a need to be worried given the “realistic frame of Malaysia”.
They’re “easily confused”, evidently.

Sin Chew sliding down the slippery slope

Now I have a few issues.
First, there are clearly paradoxical statements in this extract.
In fact, it is true that non-Muslims should not be worried and be overly sensitive as the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 – popularly known by its shorthand ‘RUU355’ – only concerns Muslims after all.
Second, this is nothing less than a slippery slope fallacy which is made upon the belief that whatever happens at the present, something might follow in the future. That is why in the latter part of the article, the author claims as follows:
“However, the bill is a foundation stone paving the way for the implementation of hudud law in the future.”
So the Sin Chew editor(s) admit there is no hudud as yet but predict that hudud is soon to come, and this dire forecast should make Malaysians very worried.
Third, it is clear that even SCD and MMO fail to impose the narrative that RUU355 is about hudud. On the other hand, they are well aware and understand that the present RUU355 is not the hudud that they fear might be proposed to be implemented in the future.
Fourth, this extract proves the slippery slope fallacy in its line of argument that RUU355 will be a door or stepping stone towards implementing hudud as put forth by SCD and its like.
It’s a fear shared by MMO, DAP, MCA, the Federation of Hokkien Associations (pix below), lawyer Siti Kasim and anti-Islam propagandists who are proponents of liberalism and secularism.

Without 2/3, constitutional block remains

These people are trapped in the slippery slope fallacy without submitting any argument to support the inevitability of the latter event in question.
It is not inevitable that hudud must necessarily follow RUU355. This is because in order to implement hudud, a constitutional amendment is needed. And to amend the Federal Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
Therefore, as long as the constitution is not amended to allow states to impose hudud, RUU355 would not be a pathway to implementing it as they have claimed.
The argument that RUU355 will lay a more solid foundation for hudud is untrue as well since the bill does not change the present constitutional position regarding the division of legislative powers between the federal and state governments.
There will be no shift in powers between the two authorities even if the RUU355 motion succeeds in the House.
Bersih 5 and the involvement of churches
Bersih 5 and the involvement of churches

Promoting secularism to oppose RUU355

The Sin Chew editorial promotes an idea of secularism in opposing RUU355.
This approach fails to pay due respect and consideration to our federal constitution which clearly provides for the creation of a dual legal system of civil and Syariah Courts.
Our constitution further empowers the states to make Islamic laws regarding hukum syarak and other matters pertaining to Muslim personal and family affairs.
The allegation of Malaysia inclining steeply towards religion is unjustified. Islam is “the religion of the Federation” and imposing a narrative that Malaysia is deviating from secularism is misleading.
RUU355 only concerns Muslims and it does not affect non-Muslims.
All this while, the coexistence of civil and Syariah Courts has never precipitated any material problem or issue in the aspects of constitutionality or citizens’ rights.
Does this “steep religious inclination” (a phrase used in the Sin Chew editorial) labeling mean to deny Muslims and Islamic institutions the right as bestowed by the constitution to regulate their own religious affairs?
What is wrong anyway with being steeply inclined towards Islamic rules, regulations and teachings if it is within the constitutional limits prescribed?
Recently, we’ve been made aware of the involvement of Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) in the latest Bersih 5.0 rally.
Do SCD and its ilk intend to mean that the “steep religious inclination” of CCM towards a politically-linked movement is similarly not kosher?
Or does the prohibition against mixing religion and politics only apply to Islam and Muslims?

Affirming the support for RUU355

I cannot help but comprehend that the Sin Chew opinion piece is only full of prejudice, assumption and baseless accusation against RUU355.
It is making use of the anti-hudud sentiment to encourage criticism and nurture fear towards the proposed revision of the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act.
What is clear is that the SCD and MMO have attempted to fortify the existing Islamophobic tendencies albeit theirs is a poor attempt at doing so.
The RUU355 amendments are merely to raise the cap on sentencing which may be imposed by Syariah Courts.
Tuan Guru Hadi Awang’s proposal has already been presented to Parliament and this should have debunked any previous mistaken presumption about what RUU move was and is all about.
It turns out, however, that the strong opposition by these detractors is hardly abating despite all the valid explanations and many reassurances provided.
Well, this comes as no surprise as it is in their nature to be stubborn and to oppose for the sake of opposing.
Such recalcitrance will only prompt Muslims to suspect that there is a hidden agenda behind the ever continuing protests. Islamophobia much?

Danial Ariff Shaari is a lawyer and activist

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