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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Empower syariah court and law, to do what?



“The learned judge apparently equated apostasy to treason in western civilisation and stated that in many countries around the world, treason is a serious offence as it is of national security concern and punishable by the harshest penal sentence.”
- 'Syariah Court dismisses Revathi's application to renounce Islam' (The Malaysian Bar 2007)
Does anyone remember the Revathi case? Probably not. Malaysiakini ran a series of articles about her case which you can read here: 'Revathi: That’s my name forever'.
One passage from one of the reports is especially noteworthy in an odious way. It is an allegation by Revathi Masoosai that she was fed meat prohibited by her religion (Hinduism) when she was detained at the Islamic rehabilitation centre in Ulu Yam.
Mengenai dakwaan Siti Fatimah (Revathi) bahawa dia dipaksa makan daging (yang dilarang dalam agama Hindu), (pegawai perhubungan) Rohana Hassan berkata, pihaknya tidak menerima laporan mengenai perkara tersebut.
"'Majlis Agama Islam Selangor (Mais) melayannya sebagai orang Islam kerana permohonannya untuk keluar Islam belum diputus oleh mahkamah,' katanya.
"Rohana berkata, mengikut undang-undang Islam Selangor, jika seseorang itu telah memeluk Islam, mereka mesti menjadi umat Islam sehingga mati.
(Regarding Siti Fatimah's (Revathi) allegation that she was forced to eat beef (which is forbidden by Hinduism), Mais officer Rohana Hassan said, they have not received any report on the matter.
"Mais treated her as a Muslim because her application to exit Islam had not been decided," said Rohana.
She said according to Selangor's Islamic laws, if a person embraces Islam, that person must be a Muslim until death.)
This struck me as particularly cruel. When you have to rely on bizarre legalism to contradict, and I would argue, insult the religious beliefs of a person, it is demonstrative of the level of compassion or lack thereof of your religious beliefs. Conversion by attrition is what I call the religious malfeasances that go on in this country.
No cause for concern?
Why bring up this case now? The answer is simple. The recent announcement by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom to set up a special committee to empower syariah courts and syariah law, should (but won't) be cause for concern for Malaysians who value their secular freedoms. It is also further evidence that the Islamists in this country are emboldened by a compromised executive, and since they realize that there really is no secular (Malay) alternative, they are free to carry out their mendacious agenda for this country.
I have often argued if Islamic law really did not affect non-Muslims in this country, then why won’t Muslim politicians put this down in writing and ensure that every single case where a non-Muslim crosses paths with Islamic law, the non-Muslim and the case reverts to the civil courts. If religious laws really did not affect non-Muslims as the Islamists claim, why are there so many cases where non-Muslims are denied justice in syariah courts?
What exactly does “empowering” syariah law and the courts mean? It is simple. It does not merely mean parity with the civil courts, which would be unconstitutional, but seeing as how proponents of such initiatives claim that the supremacy of Islam is unquestionable, then we have to believe that “empowering” is a code word for supplanting civil/secular law.
We are not talking about honourable men who really believe that the laws of their faith should only be applicable to their brethren. We are talking about people – people, mind you – politicians, religious scholars, activists and everyday people, who believe that Islamic law should be applicable to all. There is this theme running through successive Umno governments that the day for full hudud implementation is still far away.
How many years do Islamists have to say this before that day comes closer? What have we seen over the long Umno watch? We have seen the complete transformation of the Malay polity. Every day if you are paying attention, Islamists activists pursue (openly) an agenda of racial and religious superiority aimed at (1) eroding secular traditions and (2) supporting a regime that they think bests allows them the breathing space to implement their religious goals.
Many argue that an “Islamic” state is a work of fiction created by Islamists for hegemonic purposes. Mehdi Hassan’s article in the New Statesman argues, “...contrary to popular Muslim opinion, there is not a shred of theological, historical or empirical evidence to support the existence of such an entity. Its supporters tend to mumble vaguely about this or that verse from the Quran, or make vacuous references to the life example of the Prophet Muhammad. But the Quran prescribes no particular model of government, nor does it detail a specific political programme that Muslims must adopt. In fact, the concept of the state appears nowhere in the Quran.”
Of course, any Muslim who argues such would be considered a “liberal” or worse, because relying on religious text to present a counter argument is verboten when it does not go along with the group think of the House of Saud.
But is this supposed committee something we should be concerned about?
What does 'harmonise' mean?
As reported in the press, “Jamil Khir said several clusters would be set up under the committee to discuss matters concerning efforts to harmonise civil and syariah laws; the proposed amendment to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act (Act 355); management and restructuring of syariah court; trainings for syariah judges and officers; syariah law education; and syariah lawyer affairs.”
What does “harmonise,” mean? Remember, Jamil Khir is someone who is on record for attacking secularism (which he confuses as a liberal Western idea) , the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, the civil courts, international human rights conventions, ideas which he thinks are a “threat” to Islam and lastly but certainly not least, here is the man who had advocated limiting religious pluralism.
Now, how do you think these “clusters” would harmonize the civil and syariah courts? Do you think that those perimeters that are publicly acknowledged would be the end of it? Do you think that people with such an agenda could be trusted to ensure that non-Muslim “rights” would be safe guarded against the intrusion of Islamic edicts?
Take what the judge said in the Revathi case had said. “The learned judge explained that in Islam, religion is not merely between man and God but between man, God and community and a person renouncing Islam would affect the community.”
In other words, as in the quote that opened this piece, “treason” against a particular community is conflated with treason against the state. And really, isn’t this the way it has played out over the decades? Are we not constantly reminded not to transgress into Malay and Islamic issues, although those issues invade our scared spaces? Because the reality is, beyond pouring in money into the coffers of the state, we as non-Muslims are not part of the "state".
Add to this the proposal made by the chairperson of the National Dakwah Council panel that there be a "structural management body" to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Council of Rulers, and what you get is a two pronged power play to assume the role of power(s) behind the throne.
Claims that the people are not witness to the high powers of the "rulers" is but a reminder to non-Muslims and dissenters - is there anyone else beyond this group? - that with a voice at the highest level of government and royalty, there is much to fear from these committed Islamists who wish an Islamic state upon Malaysians.
No doubt I will get the usual diatribes from Islamic voices online of how I am Islamophobic and how I am insulting the religion.
But the fact is, the facts mind you, point to the undeniable reality that Islam as promulgated by the state and every Muslim politician (who, for whatever reason, does not object to these kinds of intrusions) is likely to impose on non-Muslim rights.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. - Mkini

1 comment:

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