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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Muslim would not tell lies – Ravinder Singh



Former chief justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad, as High Court judge in the 1990s, is alleged to have remarked that “as a Muslim he would not tell lies” when accepting a Malay man’s claim that his signature as guarantor was forged by a third party and acquitting him.
It was the case of a bank suing two business partners, a Malay and an Indian, who were the guarantors for a loan. The same defence of forgery made by the Indian man was rejected.
This was recently revealed by retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram, two days after Hamid made a racist speech at a buka puasa event, accusing the Penang government of being anti-Islam and anti-Muslim by not providing funds for Islamic religious purposes in the state. 
The source of his information, he claimed, was a former Penang mufti. As a judge, surely he must know that such “information” is hearsay and not acceptable.
He could even have had occasion during his days on the bench to tell off lawyers and litigants trying to present hearsay evidence in his court. But here, he took hearsay as the truth and nothing but the truth and used it to create ill-will among his listeners against those he accused.
He was driving a wedge between the Muslims and non-Muslims based on unverified “information”.
As far as 1996, his legal mind had been tainted with racist sentiments. So when the “former Penang mufti” informed him of the “threat” to Islam in Penang, he took the word of the mufti (a Muslim) as being the truth and nothing but the truth, for being a Muslim, the mufti would not be telling lies.
How many more judgments did he make where the accused were Muslims and he felt that as Muslims they would not tell lies?
Does Islamic law say that Muslims would not be telling lies in court? Otherwise what was the basis on which he made this statement and accepted the defence of forgery by the Muslim man and rejected the same defence by the non-Muslim man? Religious bigotry?
Now it makes me wonder whether the story of the “former Penang mufti” itself is true?
When a person in high position feels that the lesser beings than him, having high regard for him or his position, should swallow line, hook and sinker anything he says, he can easily create stories to give legitimacy to his arguments to create the perception of truth spoken with authority.
The “former Penang mufti” could just be a product of his creative mind, non-existent in person, just a character in a story and not someone actually walking about.  
In the infamous Asian Rare Earth (ARE) case in Papan near Batu Gajah in the 1980s, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had, without visiting the site, kept repeating that the trenches built on a hillock to bury the radioactive waste complied with international standards.
But they were condemned as unfit for the purpose by his deputy who visited the site while acting for him during his absence.
Sometime in the mid-1990s heavy rains in Tenom in the interior of Sabah had caused flooding and washed down cut logs which damaged houses along Sungai Padas and people blamed illegal logging for the calamity.
By coincidence I was there and saw the timber and the damage it had caused. Dr Mahathir, turned investigator and took a helicopter ride over the hills and upon landing, told the reporters that he did not see any sign of illegal logging.
Coming from the PM himself, could the people not accept that as “the truth and nothing but the truth”? So where did all the cut logs come from?
To refresh memories, in the early years of his reign, Dr Mahathir had with tongue-in-cheek stated that if you tell a lie and repeat it often enough, people will believe it is the truth.
He made it the basis of his administration – government could do anything and everything it did was “right” as would be proven by repeated statements claiming so, as in the ARE case.
Even though the lies backfired, it was the deputy who resigned and not the one who had been pulling a fast one on the whole world. 
This formula of turning lies into the “truth” by repeating them over and over again has become part of the culture in Malaysia.
There is no shame in telling lies and covering them up with more lies. For some Muslims, it is not an anti-Islamic value to tell lies if the purpose is to enrich oneself illegally or to preserve oneself politically.
In fact, some quarters have made it a religious duty for Muslims to “protect Islam” by ensuring Umno’s hold on power, for to them only Umno can ensure the continuity and survival of Islam in Malaysia.
To achieve this, they create a lot of smoke where there is no fire, and some are fooled by the smoke to run shouting “fire”. The CJ was the latest to create smoke where there is no fire.
Once, discussing a trade union’s lie about an issue, a Muslim teacher said that it was legitimate for union leaders to tell lies if it was for the “good” of the union, that is, to save the union embarrassment for not standing up to something.  
Then we have the case of Pak Man Telo who collected RM90.09 million by lying about his “investment” scheme that promised high dividends in a short time. About 50,000 people got cheated, mostly if not all were Malays.  
I still hear low-income Malays lamenting how they lost thousands of ringgit to Muslims operating investment schemes and businesses promising them quick and good returns only not to see their money any more.
Could the police, Bank Negara Malaysia and the Companies Commission confirm there are no reports lodged with them of Muslims engaging in “business” activities that cheated Muslims?
The tables are turned on those cheated by claiming that they entered “business” deals and should know all businesses carry risks. What is covered up is that these “business” deals were entered into based on misrepresentations, that is, lies. So dear judge, do all these show that “a Muslim would not tell lies”?    
Could some pious Muslims please give us a lesson on what the Prophet really taught his followers on telling lies, on enriching oneself through deceit and fraud, on living harmoniously or disharmoniously with and among those of other beliefs, on condemning others based on hearsay, on accepting as “the truth and nothing but the truth” whatever the leaders say, on respect for others, on using religion for political purposes, on forced conversions, on body snatching, etc.    
Is the worth of a religion to be seen in the words and actions of its adherents, or in the loud exhortations of a few behaving as if they have extra-terrestrial knowledge of the religion that the silent majority do not have, and as if they have been specially anointed to represent God on earth? Did God not create all mankind to be equal?
* Ravinder Singh reads The Malaysian Insider.

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