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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Don’t count on civil courts to help, Zaid tells Muslims

Former law minister is disappointed that fundamental liberties in the Constitution mean nothing in this country if one is a Muslim.
zaid-ezra
PETALING JAYA: If Muslims in the country were counting on the civil courts to check the Syariah Court over contentious issues, they had best “forget it”, a lesson he himself learned when the former refused to intervene to stop the latter from prosecuting his son, Ezra, over a book he translated.
Taking to his blog, the former law minister said the book in question, written in English by Canadian Irshad Manji and titled “Allah, Liberty and Love” was not even about Islam per se but merely the author’s own thoughts about it.
“Irshad Manji’s book was not, by any stretch of imagination, a book of religious instruction. It was just a book about her personal reflections on Islam and life as a Muslim,” Zaid explained, adding that since the book was not even banned in Malaysia, he did not foresee the Selangor Islamic Religious Department’s raid and subsequent charge of his son under Section 16 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995.
“We thought the civil courts would see the injustice done to Ezra, who was just translating a book that was already freely available in the country.
“We were naïve to think that the Federal Court would protect our basic freedom to publish a book that was legally available for sale in the country, but after yesterday’s decision it’s clear to all Muslims in the country that fundamental liberties in the Constitution mean nothing if you are Muslim.”
He said he “respectfully” submitted that the judgement was more about “determining the limits of freedom” and establishing that Malaysia was an Islamic country by virtue of Constitutional provisions for the religion of the Federation.
“The learned judges kept alluding to Article 121(1A) of the Constitution, which they said precluded them from interfering with the decision of the religious department,” Zaid said.
He added, “In other words, to ordinary people like us, it appears that if we are seeking justice in the civil courts for any transgressions in the Syariah court or the conduct of any religious department, we can forget it.”
Turning his sights to the Opposition pact in Selangor, Zaid asked if Pakatan Harapan leaders, who administered the state of Selangor, were willing to look into the matter.
“Will Azmin Ali and his Exco dare to do justice in the case by telling the Selangor Islamic Religious Department that Section 16 is a prohibition only on publishing matters regarding religious instruction — and not any ordinary book?
“Will they prevail on the Department to spare Ezra prosecution? Will the DAP, which champions freedom, liberty and fundamental rights, say and do something for justice in this case?,” he asked despite having grave doubts and remarking, “… let’s see if miracles happen.”

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