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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Indira Gandhi case – how reality is in conflict with claims of moderation



“But in order for us to continue to live in harmony, we must persist in promoting the right message of Islam – that, it is the religion of peace and compassion.” 
– Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak
Writing about his pow-wow with Grand Mufti of Zimbabwe Ismail Menk, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said about the action of a few extremists, “This has caused unfounded fear towards Muslims and the religion of Islam. Some politicians in the West even pledged to close down mosques and further discriminate against Muslims should they hold office one day. If this situation persists, our brothers and sisters abroad will be denied their fundamental right to exercise their faith – Islam – as the religion of choice. The threat of Islamophobia is real.”
My views on this so-called “Islamophobia” is discussed here – “What is solely a Muslim issue is this idea that any criticism of Muslims is an attack on Islam or that acknowledging empirical evidence of the way how ‘Islamic’ states operate is anathema to freedoms and rights enjoyed in the progressive world is verboten in ‘civilised’ company. That any contrary narratives to the acceptable politically-correct discourse is an attack on a peaceful, peace-loving people who have always been at the mercy of colonialism or other forms of ‘Western’ imperial ambitions. This is Islamophobia in a nutshell.”
Keep in mind that this particular mufti was banned from giving religious talks in Singapore and closer to home, the state of Johor, because according to the Johor state religious department, “The content of their (and Malaysian Haslin Baharim, also known as nicknamed Ustaz Bollywood) previous speeches appear to promote racial and religious unrest, which disrupts harmony between the races.”
Why is all of this important? It is important because it is a stark reminder of how reality is in conflict with the moderate claims that many in positions of power make.
In other pieces, I have argued that only Muslims in the West can make this claim of moderation because of the Western societies they live in. That is because the societies they live in have strict secular mechanism that control the religious imperatives that most Islamic states do not have and do not wish to have. 
Malaysian Syariah Lawyers Association president Musa Awang’s (photorejoinder that the M Indira Gandhi decision might lead to even more conflicts over child custody is chilling because of the tone it sets.
Child custody conflicts in the situation of unilateral conversion are really about choice. Having no choice is exactly what some advocates such as Musa Awang acknowledge. Musa's rhetoric appears to be that he is more concerned with the child being given a choice, more than any other act.

As many human rights organisations have pointed out, what is important is that the welfare of the child is paramount, and this includes the child’s right to make his or her own choices at the appropriate age.
If there is no compulsion in religion, then this must mean that a person has the right to choose what he or she believes in. Unilateral conversion, as I have argued, makes it impossible for a person to choose because the person converted is a child when it happens and thus has no choice in the matter.
Will there be real justice?
I argued here that unilateral conversion does affect non-Muslims, contrary to that argued by some proponents of Islamic law – “Islamists like (PAS president Abdul) Hadi (Awang) and the numerous other peddlers of hate like to remind us that their laws do not affect non-Muslim communities. We are told that we are bullying the Muslim community by arguing for rights applicable to all. We are warned that our secular trespass into their religious domain would lead to violence. Unilateral conversion is the corrosive truth that it is the Islamists who would invade our scared domain of family in the name of their religion.”


The big question is, will the state security apparatus respond in an appropriate manner? Will the state security apparatus recognise the primacy of civil/secular laws in this country? Will the state security apparatus act in a manner which does not in the words of the prime minister tarnish the good image of Islam?
Some Muslims are always concerned about how the “West” treats Muslims. Of course, they have no interests in how Islamic hegemons treat non-Muslims in countries in which they are in control of. They have no interests in the way how their religious laws discriminate against non-Muslims.
A good example of this is the way how unilateral conversion robs a child of his or her right to decide if he or she wants to belong to a religion which has profound implications on the way how its believers live in a country where Islamic laws define Muslims and there are legal ramifications of being Muslim.
How many cases have there been where state authorities convert non-Muslims wards of the state to Islam? How many cases have there been where parents claim that their children have been “converted” to Islam in boarding schools in Sabah and Sarawak?
How many cases have there been where children have been converted without the permission of their legal guardians and have had to live with this conversion for the rest of their lives? How many cases have there been where non-Muslims who have lived as Christian, Hindu or Buddhist all their lives are suddenly in death, victims of grave snatching by state religious authorities?
What does Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association president Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar want? He wants child conversion laws to be reviewed to make it easier for the Muslim parent to unilaterally convert the child. He wants religious laws to be on par with secular law. He places no emphasis on the rights of the child or the non-Muslim parent, only taking into consideration the primacy of his religion.
With this kind of thinking, does anyone really think that non-Muslims can get justice in the religious courts? Did the religious courts give Indira Gandhi and S Deepa justice? In fact, what these religious courts have done is attempt to destabilise the secular rule of law and with the complicity of the state security apparatus attempted to deny justice meted out by secular courts of the land.
So, my question is this - now that the Federal Court has made this decision which has been greeted warmly by the Umno establishment with some saying that old cases need to be revisited, do those converted finally have the choice to believe in the religion they choose and would this be reflected in official documents?

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

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