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Sunday, March 25, 2007


People have asked me recently how I reconcile my being Muslim with the work I am doing through Article 11 and as a lawyer in the area of civil law-Islamic law. Some have even asked desperately "Why?!" And when that does not satisfy, there are those who resort to name calling. Two days ago, in what has become a common refrain, I was once again referred to as "syaitan".

So, why?

Firstly, I do not see religion being involved at all. The issue is one of law. If I disagree with the suggestion that the syariah courts have jurisdiction over certain matters, that is not a disagreement with the principles of Islam. As a lawyer, I apply the law as it is provided. I cannot bend the law, nor should it be bent. Under our system all of us are guaranteed an equal right to access impartial and objective justice. Not that that is an unacceptable thing.

Secondly, in Islam everyone - muslim or otherwise - is to be treated justly. Justice is equally impartial and objective. Justice meted out through a syariah court does not make it that much more just than that through a civil court. Justice is justice. It looks to substance, not form. There is no such thing as Islamic justice and non-Islamic justice.

In that vein, I do not see any difficulties reconciling what it is I do with the Islam that I know and cherish. The religion that I know as Islam does not enjoin oppression of the disadvantaged nor persecution. The Islam that I know enjoins compassion, mercy and above all justice for all of God's creations.

So does the Constitution. It is a compact which all of us must honour. The traditions of the Holy Prophet illustrate the principle that justice is justice. A compact which serves the good of the community and the aims of fairness, even if arrived at by non-Muslims, must be honoured. As must the law. To say otherwise is to invoke the religion to countenance a wrong. That is wholly reprehensible.

As a human I will not tolerate an injustice. As a Muslim I am obligated to fight it to the end.



Misben said...

Hats off to you. You are one of the very rare few who "Make a difference"
Many are with you in spirit. Be strong for all of Malaysia.

Rie said...

I am reminded of a chilly spring morning in 2003, in rural North Carolina, listening to a determined, elderly, hard-nosed yet graceful black lady tell us: "I might not, no, DO NOT agree when the a racist person calls me a nigger woman, but I will die defending his or her right to do so."
Not quite the same thing is being referenced as in your blogpost, but somehow, in my mind, that memory was brought forth.

Anonymous said...

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Fellow Malaysians should be alarmed by now.

Anonymous said...


The problem with you you take the law of the land as if it is a divine law. You are a lawyer first and a muslim second. That's the problem. Islam is not only religion but is the way of life, there's no separating between the two.

Anonymous said...

My fellow Human,

At least you are showing the silent majority what it means to be a responsible citizen. This is ultimately what God would require of any good person following any particular religion, in whichever country on this planet. The goal of all this would be clear thinking, true justice and peace of mind for all mankind.
Keep up the good work.


Malik Imtiaz Sarwar said...

To the last but one Anonymous,

thank you for having shown everyone the mindset we are dealing with.

I do not begrudge you your definition of what it is to be Muslim. I think you should not begrudge me mine. I would be happy to hear your explanation of how the wrongs that are being committed to individuals like Subashini and so on are acceptable in Islam.

In the meanwhile consider what the Rukunegara means when it calls for an adherence to the Constitution. In as much as you may aspire to a more 'Islamic' way of life (according to how you see it, because I do not necessarily share your view), that aspiration can only be made a reality through constitutional action and process. You may not like the Constitution we have but until and unless it is changed it is the one that forms our Supreme Law.

Islam does not teach me to break promises and compacts.


Anonymous said...

Salute to you, Sir.

Mr. Smith said...

Honestly, I have nothing short of respect for you. For doing what you believe is right.
In fact, you are right.
Recent events - too many to state here - involving Muslim-nonMuslim issues and rights, I fear what the future holds of this country.
Thank God, we have prople like you to make the difference.
It is people like that prevents me from looking at Muslims and Islam negatively.
May I humbly suggest thatin future you refrain from replying to likes of the last but one Anonymous.
They are intellectually stunted.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

if you sit by and watch approvingly people being denied justice in Shariah courts which are given jurisdiction over their cases but which will not hear their testimony or consider their needs then you're a living indictment not of Islam but of small minded sectarianism.

Thankfully Islam is bigger, more compassionate, more generous and wiser than you.

There are plenty who won't tolerate injustice being committed in their name.

zewt said...

My utmost respect for you. Our country certainly needs more ppl of your maturity. You know there are many out there who will be behind you in this fight...

Anonymous said...

Dear En Malik,

I salute your contribution to this important issue.
"Men of the Hour" are always needed are various times and surely God will be their Captain.


Ellen Whyte said...

I thought all Muslims are supposed to question their faith. Isn't that part of the rules put down in the Koran?

Anyway, hooray for you. I'm glad someone is willing to stand up and say that those of us who do not believe in your faith shouldn't have to live by it.

Inaesb said...

I have always been a great fan-of-sorts (if you may call it that) ever since I started reading your articles in the NST. Also, I have actually seen you in action in the Palace of Justice during one of my school trips. Your eloquence will definitely complement your other qualities. I am behind you all the way (though I may not be able to do much).

Old Fart said...


You are a greater defender of the faith than those who curse and condemn you. How is that? The simple matter of Subashini is one that can taint and cause discord to the majority of muslims. The majority Muslims, even the socialites and the entertainers when facing Islamic justice attire themselves in ways permitted by the shariah courts out of reverance and faith. There is visual submission. Subashini, forced into the same arena, will only walk in with contempt for it and its judges. Does she need to stand up for them? And if she does not what does it mean? Does she have to cover her head? No..she is only obliged to wear her saree and the judges cannot say anything about the shape and form that it would reveal and ofcourse if she decides to wear a blouse which is narrow revealing a broad torso, I guess the judges would only feel titilated to say the least. Now, all thatI am suggesting is that the Shariah Courts are invitiing disaster for themselves forcing this woman to come before them.

What you are doing is saving them from such "indignity"! do they understand that? Of is there going to be another constitutional crisis when the Shariah judges decide that they can have a say over how a non-Muslim woman dresses!

Anonymous said...

To the first Anonymous ...

Please explain your statement: "The problem with you you take the law of the land as if it is a divine law."

Am I missing something, here? (England is not my mother tongue-gew, you see.) You make an accusation that has no basis whatsoever and you’d be hard pressed to substantiate it. Anyway, for argument’s sake, how does one take a law of the land and make it a divine one? One is man-made; the other God-given. The two are not the same and should not be confused.

It seems to me that in your earnestness to defend the faith you just like to, as a matter of speaking, ‘shoot your mouth’ to admonish. Boy, are you wrong and your conclusion utterly non sequitur.

Apart from being devoid of logic and God-insulting to say the least, I can only conclude from your statement that you are the problem, not Malik.

And if I think I read you correctly, I think you would be one who would gladly like to adhere to divine laws first and man-made laws second for you are a Muslim first. Herein lies your predicament. You have erred as a Muslim for making a wrongful accusation against a man.

Whether one wants to place one’s faith first and the persona second, or vice versa, just remember that religion is man-made whereas living the “way of life” of one’s faith is a commandment of God. I would agree with you let’s place God’s commandments first, everything else second, but let’s not confuse the issue here for what we have here is not one where God’s laws are being broken but rather of men who think that that is the case. Worse still, these same men seem to think that they are doing God a favour by behaving like Him. How profane can one get?

I think asking for Malik’s forgiveness would be a true Muslim’s way of settling the issue. And God would be divinely pleased. Praise be to God Almighty.

Unknown said...


well said and you have my great respect. you are no less a muslim than those that criticise you.

god bless you.

Anonymous said...

"You are a lawyer first and a muslim second" was the cheapest type of shot, totally without sustance, and a reflection of what mental level the average Malaysian sits at, when taking these putt-shots.

You are a lawyer and a muslim and the only voice right now in Malaysia. Thank you for standing firm, and for defending those of us that do not know how... and the rest that don't even realize they should be very scared.

RESPECT!!! And stay unwaveringly clear...


Anonymous said...


Most "way's of life" would have us to "love our neighbour as ourself". It's precepts requires utmost care in the interpretation thereof..and any attempt by a purely "theological" thinking follower to set a standard operating procedure for others in the way to follow must itself be scrutinised. Rightly, it is the need to obey a way of life that is divinely promoting compassion for total society which causes many in the way to correctly interpret a precept and hence seek remedy to correct injustice around them. The larger picture is always greater and serves the way ultimately.


Anonymous said...

You have my support, sir. And to anonymous 1, it is not your place to judge.

Lrong Lim said...

I salute folks like you who face a lot of animosity while doing what you believe in... you are indeed a rare individual in our country... hold on to your stance, brother... I am sure there a lot of us who are supporting what you are doing...

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good with you as always..

Milky Tea said...

Hullo there. It has been awhile I must say, we hope you are keeping alright. There is of course really no issue as to the degree of "Islamness" in your undertaking all these hot cases. To each his own, I say.

In any event, in the beginning Islam was considered a strange faith. And in the end of time it will again be regarded as strange. Even by those who think they are living by its precepts. Good luck, old soul. Someone must fight the notion that Islam is only interested in grabbing children and corpses...

art harun said...

The inability to understand that one's committment towards the law of the land, even when such committments, at first sight, seem opposed to one's faith, does not mean that one has forsaken one's faith, is quite endemic among Malaysians, especially the Muslims nowadays. Such inability is either borne out of ignorance or sheer arrogance and self righteousness. To label you "syaitan" just because you are involved in Article 11 or in cases where you seemingly,or to their perception, argue against the principles of Islam is in itself unIslamic. Continue what you are doing Imtiaz.

I am proud to call you my friend.

Anonymous said...

it is hard to have a win-win situation all the time. there are times when a decision has been made, then the rule governs, opening only a space for acceptance...the only thing left to do is "REDHA"..

Anonymous said...

in my humble opinion, you are in the right track. not many dare to fight for justice, across race across religion, myself included. but the silver lining is ... we've people like you who are braver and hv the skills. my prayer is with you.