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Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Test For The 'Reform Cabinet'

Concerns have been expressed about proposals made at the conclusion of a seminar organized by the Islamic Institute of Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) and the Syariah Judiciary Department recently. As reported by the media (‘Proposal to prosecute non-Muslims for khalwat’, The Star, 3rd April 2008), these proposals include the prosecution of non-muslim parties to the offence of khalwat, though in the civil courts, increasing the penalties to include whipping for the syariah offences of khalwat, prostitution, consuming alcohol and involvement in gambling activities and the establishment of rehabilitation centres for those convicted of moral and faith offences. Though reference is also made in the media to a proposal concerning apostasy, no details have been given. Judging by the other proposals, it would not be improbable that it proposes the criminalization of apostasy.

In a nutshell, these proposals, formulated as a draft resolution, which is to be submitted to the Attorney General’s Chambers, aim at increasing the role of Islamic law in the public life of Malaysians. As I have said before, in my view, the extent to which Islamic law has been made to be applicable in the public law sphere in Malaysia is not supported by the Federal Constitution. The Constitutional framework envisaged Islamic law being relevant only to the personal law of persons professing the religion of Islam to the extent that the same did not conflict with the fundamental liberties of these individuals. We have however seen how constitutional safeguards have been eroded through judicial pronouncements, a situation which has culminated in a deeply entrenched mindset that the Islamic legal system is legitimately a system of parallel standing to the secular civil law system.

The draft resolution of the seminar reflects this mindset. It is eerily consistent with the statement issued by a coalition of Islamic NGOs shortly before the General Election, one which, in effect, called for the implementation of Islamic State measures.

I do not agree with the correctness of these views. As I have said elsewhere, the Federal Constitution does not envisage the establishment of an Islamic State nor does it allow for the implementation of measures aimed at the articulation of Islamic law in public life. For this to be permitted, the Federal Constitution must be amended. Until this is done, no matter how well intentioned proposals to this effect are, they must remain as just that, proposals.

It is wholly repugnant to any notion of a united, harmonious Malaysia for non-Muslims to be convicted, directly or indirectly, of offences that might rather ambiguously be called Islamic moral or faith offences. In my view, it is equally repugnant to subject Muslims to moral policing. I believe that there is constitutional basis for rejecting the validity of such offences though this remains, as yet, unarticulated in the courts.

The proposals are basis for grave concern for two reasons. Firstly, apart from the questionable legality of the proposals, they are deeply worrying for the fact of whose views they are. In this I do not intend to refer to individuals but rather the agencies involved. IKIM is the government linked agency that is charged with the articulation of Islam Hadhari. The Syariah Judiciary department is the department charged with overseeing the administration of Islamic law through the syariah courts. The resolution that is being submitted could therefore be said to be a resolution of agencies of the Government and are, to that end, potentially of great influence. This state of affairs is not easily reconciled with the declared vision of the Barisan Nasional Federal Government of a progressive and moderate nation. Not only do the proposals smack of ‘talibanism’, they have quite predictably failed to address the more fundamental problems affecting the ummah in Malaysia in their not unusual preference of form over substance.

Secondly, the proposals suggest an intent on the part of the agencies concerned to persist in attempts to perpetuate divisive delineations of race and religion as well as the underlying supremacist positioning. Coming so soon after the devastating results of the General Election, I cannot help but ask whether the proposals are in a way an attempt to up the ante, so to speak, in what is already a very confused state of affairs. Whatever the case, civil society and the political parties must be vigilant in ensuring that responses are measured and tactful. Were they the views of individuals who were in the extremist minority, aggressive responses might not have any serious consequences. These views are however being presented as the views of IKIM and the Syariah Judiciary Department. Responses carry with them the possibility of serious reprisal or repercussions.

As to how this reflects on the Barisan Nasional Federal Government, much will depend on how the Government responds. Civil society is entitled to expect a response. Religious supremacism was one of the key issues in the last General Election and the Adbdullah Badawi administration has promised reforms across the board. This could be one of the first tests of the sincerity of the administration. A failure to respond from a moderate, progressive and constitutional perspective will further convince Malaysians that the Government only pays lip service to notions of unity and harmony.



Samuel Goh Kim Eng said...

Let's watch out for our basic rights and their erosion
On top of which may be newly added measures of corrosion
Making all wonder now if there'll be serious collision
When there are attempts to be guardians of moral collusion

(C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng - 030408
Thur. 3rd April 2008.

Mr. Smith said...

Which means IKIM and the Syariah Judiciary Dept wants non-Muslims to live the life of Muslims.
I wonder how Muslims react if a Christian country bars its Muslim citizens from taking a second wife since Christianity believes in monogamy.
Will the Muslim world go round burning cars and building and killing innocent Christians?

Anonymous said...

The Penang Acting Police Chief says that CM Lim Guan Eng may be called up for questioning regarding his statement on the NEP. Correct me if I'm wrong, didn't Bernama issue an apology to LGE for misquoting what LGE said about NEP? Then why is the Police pursuing this matter. They should instead throw the book at Utusan Malaysia and TV3 for spreading malicious news.

I find it strange that this is the first time a duly elected CM is probably going to be questioned by the Police. This will never be the case if a BN chap is the CM. You know what I'm praying for to happen? By some Divine intervention, Pakatan Rakyat comes to power and Bukit Aman is turned upside down and have all the scum flushed out for the people to see the true face of the Polis DiRaja Malaysia. I want people like Musa Hassan, his predecessor's and the entire rank and file of PDRM, past and present to be thoroughly investigated. Whoever is found guilty of unethical and unprofessional conduct must be severely punished!

If the Police want to do something positive, it should start by initiating criminal proceedings against the Syariah Court Judge who has the audacity to recommend that non-muslims be charged in the Syariah Court if they are found to have committed 'Khalwat' (close proximity) with a muslim. To me, this recommendation is utterly irresponsible and seditious. Such statements if left unchecked, may create instability in the country. The Police must do their job and put this Little Mullah in his place.

Somehow I feel this Little Mullah made his recommendation to drive a wedge into Pakatan Rakyat especially between DAP and PAS. I smell an UMNO rat here.

Old Fart said...

What is disconcerting about all this is that all this could just be landmines being laid by a retreating vanquished army so that the conquerors will never ever be able to peacebly enjoy the prize of their conquests.

Pakatan Rakyat should be vigilant and both PAS and Keadilan, especially its Muslim members, should remember that these cut through what they have been raised to think as sensitive for which a certain response is expected. It would seem like UMNO is begining to push its various buttons so that even before PR can sit to sip a cup of tea, they will have a boiling kettle of water poured over them.

Anonymous said...

Had PM realized well the message from GE12?
One Malaysia with no divisions of Race and Religion!
'Proposal to prosecute non-Muslims for khalwat' is wetting the foot further down on Religion,

The announcement of Tourism Minister on termination of Tourism Memorandum
is an intention to split States from Federal?

A "wisdom" to show they had learned the lesson
or to show they are still in the Power to mess or Disturb?

The key point is they (PM, UNMO, BN) do not know Who they are and What they should be!
The Ethics of being in the positions have not been realized until now!!

Anonymous said...

1, 'proposal to criminalize apostasy' -- i thought apostasy is ALREADY a crime? eg. Revathi, see:

July 09, 2007
No Self-Incrimination?

2, with all due respect, r these people trying to INSULT THE INTELLIGENCE of non-muslims???

Datuk Mohd Asri Abdullah, Syariah Court of Appeal Judge, said:
“The Muslims can be sentenced in Syariah courts, and the non-Muslim partners can probably be sentenced in the civil courts, *****to be fair to both parties.*****”


to b FAIR mah, of course!!! how could u infidels resist such an argument?! after all, u DHIMMIS r the ones who always complained that we discriminated against u lot, treating u like 2nd class citizens, rite?!!
we're all for FAIRNESS & EQUALITY wut!!!??!!

dear datuk, how about "to be fair to both parties", NOBODY should b punished for khalwat?!?!!

'fair' n 'equal' works BOTH WAYS, datuk.


it is precisely THIS kind of intelligence-insulting that makes non-muslims worry about 'islam'.

(1 example of intelligence insulting:
Monday, July 09, 2007
No Self-Incrimination?
old habit dies hard...)

using "to be fair" as an excuse to MIRROR the punishments for non-believers is to subject non-muslims to syariah law THROUGH THE BACKDOOR.

like others have said,
“It is an implied way of imposing Syariah law on the non-Muslim communities in Malaysia,” he said.

Punishing non-Muslims for khalwat against Constitution

please lah, treat us with some RESPECT, dont insult our intelligence anymore.

p/s: the datuk should have spoken up 1 month ago, n we would have had a completely new government today!!!! what was keeping u, datuk?!?!!t

Anonymous said...


I think the issue was brought up purposely so to 'distract' attention of Malaysians with rational thinking who come together as 'true Malaysian' gave overwhelming support to Pakatan Rakyat.

So, we Malaysians, especially Pakatan Rakyat should not fall into this 'trap'. This in fact, will be a great challenge to Pakatan Rakyat to show to all Malaysians that their 'alliance' is in fact, a 'true' alliance, a People's Alliance.

Imtiaz, I am of the view that it is indeed 'unfortunate' that Islam was dragged into politics and governments. Religion is a personal matter to most of us. Don't you think so?

Anyway, please hold on together Pakatan Rakyat.

Anonymous said...

Let the BN impose such laws and watch if UMNO will still see the light of day after the 13th General Election.

That that we non-Muslim refuse to be responsible for act that not only Muslim despise it but also despised by Christians and Jews alike. The point is that we are not Muslim and we do not want to be subjected to Muslim law. Laws relating to religion or religious offences re persoanl

Anonymous said...

I do believe that the idea is just being bounced around. I cannot believe for one minute that they would do such a thing.It is simply incomprehensible. Muslims are not responsible for the actions of non-Muslims and vice versa. I wonder why they even bother to think about it.

Anonymous said...

With the results of GE12, maybe the ‘Islam-as I say-tion’ (borrowed from Haris Ibrahim's blog) process is stepped up in earnest now that BN (or, UMNO) still has the head count to push for such a law?

Anonymous said...

It is because of people like you who put the fear of God into those 2 governement agencies that ultimately with the all the objection and furore created, their ridiculous proposal would die a natural death.
But it is because of people like those in the MCA and MIC who still keep quiet in the face of such onslaught that we all should not be surprised in 5 years'time they would be the political dinosaurs they should have been ages ago.
I have been meaning to ask: will you be running for parliament?

Anonymous said...

i'm malay, and i cant go cuti-cuti malaysia with my gf because of those stupid khalwat laws. but in the scheme of things, losing my personal freedom is ok since i also get certain economic privilages as a bumi. but if the opposition does abolish pro-bumi affirmative action, the cost-benefit analysis of being malay becomes horribly skewed. not much point being malay then, if you lose all freedom of personal action without any benefits. all the khalwat laws achieve is: (1) promote homosexuality through sexual segregation. (2) encourage young malays to marry too early, purely so they can co-habit. this carries heavy economic and social costs in the long-term.

Anonymous said...

just a thought! do other muslim countries like indonesia, syria, Libya, morocco, pakistan etc has khalwat law?

art harun said...

Islamisation in Malaysia is typified by the Iranian approach to drinking beers. We want to drink beers but beers contain alcohol. So we have non-alcoholic beers. That's it. The Islamisation of beers!

Last week, no less than the Institute of Islamic Understanding (Institiut Kefahaman Islam Malaysia or IKIM in short) had a brainstorming session. You know, sometimes these people would converge and talk about how big their LCD televisions are and how many horse power their office air conditioners have.....continue at:

Anonymous said...

1)do people need to enforce the private individual relationship with God by mean of penalizing.?

2)art h, beer without alcohol is not beer,marketers sell them by using clever branding only.

As a biochemist,let me tell u this,frustose(sugar) in over- ripe fruit undergoes natural fermentation,thus produce minute amount of alcohol -hope they are not forbidden fruit??

DIASPORA said...

In the exuberance of the Tsunami, the Rakyat should not throw caution to the winds. The UMNOPUTRAS are like wounded tigers or even more so. They are licking their wounds and are concerned as to how they would continue to live their pre 8th March standard of living as the monies coming through the hoped for Victory of the Barisan Nasional may not come no more. There are remote possibilities that those who stood for Elections on the BN ticket would have made commitments and perhaps borrowed heavily hoping to repay once the Election Victory of BN was over.

What a shame. One, we are told, even took his own life. That is 'karma' at work.

Hence the Baisan Rakyat and its supporters should not throw caution to the wind and give the BN which still controls the Army and the Police to re act with vigour. The ISA is still there. It is everyone's wish that Anwar will get rid it from the shores of Malaysia - the first thing he does when he formally becomes a member of the Legislature.

Then perhaps he would give a good pep talk to the Judiciary and tell them to do their jobs without fear or favour as God gave them the wisdom to do that job in the service of Mankind.

The CPO of Penang talling that he would pull up the Chief Minister of Penang. Is it a joke going too far. Some other CM would have kicked him out of the State.