Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Constitution who?

It is almost certain that one who lives in a pluralistic society must expect occurrences of religious confrontations. While most if not all, will agree with the notion that religion ought to promote peace and love, not war and division; one can almost smell the irony that to a certain extent of agreement in love, peace and compassion to one another regardless of race, gender and religion; there are bound to be differences in beliefs- in means of performance (merit vs. grace), if not in ends as well (God vs. no God), all of which; are fundamental in determining how a person conducts his way of life and the lives of his loved ones.

Our country is one, which has been, and still is; confronted by religious friction every now and then. Such tension must not come as a surprise; and even if it were, one must commend the nation for rarely resorting to violence and bloodshed in the name of religion. However, one must also understand that room for rare occurrences of friction must be allowed if significant and meaningful religious freedom were to be allowed, for one must be reminded, if not enlightened that the Federal Constitution that governs the country; is a secular one. Malaysia is not, as many would have believed; an Islamic state.

The case of M. Moorthy- a man, previously a Hindu who has allegedly converted to become a Muslim a year before he slipped into a coma and died recently, sparked legal interest especially among the non-Muslim community; as the non-Muslim community is once again thrown into confusion and insecurities that the impact of the conversion of their loved ones have on them; both spiritually and physically. While his wife adamantly insisted that he was a practicing Hindu even to the time just before he slipped into a coma, the Islamic Council seemed to have differing views. The conversion, as so claimed by the Islamic authorities gave them all the rights to claim his body and his possessions. All these only added more grief to the already grieving wife, who had no knowledge of her husband’s apparent secret conversion. The High Court, her most important place of addressing her pleas to; turned her down, if not turned her down simply; under the banner “Out of our powers”.

What we can see here is a repeated case of helplessness. A case of conflicting powers between the Syariah Court and the Civil Court, in which; the trend seems to suggest that the Syariah Court is now mightier than the Civil Court, even though the Federal Constitution is purportedly the highest law of the country, and therefore possesses rights to set precedence in unique cases as these.

This begs the questions for clarification and confirmation- Can one who is not a Muslim brings a case, laced with Muslim sentiments to the Civil Court for justice and remedy? If one says ‘no’, then clearly, the Law has lost its credibility as being the highest law of governance and protection for the people. If one says ‘yes’, then let that case be a testimony of the functions of the Court. Our minds can only ring the hurtful memories of Lina Joy, a Christian convert from Islam; whose plea for the acknowledgement of her conversion was denied by the Court of Appeal (thanks, Jacksaid for the rectification) under similar grounds.

Such cases ought not to be singled out as a Hindu-Muslim problem or a Christian-Muslim problem. It is a Malaysian problem, simply because there is an infringement of human rights to embrace a religion of one’s choice. A Christian should not view this clash with folded arms in any manner that a Buddhist should. While all of us must treat the rituals of the Muslim religion with utmost respect, we must not compromise the supremacy of the Federal Constitution in which, its primary inception is to sustain a religiously harmonious country.

We are facing an either- or- situation If the Law does not offer the assurance of protection for the people under it, then it must be that lawlessness reigns, in which; one cannot even imagine what monsters it will unleash.

Read about the case here

Interfaith Dialogue at University of Malaya
Topic: Concept of God
Date: 6 January 2006
Time: 8 pm
Venue: DP1, Kompleks Perdanasiswa, University of Malaya.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moorthy's conversion to Islam is really a very simple matter. Once a person believes in the Oneness of God and accepts that Muhammad is His Last Messenger (note: Last Messenger, which means there were others before him , Peace Be Upon All of Them)), all the person needs to do is to recite it orally in the presence of 2 Muslim witnesses. And the process of conversion to Islam is completed. Now, for worldly needs, a system of recording is needed to avoid any confusion in later stages, as in the case of Moorthy. If the religious authorities (including personnel from the Armed Forces Islamic Corps, KAGAT) have the documents to back this up, then the matter is closed. Whether Moorthy truly practised Islam, is not for anybody to determine accept God. As in any religion, there are good, mediocre and less than good Muslims. As far as the teachings of Islam is concerned, Moorthy has begun life on a clean slate after his acceptance of Islam. What about the claim of his "non-practice of Islam" in the period from the moment of his conversion to the moment of his death, again it is a matter beyond us human beings to speculate or determine. God knoweth best. Therefore, in the interest of all parties, let us respect Moorthy's decision to convert to Islam. This brings us to the case of Nyonya Tahir, a Malay Muslim woman who declared that she has left the religion of Islam. The Syari'ah court confirmed it. No hue and cry. Again, as far as Islam is concerned, it is between Nyonya Tahir and God. The Muslims respected her decision and did not protest. No candle lights vigor and all such thing. Now, this begs a question. Why was Interfaith Council so mum about this? The least they could say is: Ah, now we can see fairness in the Syari'ah court. But conveniently, all of them kept their mouths shut.

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