Friday, June 01, 2007

Lina Joy - Victim of religion or Votive offering to religion?

From the letters to malaysiakini criticising the Federal Court’s ruling against the wish of a converted Christian to have her IC amended to reflect her religious belief, I sense the matter is escalating into even more confrontational and acrimonious arguments.

I fear the effect will see greater harm than good achieved for Lina Joy.

Let’s remember she wants her IC changed to say that she isn’t a Muslim. That should be the objective, not legal wranglings post-court-judgement.

As sure as my mother’s eyes are brown, neither the Federal Court or the government will ever listen to nor give in to the finer points of legality, constitutional laws or the historical incorrectness of Article 121(1)(A). Besides such constitutional matters could be debated forever without reaching any agreement.

Again I ask – are we trying to help her or are we launching into Hyde Park-ish verbal acrobatics?

If we want to help her get what she wants, then the pompous polemical pontifications aren’t going to be of any use, but instead could be detrimental to her struggles.

This is Malaysia, and City Hall doesn’t cave in to intellectual logic or humanitarian morality. So let’s play the game according to local rules.

We should consider very carefully what will do her more good and with the desired outcome: thus, should it be legality or leniency?

Sometimes, the way things are going, with the attempts to oil the hinges of the constitutional stable doors after the horse has already bolted (let alone close it), I do wonder whether she was not only a victim but also a votive offering – to the high altar of proving a point.

I worry her personal aims have been subordinated to other aims. I fear she has been unnecessarily turned into a cause célèbre who is feared/hated by conservative Muslims. How would that help her win sympathy and leniency from the Syariah Court?

Maybe her aim doesn’t matter; yes, maybe we should fight valiantly for correct interpretation of constitutional laws to the last drop of her Christian blood.


  1. Ktemoc

    Lina Joy is only a representation of the concerns of every one of us.

    In the bigger scheme of things, Lina Joy is incidental to the constitutional wrangling.

    The law does not rule on hypotheticals, It rules on real cases.

    Lina Joy's case represents a case for Malaysians, specially Malay Muslims.

    The need for constitutional clarity is a necessity for every Malaysian as it impacts upon our future decisions and actions. That means we do not need to second guess the Court.

    That is why the Lina Joy case is important to every Malaysian.

    There are shallow-minded fools in our midst who still think Lina Joy should not have created such a brohaha and cause a controversy.

    There will be others... it is a matter of time that this will come to roost in the Courts.

    Having said that, we are actually fighting for the constitutional rights of our fellow Malay and Muslim Malaysians. And we see this case as one that impacts on every malaysian, more so for the Malay Muslims.

    And we have Pembela NGO talking nonsense about trying to maintain a status quo of last 50 years, not forgetting the Constitution was what created this nation in 1957.

    We are what we are, Muslims and non muslims, Malays or non Malays, because of the Federal Constitution not because of the Syariah Court.

    Why the hell should the Syariah decide the freedoms of a malaysian when the Constitution's stipulation of EVERY MALAYSIAN's fundamental rights is held ot be supreme to the Syariah court

  2. I stated "I do wonder whether she was not only a victim but also a votive offering – to the high altar of proving a point".

    Thanks for proving my suspicion. My posting is about and for Lina Joy's interests, & not about other Malay Muslims who may wish to exit Islam.

  3. Lina Joys should just emigrate out of Malaysia for her own happiness.

    From our perspective, she's a just a tool being used by christian evalengelist to subvert existing status quo between races and religions.

    The rights of an individual cannot supersede the rights of the society. I shudder to think of the consequences if the judgement had gone the other way.

  4. ktemoc,

    I agree that at times we get caught up in the constitutional significance of an issue and forget that many a time a human being's future is on the line in many of these cases.

    However, I emphasised that the tragedy is "first and foremost" with Lina Joy herself.

    Does that mean we should forget about the constitutional significance of this decision and what it potentially means for all of us? Not discussing it does not mean it is not already on everyone's minds.

    In any case I am honoured that you think that the Qadi may be swayed in any way by my thoughts on the matter. I would give neither myself nor the Qadi such credit.

  5. KTemoc, I fully agree with you that we must remain objective on the case, and no point going on overdrive on our emotions. As much as I am disappointed with the outcome of the Federal Court hearing, it must be clear that no where has the court barred Lina Joy from being a Christian. If it had been so, then many of the postings that have appeared in the various blogs would have been valid. However, it is about the change of the religious status on her MyKad, and simply put, all she had to do was to go to the Shariah Court to have the matter verified [QED]. But on the other hand, had she gone to the Shariah Court in the first place, I am just wondering the kind of treatment that would be meted out to her, an apostate. So, let's be human and demonstrate some empathy for her. All she wants is a change in her religious status (just like any normal Malaysian citizen), get married, have kids and live to a ripe old age happily ever after.

  6. Evidently, Lina Joy too recognises the significance of the decision from a wider perspective. Her comments via The Star:

    “I am disappointed that the Federal Court is not able to vindicate a simple but important fundamental right that exists in all persons; namely, the right to believe in the religion of one's choice and equally important, the right to marry a person of one's choice and to raise a family in the Malaysia context.

    “The Federal Court has not only denied me that right but to all Malaysians who value fundamental freedoms,” she told The Star, through her solicitor Benjamin Dawson.

    “I am hoping that my case would have made a difference to the development of constitutional issues in the plight of many others."

  7. Someone said for the sake of her personal happiness, Lina should emigrate. Right, and run away so that status quo would not be jeopardised. That's what make me admire her the more, one insignificant person willing to stand up for her own right and thereby speaking on behalf of the rest. History is repleted with brave individuals such as her. If not for them, blacks will still be slaves, women will still be voiceless and etc. Think about it. We need more Linas to stand up.


  8. While I am no great fan of the Chief Justice and certainly have no allusions about the state of our judiciary, I agree with the decision on Lina Joy. Let’s face it. Supporters of Lina Joy, be they Christian missionaries, constitutional lawyers, Muslim liberals or any other who feels that he or she has a God-given right to freedom of religion, are so self-righteous and patronizing in their views that anyone who thinks otherwise must be either an intellectual Neanderthal or a Muslim fascist.

    Why the melodrama over an individual’s failure to get her name changed? Lina Joy is still enjoying her freedom to worship after all. She’s been allowed to practice as a Christian, unmolested, doing her rightful religious chores after all these years, going to Church, reading her Bible, celebrating Christmas and cohabiting with her Christian husband. So why the whining about freedom of religion? Just a couple of sparks thrown in the way of her conversion should not be too much to ask for. What’s the big deal? Christ, this is a Malay Muslim majority country. But no, she’s not content to let sleeping dogs lie. She wants to stoke the fire of communal tension by having the audacity to insist on changing her name but at the same time she wants to show her fellow Malays/Muslims that she has utterly no respect for their religion and would not deign to stoop so low as to submit herself to the Shari’ah court. Let’s not mince words here. After all, why should a baptized Christian soul be subject to the law of the infidels?

    This is not about freedom of religion. It’s clearly not about her wanting to marry a Christian. It’s about the battle between audacious Christians and liberal Muslims trying to show up what they regard as the intolerance and stupidity of conservative Malays and Muslims in matters of religion. To Lina Joy and her cohorts, I say: When you play with fire, be prepared to get burnt or as the Bible says, “for they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”

  9. Yet another Lina Joy(less) case----

  10. Anonymous @ 2.08 a.m.

    The danger of reducing this to Muslim Conservatives vs Non-Muslim/Liberal is to miss the wider picture.

    It is not JUST about freedom of religion for Lina Joy, which admittedly in my opinion is sad enough.

    It is ALSO about:

    1. The status of the other freedoms we as Malaysians enjoy. Whether these too can be fettered so easily.

    2. Jurisdiction of courts, can they be changed so easily?

    3. The fundamental basis of our laws: the Constitution or not?

    This decision is indicative of a tectonic shift.

  11. Umran,
    That's exactly the point. Freedom of religion is traditionally one of the four fundamental freedoms recognized universally - that is, it is not the only one. why such a big hue and cry over this being a fundamental constitutional issue now when Christianity is at stake? where were all the advocates of freedom and democracy when our other freedoms were trampled and where are they now when they continue to be trampled? we have been gagged for at least three decades, our rule of law has been down the drain for just as long, and we haven't had an independent judiciary since the sacking of Salleh Abbas et al. So why the charade about constitutional freedoms here?

    As for you Umran, I sense your sincerity and I know where you're coming from and it's okay with people like you around trying to bring rationality into the discourse. But sometimes just standing back and viewing things with complete detachment can give us a false sense of righteousness. You have to be really in the kitchen to feel the heat. Think of the sensitivities of the ordinary Malay, Not everyone has the benefit of being exposed to the different faiths. and for those who do, some will still look at this as a Christian/Muslim clash. reality bites hard. we have a long and bitter history.

    Lina Joy wants the cake and eat it too. She's not content with half a pound of flesh, she wants the whole hog. She cannot appropriate moral victory in this. She has to get off her high horse and admit that she has indeed stoked the fire of communal tension.

  12. Anonymous @ 12.11:

    I sense your angst over this issue, particularly in the context of global events when there is a sense that Islam and Muslims are under attack.

    I have written and spoken out before about our other freedoms that are being trampled upon. The oxygen of all our other freedoms is, I believe, freedom of expression. While we still have that, our hopes and dreams can live on, if only in words.

    I should add that in public forums I have quizzed prominent Malaysians and politicians about the sacking of Salleh Abbas and other blots on our history.

    Why do I place an emphasis on freedom of religion? Because it hits at the heart of what it means to be human. If we were automatons it wouldn't matter but we are not. To me, one's conscience and beliefs are core to free will and the very notion of being human.

    It pains me intensely to see my country that I love go down this road. As they say, you don't know what you have until it's gone.

    As for Lina Joy, she is a victim of her circumstances. I don't doubt that she wants nothing more than to be left alone to marry the man she loves and start a family of her own whilst living in the country of her birth. Just like the rest of us want.

    It is the authorities' steadfast refusal to allow her to do this which has lead to the current situation. What choice did the poor woman have?

    In the absence of a clear direction, she was right to believe that the civil courts could help her.

    I know of other inter faith couples who married in the past where neither spouse had to convert.

    What changed?

  13. Anon @2.08am & 12.11am

    The argument of not disturbing and leaving the majority views and sentiments alone is akin to the blacks wanting their freedom is deep south USA during the heydays of slavery. Just imagine the majority white Christians saying the same thing to the blacks... 'go away, you are in minority, don't disturb the peace.' Why don't you go back to Africa or something, when in actual reality, the blacks have no where to go except to stand for their own right. Why chase Lina away from a country of her birth?


  14. commercial...

    Lina Joy – English Translation of the Majority Judgment