I wrote a letter to Malaysiakini which was published yesterday as Royal panel: Probe judiciary’s handling of religion.
I think it’s also timely because of the government’s oppression, suppression and harassment of the Hindraf campaign, an over-the-top persecution which under normal circumstances would be akin to crushing kacang putih (nuts) with a sledge hammer, but then, typical of the inexplicable but predictable behaviour of an arrogant but under-confident (combination of which = intolerant) UMNO-led government.
I am also using the blogging opportunity to correct a couple of grammatical errors and producing the revised version here in full.
The thrust of my message is that when we leave the laws of the country in the hands of the cleric, who would of course claim they speak in the name of or on behalf of God (and it’s a universal trait, not exclusive to any religion), we are immediately at their tender mercies, prejudice and vested interests, as a Shiite rape victim in Saudi Arabia has recently and unjustly been subjected to.
We are not completely oblivious to European history, biblical tales or the sagas of Hinduism where the Church and priesthood exploited religion for their political and personal advantage.
Our only defence against the insidious subversion of God’s laws into an unacceptable clerical ‘God only proposes but it’s Man (the cleric) who disposes’ is the strengthening, upholding and non-negotiable protection/defence of the secular Constitution and the civil courts.
I believe Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang has made a timely call for the royal commission to look beyond the mere authenticity of the Lingam videotape, when one considers that in late August this year, the chief justice Ahmad Fairuz made a startling proposal for the Malaysian courts to discard use of the time-honoured English common laws after 50 years of independence, and to use in its place syariah law.
Needless to say, Dr Abdullah Mohd Zin, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department for religious affairs, praised Fairuz's proposal. Abdullah said that syariah law gives importance to justice.
Amazingly, the attorney-general also responded favourably to the chief justice's proselytising proposal. The proposed royal commission should examine why the chief justice, the head of the civil courts, would have made such a radical call. What had his suggestion been based on?
We have just witnessed how in Saudi Arabia, mortal men have deliberately interpreted divine teachings of fairness, compassion and charity into instruments of persecution, to victimise a minority Shiite or a minority female (rape victim) in a medieval chauvinistic society.
We have heard of the predictable and lamentable excuses by the usual mob for the Saudi clerics' outrageous and draconian injustice, namely, that their decision was not influenced by Islamic jurisprudence but rather Arab tribal custom, despite the obvious glaring fact that the verdict had been delivered by three supposedly learned Saudi Islamic judges in an Islamic nation, the birthplace of the Prophet Mohamad (pbuh).
'Tribal custom' was the same pathetic excuse that was offered when Pakistan, a nation which subscribed to Islamic laws, saw the unmitigated horror of the oxymoronic 'honour rape' perpetrated against an innocent woman, Mukhtaran Bibi. Even the ridiculous claims of the alleged tribal revenge against the woman and his teenage brother were subsequently discovered to be nothing more than the sheer fabrications of lustful men.
It was only international pressure that saw a presidential order requiring the criminals be charged. But syariah-ruled or not, those 'honour rapes' continue in Pakistan even after that shameful case. Three years after the victimisation of Mukhtaran, another sensational case occurred where Pakistani police arrested seven men on charges of kidnapping and gang-raping a woman for two days in retaliation for some perceived wrong.
Were these the examples Abdullah Zin told us of the importance that syariah law gives to justice?
In religion when the tables have been overturned by evil men into 'God proposes, man disposes', the potential for gross injustice cannot be understated or overestimated.
I have recently read of M Zulkarnain Hamzah and his eloquent exposition of Pertubuhan Jamaah Islam Malaysia's altruistic programmes, and while not questioning his sincerity, I am not convinced of its actual implementation.
We merely have to look around us to know all is not well. His arguments that the Muslims require protection because they are equally at risk from Christian proselytising may sound plausible in theory but hardly bears the scrutiny of reality or possibility.
Take the restricted screening of the 'The Passion of the Christ' or the banned animation movie 'Prince of Egypt' just as simple examples of near impossibility of proselytising local Muslims, or indeed, why not take the false but highly inflammatory accusation of Christians proselytising Muslims that had propelled the Perak mufti into notoriety.
By contrast, the marginalised Indians and aborigines are the groups most vulnerable to such proselytising. In June last year we learnt of the PAS Kelantan government offering a lump sum of RM10,000, free accommodation, a four-wheel-drive vehicle and a fixed monthly allowance of RM1,000 to each Muslim preacher who marries an Orang Asli woman. And that was only by an opposition party.
Malaysia is one of the most Islamic-programme driven societies, and the non-Muslims' only ballast against this proselytising tilt is the secular Constitution and, we would have hoped, the civil courts.
In January 2006, discussing the timidity of the civil courts in interpreting the constitutional rights of the syariah courts in the M Moorthy case, human rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sawar informed former attorney-general Abu Talib Othman about civil court judges who admitted to being Muslims first when they hear such a case.
An enraged Abu Talib advised him to report the matter and if there was evidence, those judges should be removed, saying: "They are unfit to be judges, then. Judges should remember their constitutional oath to protect and uphold the Federal Constitution as the supreme law of the land."
Well, how many judges have been removed since? Instead we have the chief justice of the civil courts proposing to replace English common laws with syariah laws, a proposal supported by the nation's No 1 civil law officer, the attorney-general.
The sins of men abusing God's messages are not confined to the noble religion of Islam alone. We have heard of the scary American preacher Pat Robertson who brought Christianity into disrepute but who enjoys privileged position in President George W Bush's camp, and the even scarier Rabbi Yousef Falay of Israel who called on the Israeli government to use their troops to kill all Palestinian males more than 13 years old so as to end Palestinian presence on this earth.
Then there was Rabbi Yaacov Perrin who eulogised Israeli mass murderer Baruch Goldstein, who with a machine gun slaughtered 27 Palestinians praying in the Cave of the Patriarchs. The bigoted Rabbi declared that "one million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail."
And of course in Malaysia, we have our own scary Perak mufti who continues to repose in teflon-ised protection in Perak.
I urge the prime minister to include a term of reference for the royal commission to examine the alleged religious cringe of the civil court judges and complaints of the civil courts' loss of pre-eminent position in the legal system of Malaysia.