Thursday, 31 May 2007

Open Letter from Women Groups on Federal Court's Ruling on Lina Joy's Case

The following letter is issued on behalf of:
  1. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM),
  2. Sisters in Islam (SIS),
  3. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO),
  4. Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) and
  5. Women’s Development Collective (WDC)

These are the five women’s groups that held a watching brief in Lina Joy’s case.

" We are disappointed with the Federal Court majority decision dismissing Lina Joy’s appeal.

The decision disregards the right of a person to profess and practise the religion of her choice as enshrined in Article 11 of our Constitution, and renders illusory this Constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental liberty.

We are deeply concerned about the implications of this judgment for individuals, such as Lina Joy, who no longer profess Islam.

Despite the clear guarantee to freedom of religion in our Constitution, the court’s judgment would require them to seek consent from religious authorities regarding the very private matter of their personal faith, before their choice of religion is recognized in civil law.

Compelling such individuals to do so is unfair as it forces them to incriminate themselves and risk criminal prosecution in those states where renunciation of Islam is a religious offence.

We are troubled that the decision will also have the effect of denying Lina Joy, and others in a similar position, various basic women’s rights, therefore infringing their human rights.

These include the right to marry a partner of their choice and to choose their country of domicile, as they would have to leave Malaysia should they wish to marry non-Muslims. Their reproductive rights are also affected in that they are denied the right to bear children within a legitimate marriage. All these rights are enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which Malaysia ratified in 1995.

We are, however, heartened by the dissenting judgment of Justice Richard Malanjum, which raised several critical points that warrant serious consideration.

Article 4 of the Constitution states categorically that the Constitution is the supreme law of Malaysia.

According to Justice Malanjum, the supremacy of our Constitution means that all laws as well as “administrative, departmental and executive discretions, policies and decisions” must conform to the Constitution.

Furthermore, as stated by Justice Malanjum, the civil courts must NOT abdicate their constitutional function by declining jurisdiction on matters that involve Constitutional issues and fundamental rights just by invoking Article 121(1A) of the Constitution, which states that the civil courts have no jurisdiction over matters within the Syariah Courts’ jurisdiction.

Only the civil courts can adjudicate constitutional issues that implicate fundamental liberties.

We also agree with Justice Malanjum, whose judgment begins with the view that where issues of constitutional importance are concerned,
“all other interests and feelings, personal or otherwise, should give way and assume only a secondary role if at all”.

In any event, fundamental rights guaranteed under our Constitution CANNOT be removed merely by submitting individuals to the jurisdiction granted to the Syariah courts under Article 121(1A).

The divide in our society over the issue of freedom of religion has grown due to the lack of public space for discussion and for alternative viewpoints to be expressed on this matter.

The issue remains unresolved because the constitutional and legal arguments raised by the dissenting judgment do NOT appear to have been addressed by the majority judgment.

We believe that the judgments approving the National Registration Department (NRD)’s requirement for Lina Joy to provide a certificate from the Syariah Court may open doors for abuse by allowing other agencies to impose discriminatory requirements that are not provided for in their regulations.

We believe that the Federal Constitution protects every person’s right to freedom of religion in a way that acknowledges the person’s right to harmoniously practise her personal beliefs within our society.

The denial of this right constitutes a violation of the right to equality and non-discrimination enshrined in Article 8 of our Constitution.

We urge that opportunities for open discussion be provided so that Malaysians can collectively seek just and durable solutions to the issues that impede our efforts to build national unity.

Finally, we call on the government to take urgent steps to ensure that all Constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental liberties, including the freedom of personal faith, are upheld and given effect in practice.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Lina Joy Lost Her Case: The Two Muslim Judges in Federal Court Ruled Against Her Rights Under the Federal Constitution


Click to DOWNLOAD or READ FULL - Judge Richard Malamjum's Dissenting Decision (.pdf file)

Click to DOWNLOAD or READ FULL- Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim's Majority judgment (.pdf file)

(Download HERE Acrobat Reader to read .pdf file)

"Worth a Thousand Words"

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Courtesy of People's Parliament Blog

Click HERE Articles of the Federal Constitution

Article 4
This Constitution is the supreme law of the Federation and any law passed after Merdeka Day which is inconsistent with this Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.

Article 8
All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law

Article 11:
1. Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.

2. No person shall be compelled to pay any tax the proceeds of which are specially allocated in whole or in part for the purposes of a religion other than his own.

3. Every religious group has the right -
(a) to manage its own religious affairs;
(b) to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes; and
(c) to acquire and own property and hold and administer it in accordance with law.

4. State law and in respect of the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan, federal law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.

5. This Article does not authorize any act contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality.


The irony of this case is that, in the eyes of the law, Azlina Jailani MUST remain a Muslim and her religion cannot be changed in her identity card. Her religious freedom is not to be protected by the Federal Constitution but rather to be determined by the Syariah Court, for the simple reason she has the bad luck or the unfortunate life of being born and raised as a Malay Muslim in this country.

Azlina Jailani, although a Malay Muslim by birth, had made a life-choice for herself to be a Christian and had been a practising one for over a decade. She took the less-travelled long hard road to face her fellow Muslims in the judiciary, to ask to be left alone to chart her spiritual destiny of her own choosing, not one to be imposed upon her by her fellow Muslim brothers and sisters.

In her heart and to her God in prayer, Azlina Jailani is Lina Joy, a Christian, in every sense of the word.

No amount of legal dictum in the Malaysian Civil Courts or the Syariah Court can change that fact of her personal/religious life.

It is HER life, and nobody else's, which Azlina Jailani/Lina Joy chooses to live; NOT a life to be dictated by the decisions of the Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim or by Justice Alauddin Mohd Sheriff, or for that matter by the National Registration Department or by the muftis or the religious leaders in the Syariah Court.

The sad epilogue to this drama is that there is such a document called a Federal Constitution, to which every Malaysian, irrespective of race, religion and sex looked upon for sanctuary, yet to which the two Muslim judges sitting in the Federal Court in this case seemed to be blind and deaf to.

Malaysia is NOT a country meant for Azlina Jailani, although born a Malay. It is not even a country suitable for any Muslim Malay who wants to have a freedom to believe in a God of his/her chosen religion.


Read here full article in Malaysiakini and HERE

Read Here Racial/Religous Composition of the Judges in the Malaysian Judiciary

The Federal Court ruled today that LINA JOY remains a Muslim and her religious status will NOT be removed from her identity card.

The sitting judges were:

  • Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim (Muslim),

  • Justice Alauddin Mohd Sheriff (Muslim), and

  • Justice Richard Malanjun (NON-Muslim).
  • Both Muslim judges ruled AGAINST Lina Joy with the only one remaining NON -muslim judge dissenting.

    A three-judge Federal Court panel ruled by a 2-1 majority that only the Islamic Shariah Court has the power to allow Azlina Jailani, who changed her name to Lina Joy after becoming a Christian, to remove the word "Islam" from the religion category on her government identity card.

    Malaysia's Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim said the panel endorsed past legal judgments stating that the Shariah court -- not the civil legal system -- has the jurisdiction to hear cases of Muslims who want to renounce Islam.

    "This appeal is rejected," Ahmad Fairuz said. "Apostasy is a matter linked to Islamic laws. It's under the jurisdiction of the Shariah court. ... Civil courts cannot interfere."

    Activists have warned that a ruling against Joy could strengthen non-Muslims' fears that they are discriminated against in Muslim-majority Malaysia, which has substantial Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities.

    However, conservative Muslims would have considered a ruling for her as an erosion of Islamic values.

    Delivering the judgment to a packed gallery this morning in Putrajaya, Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim ruled that jurisdiction remains with the Syariah court.

    The chief justice stated that he concurred with the majority decision - Justice Alauddin Mohd Sheriff who was the last to read his judgment agreed with Ahmad Fairuz's findings.

    Justice Richard Malanjun gave a dissenting judgment. "In my view, this is tantamount to unequal treatment under the law. She is entitled to an IC where the word Islam does not appear," dissenting judge Richard Malanjum said.

    The case hinged on a decision by the National Registration Department not to remove the word ‘Islam’ from Lina’s MyKad.

    The department said it needed a syariah court order certifying her renouncement from Islam before it could make the change.

    The three questions Following this, Lina filed a suit against the NRD director-general, the government and the Federal Territory Religious Council in 2001.

    After losing at both the High Court and Court of Appeal, the matter finally came to the Federal Court with these three questions:

    1. Was the NRD entitled to require a person to produce a certificate or a declaration or an order from the syariah court before deleting “Islam” from his or her identity card;

    Majority (Ahmad Fairuz):
    Yes. The NRD had a right to demand a certificate or a declaration or an order from the syariah court before deleting “Islam” from his or her identity card to avoid labelling someone non-Muslim erroneously when the person has NOT exited the religion.

    This also to prevent indecisive Muslims from exiting the religion just to avoid any punishments under Islamic law.

    The decision to exit Islam is a matter for Islamic Law to decide and the NRD needs the syariah courts’ confirmation whether a person is Muslim or not. After this confirmation procedure, NRD has the discretion to remove the word Islam or not.

    Dissenting (Malanjum) :
    No. In the Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, all person is equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law. However, Regulation 4(c)(iva) of the National Registration Regulations 1990 (which states that Muslims need to display their religion on the IC) singled Muslims out for additional procedural burdens which are NOT connected to personal law.

    The requirement does not apply to non-Muslims hence it tantamount to unequal treatment. It is in other words discriminatory and unconstitutional and should be struck down.

    Insistence by NRD for a certificate of apostasy from the Federal Territory Syariah Court or other Islamic authority is not only illegal but unreasonable. This is because under applicable law, the syariah court in the Federal Territory has NO statutory power to adjudicate on the issue of apostasy. Jurisdiction must come under established law and cannot be assumed.

    2. Did the NRD correctly construe its powers under the National Registration Regulations 1990 when it imposed the above requirement, which is not expressly provided for in the regulations?

    Majority(Ahmad Fairuz):
    Yes. The Regulation 4(c)(ix) and (x) National Registration Regulations 1990 which states that a registration officer may request for ‘such other particulars [...] considered necessary’ and ‘necessary to support the accuracy of any particulars submitted’ can be construed that way.

    The NRD thus was empowered with these administrative provision to deem (Lina’s) statutory declaration as insufficient for her to remove “Islam” from her IC.

    (read with Question 1) No. It is NOT the function of the NRD to add in further requirement (for Lina to acquire a confirmation certificate from the syariah courts) which have NOT been stipulated in those Regulations. It is also NOT the function of the NRD to ensure that the Lina has properly apostasised.

    Apostasy involves complex questions of constitutional importance especially when some states in Malaysia has enacted legislation to criminalise it. It is critical importance that the civil superior courts should not decline jurisdiction by merely citing Article 121 (1A) [...] legislation criminalising apostasy or limiting the scope of the provisions of the fundamental liberties as enshrined in the Constitution are constitutional issues in nature which only civil courts have jurisdiction to determine.

    3. Was the landmark case Soon Singh vs Perkim Kedah – which held that syariah courts have the authority over the civil courts to hear cases of Muslims renouncing Islam – correctly decided?

    Majority(Ahmad Fairuz):
    Yes. While, the Federal Court acknowledges that there are no express provisions that syariah courts can decide on the issue of apostasy. However, if non-Muslims are converting into Islam, they have to go through the syariah courts.

    Therefore based on the concept necessary implication, if one chooses to exit Islam, (one) must go through the same authorities. I see no flaws in that logic.

    This does not conflict with Article 11 that says every ‘person has a right to profess and practise his religion’. Islam is not just a collection of dogmas and rituals but it is a complete way of life which includes private and public matters as well as law, politics, economy, social, culture, moral and judicial issues.

    In my view relating to Islam, Article 11 cannot be interpreted so widely as to cancel out all laws that a Muslim is required to execute and abide to. This is because Islam has a special position in the Federal Constitution which is different from other religions. Therefore, Article 11 should not be interpreted as an supreme right; and the right to profess and practice a religion is subjected to the religion that governs the individual.

    It is logical that matters concerning apostasy could be read as ‘necessary implied’ in and falling within the jurisdiction of the syariah courts. It does seem inevitable that matters on conversion to Islam comes under the jurisdiction of the syariah courts because the syariah courts are the experts and appropriate to adjudicate.

    However, jurisdiction must be express, NOT implied. In the matters of fundamental rights there must be as far as possible be express authorisation for curtailment of violation of fundamental freedoms. In my view, to rely on implied power as source of jurisdiction would set an unhealthy trend.

    I am therefore inclined to follow the reasoning of Soon Singh and my answer is therefore in the negative.
    Ahmad Fairuz said the NRD, which is in charge of issuing identity cards, had the right to demand that a syariah court certify Lina's conversion.

    "On the question that the National Registration Department has the right to demand a certification from the Islamic court that confirms the appellant's renunciation of Islam, my answer is that NRD has the right," he said.

    "The appeal has been rejected with cause," he added.

    Shouts of Allahuakbar

    A large section of the 300-strong crowd waiting outside recited the tahlil or read the Quran while waiting for the decision.

    When the news reached them, they shouted Allahuakbar - their reaction resounded through the Palace of Justice.


  • From Changing Times Blog
    "...if anyone of you out there know Lina Loy.. please tell her to settle down in some country which have real religi(ous) freedom instead of supression and don't bother about her Islam-in-mykad issue anymore... get married there, get a PR /citizenship there, live there, work there, give birth there, to (live) the world from there and be buried there... try not to come back other than visiting your parents, anyway, there's a risk to come back after all... proud to have a Malaysian like you, lady!... you fought a good fight and ran a good race for ALL Malaysians!..."

  • From Anonymous in Blog "My mind as I see things around us "

    "...It's ironic that in a majority Muslim country such as Malaysia, it is the Muslims who have the LEAST freedom."

  • Sisters in Islam, a rights group for Muslim women, said it was disappointed the Constitution had not been upheld.
    "For us, the dissenting judgement is significant," said the group's executive director, Zainah Anwar. "The Federal Court, the apex court of the country, is divided over this issue, as the country is divided on this issue," she said. Read here for more
  • International Islamic University law lecturer Shamrahayu Abdul Aziz,
    "I would guess there was no way to avoid such a decision being made. It’s good in the legal sense because Muslims can be certain as to what are the limits, or lack, of their rights in Malaysia. There was a lack of clarity in the legal provisions. In social terms, however, it’s not so good.” Read here for more

  • Flashback: Commentary from Dr. Syed Alwi, a Singaporean Malay about the Malaysian Malays. READ HERE for more
  • "Dated July 23rd 2006

    Dear Editor,

    As you know, I am an avid watcher of Malaysian affairs. I must confess that lately, Malaysia appears to be failing. Not a day passes by without more events that clearly highlight Malaysia's race-religion fault-line. If things keep going this way, I fear for Malaysia's future.

    Today, schools in Singapore celebrate Racial Harmony Day. I can visibly see the joy in the children's faces as they wear their ethnic costumes and have fun together at school.

    But in Malaysia - even the right to choose a religion has become a sensitive, national issue. No doubt, there are many in Malaysia who hate my liberal views on Islam, family included.

    But I will say what I must say openly. I have come to the conclusion that Malaysia cannot progress any further without first addressing fundamental questions regarding its identity and soul.

    I remember the days when we can laugh at Lat's cartoons on everyday Malaysian life. But sadly, the Islamic tide has polarised Malaysians.

    Some people ask why I should bother about Malaysian affairs since I am a Singaporean.

    May I remind Malaysians that it was Tan Siew Sin who once said that Singapore and Malaysia are Siamese Twins. Should Malaysia go down - it would hurt the region tremendously. Especially Singapore.

    Where do you think Malay apostates would head for if Lina Joy loses her case? Singapore of course!

    I find the Malaysian Malay to be very under-exposed.

    For them, it’s all Islam and the NEP and everything under the sun would sort itself out.

    I am sorry to say this - but Islam and the NEP may be the cause of the undoing of the Malaysian Malay.

    There is nothing wrong with religion or affirmative action. But, like everything else in life, they must be taken in moderation and with a pinch of salt. A little doubt is good.

    Unfortunately in Malaysia, emotions over Islam have overcome reason. What we see today is the result of the NEP and Islamisation policies of the past thirty years or so.

    No one owes Malaysian Malays a living.

    Let me assure you that should Malaysia fail - the Malaysian Malay will suffer enormously. And rightly so. After all - they have been pampered with all sorts of goodies over the years. They cannot now expect more goodies. Perhaps the day of reckoning for them, is near. Whatever it is, Malaysia had better wake up to the realities around her.

    The globalised world of the 21st century has no NEP to offer the Malaysian Malay. And humans cannot live by religion alone.

    Dr Syed Alwi

  • From Aliran Executive Committee (Read here)

    "...Lina Joy’s 10-year battle to be herself as she wanted to be within the confines of the supreme law of the country, the Federal Constitution, has been dashed by the Federal Court’s decision this morning.

    The freedom of religion guaranteed by the Federal Constitution under Article 11 comes across as hollow and meaningless.

    This decision has totally rendered null and void the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.
    Under the circumstances, the Federal Court’s decision has a devastating effect on issues of fairness and justice.

    Concerned citizens will rightly wonder whether the judiciary is capable of delivering justice for those who turn to it.

    They will be turned away from the judicial system of the country thinking that the judges who are sworn to uphold the Federal Constitution in the course of their duty are not living up to their oath of office.

    Lina Joy’s case is something that has to be viewed strictly within the confines of the Constitution without taking into account any other consideration. When other considerations come into play, then justice becomes the victim as is the case in the Lina Joy verdict.

    This decision, looked at from another point of view, undermines the judiciary itself. The judiciary cannot be technical in delivering its verdict. Fairness and justice should be part of any judgment and should not be sacrificed on technical grounds.

    Where is the compassion for someone who has turned to the judiciary for a solution to free her from her predicament?

    Can justice redeem itself? Is there hope for the ordinary person in our judiciary?

    It is really troubling when a issue such as this is politicised and blown out of all proportion and pressure is mounted to deny justice..."

  • From Malik Imtiaz Sawar, Malaysian Bar Council
    ".. The fact that there was a minority judgement, a STRONG dissenting judgement, only indicated the need to re-address the issue.

    I think that it’s sad to note at this junction, looking at the minority and majority judgement of this court and I say this in respective of the majority view, there is NO clear answer in what she’s suppose to do. .."

  • From Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) president Meera Samanther:
    The court’s decision “denied Lina Joy of her right to choose her religion, her right to choose her partner and her reproductive rights (in terms of bearing a legitimate child)”.

    The decision also denied Lina’s right of living in this country as Lina’s only option now in pursuing her rights to profess the religion of her choice was to leave the country.

    Malaysia is not honouring the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women treaty which was ratified in 5th July 1995,” she said.

  • From Reader of Malaysia-Today, Mr. Smith. Read Here
    "... The Federal Court's decision today was a forgone conclusion.

    Can you imagine what would have happened had Lina Joy won the appeal and allowed to leave Islam? The judges could have been murdered and the court building burnt down.The entire Muslim community ( I mean the fanatics) could have run amok while killing some innocent people along the way.

    I believe the 2-1
    decision was a set up to appease the majority and annoy the minority."

  • From Reader of Malaysia-Today, "Optimuz". Read here
    "..Lina Joy can live without Islam, but looks like Islam cannot live without Lina Joy. By law you put her in shackles, but in (her) heart?...
  • From Farouk A. Peru,Jidal Society. Read here for more : Excerpts:
    "... . What chance did she have when her case would be used as a precedent and as the word had been circulating, ‘if Lina Joy is allowed to leave Islam, then millions of Muslims would follow suit’

    Would Malays from all walks of life suddenly convert out of Islam the minute that provision is changed?

    ...any non-partisan person who is in the process of researching Islam, will conclude that Islam needs these laws to sustain its numbers.

    Without these laws, everyone will just leave Islam leaving the clergy with no one to govern! It may not be apparent to these individuals that the Quran itself vehemently opposes such measures.

    I guess it all boils down to mentality. The Mufti of Perak didn’t mind using the constitution as it suited to him to define a ‘Malay’ as a ‘Muslim’ but started out saying Islamic law has the apostasy provision. Well, Islamic law also denies creating formulas like ‘Malays equals Muslim’, so why didn’t he have a problem with that, I wonder?

    Why use something non-Islamic in nature to augment your argument if it is Islamic law you hope to bring forth?

    Mufti Harussani Zakaria was quoted in the very same program saying So when we allow all these things (i.e. apostasy), we are FINISHED. Malaysia is finished’.

    It is very sad to me that a religious official of his stature and education can formulate such a deduction. Islam is FINISHED when we allow people to leave it?

    Islam is not FINISHED when we scrap this anti-Quranic law, rather Islam takes one step closer towards being originalised, to being the same Islam brought by Prophet Muhammad.

    Lina Joy’s tragedy is also the tragedy of the Malay-Muslims of Malaysia.

    Today, we have walked another step to joining Firaun of the Quran, the arch-oppressor of humankind. Unless we turn back now, the sea will overwhelm us as it did him. We need to realise our folly now and correct it, before time runs out..."

  • From Reader of Screenshots, Frank&Honest: Read here
    "... we have definitely two Muslim judges who ruled from their own personal religious feelings instead of (from) the law. They should have recused themselves out of the case.

    These two muslim judges feel that they would do injustice to Islam if they ruled for Lina Joy, after all Allah is greater than the Federal Constitution.

    So the easy way out of their personal dilemma is to push the buck to the Syariah Court, and ignore totally the Federal Constitution.

    ...if you are a Malay Muslim, you are Muslim FIRST and a Malay SECOND, and only as citizen of Malaysia under the Federal Constitution, THIRD. That is what the two Muslim judges are saying when they ruled against Lina Joy..."

  • From Time by Hannah Breech, Read here for more
    "....The Joy verdict, which will likely become a precedent for several other pending conversion cases, is seen by many in Malaysia as evidence of how religious politics are cleaving the nation, with a creeping Islamization undermining the rights of both non-Muslims and more moderate adherents to Islam.

    Last November, at a party conference for the Muslim-dominated United Malays National Organization ruling party, one delegate vowed he would be willing to "bathe in blood" to defend his ethnicity — and, by extension, his religion.

    In an era where Islam is so often partnered with extremism and autocratic governance, Malaysia was held up at the annual conference as a model of a moderate Muslim nation committed to safeguarding the rights of its diverse population.

    But the Federal Court's verdict on Joy's case, which represented her last legal recourse, may undercut that reputation.

    After all, what is religious freedom if a 42-year-old Malay woman isn't allowed to follow the faith of her choosing?

  • From Reader of Malaysia-Today, "gergeten": Read here
    "... the issue is not about a Muslim leaving Islam, but whether Lina Joy can have her new identity card without the word Islam printed on it.

    Lina Joy should just go to the Syariah Court and declare that she has left Islam. With such declaration, Syariah Court MUST issue a certificate to say that she is not a Muslim. Any other decision by the Syariah Court is belittling and undermining Islam itself, as Lina Joy is not a Muslim anyway!

    Even if there is a law on apostasy (which Malaysia doesnt have one anyway), the fact remains - that Lina Joy is NOT a Muslim!

    ... she is a non Muslim, but carrying an IC with Islam as her religion! To me, even Islam doesnt allow this sort of things, and that it should not happen in the first place. I am a Muslim and therefore I have no problem having the word Islam written on my IC.

    After all, IC's function is to identify oneself. Therefore, if I am a mufti, I will not defend the word Islam on Lina Joy's IC as she is not a Muslim anymore, instead I will insist that the word Islam should be removed from her IC!.."

  • From Reader of Malaysia-Today, "ez24get": Read here
    "...Lina Joy eats pork and prayed to Jesus. Marimuthu prayed to Lord Krishna and had never gone to a mosque. However, their ICs show their religion as Islam.

    Malaysia is proud to have an unique brand of Islam where it is multi-cultural and has different religious sects of Islam - Christian Islam praying to Jesus, Hindu Islam praying to Lord Krisnan, Buddhist Islam or maybe Taoist Islam co-existing in harmony under one religion. At least this is what the ICs say; but other sects like tea pot sect or Al Arqam sect practising other forms of Islam are strictly no-no.

    Very soon the world will come to admire Malaysia for its unique brand of Islam not found anywhere in the world. .."

  • Monday, 28 May 2007

    The JUDICIARY's EVASION of Its RESPONSIBILITY to Protect Citizens on Religious Issues is the Cause of Malaysia's Anguish and Pain

    Read here full article in ALIRAN


    "...Non-Muslim husbands who abandon their spouses and their families and convert into Islam have acted in an irresponsible manner.

    When these suffering spouses turn to the CIVIL COURTS for justice, they are treated UNJUSTLY .

    We are disturbed by Justice Hasan’s judgement that R. Subashini should seek remedy from the Syariah Court in this matter.

    Similarly, we note with concern Justice Suriyadi’s comments that T Saravanan is well within his constitutional right in bringing matters concerning his civil marriage to Subashini to the Syariah Court.

    This is CONTRARY to the Federal Constitution, which clearly states that Syariah laws ONLY apply to people professing the religion of Islam.

    R Subashini is Hindu. We ask: what of R Subashini’s rights and the rights of her children?.."

    Read below related articles:

    Excerpts: Read here for more

    Non-Muslim husbands who abandon their spouses and their families and convert into Islam have acted in an irresponsible manner leaving them in the lurch.

    When these wayward husbands convert their children WITHOUT the consent or knowledge of their spouses, they inflict further trauma and pain on their spouses and leave them helplessly in an agonising situation.

    When these suffering spouses turn to the CIVIL courts for justice, they are treated UNJUSTLY.

    The recent event involving R Subashini is a case in point. We carry three reactions from civil society organisations to highlight this problem.

    In the first reaction, Honey Tan Lay Ean says that the palpable sense of injustice and disillusionment surrounding the case makes a mockery of the upcoming Merdeka celebrations.

    The All Women’s Action Society (Awam) reads with concern the decision handed down by the Court of Appeal in R. Subashini’s case.

    The main impact of that decision was that her husband, T Saravanan, may convert their children without her consent, commence proceedings in the Syariah Court to dissolve their marriage and take custody of their children.

    We are disturbed by Justice Hasan’s judgement that R. Subashini should seek remedy from the Syariah Court in this matter. Similarly, we note with concern Justice Suriyadi’s comments that T Saravanan is well within his constitutional right in bringing matters concerning his civil marriage to Subashini to the Syariah Court.

    This is contrary to the Federal Constitution, which clearly states that Syariah laws only apply to people professing the religion of Islam. R Subashini is Hindu.

    We ask: what of R Subashini’s rights and the rights of her children?

    R Subashini’s marriage to T Saravanan was conducted under the civil system. By forcing her to seek relief through the Syariah Court, R Subashini is deprived of her legal rights under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.

    We are also concerned that the rights of their children have been shunted aside. Both parents must have a say in deciding their children’s religion. If there is no agreement, the children can choose their religion upon turning 18 - the age of majority in Malaysia. Until then, there should be no change in the children’s religion.

    The first principle of the Rukun Negara is ‘Belief in God’. Religion plays a significant role in our lives. It is unjust that one parent is deprived of having a say on an important matter which has a great impact on their children’s future. Furthermore, R Subashini’s children were not given a choice as to whether they want to convert to the religion their father had chosen for himself.

    Malaysians more disconnected

    There is also a larger moral question of the anguish suffered by R Subashini and other women in her position.

    Even if she were to eventually win custody of their children, she may be prevented from imparting the knowledge of her religious traditions to her children.

    This happened in Shamala’s case. AWAM fears that every move she makes in bringing up her children may then be scrutinised to ensure that she does not “expose” her children to Hinduism.

    At a time when religion has become synonymous with ethnicity, unfortunately this may also extend to Indian culture.

    R Subashini’s case is symptomatic of problems in the everyday reality of negotiating rights and legal jurisdictions under the Federal Constitution.

    We agree with Justice Sri Ram’s dissenting judgement on this case that the Federal Constitution “confers jurisdiction on a Syariah High Court in civil matters where ALL parties are Muslim”, and that any OTHER interpretation would be unjust towards non-Muslim spouses.

    The Federal Constitution is NOT simply a document.

    Certain interpretations on the matter of jurisdiction have far-reaching social consequences, beyond the two parties confronting each other in court.
    1. First, how could any non-Muslim woman feel secure in marrying and having children when her husband could potentially threaten to convert and thus take her children away?

      AWAM fears that violent husbands could use this threat to prevent women from reporting cases of domestic abuse, forcing them and their children to suffer in silence.

    2. Secondly, the way with which cases such as Subashini and Shamala was handled does nothing to help the cause of national unity.

      The palpable sense of injustice and disillusionment makes a mockery of the upcoming Merdeka celebrations.

      How much have we achieved as a nation, really, when pain and injustice are shrugged off as collateral damage?
      Fifty years after we have embarked on realising the hopes and dreams of a free nation, Malaysians are more disconnected from each other than ever.


    3. From the Reader of Malaysia-Today, "bluesyworms"
    4. Excerpts:
      "... The court is the wrong forum to decide such matter.

      This is NOT a case of bad interpretation. It is a case of bad law and non-existing law.

      The correct forum to remedy such a problem is Parliament. The laws in regards to the rights of Non-Muslim spouses in cases such as above have to be promulgated.

      Unfortunately, when Kapal Singh brings such motion, Nazri Aziz shot it down citing that such matters is in the courts jurisdiction and not Parliament.

      Even in Islam, when a person convert into Islam while he is married to another, must gave adequate compensation to the spouses ect.

      Unfortunately here in Malaysia, some Syariah judges and most of my Muslim brethrens look at these cases through emotional eyes, and not through what have been laid down in the Quran and Sunnah.

      The action of some of these NEW converts, misusing the Syariah as an escapism from giving what is right towards his former wife, is not only morally wrong, but legally wrong and condemnable under the Syariah.

      As to the conversion of the children, such matters again must be debated in Parliament, and new laws passed.

      Automatic conversion to Islam, just because one parent embrace Islam, is not relevant here. Such automatic conversion under the Syariah only applies if the child was born to a Muslim parent or one of his/her parent was Muslim at the time of birth.

      But in the case above, the child was forcefully converted by the father.

      This created a catch 22 situation to the courts, be it Syariah or Civil. For each parent has the right upon their child.

      The only thing barring Subashini from taking and reconverting her children, is article 121 in the Constitution, that vested her children whom are now Muslim, beholden to the Syariah Court in this matter.

      Hence, again the correct forum is NOT the courts. But Parliament.

      This is not a case of bad interpretation of the law. But a case of bad law itself.

      Such decision is not only morally injustice, but legally unislamic according to the Syariah.

      The Parliament have to convene and solved this matter, before Non-Muslims take matters into their own hands.

      Saturday, 26 May 2007

      Federal Court Will Rule Whether Lina Joy (former Azlina Jailani) can become a LEGAL CHRISTIAN in Malaysia


      Read here in Malaysiakini and Here

    5. "....(Muslim) groups fear that with Lina Joy leaving, it will open the so-called 'floodgates' of people wanting to renounce Islam. Let her be who she wants to be. It is between her and God. That is the spirit of the constitution, to have choices for our beliefs."
      - Ivy Josiah, Women Aid Organisation.

    6. "....The country has to be ruled by the constitution but we seem to have lost it. In the growing prominence of the syariah court, things seem to have gone into a grey area with competing claims to jurisdiction. Our civil courts seem to think that conversion is a religious matter and not constitutional, which I think is wrong."
      -Benjamin Dawson (Lawyer)

    7. ".... the decision will determine if she can convert out of Islam without going to the syariah court. Our position has always been that she should be allowed to do so, in respect to the constitution."
      - Ragunath Kesavan, Vice President of Malaysian Bar Council

    8. "...If (s)he renounces Islam, then (s)he is not a Malay. Why not? People would still be Malay, but OFFICIALLY, (s)he would not be a Malay. Being a Malay in this country has certain privileges, so he wouldn’t enjoy those privileges. If you are prepared to give up Islam, you must also be prepared to give up (the rights associated with) the definition of a Malay. You must say that ‘I am not a Malay.’”
      - Tun Dr. Mahathir, President, Malaysian Muslim Welfare Organisation (Perkim)/former Prime Minister of Malaysia

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      -courtesy of malaysiakini

      Read here full article by V. Anbalagan for more

      Read here a 1979 article on the view of the late Lord President of the Federal Court, Tun Suffian:

      "...(Tun Suffian) warned that the introduction of Islamic laws in their entirety would mean that "all non-Muslim and all women judges who have rendered distinguished public service could be dismissed, the word of a Muslim would always be preferred to that of a non-Muslim, non-Muslim lawyers would be disqualified; and outside the legal system, Muslim women would be denied education and the opportunity to secure economic independence." Read here for more

      Read below related articles:

    9. Article "Recent Cases Showed Why Appointments and Promotions of Malaysian Judges Must Be Reviewed and Questioned "

    10. Article "MALAYSIA 's Fumbling Modernity" by Dr Farish Noor

    11. Article "Malaysia's Untenable Future: The Clash between Modernity and Religious Supremacy"
    12. The Federal Court would deliver judgment on Lina JOY'S case on Wednesday (30th May).

      Her appeal is significant for one important reason. The Federal Court, as the apex court, is expected to decide on, among others:

      1. the religious freedom of Malaysians under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution and

      2. the position of the civil court and Syariah Court following amendments to Article 121(1A) of the Constitution in 1988.
      The outcome of the case is also expected to decide the constitutional points raised in at least two other matters pending in the lower courts.

    13. One is the case of S. Kaliammal, a 32-year-old Hindu widow, who is challenging the conversion of her husband, M. Moorthy, to Islam. Moorthy, a member of the first Malaysian team to scale Mount Everest in 1997, died in December 2005. The Court of Appeal has fixed to hear the matter on Dec 12.

    14. The other case involves R. Subashini, 28, a secretary who is fighting to stop her estranged Muslim husband from pursuing his claims in the Syariah Court.Muhammad Shafi Saravanan Abdullah, 31, wants to dissolve their civil marriage in the Syariah Court, convert the children to Islam and obtain custody of them. That case will be heard in the Federal Court.

      Background of Azlina Jailani/Lina Joy's Case

      Azlina Jailani, a muslim, embraced Christianity sometime in the 1990s. She changed her name to Lina Joy after she outed herself as a Christian.

      Between 1998-2000, she applied to the courts to have the word "Islam" deleted from her identity card.

      The National Registration Department REFUSED to change her religion, stating that it had NO jurisdiction to do so without clearance from the Kuala Lumpur SYARIAH Court or other Islamic religious authorities.

      In April 23, 2001, Lina Joy's case went to the High Court to seek protection of her rights as a citizen of this country under the Federal Constitution.
    15. Instead, the High Court washed its hands and dismissed her application. Lina Joy was asked to face the religious Syariah Court to obtain a decision on her application to remove the word "Islam" from her identity card.

      Worst still for Lina Joy, the High Court, a secular court to boot, ruled that as a Malay and Muslim, she could NOT convert her religion.

      Lina Joy then went to the Court Appeal. Again on Sept 19, 2005, Malaysia's secular Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 majority decision, rejected her appeal. Of the three judges who ruled in the Court Appeal, two are Muslim judges (Judges Datuk Arifin Zakaria and Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohamad, now elevated to the Federal Court) and the other is a non-Muslim judge (Datuk Gopal Sri Ram).

      The two Muslim judges sitting in the Court of Appeal rejected Lina Joy's appeal and upheld the High Court's decision to ask Lina Joy to face the Islamic Syariah Court if she wants to remove the word "Islam" on her identity card despite the fact she is now, in every sense of the word, and for all intent and purpose, no more a Muslim in practice. She just wants to be legally recognised as a Christian and this is to be reflected in her identity card.

      The non-Muslim judge (Datuk Gopal Sri Ram) in the Court of Appeal gave a dissenting opinion, held that Joy’s case was purely an ADMINISTRATIVE LAW issue, adding there was NO provision in LAW for the National Registration Department to require a Syariah Court order to remove the word "Islam" from her identity card.

      The makeup of sitting judges of the Court Appeal with two Muslim judges and one non-Muslim judge did not help at all Lina Joy's case.

      (Read here the composition and list of names of judges in Malaysia's courts as of 1st January 2007)

      (Read here earlier posting "Report on the Bar Council-Sponsored Debate on Appointments and Promotion of Malaysian Judges" )

      Then in April 14, 2006, Lina Joy, still wanting to be a Christian legally, appealed to the Federal Court.

      Between June and July 2006, Federal Court heard submissions from all parties for four days. Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Richard Malanjum and Federal Court judge Datuk Datuk Alauddin Sheriff heard her appeal.

      On May 30, 2007, the whole country, in particular the non Muslim citizens will hear the Federal Court's judgment whether Lina Joy has the protection of the Federal Constitution.

      Or that the Syariah Court, a religious body, essentially a creature of the Federal Constitution, by virtue of the decision of the secular court, will have an over-riding power to decide the fate of Muslim's citizens' rights to abandon Islam legally.

      The decision of the Federal Court, the majority of the judges are Muslims, anyway, will send a signal whether THIS judiciary is able to take the hard decision and address the rights of citizens of this country or that personal/religious leanings of the judges (especially the Muslim judges in the Federal Court) will decide the fate of citizens of this country on religious issues.

      The lower courts ie the High Court and the Court of Appeal took the easy way out and pushed the buck up to the Federal Court.

      Lina Joy is now 43 years old, a former sales representative, and has been unemployed for the past year. She is still single.

      Wednesday, 23 May 2007

      Lest Malaysians Forget Series : (November, 1979): UMNO YOUTH Intimidated Lord President Tun Suffian on Islamic Law

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      Vol. 106, No. 47,
      23 Nov 1979, 22

      A judge's verdict on Islamic law: Controversy erupts after the Lord President of the Federal Court criticises Muslim extremism


      K. Das

      Kuala Lumpur: When a member of parliament takes on the highest legal authority in the land, it is fair to assume that the man has something to offer. But when the man, Suhaimi Kamaruddin, is also the leader of the youth wing of the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), expectations tend to become tensions.

      On November 7, he told reporters that his youth (UMNO Youth) executive council rejected the views of the Lord President of the Federal Court of Malaysia, Tun Mohamed Suffian, on two issues and claimed that what the Lord President had said would arouse the emotions of the Muslim population and Islamic religious authorities in a "negative" way.

      He also said that the council wished to advise and remind Suffian that in his position, he should not interfere in any political controversy.

      Suhaimi's need for controversy is a fact of Malaysian political life. But in the current world climate of Islamic unrest, his comments were doubly disturbing. Suffian himself was obviously preoccupied with the problem. He told lawyers at a lecture in Manila in March: "Recent events in Iran give encouragement to Muslim extremists in Malaysia who desire the enforcement of Muslim law, criminal and civil."

      Most politicians were reluctant to discuss the subject and said it was best to let the youth leader's remarks pass.

      Among the non-Muslims, there was concern that Suhaimi was looking for what Suffian described to the Philippines bar as the tendency to "exploit [religion] as a passport for getting into parliament, destort it and twist it, to appeal to ignorance, superstition, prejudice and racial fears to win votes."

      What Suffian said in Kuala Lumpur to the bar conference which provoked Suhaimi was, however, sober enough. He said:

      "In important Islamic fields, Islamic law already applies to Muslims, in particular in regard to family law and the law of inheritance and there is no general desire among the majority of Muslims for more, their feeling being that the civil law that applies in many areas is fair and just and meets the case; and that in any event, Malaysia's population, unlike that of Saudi Arabia, is not 100% Muslim; unlike that of Pakistan or Iran, it is not 98% Muslim; and that as stated by Tunku Abdul Rahman [the former prime minister], there might be bloodshed and chaos if non-Muslim Malaysians constituting about 50% of the population had Muslim law forced down their throats."
      What "irked" Suhaimi, but not necessarily his entire executive council, were the remarks about "the majority of Muslims." He said he could not understand how Suffian could have said it, but he made no effort to demonstrate that Suffian could have been mistaken.

      Suffian's own position was easy enough to support because while there have been several attempts by extremist missionary movements to create trouble recently, there is no sign that any of them have succeeded.

      According to some political party sources, the police recently cracked down on extremists and arrested a number of them. At the same time, four members of dakwah (missionary) movements were arrested in Singapore. The crackdown in the peninsula is said to have been widespread though it is impossible to ascertain how many were actually questioned and detained.

      Suhaimi's statement also included a declaration that the youth executive council accepted the principle of implementing Islamic laws in all aspects -- and not just the family law and the law of inheritance which already exists.

      In his Manila lecture, Suffian had warned that the introduction of Islamic laws in their entirety would mean that
      "all non-Muslim and all women judges who have rendered distinguished public service could be dismissed, the word of a Muslim would always be preferred to that of a non-Muslim, non-Muslim lawyers would be disqualified; and outside the legal system, Muslim women would be denied education and the opportunity to secure economic independence."
      What surprised many observers was the silence observed by the Malaysian Muslim Youth Movement (Abim), which is usually vociferous in its demands for Shariah (Islamic) laws to operate in the country.

      The reason, say observers, is that Abim, which regards Islamisation of the laws as one of its major programmes, does not want to give Suhaimi credit for launching the attack by appearing to support him. Despite its non-partisan position, Abim has political ambitions and would not waste its talents to build up someone who would only destroy it. Abim, it is believed, is certain of Suhaimi's failure, and would move in when the youth leader's game is played out.

      It is anticipated that on November 26, a debate will start in parliament with a question from an Umno back-bencher about what programme the government has to introduce the full use of the national language (Malay) in courts.

      Suffian had told the law conference that it would be decades before English dropped out of sight in the courts, and that was the cause of Suhaimi's second criticism of the Lord President.

      In any case, the debate is expected to shift quickly to the introduction of Islamic laws and it is possible that the Speaker -- himself the head of the official missionary movement -- could cut it short if matters got out of hand.

      History Shows UMNO's Racial Bigotry To Remain in Power at All Costs

      Read here full article in Malaysiakini


      "...It is crucially pivotal to realise that this 'Malay overlordship'(read here for more and HERE) has almost NOTHING to do with the MALAYS, and EVERYTHING to do with UMNO.

      Umno clearly has NO respect for other ethnic groups. Umno clearly has NO respect for other religions .Umno clearly has NO respect for women. Umno clearly has NO respect for peace or the most noble Malay precepts of sopan-santun and budi bahasa .

      The question then becomes:
      why prop up and be led by supremacist, uncouth bigotry, when you can help lead a bravely multi-ethnic movement committed to equal justice and development for all?

      One simple X in the right box is all it takes to give Malaysia new life. Not a million, not a thousand - just one.

      That X belongs to you, and to no one else."

      Excerpts: Read here for more

      ".... re-examine Umno and ethnic politics in the country we love so much - May 13th, and Umno's anniversary.

      UMNO's Dirty Role in May 13

      The clearest lesson taught by Dr Kua Kia Soong's ground-breaking analysis of the 1969 riots as well as countless examples of violent ethnic conflict in Africa and elsewhere is simple:

      '..that ethnic tensions are almost invariably a function of politics, NOT the other way around.'
      .May 13 has been used ad nauseam to suggest that only the BN mould of politics is viable for Malaysia - where ethnic groups are so divided that they must forever be separated politically.

      Kua's findings clearly provide context and proof that it wasn't inherent 'racial hatreds' that sparked off the riots, but Umno's quest for political dominance at any cost - completely debunking the myth that primordial ethnic divisions necessitate a body politic divided along those same lines.

      'Political dominance at any cost' perfectly encapsulates the mindset that has reigned supreme in Umno from May 13, 1969, to Ijok 2007.

      From 1969 onwards, Umno has used the riots to justify supremacist Malay overlordship instead of just and equitable Malay-led governance.

      It is crucially pivotal to realise that this 'Malay overlordship' has almost nothing to do with the Malays, and everything to do with Umno.

      Our first-past-the-post (and ridiculously corrupt) electoral system allows almost no recognition whatsoever to the massive numbers of voters - both Malay and non-Malay - who have rejected Umno's bankrupt brand of politics wholesale.

      Since massive numbers of people, both within BN and without, clearly and passionately object to the awful excesses of Umno, a closer look at what keeps Umno in power needs to be taken.

      Umno bigotry

      The 'core' of BN is said to be the concept of 'power-sharing'.

      .... (But) sharing the occasional parliamentary or state assembly seat is NOT the same as sharing power. .... the non-Umno BN component parties have been reduced to nothing but office boys or budak suruhan.

      Voting patterns confirmed this perception both in Ijok, and to a different extent, in Machap.

      ....(BN) component party representatives are made to shut up and suck it up in the face of blatant bigotry, intolerance and gangsterism.

      Umno clearly has no respect for other ethnic groups: not content with being racist at home, a politician chosen to be a minister no less, Jamaluddin Jarjis, went all the way to California to make derogatory and demeaning statements about Indian Malaysians.

      Umno clearly has no respect for other religions: even a simple, civilised dialogue between religious group is cancelled (whether it was merely 'postponed' remains to be seen).

      Umno clearly has no respect for women: just when you thought MPs Mohd Said Yusof and Bung Mokhtar Radin couldn't possibly be any more bigoted, they resorted to insulting remarks about menstruation in a feeble and humiliating attempt to deflect attention from how corruption is causing leakages in more than one way throughout the 'hallowed' halls of government.

      Umno clearly has no respect for peace or the most noble Malay precepts of sopan-santun and budi bahasa: everyone saw the pictures of Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin trying to find the best balance between an ape and a hooligan in Ijok, while his underlings beat 16 stitches into opposition supporters' heads.

      All these very recent events are in keeping with the 'finest' traditions of Umno - dating back from the manipulations of Harun Idris and Abdul Razak Hussein in 1969, through to keris-waving by both Najib Abdul Razak in 1987 and Hishammuddin Hussein in 2006 as well as statements from Khairy in Jeram about Chinese vultures waiting to take advantage of Malay weakness and so on.

      The Cowardice of UMNO's Partners in Barisan Nasional

      The simple question is: where are the rest of the BN MPs in these debacles? The even simpler answer is: silent.

      It is probably inaccurate to conclude from this that BN MPs are universally inept, cowardly or clueless.

      (Let's)analyse the systemic constraints under which they operate.:

      The better representatives go into politics to make a difference in people's lives. (So) they join the establishment - an establishment that has frightened generation after generation into believing that they must cower before big brother Umno and never offend them at any cost.

      .....however, many of these better politicians and representatives yearn day and night for an end to the Umno regime.

      The question then becomes: why prop up and be led by supremacist, uncouth bigotry, when you can help lead a bravely multi-ethnic movement committed to equal justice and development for all?

      To the opposition hard-core, this question tends to inspire a need to hit one's head against the wall in frustration. .... some of the clearest obstacles involve incumbency and credibility.

      The Opposition has difficulty focusing on marketing itself as credible alternatives to the government.

      (But) in the last few decades , the ever-growing stable of high profile, highly educated and extremely accomplished individuals and technocrats in the opposition are fast communicating to Malaysia that they are more than capable of being entrusted with the reins of government.

      All that remains then is breaking the mental barriers of incumbency.

      Many voters understandably have a sentimental connection to MCA, MIC, Gerakan or their particular elected representatives from those parties, and may NOT be terribly keen to vote them out of power - however much this comes into conflict with how much they despise Umno.

      The longer view of politics will reveal our leaders will always consist of the likes of Mohd Said and Bung Mokhtar unless Umno is dethroned.

      I trust that any truly well-meaning component party member or politician will not seriously try to defend an Umno dominated system over one led by proponents of progress without any stain of discrimination - it would very simply be attempting to defend the indefensible.

      Voters have the only power that really matters, and they know it.

      BN propaganda over the years has tried time and time again to fool those voters into believing that one vote doesn't really count, and that they're the only winning horse to bet on.

      One simple X in the right box is all it takes to give Malaysia new life. Not a million, not a thousand - just one. That X belongs to you, and to no one else.


    16. By Sri Arjuna Dewata: Read here for more

      "....The May 13,1969 incident and the massacre of the innocents in Kuala Lumpur was precipitated by two main personalities (in UMNO).

    17. One was a very ambitious and flamboyant minister who thought that everybody else was far below him in terms of knowledge and stature (internationally and domestically).

      Whilst the other senior member was undergoing a major test of his continued credibility following a major scandal with a leading film star.

      The Tunku was still gloating around, enjoying the good life and his undisputed popularity with all the Malaysian races.

      The two men - in a hurry to grab the reins of power - were joined by others hopefuls like the charismatic Harun Idris. Many were cajoled and driven by promises and their racial sentiments.
      The incident amply demonstrated to us that Umno subscribed to a political doctrine that when their own house was in trouble or when their credibility is threatened, they would not hesitate to resort to cruel and draconian tactics to create bigger problems as a distraction and to re-establish their grip on the people and the country.

      In the past, this had taken the form of the May the 13 riots and the use of the Internal Security Acts (very frequently used by ‘King Ghaz’ [Ghazalie Shafie] and Dr Mahathir Mohamad).

      The recent waving of an unsheathed keris at the last Umno general assembly was a stern reminder of this. To be fair to them, sometimes they also apply the same doctrine on each other as they scramble for power within Umno."

      Tuesday, 22 May 2007

      CONTRASTING LEADERSHIP: Raja Nazrin and Our Political Leaders

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      Raja Nazrin

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      Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein Onn


      "...The merit of democracy is that we get to choose our leaders, in contrast to a monarchy where the leadership in inherited. With the choice and competition of democracy we should expect better quality leaders.

      Yet in the person of Raja Nazrin we have a hereditary leader who is way ABOVE our elected political leaders.

      We could NOT attribute the difference to education. (In) comparing UMNO Youth leaders like Hishammuddin and Khairy Jamaluddin to the Raja Muda, consider this. The pair attended top British universities, as did Raja Nazrin.
      Khairy, for example, went to Oxford and came back to marry the prime minister’s daughter in lavish multiple ceremonies that dragged on for days. There was nothing modest or simple about that wedding. Raja Nazrin too was Oxford educated, but he opted for a modest uncomplicated ceremony, and asked that donations be given to charity in lieu of extravagant tributes and bodek advertisements in the media.

      Nor could we explain the difference to their upbringing or breeding. Hishammuddin is the scion of a distinguished political family. His grandfather, Datuk Onn Jaafar, was ahead of his generation in seeking integration among the races and the creation of a pluralistic vibrant Malaysian nation.

      The challenge for Malaysians is how to encourage the Raja Nazrins and dissuade the Hishammuddins among our leaders. Picking our leaders based on their political or familial pedigree is NOT reliable, as demonstrated by Hishammuddin.

      Sending future leaders to august universities like Oxford is NO guarantee either. As with Khairy, that would only feed their over-inflated ego and sense of competence. "

      -Dr. Bakri Musa

      It is the mark of great leaders that they are able to read their followers well, and then to inspire them by appealing to their better side. Raja Nazrin Shah, the Raja Muda of Perak, is not yet a sultan, yet he has excelled on both counts.

      His recent royal wedding to Zara Salim Davidson was elegant in its simplicity, and dignified by its moderation. Simplicity and moderation did not make the ceremony any less regal; on the contrary, they enhanced it.

      We were, for instance, thankfully spared the all too-common debasing of our fine cultural tradition of the mas kahwin and wang hantaran (dowries) into a crass exchange of cold cash.

      In a culture where the elite has difficulty differentiating between the public treasury and private coffer, the prince’s declining to accept public funding for his wedding is unprecedented.

      The fact that he is receiving widespread praises and adulations reflects the underlying silent disgust Malaysians have for the rampant and obscenely ostentatious displays of wealth that is fast becoming the norm among our elite.

      Only our Malaysian politeness prevents the citizens from expressing their loathing for such vulgar displays and the assault on our collective sensibilities. Unfortunately, our leaders mistake that to be tacit approval, if not explicit encouragement. How wrong can they be!

      A few months earlier, the Crown Prince gave a speech where he passionately declared, “Malaysians of all races, religions, and geographic locations need to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have a place under the Malaysian sun.” (Read here speech by Raja Nazrin)

      He was specifically addressing young Malaysians, but his speech inspired all. It was without doubt the most widely quoted address. That was remarkable. It was as if Malaysians were yearning for their leaders to say something sensible, and at last they found one who did.

      In style, tone and words, his speech was a refreshing contrast to the usual screaming, race taunting, and keris-wielding antics of those who have pretensions to be our next leaders. While Raja Nazrin appeals to the finer qualities of our fellow citizens, these other leaders derive their strength by instigating their followers’ sinister side. Raja Muda’s speech touched our hearts; these other leaders’ rhetoric chilled our spines.

      Hereditary and Political Leaders

      The merit of democracy is that we get to choose our leaders, in contrast to a monarchy where the leadership in inherited. With the choice and competition of democracy we should expect better quality leaders. Yet in the person of Raja Nazrin we have a hereditary leader who is way above our elected political leaders.

      We could NOT attribute the difference to education.

      At the risk of flattering UMNO Youth leaders like Hishammuddin and Khairy Jamaluddin by comparing them to the Raja Muda, consider this. The pair attended top British universities, as did Raja Nazrin. Khairy, for example, went to Oxford and came back to marry the prime minister’s daughter in lavish multiple ceremonies that dragged on for days. There was nothing modest or simple about that wedding.

      Raja Nazrin too was Oxford educated, but he opted for a modest uncomplicated ceremony, and asked that donations be given to charity in lieu of extravagant tributes and bodek advertisements in the media.

      Nor could we explain the difference to their upbringing or breeding.

      Hishammuddin is the scion of a distinguished political family. His grandfather, Datuk Onn Jaafar, was ahead of his generation in seeking integration among the races and the creation of a pluralistic vibrant Malaysian nation. Onn resigned from UMNO’s Presidency over this very issue.

      Hishammuddin’s father, Hussein Onn, was noted for his integrity and intolerance of corruption. Despite intense opposition and at a considerable cost to his popularity, Hussein refused to block the prosecution for corruption of a popular senior UMNO figure. Unfortunately, none of these sterling qualities filtered down to Hishammuddin.

      Demonstrating Good and Upright Leadership

      In his speech, the Raja Muda emphasised that “good and upright leadership must be demonstrated.” He was echoing the qadharat hassanah - leadership through personal example - of our Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w.

      When the Raja Muda declared that he wanted a modest ceremony, he meant it. He politely declined public funds and asked that the money be expended on the poor instead. The royal wedding guests included students and orphans. In so doing, he inspired others to do the same.

      All too often our leaders are good only at spouting trite phrases. “Work with me, not for me!” is an oft-repeated quote of Prime Minster Abdullah.

      Yet, when the citizens were in dire need; as during the massive Johore flood; he saw no need to cancel his scheduled overseas vacation. He asked Malaysians to be frugal yet would not hesitate in buying a luxurious corporate jet at public expense for his use. Never mind that no other Commonwealth Prime Minister has such a privilege.

      He compares himself to the Saudi King and the United States President. The humility and modesty of a modern Imam!

      When the Raja Muda said that political, social and economic incentives must reward good behavior and penalize bad, I wished our Prime Minister would listen. Consider Klang Town Council member Zakaria Mat Deros and “Close One Eye” Melaka MP Muhammad Said. Far from being punished, they are being rewarded, and rewarded handsomely. That sends precisely the wrong message, and undercuts the Prime Minister’s very message (and campaign promise) of public integrity.

      Encouraging the Raja Nazrins and discouraging the Hishammuddins

      The challenge for Malaysians is how to encourage the Raja Nazrins and dissuade the Hishammuddins among our leaders. Picking our leaders based on their political or familial pedigree is not reliable, as demonstrated by Hishammuddin. Sending future leaders to august universities like Oxford is no guarantee either. As with Khairy, that would only feed their over-inflated ego and sense of competence.

      Instead, what we should do is heed the advice of Razja Nazrin - that is, reward our leaders when they do good, and penalise them severely when they stray. Our ultimate weapon as citizens in a democratic society is to grant or deny them our approval at election times. Elections, however, come once every four or five years, and the election weapon is a crude one: approve or reject. There is no subtlety.

      There is much that we can do in between elections to voice disapproval of our leaders.

      The obvious is of course to let these leaders know when they do something we disapprove. With the democratising effect of the Internet, any citizen can now have a potentially powerful megaphone to reach as wide an audience as possible. The worse that we could do is to justify their stupidities or be their apologists. That would only encourage them. If we do nothing but remain silent on the sidelines, our leaders would eagerly interpret that as approval. They would then continue to act with impunity and become, in the word of my kampong folks, tak sedar ekor (lit. not knowing where his tail is; fig. get carried away). Alternatively, when they do something worthy of our approval, we should be generous in our praises.

      I read a deeper meaning to the Raja Muda’s refusal to accept public funding for his wedding.

      He is a genuine prince, and his marriage is the product of true love. Like us, he knows that the flattering public displays of devotions and tributes in those effusive newspaper advertisements are phoney.

      There was nothing generous in the Mentri Besar offering money that is not his to the prince.

      Unlike our political leaders, The Raja Muda intuitively knew that the path to the citizens’ hearts is not to have them spend money on him but for him to spend money on the citizens.

      As Raja Nazrin Shah and Zara Salim Davidson begin their life together, I join millions of others in wishing them many years of blissful marriage. May they bring happiness to each other, and may Allah shower His Mercy and Blessings upon them. May their example of charity, grace and moderation rub off on all of us - leaders and followers alike.