MCA and hudud: Final part

By Stanley Koh
October 22, 2011 | Free Malaysia Today

At a 2006 forum to discuss problems that non-Muslims face as Malaysian officialdom continues to assert the predominance of Islam in the country, a prominent scholar acknowledged – “with “sadness”, he said – that there was great confusion about the religion, especially among Muslims themselves.

Syed Ali Tawfik al-Attas, director-general of the Institute of Islamic Understanding (Ikim), said that Muslim administrators and Islamic activists generally had a poor understanding of the Islamic view of “knowledge” even as they examined the religion with a fine-tooth comb.

“That is the problem with the Muslim world,” he declared.

He explained that in Islamic scholarship, knowledge is generally separated into three types: interpretation of the meaning of what is perceived, revealed knowledge, and derived knowledge that is beneficial. This effectively means that non-beneficial knowledge is not construed as knowledge.

He stressed the importance of having the correct understanding of such terminologies as “freedom”, “democracy” and “Islamisation” and the equal importance of recognising that they were open to different conceptualisations.

Citing an example, he said the word the Arabs use for “democracy” could be translated as “preservation of the mind”, which implies a wealth of meanings.

“Yet, this preservation is today limited to halal-haram issues,” he said, adding that this was one symptom of “the truncation and tragedy of Islam”.

The forum that Syed Ali addressed, which was organised by a group of think-tanks, shed much light on issues raised during the 2001 forum that MCA held following Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s declaration that Malaysia was an Islamic state.

Many of those issues centred around the unhappiness of non-Muslims with the arrogance of the civil service in deciding on and implementing policies that affected the religious practices of non-Muslims.

Syed Ali’s presentation made it quite clear that such arrogance was born of ignorance.

The Moorthy controversy

Referring to the case of Everest climber Maniam Moorthy, who died in 2005 and was buried as a Muslim in the face of his family’s objections, Syed Ali said it would not have been such a big issue if the officials in charge had been more knowledgeable and less arrogant.

He explained that in Islam it does not matter where one is buried. He said the Moorthy controversy illustrated how it was the mind of Muslims, and not Islam itself, that was limited.

At the MCA forum, representatives from the Inter-Religious Council of Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism spoke of difficulties in getting approval for land on which to build places of worship and even for the renovation of those places.

Rev Wong Kheng Kong said civil servants carried out their work with a clear bias for Islam instead of sticking to the constitutional provisions on religious rights. He feared that Mahathir’s declaration would make matters worse.

“There is a need to have an absolute definition of the declaration,” Wong said. “Otherwise, things will be up to the whims and fancies of people in power. There will be problems. Civil servants are already interpreting the laws with an Islamic bias. For example, no other building can be taller than a mosque.”

He cited various other problems faced by non-Muslims, including their having to adhere to Islamic norms in attire and the preparation of food.

Hachenran Singh, who represented the Sikhs in the inter-religious council, lamented that non-Muslims under an Islamic state would be considered “protected persons” instead of “full citizens”.

A representative for the Hindus complained that non-Muslims were not allowed to practise Syariah law even if they had the qualification.

Shad Saleem Faruqi of Universiti Teknologi Mara advised non-Muslims to seek judicial reviews if they felt they had been victimised by overzealous civil servants.

“Civil servants must give reasons for their decisions,” he said. “If the reasons are frivolous, I think a judicial review is possible.”

Abdul Hamid Othman of the Prime Minister’s Department said the government was aware that some administrators suffered from an excess of zeal. He claimed that there had been occasions when the Prime Minister stepped in personally to ensure the release of funds allocated for non-Muslim houses of worship.

“When we talk about the Islamic state, the most important thing is administration of the lives of citizens,” he said. Essentially, he explained, an Islamic government has a duty towards God to ensure that it administers with justice for everyone.

Political purpose

Several speakers at the MCA forum described Mahathir’s declaration as an example of the exploitation of religion for political ends.

“If you tell us that this declaration is a joke and that the PM has made a joke because he wants just the Malay votes, then, in two months the topic will be closed,” said a speaker from the inter-religious council.

“But if the government is serious in making the declaration, then I think there is a big problem.

“How come our non-Malay leaders do not have the courage – and maybe the dignity, I don’t know, I hope not, but with a sense of dignity at least – to stand up and say to the PM, ‘There is something wrong with the declaration’?”

Zainah Anwar of Sisters in Islam said there was a need for “younger voices” among Muslims to question and challenge misinterpretations of religious beliefs and practices.

Is labelling more important than ensuring a fair and equitable governance, which is what Islam espouses? Should Mahathir‘s declaration remind us of these words of Alice in Wonderland: “How can you make your words mean different things?”

It seems that to the MCA leadership the answer should sound like this: “Yes, you can. It depends on who is in charge.”

  1. #1 by Loh on Saturday, 22 October 2011 - 5:45 pm

    ///“How come our non-Malay leaders do not have the courage – and maybe the dignity, I don’t know, I hope not, but with a sense of dignity at least – to stand up and say to the PM, ‘There is something wrong with the declaration’?”///–

    That is the question most Chinese asked, of MCA leaders. Now that CSL said that MCA would not be part of the government when its hare of votes is lower than 2008, the Chinese are happy to prove that CSL is right, to leave the government. But the Chinese really do not believe in what CSL said, but they will be happy to prove that CSL cannot be trusted this time.

  2. #2 by monsterball on Saturday, 22 October 2011 - 9:31 pm

    There is problem in the Muslim world.
    But in Malaysia…no problem.
    Govt. find loop holes and make problems.

  3. #3 by waterfrontcoolie on Sunday, 23 October 2011 - 7:59 am

    Faith has always been a controversial issue. Some prefer it as a recourse between them and THEIR CREATOR; some for reasons best known to them like to find companions to walk the same path for fear of loneliness! as if the presence of his favourite Creator isn’t sufficient! The world will be a lot more peaceful if everyone of us respect each other in his own way. We all believe ‘dust to dust’ so what is the difference if one chooses to turn into dust faster than another guy? Using wood or latest electrification or just waiting for the worms to finish the process would achieve the same result. It is only TIME that differs!
    As for MCA, in spite of all CSL big talks, we all can wait to see how many of them would be still standing come GE 13. CSL should not be linked to any talks on morality! He has none!

  4. #4 by monsterball on Sunday, 23 October 2011 - 8:29 am

    Imagine…they interfere in all matters…in the name of protecting Muslims…. in life or in death..even in love….no one is spared.
    In Malaysia….we have the purest Muslims in the world..the UMNO b Muslims.
    Why don’t they go over to Palestine and protect their brothers against Jews?
    Their sickening mentalities and behaviors are unbelievable.

  5. #5 by monsterball on Sunday, 23 October 2011 - 8:42 am

    And you talk about MCA?
    My goodness…that political party was rejected by Malaysian Chinese wherever they stand stand in 12th GE.
    Brought to life as backdoor ministers by Najib……MCA can keep on polishing Najib’s puppets on the strings…who cares.
    It’s 13th GE that we are waiting to see ..once again …the People Power will decides….and if the going is so good for BN…Najib will not hesitate one moment to declare the 13th GE.
    Chua Soi Lek talk nonsense.
    Koh Tsu Koon have nothing to talk..preparing for his “surprise” announcement that all Malaysians know what that is.
    13th GE is a fight between UMNO b against keDAILan…PAS and DAP..
    One racist corrupted party against multiracial parties…all against corruptions .race and religion politics…and double standards.

  6. #6 by monsterball on Sunday, 23 October 2011 - 8:55 am

    Malaysian DO NOT easily forget and that spells trouble for Najib.
    Mahathir can easily forget….fooling Malaysians.
    Najib wheeling and dealing…buying Malaysians with money.
    And all the others…like Chua Soi Lek…Nazri…Hisham and small fut…Khairy…can talk and perform their stunts….Malaysians are relax and waiting.
    Why is the finding not reported in papers?….BN gone case.
    Why so many smiles and good news in papers when the should be shouting and crying for help?
    You see….that is the at of crooks behaving cool and calm….happy..just like Gadaffi.
    And when dictators..crooks and shoe shine boys in Malaysia ..face the People Power….they will knell and beg for forgiveness and not be treated like Gadaffi…sure to die.
    They will beg for life sentences or exiles.

  7. #7 by monsterball on Sunday, 23 October 2011 - 8:57 am

    Where is that sickening Chengho?
    Why so quiet?

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