– Lim Chee Wee
The Malaysian Insider
5 August 2014
Recent attempts to question the authorities’ purported inaction over cases involving non-Muslims’ alleged disrespect for Islam will only heighten racial tension. This is most irresponsible and unnecessary at a time when we can do with more goodwill among the different races.
On Sunday, Mingguan Malaysia in a column by Awang Selamat and Federal Territory Umno Youth chief, Mohd Razlan Muhammad Rafii had suggested that the authorities practiced selective prosecution by not acting against those who had insulted Islam. The argument was that Islamic preacher Shahul Hamid was swiftly picked up for questioning after a video of him insulting Hindus went viral on social media. Meanwhile, two individuals who had made disparaging remarks about Islam are still on the loose.
Such comments raise two issues: firstly, prosecutorial discretion and secondly, what is the solution to interfaith differences. It is a universally accepted practice and policy that not all suspected criminal offences must automatically be the subject of prosecution. The dominant consideration is whether it is in the public interest to prosecute and another consideration is whether there are mitigating circumstances such as admission of guilt/apology. Sometimes, prosecutorial discretion is perceived to result in double standard prosecution.
Neither Mingguan Malaysia nor Mohd Razlan provided empirical evidence to back its argument about rise in anti-Islam behaviour and how Singapore was swift in managing interfaith differences. Such emotive generalisation does not serve to improve the discourse. Perhaps, they have forgotten that Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee were charged last year under the Sedition Act for insulting the Muslims.
On the second point about solution to interfaith differences, it is time for us to move beyond prosecution and punishment. We must start debating the role of education, understanding, engagement, mediation and civil law remedy in resolving interfaith differences. – August 8, 2014.