November 2, 2014
Defending our Fundamental Liberties: The case of MAIS Outlawing Sisters In Islam (SIS)
by Din Merican
On October 17, 2014, I wrote about the need to create a defence fund for Kassim Ahmad. Please READ :here
To me, the inhumane arrest, the abduction from Kedah to Kuala Lumpur and the unlawful charging of Malay Intellectual, Kassim Ahmad, is a sign of the erosion of our democratic principles; the erosion of Rule of Law; and worse still, the erosion of Justice when the civil courts turn a blind eye to the unlawful things being done by the religious authorities.
Of late, the civil Courts seem to abdicate their constitutional duty to check on the religious authorities by conveniently saying that the civil courts cannot interfere with the jurisdiction of the Syariah Courts.
The civil High Courts which are vested with judicial powers in the Federation seemed intimidated by the religious authorities. Is there something happening between the A-GC and the Judiciary that we should know? Judges like Dato Zaleha Yusof who had previously chided JAWI and JAIS are suddenly replaced by hard-line conservative judges to handle Judicial Review cases.
Before I digress, when I appealed that Malaysians should contribute to a fund to defend Kassim Ahmad, I stated that this fund is not exclusive to Kassim Ahmad but also for other similar persecutions that endanger our liberty and freedom; to secure a guarantee of our fundamental liberties.
I am happy to inform you that the fund has raised RM14,982.00. We should applaud the Malaysians who contributed. But I should also inform Malaysians that fighting legal battles with the authorities involve huge sums of money. In that sense, RM14,982 over two weeks is a paltry sum. It is not even enough to pay for the disbursements incurred for Kassim Ahmad, not to mention to pay the professional fees, which lawyers like Rosli Dahlan, Malik Imtiaz, Nizam Bashir , Fahro Azat and other like minded Muslim lawyers are prepared to waive.
In other words, while these lawyers are providing their services Free of Charge, we Malaysians are not doing our part. We do nothing to fight for what we believe in. We are just deluding ourselves when we say that we love this country whereas we can’t even raise RM100,000 in that short time to fight for what we believe in. we want to behave, then this country is going down a very slippery slope…fast!
So, Malaysians, come forth and contribute because recent events have shown that there is clear and present danger that more ominous things will come our way if we are lackadaisical about the ideals that we cherish. This country is going down the slippery road very fast because we do not care enough for those who are being persecuted for dissent (reasoned discourse).
I used the Kassim Ahmad’s case merely to illustrate the surreptitious incursions by our religious authorities who can outlaw freedom of thought and ideas by a simple stroke of passing religious edicts called Fatwas which, when gazetted, suddenly become part of the laws of this country.
We all know that there are only 3 branches of government i.e. the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. We also know that making the laws of this country is the power of the Legislature whether Parliament or the State Assemblies. We also know that when the Executive misapplies the law, the Judiciary will keep them in check as it is the last bastion of justice. That is what we know and that is what we think those who govern us should know too.
Yet, what we didn’t know is that the religious authorities in this country (and there are 14 of them as we have 14 states in the Federation of Malaysia) can exercise all the powers of these 3 different branches of government. And, they do it in a very unique way without following any legal sequence.
The religious authorities of this country can just pass sentence on people with different views as deviationists without notifying them or hearing them out. Then the religious authorities just pronounce this sentence as law in the form of Fatwas. Finally, all they have to do is to just arrest those people whom they have already passed sentence on by arresting them and getting a syariah court to convict them.
Thus, in Kassim Ahmad’s case, MAWI/JAWI which are the religious authorities in Federal Territories outlawed Kassim Ahmad by decreeing that his ideas and thoughts are “sesat dan menyesatkan”. That is how they justified sending their officers to Kedah to abduct him and bring him to Kuala Lumpur to answer religious offence charges. And, soon the Syariah Court will just convict Kassim Ahmad because the civil High Court Judges will not stay JAWI from proceeding in the Syariah Court.
This practice of “outlawing” people and ideas which are different from the ideas and thoughts of the religious establishments has become more serious when recently MAIS (Majlis Agama Islam Selangor) through the Mufti of Selangor gazetted a Fatwa declaring that:
1. SIS (Sisters in Islam) and anyone else that practices Liberalism and Pluralism are deviationists;
2. All their publications are banned and can be confiscated;
3. MCMC are to censor and block their electronic media;
4. These deviationists can be compelled to corrective measures.
Literally speaking, with one stroke of the pen, the religious authorities have “outlawed” the whole SIS Board, members, employees, contributors, supporters etc. They are condemned as deviationists without being duly notified nor to explain themselves. This is a clear violation of the Federal Constitution and the UNHCR Human Rights Declaration (which Malaysia is a signatory of that charter), that no one shall be condemned without the right to be heard.
It is most alarming that without even specifically identifying the persons or publications, MAIS has practically declared every Muslim as potentially a deviationists. So, in effect, is MAIS also declaring that Tun Dr Mahathir and his daughter Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir (and her friends above), Dato Zaid Ibrahim and his son Ezra Zaid, academic Azmi Shahrom and anyone who supports them including the lawyers who act for them like Rosli Dahlan, Malik Imtiaz, Nizam Bashir and Fahri Azzat also as deviationists?
Have they forgotten that it was Tun Dr Mahathir who promulgated Art.121(1A) into the Federal Constitution that gave them the powers that they now wield against him? Have they forgotten that Tun Dr Mahathir established the International Islamic University from which Rosli Dahlan and Malik Imtiaz graduated and are the very lawyers accusing these religious authorities of violating the Constitution? Are they now biting the very hand that created them and those that came from within their own fold?
The Third ban in that Fatwa is also worrisome. You now see a state Mufti directing MCMC to censor and ban internet social sites. Since when can a state Mufti have powers under the Multi Media Act to direct the MCMC to do anything? I suppose the MCMC Chairman Dato Shahril who is a Muslim can be charged by JAIS if he disregards the Mufti’s Fatwa?
The Fourth ban is very dangerous. In effect, it means that a deviationist can be detained in a corrective centre by the religious authorities until he disavows or recants his views, this is similar to being detained in prison indefinitely for contempt until the contempnor purges his contempt.
My Fellow Malaysians, I have written this short piece to wake you up to the dangers that confront us. I appeal to you to come defend your rights. If you can see what I am seeing, then you will contribute to the Defence Fund which will be used not just for Kassim Ahmad, but also for such similar causes. So, please contribute generously to: