Freedom from Religion

According to a recent religious research study conducted by the Pew Research Forum in the US, Malaysia ranks fifth amongst the 198 nations for restricting religion. The Malaysian Government is not letting up and is trying to study and implement some sort of procedures to deal with cases on apostasy. A Muslim may see this as responsible, progressive and civilize but a non-Muslim may deem this as interference and regressive into someone’s faith and beliefs.

Under the Federal Constitution, Malaysia is an Islamic country. However, the Constitution does allow various other faiths to be celebrated by various ethnic groups. Malays and Muslim ‘Bumiputeras’ are Muslims by birth and they cannot change their faith willingly. Changing or abandoning their faith is considered apostasy. Under the Sha’ria Criminal Laws, apostasy is punishable by a fine, a term of imprisonment and/or in some states corporal punishments. Apostasy is as such a serious Islamic criminal offense.

So why is apostasy a treachery and treated as a serious offense in Islam in Malaysia? I opined that there are two different schools of thought in Malaysia. However, before I muddled myself into the complexities of apostasy, let me examine the intricacies of identity and patriotism and how they affect the faith.

Like all ethnic groups, there are Malays who are educated in the urban areas and Malays educated in the rural areas.

The ones educated in the urban areas are mentally challenged by different ethnic dispositions, open to modern concepts and recent ideals. Malay children have access to different media contents which motivate their ideals. Their aspirations are unlimited and they have many options. They are not ignorant and most like all other (ethnic groups) view religion as mere guidance and family upbringing. When they reach their teens and adolescence, their priorities begin to materialise. Religion is about spirituality, festivities and honour. They need “wants” to impress peers, loved ones and colleagues. Many young and urban Malays prefer to have a lifestyle like those of their other ethnic groups and as such they prefer a moderate form Islam where practices are deemed liberal and understanding. As some become frustrated with Islamic reforms, some Malays who can afford migrate.

The rural children began most of their basic education via some kind of religious background. As such, they are well verse with religious interpretations and most probably can recite the Koran by-hard at a tender age. Rules, regulations and etiquette and Malay traditional cultural traditions go well together. As such the identity is protected and real. They are proud of the identity. But employment in the sub-urban areas, villages or kampongs are limited; (employment) migration to the cities takes place. In the cities, they try to stay conservative, but they are also bombarded by media and have access to various urban materialisms and needs. Religion by then seems distant. Some quickly enfold into modern urbanites; many try to stay true to their traditions and assimilate as urbanites.

The modern urban Malay wants more global challenges and be able to prescribe and pronounce Malaysia on the map. Malaysia has been largely unable to sell itself as one of the more vibrant South East Asia locality but when Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammed became Prime Minister he encouraged Malaysians to be entrepreneurial and industrious. He knew (then in the early 80s) wanting a ‘Malay’ brand was a challenge. In order to inculcate discipline and patriotism, he tightened Islamic religious laws and encouraged young Muslims to embrace Science and Mathematics. He encouraged the setting up of the many Islamic religious institutions, NGOs and regulatory boards and suppressed religious dissent. During the 80s and 90s there were an over demand of religious teachers, leaders and scholars. Tun Dr. Mahathir wanted Islamic clergies to rally Muslims, abide their faiths and concoct faith-based entrepreneurship. Successful Muslim entrepreneurs were asked to lead by example and were given altruistic positions as an example of Islamic leadership and patriotism.

Such images are Islamic triumphs in Malaysia. Many successful Malay entrepreneurs become party members in Barisan Nasional (National Front) as well in the Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Coalition). These parties are all icons of Islam albeit that many in Parti Keadilan Rakyat (People’s Justice Party) respect freedom of religion. Many party members are also nationalists. As such, they will use Islam to rally support for patriotism amongst Malays. To alienate Islam is to alienate their party membership, community and tradition. As such, Islam is an interned automation of belief. Simply put it, turning the back on Islam is a threat to national security of the country. Those recognised threats are identity, prosperity and power. In fact some Muslims view this as offensive to their Islamic belief because they do not want the religion to align with politics and power.

As a result of such religious corruption, some Muslims have form new Islamic sects to counter the truths and lies of their brethren. Some sects have turned their backs on Malaysia’s brand of Sunni Islam and become extreme. A government banned sect like Al Maimunah is considered extreme, fundamentalist and a terrorist organization.

When Tun Dr. Mahathir’s reign came to an end, Malaysia underwent rapid changes in the expression of individual rights. Many Malay nationalists are frightened of these changes because they know that many urban Malays have better insights and are not easily outwitted by the prospects of the past. These Malays advocate for fairness and freedom of expression. The nationalists no longer have a firebrand that speaks for their cause and they also do not want to see Islam diluted unnecessarily. As a matter of fact, the most prominent firebrand now is in the hands of the opposition.

When the Ayah Pin, Lina Joy, issues in family law, divorce proceedings and the many religious complexities and conflicts surfaced, the previous Tun Abdullah Badawi and the current Tan Sri Najib Razak’s administration wanted a more responsible moderate form of Islam. The challenge now is on Tan Sri Najib’s Administration. His administration must provide ways to properly resolve Muslims renouncing (their faiths) via the Sha’ria Criminal Codes without any issues. Only Negeri Sembilan has such Islamic due diligence.* But it has yet to be tested publicly or perhaps there have been renouncement (by Muslims) and the State Government had done it in a quiet manner to defer from public scrutiny. The Government’s view is only to sieve out those who diluted their faiths and no longer actively involved in the faith. But the question here is should we police every Muslim leaving his or her faith and those who did it improperly? The Mufti of Perlis, Dr. Mohamed Asri B Zainal Abidin, opined that apostates should be let go because policing and prosecution can make apostates go underground and they will just hide their beliefs to avoid prosecution. Prosecution here only achieves negativity and the Government should not waste resources.

Let’s examine whether it’s logical to prescribe punishment for apostasy. According to Syed Akbar Ali, the Quran does not address any punishment for apostasy. Leaving and returning to the faith is the responsibility of the believer. Ultimately, God is his or her redeemer. Syed Akbar went on to clarify that the Quran is fairer in its understanding and did not want to advocate any sort of prosecution and punishment for apostasy. The Bible, as he acknowledged was not so forgiving and the Bible prescribed the death penalty for those who leave Christianity. The challenge that eventually Christians leaving the faith was no longer an issue because the Church wanted a more compassionate understanding of its practices and a congregation that is responsible for their faith and not just using faith for their benefit. Even though the Bible remains intact over the centuries, Christian clergies have reform religious practices to suit day to day practices and demands. It cannot remain archaic; otherwise, there will not be many believers left.

Before ending this article, I just want to share an experience I had when I was a student in Michigan, USA in the 80s.

As a Christian and Roman Catholic looking from the outside and into the Islamic faith is interesting because many Christians like me have strayed many times. As a matter of fact the many times I strayed were the fact that perhaps I have misgivings about myself and the Church community I am with. There’s one time in the in Michigan, US, I strayed and thought best to seek a religious clergy and nothing to do with Christianity. I thought interesting to seek out an Islamic clergy and I met an Imam at the Dearborn Mosque (Masjid Dearborn) and wanting to perhaps become a Muslim. The Imam, an elderly man about 75 years old peered at me through his bifocals in a reluctant manner. Then he removed his bifocals and said “young man where are you from? And then he continued with a short sigh and said, “you should not abandon your faith. Faith is not apparel like changing clothes, as and when you like and when you see fit. If there are problems for you in your faith community, resolve them and if you cannot resolve them then change a church but do not abandon your good ‘ol faith. God does not like it.” He then went on to say that if I changed my faith I have to be even more committed in another faith otherwise every faith is just a watershed. Freedom of religion does not allow one to shop for faiths.

I was flabbergasted and at the same time disappointed by such intelligible understanding of theological wisdom. For me, he reflected to me as someone who offers me hope in my faith and did not condemn my misunderstanding or problems in leaving my faith. As a matter of fact, he was happier of receiving me as an Islamic believer “if I knew what I was doing.” But this wise old man provided wisdom to my problems. I concluded that a believer whether a Ba’hai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Taoists, or even an Atheist must believe in himself and what he or she wants before the Almighty can restore faith in his or her belief. As such religious policing and prosecution is futile.


Seksyen 119 Keluar daripada Agama Islam

(1) Seseorang Islam tidak boleh keluar daripada Agama Islam atau disifatkan telah meninggalkan Agama Islam sebagai agamanya melainkan jika dan sehingga dia telah memperoleh suatu perisytiharan bagi maksud itu daripada Mahkamah Tinggi Syariah.

(2) Suatu permohonan bagi perisytiharan di bawah subseksyen (1) hendaklah dibuat secara ex parte kepada Hakim Mahkamah Tinggi Syariah dalam mahkamah terbuka oleh orang yang berhasrat untuk meninggalkan Agama Islam sebagai agamanya.

(3) Suatu permohonan di bawah subseksyen (2) hendaklah menyatakan alasan-alasan yang berdasarkannya pemohon berhasrat untuk meninggalkan Agama Islam sebagai agamanya dan hendaklah disokong oleh suatu afidavit yang menyatakan semua fakta yang menyokong alasan permohonan itu.

(4) Setelah diterima permohonan di bawah subseksyen (2), Hakim Mahkamah Tinggi Syariah yang mendengar permohonan tersebut hendaklah—

(a) menasihati orang itu supaya bertaubat, dan jika Hakim berpuas hati orang itu telah bertaubat mengikut Hukum Syarak, hendak merekodkan taubat orang itu; atau
(b) jika orang itu enggan bertaubat, sebelum membuat apa-apa perintah terhadap orang itu, menangguhkan pendengaran permohonan itu untuk tempoh 90 hari dan pada masa yang sama menghendaki pemohon untuk menjalani sesi runding cara dan bimbingan bagi maksud menasihati pemohon untuk menimbang semula Agama Islam sebagai agamanya

(5) Jika pada bila-bila masa orang yang dikehendaki menjalani sesi runding cara dan bimbingan itu telah bertaubat, pegawai yang bertanggungjawab terhadapnya hendaklah menyediakan suatu laporan dengan secepat mungkin dan membawa orang itu ke hadapan Mahkamah Tinggi Syariah.

(6) Jika Hakim berpuas hati bahawa orang yang dikemukakan di hadapannya mengikut subseksyen (5) telah bertaubat mengikut Hukum Syarak, Hakim itu hendaklah merekodkan taubat orang itu.

(7) Jika setelah habis tempoh 90 hari yang disebut dalam perenggan (4)(b), orang itu masih enggan bertaubat, maka pegawai yang bertanggungjawab terhadapnya hendaklah menyediakan suatu laporan dengan secepat mungkin dan membawa orang itu ke hadapan Mahkamah Tinggi Syariah.

(8) Jika setelah diterima laporan yang disebut dalam subseksyen (7), Mahkamah berpendapat bahawa harapan masih ada untuk orang itu bertaubat, maka Mahkamah boleh menangguhkan pendengaran permohonan orang itu di bawah subseksyen (2) dan pada masa yang sama memerintahkan orang itu supaya menjalani sesi runding cara dan bimbingan yang selanjutnya selama tempoh yang tidak melebihi satu tahun.

(9) Jika selepas perintah di bawah subseksyen (8) dibuat, orang itu bertaubat, maka subseksyen (5) dan (6) terpakai.

(10) Jika setelah habis tempoh yang diperintahkan di bawah subseksyen (8) dan orang itu masih enggan bertaubat, pegawai yang bertanggungjawab terhadapnya hendaklah menyediakan suatu laporan dan membawa orang itu ke hadapan Mahkamah Tinggi Syariah dan Mahkamah boleh membuat keputusan untuk mengisytiharkan bahawa orang itu meninggalkan Agama Islam sebagai agamanya.

(11) Sebelum Mahkamah mengiytiharkan bahawa orang itu telah meninggalkan Agama Islam sebagai agamanya, Mahkamah hendaklah membuat perintah mengenai perkara yang berikut:

(a) pembubaran perkahwinan;
(b) pembahagian harta sepencarian;
(c) hak perwalian;
(d) hak pusaka; dan
(e) hadhanah

5 thoughts on “Freedom from Religion

  1. Religion & The Rule of Law

    Malaysia celebrated Selamat Hari Raya Adilfitri (Happy Eid Festival) and the National Day holidays. Like all Malaysians, I was looking forward to the double celebrations. In the spirit of celebration I want to write something that is close to many Malaysian hearts. In this essay, I want to discuss about the Sha’ria, the Christian laws and how the Sha’ria can best serve both Muslims and non-Muslims.

    Many non-Muslims, including myself, have problems understanding the position of Islam. Islam, like all religions, is a peaceful religion advocating humanity. Islamic practice in Malaysia is orthodox, pure, regimented and spiritual. These practices are further regulated governed by Islamic code of conduct known as the Sha’ria. The Sha’ria deals with crime, diet, fasting, economics, hygiene, politics, prayer and sexuality. The Islamic belief is a lifetime commitment and conviction.

    Before I proceed further into this discussion I would very much want to examine the specifics of my own religion, Catholicism.

    Nevertheless, the Roman Catholics also have a set of code known as the Canon Law. Similarly, these laws, at one time, governed the lives of Europeans. The Bishops which were the Heads of the Catholic Churches of each nation in Europe preside as powerful advisors to the Kings or Queens of the nation. The clergies (of the Church), i.e., the various deacons would act as legislators, royal kinsman, tax collectors, councilmen, etc., apart from just being within the Churches’ hierarchies. These clergies were perhaps the most informed and educated people in the country. But there was a dead drop to these Christian religious laws as well. In order to protect the sanctity of the Church and its tradition, the Bishops and the clergies will do whatever, to prevent any sort of “ideas” that would propagate reforms or alter their power of influence in the royal court. As such, any thing that was unorthodox or against the teachings of the church would be deemed “evil”, “demonic” or “satanic.”

    During the height of the Middle Ages, many men and women who were accused of being involved in witchcraft or sorcery were drawn and quartered to confess their crimes, burned at the stakes, crucified, drowned, executed, etc. Even budding scientists who challenged the knowledge of the clergies and the Church were accused of being “devious.” [Science was not a discipline then but many so-called Chemists are magicians or sorcerers]. There was even a reported allegation that the plague during the dark ages was a curse caused by those involved in witchcraft or sorcery. Many thousands either died or disappeared during these difficult times.

    Nevertheless, some within the clergy began to notice that there was much corruption and crime within the Catholic hierarchy. Many of these clergies began to ‘rebel’ from within. The person most stood out in my mind was Saint Joan of Arc. She was the first woman ever to challenge the Church on its archaic and discriminatory policies. In return she was accused of being a heretic and a witch (because jealous clergies were unable to acknowledge her leadership and heroine abilities to defeat the English) and thus she was persecuted and burnt at the stakes. In order to stay strong, the Catholic Church managed to stifle religious dissent and killed off any challenges that challenged church opinions. Next, theologians like Martin Luther (this is not Martin Luther King, the popular American black civil rights leader in the 60s) and John Calvin broke ranks with the Roman Catholic Church. Martin Luther was a German priest and John Calvin was a French priest. Both disagreed with many of the Catholics practices and as such they started their own denominations. As such, today we have the Lutheran and Presbyterian denominations. Luther and Calvin were not only the priests from the Catholic order that started new denominations. There are many Christian denominations formed from the Roman Catholicism, e.g., are Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Jehovah Witness, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, etc. Unlike Islam, in Christianity, these different sects are known as denominations.

    Christianity has travelled a long way, perhaps 8 to 9 centuries to get to where they are today. Firstly, I opined that even during the dark ages, there were some brave Europeans willing to provide knowledge to challenge archaic ideas. Even though, the thought of trying to sell the idea was dangerous (as being labelled as “demonic” or “satanic”) many intellectuals still risk their lives. Perhaps it’s Godsend message of liberation. Secondly, many parts of the Canon Law today are part of the Common Law systems of many Commonwealth nations. Many Continental European inquisitorial legal systems incorporated many of the Canon Law into their laws. Thirdly, humanity in Europe and the West have achieved through many debates, disagreements and modifications in its laws via inequality, torture and death. And finally, Christianity laws and practices, as we speak today, are still being debated to accommodate future practices and modernity. These debates as we speak today concur to issues such as abortion practices, creationism, gay issues, transsexuals and marriages, mercy euthanasia, priesthood marriages, etc. Believers from other religions may think that Christianity is a liberal religion but actually it’s also religion of commitment and conviction. Christianity is advanced in thought because Christian jurists kept up the challenge to keep it the religion relevant for its congregation. Catholicism (in US) still suffers from many brickbats in the American press because it was alleged that 4,392 priests were involved in sex abuse cases. The movement of wanting priests in US to get married is getting ever stronger each year.

    This morning, Al Jazeera on its website reported that the rebels in Libya were still actively seeking out Muammar Ghadaffi and its only time they would find him. Since January 2011, North Africa and the Middle East experienced a sea of change called the Jasmine Revolution. Despots in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya and perhaps Syria were toppled. Most of these regimes are socialist coupled with Islamic fundamentalism. North Africans and Middle Easterners wanted changes so badly that they are willing to risk their lives for their future generations. Too long these despots provided them with lies and kept bombarding them about the evil existence of Israel. Their despotic governments have given them ignorance about their livelihood in their own countries but the despots kept getting richer and their families becoming celebrities.

    After the revolution in Egypt, Islamic extremists within the ranks of the Islamic Brotherhood wanted to implement Sha’ria jurisprudence but many reformists disagreed and we will see in the next few months whether Egypt will become another Iran. True, what is certain at the moment is really uncertainty and we really do not know how many of these products of the Jasmine Revolution will eventually becoming Iranian states. Nevertheless, having said that, North African countries refuted such precedents and wanted their countries to be secular but recognised Islam as the main religion. North African countries are different because they have strong ties to France, Italy and Europe. Many North Africans also do not want to see their culture diluted by some extreme faith.

    Malaysia, as compared to all other nations in North Africa and Middle East is in the best position to advance and perhaps liberate the Sha’ria. Why do we need to wait until the Middle East to liberate the Sha’ria? Time and tide waits for no man. Think Ataturk, the Father of Modern Turkey. Once North Africa and the Middle East advance their liberation, they will move very quickly to absolve all opportunities available to them. We are not talking about the economics only; we are talking about social and humanitarian welfare. By then, we, Malaysians again will be late again to seize opportunities available to us.

    Our country is in best locality to be the centre for interfaith study and organizations. Albeit, that the Government’s did wish for an interfaith council, it was dejected because our local religious clergies and hardliners defy such existence as interference into Islam.

    The Middle East and North Africa has perhaps the most at three religions, i.e., Islam, Christianity and Judaism. In Malaysia, we have at least six religions and they are Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Sikhism. The future holds bright for Malaysia because the UN may see Malaysia as the focal point for interfaith tolerance. As such, the UN may even create an interfaith Council organization in Kuala Lumpur. They see that Kuala Lumpur not only as a melting pot of cultures and traditions but also a point for mitigation of faiths.

    The Sha’ria is a respected jurisprudence even agreeable by Western legal experts. Let’s forget about the heinous punishments and compare it to Common Law. Yes, there’s a proper way of divorce settlement for Muslims. And yes, there’s talk about how property is divided when a conflict arises. So Sha’ria laws pretty much are similar with laws governing property and family. But it gets challenging and difficult when there is a convert appearing or disappearing on the horizon. Actually conversion is not an issue but it becomes complicated when the newly convert fails to inform family members (who are non-Muslims). But such complications are minor if the Administration of Islamic Affairs can deal cases with proper due diligence and all parties informed and advised.

    When Tun Abdullah Badawi came out with Islam Hadhari its purpose is to enhance and propose “Civilisational Islam.” The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary definition of “civilisational” entails that a state of human society that is developed and organized…First off, perhaps, the Sha’ria can be enhanced to be “civilisational” for the modern society to move forward. Sha’ria has to jog with the times and cannot lag in the 14th Century otherwise, there are many things that have conflict of interests and when things do not jive with the 14th Century then the clergy will enforce with an edict. A civilized society does not announce an edict to instil fear. Edicts are common during the height of the dark ages when the royalty wanted to expunge a village or remove an undesirable target.

    Secondly, the philosophy behind “civilisational” understanding believes “the promotion of providing good socio-economic justice and fairness to all its citizens.” Basically, this is about the protection of human rights. As such, prescribing punishments for wayward believers only serve to take away the spiritual remnants and enhanced fearful and violent intentions to their fellowmen. Punishment is for actions where mankind offends another whether it’s violation against another being (injurious or death) or (destruction of one’s) property. Punishment cannot be addressed for any issues related to spiritual deviations. Spiritual deviations should be devoted to (multiple) penance, counselling and excommunication (if one is so much as being a recalcitrant to repent for his or her waywardness). To motivate believers, the faith has to be forgiving and protective.

    Times are a-changing and it’s moving rapidly and time is not on Malaysia’s side; 2020 is only 9 years from now and the Rule of Sha’ria has to be abreast of the ever changing landscape for Muslims to move forward.



  2. Activists in Arab World Vie to Define Islamic State

    Sept 29 2011; NYT

    CAIRO — By force of this year’s Arab revolts and revolutions, activists marching under the banner of Islam are on the verge of a reckoning decades in the making: the prospect of achieving decisive power across the region has unleashed an unprecedented debate over the character of the emerging political orders they are helping to build.

    Few question the coming electoral success of religious activists, but as they emerge from the shadows of a long, sometimes bloody struggle with authoritarian and ostensibly secular governments, they are confronting newly urgent questions about how to apply Islamic precepts to more open societies with very concrete needs.

    In Turkey and Tunisia, culturally conservative parties founded on Islamic principles are rejecting the name “Islamist” to stake out what they see as a more democratic and tolerant vision.

    In Egypt, a similar impulse has begun to fracture the Muslim Brotherhood as a growing number of politicians and parties argue for a model inspired by Turkey, where a party with roots in political Islam has thrived in a once-adamantly secular system. Some contend that the absolute monarchy of puritanical Saudi Arabia in fact violates Islamic law.

    A backlash has ensued, as well, as traditionalists have flirted with timeworn Islamist ideas like imposing interest-free banking and obligatory religious taxes and censoring irreligious discourse.

    The debates are deep enough that many in the region believe that the most important struggles may no longer occur between Islamists and secularists, but rather among the Islamists themselves, pitting the more puritanical against the more liberal.

    “That’s the struggle of the future,” said Azzam Tamimi, a scholar and the author of a biography of a Tunisian Islamist, Rachid Ghannouchi, whose party, Ennahda, is expected to dominate elections next month to choose an assembly to draft a constitution. “The real struggle of the future will be about who is capable of fulfilling the desires of a devout public. It’s going to be about who is Islamist and who is more Islamist, rather than about the secularists and the Islamists.”

    The moment is as dramatic as any in recent decades in the Arab world, as autocracies crumble and suddenly vibrant parties begin building a new order, starting with elections in Tunisia in October, then Egypt in November. Though the region has witnessed examples of ventures by Islamists into politics, elections in Egypt and Tunisia, attempts in Libya to build a state almost from scratch and the shaping of an alternative to Syria’s dictatorship are their most forceful entry yet into the region’s still embryonic body politic.

    “It is a turning point,” said Emad Shahin, a scholar on Islamic law and politics at the University of Notre Dame who was in Cairo.

    At the center of the debates is a new breed of politician who has risen from an Islamist milieu but accepts an essentially secular state, a current that some scholars have already taken to identifying as “post Islamist.” Its foremost exemplars are Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party in Turkey, whose intellectuals speak of a shared experience and a common heritage with some of the younger members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and with the Ennahda Party in Tunisia. Like Turkey, Tunisia faced decades of a state-enforced secularism that never completely reconciled itself with a conservative population.

    “They feel at home with each other,” said Cengiz Candar, an Arabic-speaking Turkish columnist. “It’s similar terms of reference, and they can easily communicate with them.”

    Mr. Ghannouchi, the Tunisian Islamist, has suggested a common ambition, proposing what some say Mr. Erdogan’s party has managed to achieve: a prosperous, democratic Muslim state, led by a party that is deeply religious but operates within a system that is supposed to protect liberties. (That is the notion, at least — Mr. Erdogan’s critics accuse him of a pronounced streak of authoritarianism.)

    “If the Islamic spectrum goes from Bin Laden to Erdogan, which of them is Islam?” Mr. Ghannouchi asked in a recent debate with a secular critic. “Why are we put in the same place as a model that is far from our thought, like the Taliban or the Saudi model, while there are other successful Islamic models that are close to us, like the Turkish, the Malaysian and the Indonesian models, models that combine Islam and modernity?”

    The notion of an Arab post-Islamism is not confined to Tunisia. In Libya, Ali Sallabi, the most important Islamist political leader, cites Mr. Ghannouchi as a major influence. Abdel Moneim Abou el-Fotouh, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader who is running for president in Egypt, has joined several new breakaway political parties in arguing that the state should avoid interpreting or enforcing Islamic law, regulating religious taxes or barring a person from running for president based on gender or religion.

    A party formed by three leaders of the Brotherhood’s youth wing says that while Egypt shares a common Arab and Islamic culture with the region, its emerging political system should ensure protections of individual freedoms as robust as the West’s. In an interview, one of them, Islam Lotfy, argued that the strictly religious kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the Koran is ostensibly the constitution, was less Islamist than Turkey. “It is not Islamist; it is dictatorship,” said Mr. Lotfy, who was recently expelled from the Brotherhood for starting the new party.

    Egypt’s Center Party, a group that struggled for 16 years to win a license from the ousted government, may go furthest here in elaborating the notion of post-Islamism. Its founder, Abul-Ela Madi, has long sought to mediate between religious and liberal forces, even coming up with a set of shared principles last month. Like the Ennahda Party in Tunisia, he disavows the term “Islamist,” and like other progressive Islamic activists, he describes his group as Egypt’s closest equivalent of Mr. Erdogan’s party.

    “We’re neither secular nor Islamist,” he said. “We’re in between.”

    It is often heard in Turkey that the country’s political system, until recently dominated by the military, moderated Islamic currents there. Mr. Lotfy said he hoped that Egyptian Islamists would undergo a similar, election-driven evolution, though activists themselves cautioned against drawing too close a comparison. “They went to the streets and they learned that the public was not just worried about the hijab” — the veil — “but about corruption,” he said. “If every woman in Turkey wore the hijab, it would not be a great country. It takes economic development.”

    Compared with the situation in Turkey, the stakes of the debates may be even higher in the Arab world, where divided and weak liberal currents pale before the organization and popularity of Islamic activists.

    In Syria, debates still rage among activists over whether a civil or Islamic state should follow the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, if he falls. The emergence in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria of Salafists, the most inflexible currents in political Islam, is one of the most striking political developments in those societies. (“The Koran is our constitution,” goes one of their sayings.)

    And the most powerful current in Egypt, still represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, has stubbornly resisted some of the changes in discourse.

    When Mr. Erdogan expressed hope for “a secular state in Egypt,” meaning, he explained, a state equidistant from all faiths, Brotherhood leaders immediately lashed out, saying that Mr. Erdogan’s Turkey offered no model for either Egypt or its Islamists.

    A Brotherhood spokesman, Mahmoud Ghozlan, accused Turkey of violating Islamic law by failing to criminalize adultery. “In the secularist system, this is accepted, and the laws protect the adulterer,” he said, “But in the Shariah law this is a crime.”

    As recently as 2007, a prototype Brotherhood platform sought to bar women or Christians from serving as Egypt’s president and called for a panel of religious scholars to advise on the compliance of any legislation with Islamic law. The group has never disavowed the document. Its rhetoric of Islam’s long tolerance of minorities often sounds condescending to Egypt’s Christian minority, which wants to be afforded equal citizenship, not special protections. The Brotherhood’s new party has called for a special surtax on Muslims to enforce charitable giving.

    Indeed, Mr. Tamimi, the scholar, argued that some mainstream groups like the Brotherhood, were feeling the tug of their increasingly assertive conservative constituencies, which still relentlessly call for censorship and interest-free banking.

    “Is democracy the voice of the majority?” asked Mohammed Nadi, a 26-year-old student at a recent Salafist protest in Cairo. “We as Islamists are the majority. Why do they want to impose on us the views of the minorities — the liberals and the secularists? That’s all I want to know.”

    Anthony Shadid reported from Cairo, and Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey, and David D. Kirkpatrick from Cairo, Tunis and Tripoli, Libya. Heba Afify contributed reporting from Cairo.–post-islamism-and-elections.html


  3. SIS: Hudud discriminatory and unconstitutional

    Ratna Osman
    6:27PM Oct 7

    Sisters in Islam (SIS) is unequivocally opposed to the adoption and implementation of hudud law in Malaysia. This has been our considered position since 1993. Our stand on hudud law is based on the following reasons:

    1. That it is against the Federal constitution

    The hudud law is unconstitutional on several grounds. First, crime falls under federal jurisdiction, thus a state has no authority to legislate on criminal matters. This is why we have in place a Penal Code that all Malaysians – irrespective of religion – are subject to. Second, it violates constitutional guarantees of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of gender; and third, it violates constitutional guarantees of fundamental liberties. SIS believes that society has to be regulated in line with the principles of equality, justice and dignity, and not through deterrence by means of harsh and cruel punishments.

    2. That it discriminates against women

    The burden of proof for rape under the hudud law is on women. The Terengganu Syariah Criminal Offences (hudud and qisas) of 2002 states under Section 9, that a woman who reports she has been raped could be charged for qazaf (slanderous accusation) and flogged 80 lashes if she is unable to provide proof.

    Although amendments were made to allow for circumstantial evidence, there is still confusion. For example, which party is to produce the evidence – the police or the victim? The amendments were inadequate and overall the law remained an unjust one.

    In the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Enactment (hudud) 1993, an unmarried woman who is pregnant or has delivered a baby is assumed to have committed zina (illicit sex) even though she was raped. The inability of rape victims to produce four male witnesses will result in the presumption of them committing zina while the rapists go free.

    A woman cannot be a witness. People of other faiths also cannot be called as witnesses. In effect, three-quarters of Malaysia’s population will be disqualified as witnesses.

    3. That it provides for maximum punishment without room for repentance and reform

    The hudud enactments of Kelantan and Terengganu violate human rights principles and the principles of justice and equality in Islam. It provides for punishments that are deemed ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading’. The punishment of death for apostasy for instance, is the most severe, oppressive and maximum punishment from among the diversity of views existing within the Islamic juristic heritage.

    4 That it discriminates on the basis of religion

    A Muslim convicted of theft would have his hand amputated while a non-Muslim convicted of the same offence would only be punished with imprisonment. If a Muslim and a person of another faith are both involved in a particular crime, one party should not be punished differently from the other. It violates the spirit of natural justice and equity. There should not be two sets of criminal law that apply to Malaysians.

    SIS wishes to reiterate our stand that hudud law is unconstitutional and unenforceable. It violates universal principles of Human Rights and is discriminatory against women. Islam teaches the spirit of universal love within the community and emphasises the importance of repentance and rehabilitation of the wrong-doers – not the imposition of severe punishments.

    Ratna Osman is executive director of SIS (Forum) Malaysia.


  4. PM: Govt admin based on Islam

    The Star Online > Nation
    Sunday July 15, 2012

    KLANG: Malaysia adopts the principles of the Maqasid Al-Shariah – an Islamic concept based on goals and purposes – in its Federal administration, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

    The Prime Minister said this approach had helped to preserve and empower Islam and, at the same time, protect and respect the human rights of both Muslims and non-Muslims.

    He said the national transformation policy, through the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and the Economic Transformation Programme (RTP), is centred on the Maqasid Al-Shariah.

    “Maintaining accounts, protecting respect and origins and preserving the assets through a strong economy are principles of the Maqasid Al-Shariah,” he said.

    He added that in respecting the human rights of Malaysians, the Government had abolished the Internal Security Act.

    The Prime Minister was speaking at a gathering in honour of the late Nik Mohamed Mohyideen Wan Musa at the Kolej Islam Sultan Alam Shah here yesterday.

    Nik Mohamed Mohyideen was the first head of the college, which was previously known as Kolej Islam Malaya.

    The concept of Maqasid Al-Shariah in Islamic education and intellectual development was believed to have been first spread in the 12th century by Islamic scholar Al-Ghazali, although some say it could be traced back to the administration of the second caliph, Umar al-Khattab.

    In modern times, it was believed to have gained widespread acceptance since the mid-1900s, for the preservation of the family system, freedom of belief, orderliness, natural disposition, civility, human rights, freedom and equality as objectives of Islamic law.

    Najib said some Muslims had forgotten the aims of Islamic law. He said they had also forgotten the era of Islamic civilisation and the past where Muslims freely shared their knowledge with others.

    “Muslims were among the first to contribute to the development of science and technology.

    “Now, what is left in Andalusia are just heritage buildings,” he said, referring to the Spanish autonomous region which was under Muslim rule from 711 to 1492.

    “We do not see the actual cause and preachings of Muslims (there) anymore,” added Najib.

    He regretted that some Muslims now only use Islam to promote their political cause, adding that it would be damaging to Islam if the faith and the knowledge it had developed is just pushed aside.

    Najib, in his capacity as Umno president, donated RM200,000 from the party to upgrade the library facilities at the college.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s