January 22, 2006

The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born

Posted in Malaysia, Religion at 11:11 pm by egalitaria

Perhaps the need to speak up and speak out stems from a deep desire for justice. So much so that the possibility of muzzling the mouth that speaks does not justify silence. When it comes to this, this pervasive fog of “foul pestilence”, then one can no longer sit on the fence and smile foolishly.

Malaysia has oft been described as a time-bomb. In its seemingly peaceful state, it avoids conflict by pacifying certain parties and playing down national issues. But all are fearfully aware of the actual situation. That all it takes is a single event to spark off something frightful.

And so it was that Moorthy’s wife and family watched in horror, buried a Muslim and without Hindu rites as traditionally precedented. These followed:

  1. Candlelight vigils to be held for a month outside the High Court.
  2. Wife unable to claim benefits and pension.
  3. Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism (MCCBCHS) state that Article 121(1a) ought to be repealed to ensure that the Syariah Court (Islamic Court) does not hold jurisdiction over non-Islamic matters.
  4. Moorthy’s wife to receive pensions and rightful benefits now.
  5. Pak Lah assures the public that the Constitution and other laws will be looked into such that there exists no such confusion over ambiguous matters concerning conversion.
  6. Candlelight vigils called off by Chief Secretary to the Government Samsuddin Osman.
  7. Memorandum signed by 9 Non-Muslim Cabinet leaders submitted to Pak Lah.
  8. Pak Lah decides that the Article should not be amended despite not having read the memorandum,whilst other parties call for resignations en bloc due to a lack of respect for the prime minister.
  9. As a result of personal request, memorandum is withdrawn and matter is to be resolved in a ‘future’ Cabinet meeting.

Now let’s see here. The heated debate about the modus operandi of the memorandum submission was based on 2 issues: First, that it was unprecedented and that whatever matters need be raised ought to be done in a Cabinet meeting. Second, that it was a blatant insult to the PM and called by certain quarters ‘kurang ajar’.

It is not that the citizens want to repeatedly return to an issue that might cause havoc. Racial politics are not even the issue. What is fundamentally wrong with the structure of the law such that even such vague ambiguities of religious conversion cannot be resolved immediately? Have we indeed reached a constitutional crisis?

As long as the Civil Court and the Syariah Court can move along hand in hand, each governing its respective and supposedly mutually exclusive matters, then all is well and happy. All citizens can go home for their nasi lemak and join their friends for a midnight mamak session, fine. But what happens when one converts out of Islam? What happens when one converts into it and then changes his mind? That the Syariah court continues to rule on converts out of Islam (despite the logical fault in this argument, since a Muslim court ought not to rule upon a non-Muslim) is in itself sufficient for all to wake up and call for change.

As in “The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born” by Ayi Kwei Armah, the Man is symbolic of the one all too aware of impending doom surrounding him. In his case it is corruption afoot in the nation, and despite personal cost, he decides to make a stand against the tide. I believe in the concept of conviction. All that follows is merely manifestation of such a stand. This is a question of human rights, and I do not hesitate to call upon justice to prevail.

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