Malaysia: Muslim Laws And Corrupt Politicians
July 11, 2006
Malaysia: Muslim Laws And Corrupt Politicians
Malaysia claims to be a “moderate Muslim country”, but is also practises one of the most corrupt and bizarre travesties of religious freedom imaginable. It claims to be “enlightened”, but the policies of its two main parties are based on discrimination against non-Muslim minorities. One of these, UMNO, is in Malaysia’s ruling so-called “Barisan Nasional” coalition, while the other, PAS, is formerly influential within the states’ electorate.
UMNO is currently more successful politically than PAS. Its name stands for United Malays National Organisation, and in the Barisan Nasional coalition, it has ruled without interruption since Malaysia’s Independence on August 31, 1957. UMNO hold to the principle of the “ketuanan Melayu” an ideology which states that the Malay people, who are all regarded as “Muslim” under Malaysia’s Kafkaesque legal system, are the original and defining populace of Malaya, and thus should have special status and privileges.
The PAS party has lost a lot of ground recently, losing control in all of Malaysia’s 13 states except Kelantan, but is still the next largest party in Malaysia, in terms of votes. Led by Tuan Guru Haji Abdul Hadi Awang, the PAS party was first registered on May 31, 1955. Formerly called Persatuan Islam Se-Malaysia, it now calls itself Parti Islam Se-Malaysia. PAS wants to have an Islamic government which rules the entire country, irrespective of ethnic or religious belief, under the principles of Sharia law.
Surprisingly, with their extremist ideology, UMNO have made strange bedfellows in the Barisan Nasional coalition, by joining with MIC, the Malaysia Indian Congress, which has been in existence since 1946, and also MCA, the Malaysian Chinese Association, which has been the second largest partner in the Barisan Nasional coalition since 1996. There are ten other smaller parties in the Barisan Nasional, whose name means “National Front”.
Few Indians or Chinese are Muslims, but for the government to remain coherent, it must woo these substantial minorities. However, the problems within Malaysia’s constitution, and its laws on the treatment of non-Muslims, give many Hindus and Chinese cause for concern.
Malays comprise 50.8% of the population of 26 million, followed by Chinese 23.8%, Indigenous 10.9%, Indian 7.1%, and non-Malaysian citizens 6.8 %.
In terms of religion, according to US State Department figures, 60% of the population is Muslim, with Buddhists comprising 19.2%, Christians 9.1%, Hindus 6.3%, and Confucianism 2.6%. The other faiths comprise only 2.8% of the demographic.
Malaysia makes it compulsory for every citizen to be issued with a national identity card at the age of 12, and on this card is written the details of one’s religion. In a move which is simultaneously racist and Islamist, all Malays are automatically registered on these cards (called MyKad) as Muslims.
The details of the cards are held with the National Registration Department (NRD), whose director-general is Abdul Halim Mohamed, who runs his department like something from George Orwell. No person is allowed to change their faith from Islam and have their MyKad changed accordingly, unless their change of faith has been approved by the Sharia Courts.
And as we have described earlier, no-one has ever been given permission to leave Islam by these courts, apart from one 79 year old Buddhist Malay, Nyonya Tahir and that happened AFTER she had died.
Recently the NRD has announced that if anyone does not carry their identity card at all times, they will be liable of a fine of from 3,000 ringit ($822) to 20,000 ringit ($5,478), or even face three years in jail, states The Star. Apartheid South Africa could not have outdone this move.
Abdul Halim Mohamed said: “Our officers found a few hundred people who did not carry the identity document. The main excuse given by people who did not carry the MyKad was that they had left it at home. gnorance of the law is no defence. We are now warning people… carry your MyKad.”
For a person to leave their faith, if that faith is Islam, is a virtual impossibility. We have been mentioning the case of Lina Joy, an ethnic Malay, who converted to Christianity. She applied to the National Registration Department in 1997 to have her Muslim name, Azlina Jailani, changed to her Christian one, and to have her faith changed from Islam to Christianity. The NRD finally allowed her to have a new name, Lina Joy, in 1998, but refused to acknowledge that she had changed her faith. The NRD said that Lina Joy could only be classified as a Christian if that change was approved by the Sharia courts (called Syariah in Malaysia). And this being her Catch-22, no apostasy from Islam has ever been accepted by these courts.
She was told in April that the highest court in Malaysia would listen to her appeal, but her case is currently underway, and the signs are not good.
I have been collecting all the published details of her current court tribulations when a verdict is finally announced, but the signs so far are not favourable.
It seems that Malaysia’s Sharia Courts are fearful that if one person leaves Islam, then the floodgates will open, and everyone will want to leave. Currently, the way the Sharia courts are treating other Muslim apostates, such as Kamariah Ali (pictured, below, left), any person with any sanity would not tolerate the Sharia court’s abuses of human rights and manipulation of the country’s contradictory constitution.
Yesterday, news agency Bernama reported that a claim was made on Sunday (9 July) by a “Mufti” Seri Harussani Zakaria, that there are 100,000 apostates from Islam at present. This announcement has caused consternation in government, with Dr Abdullah Mohammad Zin, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, asking Haryssani to substantiate his claim.
The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has been asked to investigate these claims, and to draw up a report.
Yesterday, the Guardian published an article by Stefanie Khaw, which discussed the worries tha some in Malaysia are having about the spreading Islamization of Malaysia. Many of the issues, such as Lina Joy, and the constitution, we have already covered extensively.
But Ms Khaw reports that even some judges are starting to question the “creeping Islamisation” of Malaysia’s court system. Anuar Zainal Abidin, a former chief judge, said: “There is a lot of [Islamic] influence, which I’m not happy about. Just because [the sharia courts] decide on the question of apostasy, it doesn’t mean that they have final jurisdiction.”
The article notes the declining appeal of the Islamist party PAS:
In the last federal election, the party saw its parliamentary representation collapse from 27 seats to five. The ruling Barisan Nasional party won 12 of 13 states, displacing PAS in Terengganu and almost defeating it in its northern heartland of Kelantan.In response to the disappointing results, the PAS deputy president, Nasharudin Mat Isa, said: “We want to change the image of the party and increase our appeal to the non-Muslim, non-Malay Chinese and Indian minorities. We still want an Islamic state. But we want to discuss it in the context of universal values and rights, good governance, and justice issues.”
Even though PAS states it wishes to appeal to non-Muslims now, it still wants to introduce Hudood ordinances, which would include Sharia punishments such as hand amputations for theft, and stoning to death for Muslims who commit adultery, or Zina.In Kelantan, the only state in which PAS has any influence, the party recently has tried to allocate state funds to bribe the indigenous non-Muslim peoples within Kelantan. The “Orang Asli” have lived in Malaysia since long before Muslims arrived on the land in the 14th century, and they have an animist religion, which reveres shamans more highly than imams and priests. This minority is to be wooed with gifts of four-wheeled drive vehicles and cash, but most tellingly, these bribes are to be given not to the Orang Asli themselves, but to the imams who convert them.
There is widespread political corruption on a state level, and also on a city council level. We have reported on how Hindu temples, some of which have been existence for more than a century, are being demolished by Islamist city councils. Christian churches too have been demolished. The reasons given for such wanton acts of religious bigotry are distractions, such as claims that land deeds have not been registered. In the case of the two temples which have stood for more than 100 years, there are no land deeds available.
But in the upper echelons of power, corruption in Malaysia is still rife. Today, AKI reports that several ministers within the ruling Barisan Nasional have been running up enormous parking and other traffic fines, and have only now been shamed into paying them.
The worst culprit, according to Malaysiakini, is labour minister, S Samy Vellu, of MIC, who has amassed 143 fines worth a total of 17,460 Malaysian ringgit, about 3,754 euros or $4,781.94. The foreign minister, Syed Hamid Albar of UMNO has gathered 121 fines totalling 15,200 ringit (3,268 Euros or $4,163), closely followed by the human resources minister, Fong Chan Onn, of MCA, who has run up 115 traffic fines worth 15,230 ringit (3,274 Euros or $4,171).
A few weeks ago, it was revealed that the prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (pictured, top left), had gathered 11 unpaid fines between 29 June, 2002 and 3 August, 2005. He has since apologised and paid these. He claimed ignorance of the fact that he had five cases of speeding against him, four for obstructing traffic and two for parking on the wrong side of the road.
Irrespective of the obvious personal flaws of the politicians within the Barisan Nasional coalition, there is also a strong element of Islamism within the government. The Islamic Family Law Bill was pushed through parliament on December 22, before it had been given time to be discussed.
The Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) (Amendment) Bill 2005 (IFL 2005) allows a man to apply for the matrimonial home to be sold and the proceeds divided. It also allows, under Section 107A, for a husband to gain an injunction preventing a wife or former wife disposing of her “assets”. Section 23(9)(b) also means that if a Muslim man chooses to divorce, or to marry a new bride, he can lay claim to a share of his existing wives’ assets.
The bill was widely condemned as discriminatory, was pushed into law by the Prime Minister’s department, who had had invoked the whip, and after complaints, was briefly suspended, and then placed back on the statute books. Women’s groups, and even Marina Mahathir, the daughter of Mahathir Mohammed, the previous ruler of Malaysia, condemned this law for making the lives of women in Malaysia more difficult.
The minister who had pushed this bill through the Senate was Nazri Abdul Aziz of the UMNO party, the de facto law minister. In March he alarmed many by threatening any non-Muslim who criticised Islam under the Sedition Act, making any critic of Islam liable to a fine of up to up to 5,000 ringgit or $1,370, and three years imprisonment.
Aziz strongly disapproves of any tampering with the controversial clause in the country’s constitution, which states that any issue which falls under the jurisdiction of the Sharia court can not be interfered with by the civil or high court. This clause, Article 121 (A), was introduced in 1988, and caused untold problems for non-Muslims and would-be apostates.
The sharia courts declared last year that a Hindu national mountaineering hero, was a Muslim. Manian Moorthy had fallen out of a wheelchair and was in a coma when the courts announced that he was a Muslim, and Lt Corporal Moorthy was not in a position to defend his position. As a result of the Sharia courts’ claims, when Moorthy died his wife Kaliammal had to petition the High Court to allow her husband to be buried as a Hindu.
Kaliammal swore that her husband had never become a Muslim, that he ate pork, yet despite her pleas, Justice Mohammad Raus Sharif said that he could do nothing as Article 121 (A) prevented him from intruding on an area ruled upon by the Islamic courts.
As a result, Kaliammal had to see her husband’s body be taken away. She was too upset the actual burial, where her Hindu husband was interred as a Muslim in a Muslim graveyard on December 28.
The protection of Islam, even to the extent of persecuting those who wish to leave it, is ingrained in Malaysia’s laws, and upheld by many of its politicians. Many states have adopted a controversial Control and Restriction Bill, which allows fines of 10,000 ringit or $2,653 and terms of imprisonment for up to one year for anyone guilty of “persuading, influencing a Muslim to leave Islam for another religion.”
The Sharia Courts operate in all the states of Malaysia, and one woman, Kamariah Ali, appealed to the same High Court, on the same day as Kaliammal Moorthy, to the same Justice Mohammad Raus Sharif, to have her renunciation of Islam accepted by the law. Sharif gave the same answer to her as he had given to Kaliammal – he could do nothing. Kamariah Ali (pictured, left) had renounced Islam in 1999, but she is still having to face the Sharia courts, who refuse to accept her conversion.
Kamariah has been imprisoned for “belittling Islam”. Her husband, Mohammed Ya, was also imprisoned for “belittling Islam”, a sentence that took a toll on his health. He died when he left prison. The Terrenganu state Shariah Courts, which would not allow him to leave Islam in life, would not grant him the right to buried in a Muslim ceremony when dead. He was buried in the grounds of the SKy Kingdom sect’s compond. He, like Kamariah Ali, belonged to his sect, which welcomed Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. The Sharia courts issued a fatwa declaring the Sky Kingdom sect to be “heretics”.
Article 121 (1A) clearly violates other clauses in the constitution, such as Schedule IX, List II, which limits the scope of the Syariah courts to “persons professing the religion of Islam.” Kamariah Ali renounced Islam, but the Shariah courts refuse to accept this. She must return on August 20 to here her fate.
Article 11 of the constitution gives citizens the right to profess and practise any religion they choose. Article 3(1) of the constitution states that ‘other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.
But because of Article 121 (1A), combined with the sheer bloodymindedness of the National Registration Department and the Sharia courts, Lina Joy, Kamariah Ali, and others are pushed judicially from pillar to post. If Islam was so good a religion, then it would not need to enforce itself with such tyrannical zeal. The Koran states “there shall be no compulsion in religion.”
But only a system which rules by force and bullying can morally stick to the course which is being followed in Malaysia. And as we all know, Islam is a religion which does not allow human rights, or any rights, if those contradict the tenets laid out by a desert-dwelling caravan raider from the 7th century wastes of Arabia.
Kamariah Ali/Lina Joy: Islamic Court Places Woman’s Faith On Trial by WR
Kamariah Ali: Lonely Widow’s Battle To Leave Islam by WR
Re: Nyonya Tahir and Lina Joy: Muslim Court Allows Apostate To Be Buried As Buddhist by WR
Re: Kaliammal Moorthy, Kamariah Ali: Malaysia: Widow Of Hindu Buried As Muslim Gets Benefits by WR
Re: Temple Desecration: Islamic Authorities Destroy More Hindu Temples by WR
US State Department document, from November 18, 2005, entitled Malaysia: International Religious Freedom Report 2005
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