17 May 2015, Serdang: Malaysia's challenges and its vibrant diversity were harmoniously presented in a stage production aptly titled Bridges and Walls. Bringing together a song sequence played using traditional instruments such as er hu, harmonium, rebana and dhool, and a drama which speaks of problems Malaysians face like water supply disruption, dengue, brain drain and migration, the show was well-received by the multi-cultural audience of young and old.
The one-hour drama, which included elements of empathy and humour, was presented by the Friendship Group for Inter-Religious Services (FGIS). Kurup (centre) and other religious leaders celebrating FGIS' 14th anniversary.
It was received with warm applause from the audience at the banquet hall in the Palace of the Golden Horses, including Minister in the Prime Minister's department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup.
"It was very meaningful, inspiring and memorable. The fact that it highlighted our problems was true but it carries a strong message of unity and that is what we want to convey to all Malaysians," Kurup said in his speech Sunday.
The production was so good that Kurup said he wanted to bring the production to other states in Malaysia. "We will look into establishing this in a few states. It is a down-to-earth program we hope to reach out to those on the grassroots level," he said.
Kurup also said such programs are important because he hoped to see Malaysians living together peacefully even with religion placed before them. United Nation resident coordinator to Malaysia Michelle Gyles-McDonnough was delighted with the performance, reiterating the importance of national unity.
"We will do our part to support such initiatives. We can solve this (unity problems) before we come to a crisis," said Michelle after watching the drama. FGIS is an informal gathering of major religious groups in Malaysia promoting faith, harmony and moral values.
They comprise of the Islamic Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM), Wilayah Persekutuan Council of Churches, Malaysia Gurdwaras Council, Malaysia Hindu Sanggam, Buddhist Maha Vihara and coordinated by the Sathya Sai Baba Central Council of Malaysia. The performance Sunday night involved 120 Malaysians from the religious groups, in celebration of FGIS' 14th anniversary.
The unexpected announcement made by Prime Minister shortly before the recent general election to execute a significant transformation in Malaysian legal system is surely still fresh in people’s memories. Among the reforms promised was to repeal the two controversial laws- Sedition Act 1948 and Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) and both will be replaced respectively by National Harmony Act and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act.
Certainly, such unexpected and drastic legislative reforms to increase civil liberties were applauded by various stakeholders and human rights activists including the Bar Council. It was a welcoming remark as the 67-year-old Sedition Act was facing difficulties to find its place in the current society.
Referring back to the history of Malaya, in 1948, Sedition Ordinance was enforced by British administration as a tool for political sanction towards revolutionaries and combatting communist activities. In June 1948 for instance, when the British had brought emergency measures into law, several Hizbul Muslimin political party leaders were arrested under the law. Through the totalitarian rule, the non-militant movement led by Abu Bakar Al-Baqir centred at Maahad Ehya’ A-Syarif Gunung Semanggol, Perak later ceased.
Law Does Not Represent The Aspiration Of People
Unfortunately, the law remained in force in our legislation after independence as it was allowed by Article 162 of Federal Constitution.Since it was not passed by the Parliament, the law itself did not reflect the spirit to protect the basic needs and interests of the people. The matter was essentially contrary to the principle of liberty in Montesquieu's The Spirit Of Law which outlined the signification of the word liberty as “for the privilege of being governed by a native of their own country, or by their own laws”. (Book XI Chap. II) On 26th of November 2014, the Prime Minister did not follow through with his promise but announced to ‘strengthen’ the law instead.
Though the latest amendment bill of the act was passed by Parliament on 10th of April 2015, it was passed after the 13th General Election where people were convinced by election promise to repeal the act. In other words, people who generally turned out and voted for the ruling party consisting of 133 Members of Parliament had done so believing that they would honour their promise to repeal the act.
Ambiguous Law Is Not Law
Furthermore, the current problem of ambiguity and uncertainty with regards to legal definition of “sedition” reflects the failure of the legislation to protect or even to comprehend the interests of the people, referring to “Taman Medan cross protest” as an explicit example where two main figures in our legal enforcement institution vehemently disagreed with one another.
Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar said that the protest against the church was not seditious and no charge would be taken against the protestors but Home Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi unequivocally took a different position, interpreting the protest as seditious.
So what does sedition mean in our country? The incident has uncovered a fundamental difference of understanding about sedition and now people are left scratching their heads over the definition of such crimes. By looking at previous cases, the law still fails to draw the boundaries between what remarks or publication that is tantamount to seditious tendency and what is not. In Public Prosecutor v Mark Koding  2 MLJ 120 the accused, then a Member of Parliament, was charged with sedition for a speech he made in the Parliament where he questioned the policy of government in allowing Chinese and Tamil schools to continue in this country.
He advocated the closure of Chinese and Tamil schools and suggested that such closure contravened Article 152 of the Federal Constitution. Mark Koding was later convicted for this offence after a full trial. Nevertheless, when several politicians later championed a similar idea, the Attorney General failed to take action without providing a sound reason.
How Could Citizens Protect Themselves From Punishment By Not Committing Crimes?
With the law here to stay, certain stakeholders still give the government the benefit of the doubt to amend the law to improvise the provisions touching on legal definition and burden of proof. But the amendment bill recently passed appears to increase punishments and transgress the rights of the accused.
In principle, the law which is vague is unlawful. Montesquieu in his The Spirit Of Law (Book XXIX Chap. 16) highlighted that: “When the law has once fixed the idea of things, it should never return to vague expressions…..The laws ought not to be subtle; they are designed for people of common understanding, not as an art of logic, but as the plain reason of a father of a family.”
He further wrote that: “The style should also be plain and simple, a direct expression being better understood than an indirect one. There is no majesty at all in the laws of the lower empire; princes are made to speak like rhetoricians. When the style of laws is inflated, they are looked upon only as a work of parade and ostentation.”
Instead of substituting the current penalty for offences with a minimum penalty of three years of imprisonment and to do away with the penalty of fine, the government must construct a comprehensive guideline to define the seditious offence or at least draw the line to make it as easy as possible for citizens to protect themselves from punishment by not committing crimes.
Executive And Judiciary Power United In The Same Person?
The previous cases have shown that only the executive body (Attorneys-General and police) have rights to interpret that ambiguous definition of the offence. It has now become public anxiety when the executive power is clearly replacing the power given to judiciary to determine the wrongdoings of citizens.
They make a pre-judgment before the case is even brought before the court- if the citizen is opined as guilty, then he or she will be charged and vice versa. The scenario is totally against the principle of liberty and democracy where Montesquieu firmly wrote that “When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner.” (Book XI Chap. II)
Fail To Govern Plural Society?
The main reason given by Prime Minister for the law to stay is to keep Malaysia peaceful and harmonious. It was awkward to believe that more than fifty years after independence, Malaysia is still dependent on the 67-year-old law to govern a multiracial and multi-religious society. The reason gives a clear message of the failure on the part of the government to harmonise the differences of a plural society. Indeed, ever since the Sedition Act was implemented, the law did not in any way accommodate our multiracial and multi-religious citizens to understand one another better and to foster unity.
Quoting nineteenth-century legal theorist John Austin on the definition of law, he defined the law as "a rule laid down for the guidance of an intelligent being by an intelligent being having power over him." Rationally, by looking at the Sedition Act, what can be expected if the law that ought to be the guidance still needs to be guided? Definitely, the lacunas above reflect the failure of the law to meet the needs and interests of the people.
Written By: MUHAMMAD FAISAL BIN ABDUL AZIZ
SECRETARY GENERAL MUSLIM YOUTH MOVEMENT MALAYSIA (ABIM)
13 March 2015;-ABIM's Secretary General, Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz, was invited as one of the panelist in Public Consultation to formulate ASEAN Community Post 2015 Vision with a new targets touching on the issue of development justice, peace security, non-discrimination and human rights. Other invited panelists Dr May Shi Sho and Gus Miclat from Myanmar & Phillipines.
Islam has survived for almost 1500 years without these self-righteous self-proclaimed defenders of the faith. It can certainly go on for another thousand years and more without them. The Prophet was sent unto mankind as a blessing and guidance, not a preacher of terrorism.
“And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” Al-anbiyaa: 107 We know that during his early mission, all kinds of insult, led by Musaylima, were hurled at the Prophet and his Companions urged him to fight back.
The Prophet merely said: ‘Let him be. He is just a liar. Ignore him.’ When the enemies of Islam stepped up their ridicule and persecution, the Companions again asked the Prophet to curse them.
At this, the Prophet replied, “I have not been sent to lay a curse upon men but to be a blessing to them.” When the Prophet went to Ta’if, he attempted to call the community there to Islam. In response, they set the street urchins to hound, harass and then stone him. When he was utterly exhausted and bleeding from head to foot, did he curse his tormentors or seek help for revenge?
On the contrary, as all Muslims know or should know, what issued from the Prophet’s lips was and remains indeed one of the most moving and beautiful du’a in Islam:
“O Allah, To Thee I complain of my weakness, my lack of resources and my lowliness before men. “O most Merciful! Thou art the Lord of the weak and Thou art my Lord. To whom wilt Thou entrust me? To one who will misuse me? Or to an enemy to whom Thou hast given power over me? If Thou art not angry with me then I care not what happens to me. Thy favour is all that counts for me. “I take refuge in the light of Thy countenance, by which all darkness is illuminated. And the things of this world and next are rightly ordered. I wish to please Thee until Thou art pleased. There is no power and no might save in Thee.”
So, where is the textual authority to establish that Muslims should avenge the Prophet by embarking on a killing spree? The Prophet’s heart was always filled with love and compassion for human kind regardless of creed or colour.
The hearts of these self-appointed avengers are filled with hatred and hostility. The Prophet taught us tolerance and understanding. These avengers preach intolerance and animosity. The Qur’an tells us to reach out and get to know one another.
These killers sow discord and division. Of 9/11 back then, I had denounced it thus: “The attacks must be condemned, and the condemnation must be without reservation. The foremost religious authorities are outraged and have issued statements denouncing the monstrous murders.
All efforts to punish the perpetrators must be supported.” Likewise, the response to the killings in Paris must also be unequivocal condemnation. It is cold blooded massacre, plain and simple. There’s nothing to justify or rationalise. It is also not the time for moralizing over U.S., French or European foreign policy. As stated earlier, these acts of barbarism are tragically not new.
We would recall the reaction of Muslims to the Danish cartoons. Innocent lives were lost and buildings were set on fire as angry mobs in various parts of the Muslim world went on a rampage to demonstrate their anger. Was that following the example of the Prophet?
Nevertheless, much as we must defend our fundamental liberties, the fact is that there is no such thing as absolute freedom of expression, not even in Europe and certainly not in France.
When the comic book on the life of the Prophet was first published in France two years ago, I had deplored it as sacrilege against Islam. Indeed, I had called for calm and rationality in response even as we should denounce the cartoons as vile and contemptible.
To my mind, the Danish cartoons, Charlie Hebdo caricatures and the rest of the tasteless and insensitive publications ridiculing Islam and the Prophet are mere manifestations of Islamophobia in all its varied guises.
They appear to betray a deep-seated Freudian prejudice or animosity harking back to the Crusades. This is most disappointing considering the strong tradition of scholarship and interest on Islam in Europe that has yielded scholars such as William Muir, Richard Burton, Reynold Nicholson, Max Muller, Theodor Noldeke, Ignaz Goldziher, Ernest Renan, Louis Massignon and Henri Pirenne, to name but a few.
Inspired by Hafez (1325-89), Goethe (1749-1832) wrote West-östlicher Divan (West-Eastern Diwan). It symbolizes, not a clash, but interaction between the West and the East, between Greek and Persian civilizations and between Christendom and the Muslim world.
Goethe’s Diwan in turn inspired other works by European writers. In 1924, Iqbal (1877-1938) himself was moved to publish Payam-e-Mashriq (The Message of the East) underscoring the role of religion and spirituality in civilisation.
As we moved into the 21st century, instead of great works of literature celebrating intellectual convivencia between the Muslim world and the West, we are instead inundated with trashy and worthless writings and cartoons clearly aimed at provoking Muslims and causing unrest. For full speech please click the following video below.
PRESS RELEASE MUSLIM YOUTH MOVEMENT MALAYSIA (ABIM) 7TH February 2015 CONVERT SPOUSE PLAN: ABIM ADVISE TO REFER EXPERT
Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) is against Negeri Sembilan’s proposal to compel couples to divorce in civil court first if one spouse wants to convert to Islam. ABIM oppose the said suggestion and instead repeat our stand that the Syariah Court should open its doors to non-Muslim couples to be heard and tried.
The requirement for both parties to be Muslim (before going to shariah court) in the state enactment should be amended first. This is so that Syariah Courts, especially those in Negeri Sembilan, can open their doors to non-Muslims in situations where their rights overlap with their Muslim spouse. Besides, this will allow Islamic laws, that take into account the rights and principle of justice for non-Muslims, to be used when such cases come up before the Syariah Court.
ABIM viewed that the suggestion to make it mandatory for converts to first end their marriage with their non-Muslim spouse at the civil courts, would be an "obstacle to the individual to embrace Islam immediately". By referring to many lengthy divorce processes, apart from alimony and the custody of the children, had many "disputed" cases which can prolong for years. Having said so, the would be convert will be 'forced' to disregard his plans for years just to settle the divorce case first.
Furthermore, it will get complicated when the spouse who wish not to convert is against the divorce. We are worried that this will be taken into account by the Civil Court judge on the principle of the civil divorce, whereby a change in religion would not necessarily be grounds for divorce. If this happens, will the person who wish to embrace Islam be prevented to convert according to the state law, which, clearly goes against freedom of religion as enshrined in the federal constitution?
ABIM also viewed the suggestion by Negeri Sembilan as subjudice as the current case involving a muallaf in the state, namely Deepa Subramaniam vs Izwan Abdullah, was still being heard at the Federal Court. ABIM at the same time, welcomed efforts by all parties in seeking a resolution to the issue and clarify any inter-religious issues arising in society. However, any effort and suggestion must be implemented based on expert advice covering all fields specifically in religion and law.
Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz, Secretary General, Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM)
Islamic terror groups, the self-righteous and self-proclaimed defenders of the faith, are stabbing the religion in the back by preaching intolerance and animosity, said opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
In his opening speech at the International Youth Gathering 2015 in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, today, Anwar said these groups, using jihad as an excuse to justify their act of violence, were trying to outdo one another in their demonstration of faith.
"Who can kill more, be more violent and as uncompromising as possible? Who are the champion in creating fear among those who do not subscribe to their beliefs?" Calling all Muslims to condemn such acts in the name of the faith, Anwar said Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) was to date at the forefront of this vicious cycle with issuance of ultimatums, beheadings and mass executions.
I am not particularly interested in the recent developments of the political scene. Although the controversial and offensive remarks claiming Chinese as “pendatang” or “penceroboh” made by numbers of “racist” organization are being constantly highlighted in the media, no efforts are being undertaken to find amicable solutions to this racial dissent.
ABIM hopes a symbotic module for unity could be created where both sides can learn from one another. In a bid to foster a better understanding between Muslims and Non-Muslims, a Muslim movement has proposed a National Unity Module for Young People. ABIM Vice Presiden Jufitri Joha revealed that the proposal was an inclusive one, with workshop to be held among community and religious leaders at all levels to develop a substantive module.
He added that the creation of the module, made possible after working with several other non-governmental organisations (NGO) sucj as the Sathya Sai Baba Central Council of Malaysia and the Friendship Group for Inter Religious Service, would primarily focus on the youths and the younger generation. "This is because we firmly believe that Malaysia would be inherited by the younger generation and so the focus should be on Youths of all races and religion to bring a better awareness about the uniqueness of all cultures, races and religions in Malaysia."
Jufitri said the module would be in the form of workshops, activities and games to sow the seeds of unity at the grassroots level. For example, he said, some did not know about Vasakhi, the Sikh religion's festival. "So to enhance awareness and the urgency in understanding other faiths between Muslims and non-Muslims, to bridge the gap of diferences, we hope a symbiotic module can be created where both sides can learn from one another."
"Describing that the diversity among Malaysians as beautiful, Jufitri said many, however, were unable to appreciate it. "It is in front of us, staring at us directly but sadly many are unable to see it." With the module set to focus mainly on practical experiences instead of theoretical expereinces, the ball was now in Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin's court. Jufitri said he hoped to get a response from the ministry by this week or the next.