Published in The Malay Mail Online
There are many things to be unhappy about the passing of the amendments to the Prevention of Crime 2013 Bill by the Dewan Rakyat last week, which brings us one step closer to an amended Prevention of Crime Act (PCA).
Among others, the amendment will reintroduce preventive detention without trial which signals another step backward when it comes to safeguarding human rights in our nation.
How sad that it was bulldozed through without much noise from the public who are already blinded by the recent spate of violent and organised crime.
There is another setback from the passing of the bill, one which might have passed unseen under the noses of most of us: the start of a doubt against “man-made laws.”
Following the passing of PCA, it remains to be seen whether we can ever keep our faith in humanity, democracy, and rule of law.
It remains to be seen whether Malaysians will forsake our common values for the divine.
Yesterday, Abu Bakar Chik from Islamist party PAS slammed the PCA and proposed a syariah-friendly law as a better alternative.
Abu Bakar called on Putrajaya to even include religious scholars in framing this new law, claiming that Islam-based laws such as the hudud and qisas have been guaranteed by Allah of their fairness.
This line of argument, perhaps subconsciously, continued PAS’ spiritual adviser Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat’s remark that the continued lists of mismanagement and abuses in the Auditor-General’s reports were “proof of failure of man-made laws.”
His argument could be construed as either simple, or childishly naïve: since the world was made by Allah, so must Allah’s laws be used to govern it.
Of course not everyone would agree with this statement. One can even argue that religious laws could be man-made too.
Added to that, Islamic law’s effectiveness at reducing crime, if ever, compared to common law, is still up for debate.
But perhaps the most troubling of these two statements from PAS is that they seemed to conveniently forget that Malaysia is not an exclusively Islamic country.
Latest census data from 2010 shows that Muslims only count for 61.3 per cent of the population, not even two-thirds.
It can also be argued that the number could be lower since it is virtually impossible for Muslims to renounce their birth-given religion.
As it is now, it is irresponsible and discriminatory to even suggest the implementation of Islamic law in Malaysia.
We are, in a way, in an impasse when despite our country being born as a secular one, we are also branded with a religion of the federation.
With the provision, we are being held to ransom by both nationalist and Islamists—both Malay-dominant—claiming that Malaysia is an Islamic country, and as such deserves Islamic laws.s
Debating whether we are an Islamic country or not has even become tiring, as Islamic authorities are almost willing it by force to turn Malaysia into the latter.
It is as if by repeating to themselves and others that Malaysia is an Islamic country, it will magically be one.
Day-by-day, we see Islamic authorities trying to usurp the power of the common law, and why wouldn’t they when they have the upper hand of being backed by the state?
We see this in the Borders case, where the religious department of JAWI nonchalantly ignored a High Court’s order to withdraw its charges in the Syariah Court against the bookstore’s employee.
The fact that a High Court has ruled that JAWI acted illegally in raiding Borders and seizing the books by Canadian writer Irshad Manji seemed to have meant nothing to the moral police.
The same goes for the “Allah” row, which result is set to be announced this Monday.
It did not matter for Muslims that a High Court has upheld the Catholic Church’s Constitutional right to use the word “Allah”, because they have the Home Ministry itself appealing against it.
When you have the state itself backing your community, how can Muslims feel that it is they who are threatened—as mentioned in Friday sermons week in and week out?
Which brings us back to start: the alternative to a draconian amendment to a man-made law is not to replace it with laws which interpretation is exclusive to a privileged segment of the country.
The alternative is to fight against it, to struggle for the benefit of the rights of every human, regardless of beliefs.
Because with common law—these so-called “man-made” laws—we get what we work for. Unlike religious laws, which are mostly set in some believers’ stone.