CONNECT THE DOTS
Fed by misinformation. In conduct of an internal inquisition. In formation of an inquisitive mind. Like a child beholding a picture book, connecting the printed dots and filling the colours of my fascination with the beloved nation of mine.
A critical consideration about the practice of Islam in Malaysia with regards to conversion and apostasy written 2 years ago is not simply still relevant but timely.
Two years ago on 7 September 2008 on Facebook, I wrote this article which I think it is still relevant today:
O Mankind, We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you. (Quran 49:13)
Moorthy’s deceased body was the contention of dispute between his wife and his brother (or more profoundly whether he should be buried a Muslim or a Hindu). Subashini had her children removed from her when her husband converted and converted their children to Islam without her consent. Lina Joy was lost a case to officially change the status of her religion from Islam to Christianity to allow her to officially register her marriage with her husband.
All three were ordinary people living ordinary lives until by some weird twist of fate, they were put under a microscope, and received the furor of public opinion both in support or against them. They are but three of so many. Why is it so controversial? Well, because it involved parties of the dispute who either converted into Islam or was a Muslim and wanted to convert out of it, or conversion of her child without a spouse’s knowledge and consent.
As delicate and fragile the topic is, we cannot sweep this issue under the carpet and pretend that it doesn’t exist. These are topics that needs to be aired and discussed.
Many Malaysians got emotionally involved in these issues, and for good reason. While the majority of Muslims, particularly of the conservative sphere see it as a form of threat, to others, it is pure common sense. What sort of man converts into Islam and does not inform his family, particularly his loyal wife who took care of him for years after he was disabled? What kind of message are we sending about the rights of both parents who cannot be amicable with each other concerning their children?
Let’s examine the reason why we have institutionalised frameworks based on common law. It is loosely seen as a method of formalizing the society’s collectively held norms. For example, murder is deemed as a crime as it ends life. Life is held as sacred in many cultures. Because of the sanctity of life, punishment is devised to punish those who violate it, be it death by hanging, beheading, poison, etc. The framework is created in order to ensure that justice is done and no innocent man hang for a crime he did not commit.
Forgive me but I have always found organised religion questionable. I don’t like fat priests/clerics/imams, with fat purses, and preaching to starving or dying flocks. I don’t like two-faced people who pretend to be someone they’re not, feigning sincerity when personal motives run the show. I don’t like people who are ‘allowed’ to redefine a certain mazhab and deny others similar rights. It seems to me that people spend more and more time obsessing over portraying what is supposed to be true values that is ‘Christian’ or ‘Islamic’ or whatever your ideology is rather than actually doing it.
Every time these issues are raised, it’s a ‘sensitive’ issue. The last time there was a progressive effort by the Malaysian Bar Council to have a forum on conversion to Islam, they claimed that it is a threat towards Islam. Ragunath Kesavan had clearly stated that the forum was to address the woes of families, current realities that affect the citizens of Malaysia, not to question Article 121 or the status of Islam as the official religion of Malaysia in the Federal Constitution.
Unfortunately, in the name of ‘maintaining racial sensivities’ there will always be, without fail, a mob waiting outside the venue of each attempt for reasoned and rational discussion. Referring to the Quranic verse above, how the heck are you supposed to ‘know each other’ if we do not discuss? Aren’t your actions contradictory to the Quran??
And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors. Verily, in that are indeed signs for those who know. (Quran 30:22)
When there exist a problem, it means there is a need for a solution. How does one achieve the best possible solution? By research, by public discussions, by going on the ground to talk to and see those people who are having these problems. Simple. Common. Sense.
By the way, I respectfully believe that both parents’ permission should be consulted before any minor is converted into Islam, with signed black and white documents of consent. It’s highly unfair when a spouse, usually a husband, take off with the children, convert himself and the children into Islam to gain sole custody over the children (as opposed to automatic right of a mother under civil law). It raises some complications not to mention leaving open a leak, or floodgate for disgruntled husbands wanting to bypass the automatic custody rights of a wife in divorce.
As for Lina, she was born a Muslim, raised a Muslim, and yet she doesn’t have any affinity to the religion. I think it is more of an oppression to deny her the right to convert rather than following this:
There is no compulsion in religion, for the right way is clearly from the wrong way. Whoever therefore rejects the forces of evil and believes in God, he has taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way, for God is All Hearing and Knowing. (Quran 2:25)
If it had been your Lord’s will, all of the people on Earth would have believed. Would you then compel the people so to have them believe? (Quran Sûrah Yûnus: 99)
Personally I feel that these children should either (a) be maintained as the religion of which their parents married until age of consent or maturity, being 16 years of age the earliest, or (b) to have no religion until they hit 18, so that they could make a conscious and informed choice between their mother or father’s religion and Islam, considering the lock-down system that we have right now. Once you’re in, you’re in but no way out unless you do the popular thing which is migrate out of Malaysia.
I emphasise strongly that for my (b) choice to work, the children must be allowed to study both Islam and the alternative religion related to their parents. It is only fair for the children to be trained and knowledgeable in both religions for them to make an informed choice of the path that they will choose to walk for the rest of their lives as adults. Children they may be now, but later children grow up into adults. Adults choose.
Do you want to impress the injustice of Islam on their innocent countenance? All they’d understand from current practice is that Islam is how Daddy deny Mummy the right to raise them, learn their ‘before’ religion and make Mummy cry. Not exactly the ‘brotherhood’ and ‘submission’ concept that is the essence of Islam, no?
Interestingly enough, the Syariah Court had allowed a man’s petition to convert out of Islam, probably to show that they are doing something ‘fair’ for once. Jeffrey or Abdullah was a Christian who converted into Muslim, and then decided to convert back into Christianity and was allowed to do so on the basis that he never practiced Islam after he embraced it.
And tell my servants that they should speak in a most kindly manner (unto those who do not share their beliefs). Verily, Satan is always ready to stir up discord between men; for verily; Satan is man’s foe … Hence, We have not sent you (Unto men O Prophet) with power to determine their Faith. (Quran 17:53, 54)
So … whose will are we following actually?
Azira is a self-professed mongrel Malaysian. She hopes to have “Malay” and “non-Malay” relegated as a relic of the past sometime in the future. She is a UiTM graduate currently undergoing training to become a lawyer.