Ask Lord Bobo: Arming Islamic enforcement officers, and letting Ling Liong Sik off

This article was originally published on The Malaysian Insider on 15 November 2013.

Dear Lord Bobo, I read that Islamic enforcement officers in Malaysia may soon carry firearms. Do you think this is a wise move? (John Rambo, via email)

There is a reason why, of all the territories in all the nooks and crannies of the unfathomable vastness of the known and unknown universe, Lord Bobo chose Malaysia as the home of the LoyarBurok “blawg”. Malaysia never fails to entertain, amaze, anger, astound, and thrill us — often all at the same time.

In order to properly consider whether allowing Islamic state enforcement officers to carry firearms is a wise thing, we must first consider the type of offences they police. Let us take the Syariah Criminal Offences (Kuala Lumpur) Act 1997 (“the Act”) as an example. There are four sections in the Act which provide for the offences.

The first section relates to aqidah or matters of faith and provides for offences like wrongful worship, false doctrine, propagating other religions, and false claims.

The second section provides for offences relating to the sanctity of Islam and its institutions; these include insulting or bringing Islam into contempt, deriding Quranic verses or Hadith, defiance of religious authorities, defiance of a court order, lecturing about Islam without a tauliah, giving an opinion contrary to a fatwa, religious publications against Islamic law, failing to perform Friday prayers, failing to fast, failing to give zakat, instigating neglect of religious duty, gambling and consuming intoxicating beverages.

The third section provides for offences relating to decency and so includes incest, prostitution, pimping, sexual intercourse out of wedlock, preparing for sexual intercourse out of wedlock, homosexual sex, khalwat, male posing as female, and indecent acts in public places.

The final section sets out miscellaneous offences which does not have any particular theme and includes giving false evidence, takfir (treating a Muslim as a non-Muslim), defiling a mosque/surau, collecting zakat without authority, illegal payment of zakat, encouraging vice, enticing a married woman, preventing a married couple from co-habiting, instigating a spouse to neglect spousal duty, enticing a female person, selling or giving away a child to a non-Muslim, qazaf (false accusation of extra-marital relations) and abuse of the halal sign.

If you have been paying attention, you would have noted that none of these offences are violent in themselves. What’s more, the state religious enforcement officers have apprehended suspects all these years without the need of being equipped with firearms.

More importantly, the state religious enforcement officers often carry out their operations with the cooperation of the police, who already have firearms (unless of course they’ve been so unlucky and have been getting those police officers who dropped their guns into the sea).

The news has been that Islamic enforcement officers “may soon carry firearms” but Terengganu has recently allowed its state religious enforcement officers to have firearms “for safety reasons”. No one quite knows why Terengganu seem to have jumped the gun (easy pun unfortunately intended) on this, but the obvious reason is that they want to be known as the State which is the most Islamic of them all (a distinction which is not at all trifling in modern-day Malaysia). “For safety reasons” is a dangerous and poor rationale, because if that were the case then every citizen should be allowed to have firearms for safety reasons — the level of crime being what it is in Malaysia.

So in short, it is not a wise move. It is no secret that Islamic enforcement officers have often been accused of being heavy-handed and slightly maniacal in carrying out their duties — the last thing that anyone should be doing is placing firearms in their hands.

If these state religious enforcement officers were really as religious as they often claim to be, they should leave it to Allah. They should know that when it’s our appointed time to die, not even a gun will prevent our death.

Dear Lord Bobo, it seems the AG decided not to file an appeal against Ling Liong Sik’s acquittal. What does this mean? Is it normal for the AG not to appeal? (Azam, via email)

Don’t be silly. Appeals against acquittals are filed on a daily basis and as a matter of course for cases against ordinary citizens. From the theft of a motorbike, to possession of 0.00001g of drugs, to kidnapping and murder — appeals are always filed.

The report that no appeal was filed must be inaccurate, and surely we will soon be informed that an appeal was in fact filed. Because it would be ludicrous if the AG did not appeal. It would be negligent. It would be dereliction of duty. It would defy belief, common sense, logic, and justice.

Assuming the report is correct, it was not that the prosecution blundered or did not have a case to begin with. It is not uncommon for the prosecution to blunder in Malaysia. The difference here is that the accused was no ordinary citizen. He is a Tun. Surely you know that in Malaysia, a “Datuk-ship” carries a lot of weight and opens even locked doors — for a “Tun-ship”, take a “Datuk-ship” and multiply it by a thousand. It not only opens locked doors, it makes prison-bars disappear.

But wait. Another person linked to the PM was once acquitted for murder of a foreign national by blowing her up, but there was no appeal. Could there be an inconsistency here? Surely not. One is a Tun. A former Cabinet Minister who got our roads tarred and straight with a whole bag of other “transport necessities” along the way. The other is a thinker and academic involved in submarines. He was no Tun. However, both were (and may still be) linked to those in the echelons of power.

Perhaps we should put these conspiracy theories aside. Perhaps there is a different, more noble reason these cases were not appealed.

You may not have noticed, but both these gentlemen had the same lead counsel who defended them. He must be a very competent lawyer. More than that, he must be a lawyer who is so good that he not only gets his clients off, but is so persuasive that after hearing him, even the AG decides that the case is not worthy of being taken further. He is Harvey Dent, Alan Shore, and Atticus Finch rolled into one, with perhaps a splash of Ally McBeal. Don’t we just love quality lawyers in the criminal justice system?

No, it’s completely not normal for the AG not to appeal. So these must have been extraordinary circumstances.

Although Lord Bobo already knows your question before you even knew you had a question, as a practical display of your true desire to have your query answered, His Supreme Eminenceness has graciously allowed you to communicate your questions by either emailing [email protected] or tweeting your question, mentioning @LoyarBurok and using the hashtag #AskLordBobo. Now, what the hell are you waiting for? Hear This and Tremblingly Obey (although trembling is optional if you are somewhere very warm)!

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Ask Lord Bobo is a weekly column by LoyarBurok where all your profound, abstruse, erudite, hermetic, recondite, sagacious, and other thesaurus-described queries are answered! It is the ONLY place that His Supreme Eminenceness' thoughts are regularly channeled, via His Lordship's most loyal meditating purple-banana munching minions.

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