In the midst of utter confusion amongst comments raised by various groups regarding the recent JAIS action on the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) with the confiscation of over 300 Bibles in the Malay and Iban languages, Malaysians certainly need such a wakeup call on a better understanding of our laws of Malaysia. And no matter if we like it or not, the legal understanding of laws that applies to muslims and non-muslims in Malaysia must be accepted as fact of law. If there is contention on them being unfair or unconstitutional, only the Supreme Court can ultimately rule. This case, amongst a few others, are making Malaysians more aware of conflicts between Federal Laws, State Laws and Syariah.
Najib’s 10-Point Solution
The 10-point solution letter from PM Najib to Bishop Ng Moon Hing on 11 April 2011 is an Executive Order, if we can even use that word for the Malaysian Cabinet decision. It represented a Cabinet desire to defuse a sensitive situation in allowing the confiscated bibles to be retrieved by BSM but it does not represent an edict that can override the State Laws, Syariah or Federal Laws in the event it conflicts with them. Hence, to lean on the argument that what JAIS did was against the 10-point solution, so what?
Did you know that JAIS reports to the Sultan of Selangor, not to the PM? JAIS operates on the powers conferred by the various Syariah enactments for the State of Selangor (entire list here). Even the MB Khalid Ibrahim has no say to the SOP or to instruct JAIS to do otherwise. JAIS is free to operate within the purviews given by the Selangor Syariah enactments.
Basis of JAIS Action
Most Malaysians are unaware that JAIS was using Section 9 of the “ENAKMEN UGAMA BUKAN ISLAM (KAWALAN PENGEMBANGAN DI KALANGAN ORANG ISLAM) 1988” (Non-Islam Religious Enactment (Control of Propagation Amongst Muslims) 1988) (read here). It will do everybody very well to study this enactment which is similar to Kelantan (1988), Kedah (1988), Terengganu (1980), Pahang (1989), Negeri Sembilan (1991), Perlis (2002), Perak (1988), Johor (1991) and Melaka (1988). There are a total of 10 States that have such enactments under Syariah. In fact, on 8 January 2014, MalaysiaKini carried an analysis article which quoted PGSM President Musa Awang highlighting the facts of this law and more specifically, this Section 9 (read here). His comments are very enlightening and factual to this Act that JAIS operated on.
Syariah and Federal Constitution Conflict in 10 States
While it is true that the Federal Constitution in Article 11.3.a provides for “every religious group has the right to manage its own religious affairs”, it has been universally contended that the Syariah enactment has no authority on non-muslims and contravenes the Federal Constitution. The clarity has not be opined by the Supreme Court if that is the case but it is now clear to all Malaysians that Syariah is not limited to enforcement amongst Muslims but also non-Muslims in those States which have the enactments. The misperception is widespread and the current JAIS action is surfacing a wrong presupposition by non-Muslims. And until the Supreme Court has its day, Malaysians in those 10 states should be well aware of Syariah imposed on non-Muslims.
If you have not read Section 9 of the Enactment, you should (read here). It spells out that other than propagation of non-Islam religion to Muslims are prohibited, the very use of words listed in Table 1 of the Act by non-Muslims to “state a fact, belief, idea, concept, activity or anything about or related to a non-Islamic religion” (menyatakan atau memperihalkan sesuatu fakta, kepercayaan, idea, konsep, perbuatan, aktiviti, perkara atau hal mengenai atau berkaitan dengan sesuatu ugama bukan Islam) is an offense.
List of Words and Phrases Prohibited of Use by Non-Muslims
If you do not know what that list is, here is the entire set of words and phrases of Table 1 (read here) that is prohibited of use by non-Muslims.
- Firman Allah
5. Allahu Akbar
7. Astaghfirullahal Azim
8. Tabaraka Allah
10. Lahaula Walaquata Illabillahilaliyil Azim.
Unfortunately, many of these words have found their way into at least two State Anthems, into everyday conversations of both Muslims and non-Muslims and into many textbooks for schools and universities. For example, the Selangor State Anthem has this particular line “Allah lanjutkan usia Tuanku” which seems to imply that only Muslims can sing the Anthem. Such everyday contradictions will continue to surface and something must be done to ensure that our Laws do not become the butt of jokes. This is a serious matter.
Dr Aziz Bari highlighted yesterday (read here) regarding the timing this JAIS action to enforce Section 9. “Why enforce it now?” he quipped. After 25 years and probably tens of thousands of Bibles in the Malay/Indonesian and Iban languages imported and distributed, JAIS suddenly decided that there is a threat against Islam with the recent batch of Bibles? Apparently, although the Acts have been around for so many years, it is like a dormant volcano that can rear its head when the time comes for people like JAIS to take action. Perhaps at a time when the BN Government is at its weakest and the economy is severely hampered that a misdirection away from the BN Government will give them some breathing space? The following months will clearly show if this be the case as the economy continues to weaken.
Public Opinion is not Law
Finally, there you go. Stop whining and debating. JAIS did not do anything wrong according to the Selangor Enactment. It has nothing to do with the appeal regarding the use of “Allah” by The Herald either. This posting is to give clarity to all Malaysians on this matter. Nothing anyone says will change the facts, not the PM, not the Catholic Church, not CFM, not NECF, not PAS, not DAP, not PKR, not anyone in those 10 states. Soon, PM Najib will say that it is a Selangor State matter and it is MB Khalid’s problem although it appears to contravene the Federal Constitution. Without going to the Supreme Court for clarity, Malaysians will never have one.
The danger of this precedent is that Syariah enactments can be imposed not only on Muslims but all Malaysians, in this case, in Selangor and the other 9 States with similar enactments. Such enactments do not have any input nor will service any objections by non-Muslims because they are created solely by Muslims and empowered by the Sultans of those States but enforceable on all Rakyat living there..
Selangor State Parliamentarians can propose changes in their State Parliament but only the Sultan of Selangor apparently can amend the Table according to Section 9 of the Act. Furthermore, this is viewed by Muslims as a Muslim matter although it encroaches on the freedoms enshrined in the Federal Constitution for non-Muslims. Muslims may see this as protecting the sanctity of Islam and hence justifies usage of law on non-Muslims. What about non-Muslims protecting the sanctity of their own religions? Very sensitive indeed. Will the majority of Selangor State Parliamentarians want to rectify Section 9 for the respect of non-Muslim rights?
Wake Up, Malaysia!
This very matter will serve to wake up all Malaysians but not on real and present concerns like price inflation, national debt, GST, subsidy removals, corruption, etc. As some wise men have said, when it comes to religion, all logic may go out the door. Let’s hope this is not the case here in our beloved Malaysia. We have recently seen interesting moderation by Muslims including the likes of Marina Mahathir, Aziz Bari, people from PAS and PKR who claims to champion Islam, although we still see ISMA, Perkasa, Utusan Malaysia and Umno on the other side of the divide.
It may just be a political masterstroke to divide Pakatan against themselves and cause a religious divide amongst Malaysians to win GE14. We shall soon see if there are any fallouts in Pakatan and if Umno will rise up stronger amongst the Malay voters in urban Malaysia. Or will the ill effects of the economy rise up well and above this religious matter to unite Malaysians to fight inflation and corruption and wastage and a pathetic lack of economic leadership?
Malaysians must stand together for the peace and prosperity of our beloved nation, with mutual respect for each other so that together we stand tall amongst the countries of the world.