19 August, 2008

The Bar Council Is Not And Has Never 'Anti' Any Religion

Press release by Bar Council

The Bar Council believes in the right of every person to profess and practise the religion of their choice.

The Bar is a multi-racial organisation comprising members of various backgrounds and faiths. The history of the Bar will show that the Bar Council has championed many diverse and sometimes unpopular causes, without fear or favour and regardless of racial or religious origin, with its sole motivation being that of upholding the rule of law. This is evidenced by, among other things, the numerous legal aid cases that we undertake yearly for the needy regardless of race, colour or creed, including for all those held under the ISA.

The Bar has never been, is not and will never be “anti” any religion as this runs counter to our core values.

The Bar Council believes in the rule of law, fundamental freedoms and international human rights norms. None of these values run counter to any religious tenets. In fact, they accord fully with them.

In April this year, the Prime Minister was reported in the press to have said at the National Islamic Council meeting that there ought to be rulings making it mandatory for individuals wishing to convert to Islam, to inform their family members of their intention to do so. The same suggestion as well as others were made today by SUHAKAM in a public statement. There are also views reported to have been expressed by IKIM that the syariah courts should not have jurisdiction over the civil marriage or its dissolution. These views are in the public domain. To date, no provisions have been enacted to resolve these matters.

Meanwhile, some of the court’s decisions have shown inconsistency in their approach to this question of the jurisdictional conflict.

Affected families therefore continue to be caught between the jurisdictional divide and their pleas for a remedy or solution remain unanswered.

The Bar Council forum planned on 9 August 2008 was meant to address precisely these issues which are in the public domain. It was meant to discuss the issues of conflict of laws facing these families and to consider what means were available to resolve the conflict. It was meant as a forum to hear the voices that are unheard.

The programme initially included an ex-Syariah Court Judge (currently a Syarie prosecutor from Jabatan Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan) and a speaker from IKIM, both of whom withdrew shortly before the date of the forum. If one had only looked at the programme and the speakers invited and had heeded our various explanations and statements issued prior to the forum, it would have been apparent that those labelling the forum anti-Islam were plainly wrong.

Regrettably, the disproportionate responses to the Bar Council’s forum may now discourage those who have genuine grievances from speaking up. We have little to be proud of if the voices of those who cry for help are drowned out by those who speak more loudly.

There are those who would have us believe that the Malaysian public is not ready for such dialogue. We believe otherwise. We believe that the Malaysian public is ready, simply because Malaysians will not sit by and tolerate the suffering of others without trying to find a solution.

Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan
Malaysian Bar
19 August 2008

Kulim Bandar Baru MP Zulkifli Noordin must be a man wearing many hats or many masks. After barging into the Bar Council forum, which he has now denied, and having earned the reputation for being the loudest protestor, he is now telling us that he was there as an exco member of Persatuan Peguam Pembela Islam, and not as an MP.

Open letter to Zulkifli Nordin: Resign!

Dear Zuklifli Nordin,

Thank you for finally coming out of hiding and delivering a much needed press conference. During the press conference you made the claim that one can "talk about Islam but you can't talk for Islam". In a similar vein I would like to make it clear that you and Pembela can talk about Muslims but you can't talk for Muslims. You certainly don't speak for this Muslim and I daresay there are many other Malaysian Muslims that you do not speak for. You and the other leaders of that demonstration have only brought shame upon Muslims and moreover brought Islam into disrepute because by your actions and words on the morning of 9th August 2008 you lend credence to the notion that Muslims are irrational liars who are prone to threats of violence and that our faith is too weak to be discussed in the open.

In a moment reminiscent of pots and kettles you chided the Bar Council for not having "learnt to respect the law, the constitution and also the views of other parties". Just what laws or aspects of the constitution did the Bar Council contravene? You claim that the Bar Council are anti-Islam when in truth, the Bar Council had arranged for a diverse range of speakers including a syariah lawyer as well as representatives from IKIM and JAIS. The Bar Council had also invited those leading the protest to take part in the forum. Were you merely ignorant of all this or was there instead a wilful attempt to deceive on the part or you and the other protest organisers? Ironically, it is you who should learn to respect the constitution and the views of other parties.

You state that it was the police and not the protest that stopped the forum. That is mere semantics as you are quoted as saying "I have negotiated with the Dang Wangi police to stop the forum at 9.30am or else we will act." Now you expect us to believe that the police would have stopped the forum if your protest had not taken place? Do you think we were born yesterday? Stop twisting the truth. You have already threatened to "do it again" if the Bar Council attempted similar forums.

You claim that Malaysian Muslims have been tolerant living under laws that are not Islamic. Would it surprise you if you were to find out that most Malaysian Muslims, like their fellow countrymen, are more concerned about the content and quality of the laws they live under rather than the labels of these laws? It follows that Malaysians of all backgrounds object to the ISA simply because it is unjust on any view, not because it does not carry an Islamic label. Do not be so presumptuous as to think you are capable of taking the lead to speak for all Muslims in this country.

You are keen to emphasise that to you Islam comes before PKR. However, the far more pertinent question for you to answer is whether Pembela or your collective constituents come first, and in my view by your actions you have placed Pembela above your constituents. As an illustration, consider if you had another Shamala or Revathi as a constituent. Would you be sympathetic to the plight of such a person? Could such a person count on your support? Would such a person even be comfortable now to approach you? Would you be willing to cross swords with JAIS or other Islamic authorities to seek justice for a non-Muslim? I am guessing the answer to all these questions is a resounding 'No'.

You maintain that you attended the demonstration as a member of Pembela and not as an MP. Since you are still in a state of denial I provided the above illustration to demonstrate how your actions as a member of Pembela have created a potentially calamitous conflict of interest with your responsibilities as an MP. Who would now believe that you can impartially serve the interests of all your constituents?

The only honourable course of action for you is to resign from your parliamentary post.

Make way for someone who will unite, not divide Malaysians and one who will make all the constituents their priority.

BY: Umran Kadir

(The writer is is a Malaysian currently on the lookout for a pupillage in England, having just finished his English Bar exams.)



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home