27 February, 2010

1Malaysia - Caning the messenger ?

Malaysia - Caning the messenger?
By Teymoor Nabili - Blog Aljazeera

The government of Malaysia has sent a threatening legal letter to The Star newspaper, after its managing editor, P Gunasegaram, spoke out against the decision to cane three women for adultery.

In an editorial titled “Persuasion, not compulsion”, Gunasegaram questioned whether the sentence imposed on the women was approriate to their offence, and expressed concern about the situation in Malaysia if the interpretation of shariah law in the country approaches the situation in other nations.

We don’t want public flogging, we don’t want arms chopped off, we don’t want people to be stoned to death, and we don’t want people to be burned at the stake.

The letter from the Home Ministry to The Star did not specify what exactly it objected to in Gunasegaram's article; the "show-cause" notice only demands the paper now give a good reason why the government should not take action against it.

In Malaysia, "action" against newspapers means there's a good chance that its publishing licence may not be renewed.The licenses are reviewed annually, and revocation is a constant worry in a country where media are closely monitored.

The Star has immediately issued an apology, saying

We would like to categorically state that there was no intention to insult or offend Muslims.

The fact remains that a number of Muslims did take offence, and complained.

The article in question has now been taken down from the Star's website.

Since Gunasegaram is not a Muslim, The Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) has decreed that he is not allowed to express these opinions, even if they do address matters of internal politics germain to his personal rights as a citizen of Malaysia.

Mais secretary Mohamed Khusrin Munawi said:

those who were not well-versed with the shariah criminal law, had no rights and not qualified to question a law governing Muslims.

There are others within the country who argue that a free media, and thoughtful debate on matters relevant to the whole population, are essential elements of a successful nation.

For people who want to make up their own mind about the issue, the text is still available here, but here's a clear warning, this article has already been deemed unacceptable by some Muslims. Those who agree with Mais - that non-Muslims should not comment on matters pertaining to shariah law - are strongly advised not to follow the link.


(Teymoor Nabili is an award-winning presenter and correspondent based in Kuala Lumpur.)

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