17 February 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Malaysiakini

When government opted to appoint Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as lead prosecutor in handling Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s appeal, it implied that Anwar’s case was too big and too serious that the Attorney-General and his team was not confident enough to conduct the appeal.

Maybe, in the eyes of the AG, the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu murder was less significant than Anwar’s ‘crime’ so much so that he did not consider fit and proper to engage a private lawyer to secure conviction for political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda (left) so that Razak could have been served with a death warrant.

Razak was acquitted by the High Court but the AG did not lodge an appeal against such a decision. On the other hand, when Anwar was released by the High Court, the AG proceeded with the appeal and used public funds to engage a lawyer who is well known to charge exorbitant legal fees for his services.

Both Razak and Anwar are linked to the Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Razak was Najib’s close associate and Anwar is his political enemy. His associate is now in London and his political rival landed in Sungai Buloh’s prison.

Double standards

While it is not wrong to engage a private lawyer to helm the prosecution team, it is definitely not right to practice double standards in any prosecutorial exercise of powers.

It is also not right for the government to hide from the public the actual fees it has to pay to secure Shafee’s service.

It goes without saying that when public funds are used , the public has every right to know how much the government has paid Shafee.

Many Pakatan Rakyat members of Parliament including myself, have sought this information in Parliament, but the government has refused to divulge it citing that such information is classified thus protected under the Official Secrets Act .

Whilst matters dealing with national security ought to be duly protected under the Act, the government must be seriously joking to imply that Shafee’s legal fees would endanger the nation should such information be revealed to the public.

The government cannot run away from the public perception that Anwar’s trial was politically-motivated.

To begin with, you do not see in any other criminal cases that a complainant is allowed to make a telephone call to the inspector-general of police on the latter’s direct line. But it happened in the Anwar’s trial. Neither does any ordinary complainant in any criminal trial would have been given a chance to go to the prime minister’s private residence, as was done by sodomy complainant Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

Adding salt to injury

When Shafee helmed the prosecution team in Anwar’s appeal, it only enhanced such a perception, and to add salt to injury, Shafee continued his onslaught against Anwar even after the Anwar’s conviction.

Such an unprecedented attack only reaffirms the popular belief that political conspiracy has been deeply embedded in Anwar’s saga. The court of law may reject the defence of political conspiracy but not in the court of public opinion.

Despite his vast experience handling criminal trials, Shafee is unfortunately infected by unnecessary overzealousnes and committed the gravest mistake by condemning Anwar for his refusal to give evidence under oath.

False logic

Shafee’s false logic can be easily detected when he compared Anwar with Saiful.

His logic goes like this: Saiful was brave enough to testify in court and subject to strenuous cross-examination by the defence lawyers, so why did Anwar refuse to undergo the same process?

This argument is based on the erroneous presumption that both the complainant and the accused person in a criminal trial bear the same responsibility as far as in giving their testimonies in court is concerned. Herein lies Shafee’s Achilles heel.

Needless to say that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty and he is not legally-obligated to say anything in a criminal trial.

Even when the defence is called, the law allows the accused, like Anwar, to opt for one of the three options available to him. He may choose to remain silent or give evidence without oath or give a sworn evidence and subjected to cross examination.

Nothing to do with bravery

The ball is completely in the accused’s court to elect one of these available options. In other words, the accused in any criminal trial is not a witness that can be compelled.

The same rule does not apply to Saiful, being the complainant in the Anwar’s trial. There is no question that Saiful was brave enough to testify and ready to be subjected to rigorous cross examination.

Being the complainant he has no option but to testify in court. He was a witness who could be compelled. Hence his evidence has nothing to do with his bravery as Shafee tried argue.

Being a senior practitioner, Shafee should have not made any unsolicited remarks against Anwar when Anwar elected to give evidence in the dock. His comment that Anwar was a coward and would have fainted if cross-examined was really unnecessary and uncalled for.

After all Anwar was not the first accused in this world who gave evidence in the dock. Anwar did nothing unusual by resorting to such an option . What is really unusual is Shafee going crazy by condemning Anwar, outside the courtroom, for resorting to a legal option available to him.

Truth be told, Anwar had given sworn statements in his last two trials and as before he maintained the defence of political conspiracy. Thus it is incorrect to associate Anwar with cowardice just because Anwar departed from his usual choices.

In fact, Shafee should have accused Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his beloved wife Rosmah Mansor of cowardice par excellence for blatantly refusing to give evidence when they were summoned by Anwar’s legal team as witnesses for the defence. Both Najib and Rosmah applied to set aside the subpoenas issued against them.

No need for cheap stunts

As long as Anwar chose a recognised defence, he should not have been subjected to any adverse comments by anybody, let alone the prosecutor like Shafee.

Apart from the defence of political conspiracy, Anwar’s prime defence in this trial was a lack of penetration. Since the penetration stands as an essential ingredient of the charge under Section 377B of the Penal Code which Anwar was charged under, the lack of it should have exonerated him.

Anwar’s lawyers believed that when the prosecution failed to prove such an essential ingredient, there was no necessity for Anwar to give a sworn statement in order to plug in the loopholes of the prosecution’s case.

In a criminal trial, the duty of the accused is not to disprove or to unlock the prosecution’s proof. On the contrary, the law only obligates the accused to cast reasonable doubt of the prosecution’s case.

Casting doubt of the prosecution’s case may be done by various modes and it is never confined to a sworn evidence by the accused in a witness box. To blame Anwar for refusing to testify on oath reflects shallow understanding of the operating mechanism of criminal law.

Viewed from this perspective , I would submit that Anwar did the right thing by calling his expert witnesses to cast the doubt on the evidence offered by the prosecution on the issue of penetration. Anwar himself has neither expertise nor obligation to give evidence on oath to disprove penetration.

To his credit , the High Court judge was convinced with the evidence of those experts and in turn held there were reasonable doubts and thus unsafe to convict Anwar.

Shafee is ready to swear in the holy land of Mecca to prove Anwar’s guilty. To be honest, in resorting to this stunt, I must say that I see no difference between Shafee and Saiful. So naive and so desperate!

Maybe I need to remind Shafee that he need not resort to all these cheap stunts if he is truly convinced that Anwar is guilty.

Maybe Shafee is unaware that Abu Jahal, the pagan Arab and the strongest opponent of the Prophet Muhammad also used to pray in the holy land asking the Lord to destroy the Prophet Muhammad for he believed the Prophet Muhammad guilty of causing disunity among the Arabs.

But God operates in mysterious ways. Indeed, Abu Jahal was ultimately destroyed.


MOHAMED HANIPA MAIDIN is a lawyer and PAS MP for Sepang.

17 February 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

TMI

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today said Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman was playing to the gallery when he claimed that Anwar had sent a businessman to entice him and other Sabah MPs to defect to the opposition, the court heard today.

Anwar said Anifah made the allegation because the Umno general assembly was on at the time.

“Obviously, it was made for a specific audience and for the Umno media,” the jailed opposition leader said when re-examined by his lawyer Razlan Hadri Zulkifili today.

 

He said Anifah’s allegation was also an afterthought because it was not pleaded in his defence earlier in 2009.Anwar has filed a RM100 million suit against the minister for defamatory words uttered during a news conference in Washington with former United States secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Anifah had told reporters then that Anwar offered him the post of deputy prime minister if he enticed federal lawmakers from Sabah to topple the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government by joining the opposition.

In his statement of claim, Anwar alleged that Anifah’s claims were baseless, unfounded and grossly negligent and had been widely reported in local and foreign media.

Anwar, who was convicted for sodomy by the Federal Court a week ago, was brought by prison officials to give evidence following Anifah’s successful application to amend his defence last December.

On November 27, Anifah took the stand and said businessman Datuk Ishak Ismail, a close associate of Anwar, had offered him RM100 million to bring 10 MPs from Sabah to join PR and topple the BN federal government in 2008.

But he did not include this piece of evidence when he filed his defence in 2009, which had only stated that he was offered the post of deputy prime minister.

Anwar said he had not been close to Ishak since he was sacked from the government in 1998 and had only met him once in Munich, Germany in 2004.

“To survive, he and others has to cut all ties with me. This is how the system operates in this country,” he said, adding that any suggestion that the businessman was his crony was absurd.

He said Anifah, the Kimanis MP, must be familiar with the crony system but that it did not necessarily apply to all.

Anwar, who was finance minister between 1991 and 1998, said he knew hundreds of businessmen while in that position as they had submitted business proposals and held meetings with him.

Anwar, who held the position of deputy prime minister from 1993 until his removal in 1998, said he was fully investigated by the authorities whether he had secret bank accounts and timber concessions.

“They could not prove that I took even a share,” he said.

Earlier, there was a tense moment between Anwar and lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah in the court room.

Shafee, who represents Anifah, at the outset of his cross-examination informed Anwar that he could seek clarification if he did not understand his questions.

To this Anwar replied: “Very clear but unnecessary.”

The Permatang Pauh MP did not look at Shafee who began posing questions.

He told the court that Ishak was close to him until 1998 but had left for good reasons.

Shafee: How do you know him?

Anwar: He is from Penang, just like you (Shafee). I was a minister when he (Ishak) approached me, just like what you did.

Shafee then told Anwar that this was not the place to play the fool.

“My question is whether you know Ishak, not me,” he said.

Shafee was the ad hoc deputy public prosecutor who secured the conviction for the prosecution in the sodomy case, both in the Court of Appeal and the apex court.

However, Shafee has been criticised by the legal fraternity and former attorney-general Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman for unwarranted attacks against Anwar, even after the delivery of the apex court’s judgment.

Shafee had been asking why Anwar did not give evidence from the witness stand and did not utilise the defence of alibi to show he was not at the crime scene.

The Federal Court bench led by Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria dismissed Anwar’s final appeal against his conviction for sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

The panel also upheld the five-year jail term imposed by the Court of Appeal on March 7 last year.

Anwar also told the court that Ishak, a former KFC deputy executive chairman, was a committee member, treasurer and secretary of the Permatang Pauh Umno division between 1982 and 1998.

Anwar said he had been the division chairman during that period.

He said it was malicious and nasty for Anifah to suggest that Ishak had offered RM100 million to entice him and several MPs to realise his September 16, 2008 dream for Pakatan Rakyat to capture Putrajaya.

Anifah in his testimony said Ishak had made the offer sometime in 2008 at the Hilton hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

Anwar said he had not communicated with Ishak about Anifah’s allegation because the businessman had issued a statement but the minister had not responded.

“It was an absurd proposition. He (Ishak) has denied it. Period,” he added.

Judicial Commissioner Siti Khadijah S. Hassan Badjenid will deliver her ruling on June 5.

16 February 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

ABC

Less than a week after Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was jailed for sodomy, his lawyers said Monday that he faces a health risk because he’s living in a bare cell with just a 2-inch-thick foam mattress on the floor, a bucket for bathing and a squat toilet.

Anwar, 67, began a five-year prison sentence last Tuesday after Malaysia’s top court turned down his final appeal, ruling there was overwhelming evidence that he had sodomized a former male aide. The case was widely seen as politically motivated to eliminate any threats to the ruling coalition, whose popularity has been eroding after more than five decades of unquestioned dominance.

The lawyers said the prison conditions were aggravating Anwar’s longtime back and spine problems, which could “pose a grave threat to his health.”

Because of his medical condition, his lawyers requested a bed with a medically suitable mattress, a chair and table, a shower and a proper toilet for Anwar. Anwar cannot bend over or stand up from sitting on the floor without pain, they said.

“His conditions must be immediately improved before there are serious consequences to his health,” the lawyers — N. Surendran, Latheefah Koya and Sivarasa Rasiah — said in a statement. “The government is fully responsible for prisoner of conscience Anwar Ibrahim’s safety and health while he remains in custody.”

Home ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Anwar has been the most vocal and visible symbol of the opposition’s resurgence and is seen as the most potent political threat to the government.

He was accused of sodomizing a former lowly aide, then 23, in 2008. Homosexuality is a crime in Muslim-majority Malaysia punishable by up to 20 years in prison and by whipping, although prosecutions are rare.

It was the second time Anwar was jailed for sodomy in just over a decade.

He previously was imprisoned for six years after being ousted as deputy prime minister in 1998 on earlier charges of sodomizing his former family driver and abusing his power. He was freed in 2004 after the top court quashed that sodomy conviction.

Anwar led his alliance to unprecedented gains in 2008 elections and made further inroads in 2013 polls. The ruling National Front coalition won with a slimmer majority and lost the popular vote to the opposition.

15 February 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

I have learned the conviction and sentencing of Anwar Ibrahim with great sadness and concern.

As a long standing friend of Anwar Ibrahim, I find the charges brought against him very difficult to believe.

Anwar Ibrahim is an intellectually oriented leading political figure in the Muslim World who has been a strong advocate of compatibility of Islamic values with democracy, rule of law and human rights.

This is why Anwar has been supported by human rights groups and several foreign governments both in the East and in the West.

As a friend of Malaysia and Malaysian people, I would like to encourage the Malaysian government to reconsider the impact of this verdict on its international standing and its commitment to human rights.

http://www.abdullahgul.gen.tr/news/397/90977/statement-of-support-by-he-abdullah-gul-for-anwar-ibrahim-of-malaysia.html

13 February 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

13 FEBRUARI 2015

Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat (10 Januari 1931-13 Februari 2015)

Untuk Tuan Guru Nik Aziz, saya amat sedih dengan berita itu. Saya terharu dengan keperihatinan beliau selama ini kepada saya secara peribadi dan juga kepada keluarga. Kehilangan beliau ibarat terpadamnya satu ‘KERDIPAN/KERLIPAN’ bintang kerana dia seorang tokoh alim negara.

Kebangkitan rakyat diperlukan demi masa depan Malaysia yang terjamin daripada kezaliman, inshaAllah. Jangan titiskan air mata, terus berjuang.


ANWAR IBRAHIM
Penjara Sg Buloh

12 February 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

The Conversation

My taxi driver laughed as the newsreader concluded the announcement that Anwar Ibrahim’s appeal against his conviction for sodomy had been refused, and that the leader of Malaysia’s fragmentary opposition coalition is to return to jail for five years. “Malaysia Boleh!” (“Malaysia Can!”) he chortled – invoking an early 1990s slogan familiar to all Malaysians.

Back then, “Malaysia Boleh!” summoned Malaysians to play their part in the building of the country. These days, after 57 years of continuous power in the hands of, in effect, one party, the phrase is most often accompanied with a shake of the head, a rolling of the eyes, a gloomy shrug or laughter.

These two words capture many people’s sense that the Malaysian ruling elite can get away with anything – and also that here in Malaysia, just about anything can happen.

Clinging on

Malaysia’s governing coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN) is dominated by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which has ruled since independence, but it now faces unprecedented challenges to its mandate.

In the most recent general election, it lost the popular vote by some distance. But thanks to some artful constituency boundary tweaks by the electoral commission, the ruling coalition still ended up with a significant parliamentary majority.

The decision to uphold the verdict against Anwar is part of a wider pattern: the administration’s response to its eroding support is at once increasingly repressive and increasingly incoherent.

Despite the immediate denials from the Prime Minister’s Office that the prosecution was politically motivated or the judges anything but impartial, there is widespread feeling that this verdict can only confirm the reality of a badly compromised legal system.

For many observers, the Malaysian government is a wounded animal, unpredictable and defensive, uncertain and aggressive – a government confronted by a fearful combination of troubles, not least the recent precipitous drops in oil revenues, so critical to the national budget.

Anyone but UMNO

The failure of Anwar Ibrahim’s appeal could have any number of effects on the Malaysian political landscape, but Malaysia’s future hinges more on the behaviour of the government than on the strength or motivation of the political opposition or civil society.

This is the central irony of Malaysian politics. The opposition is so weak, so fragmented, so internally divided, so ideologically incoherent, that its essential message and manifesto amounts quite explicitly to the slogan “Anyone But UMNO” (ABU t-shirts are widely available).

Of course, the government has done much that has served to intensify and inflame such sentiments. It has openly manipulated the mainstream media to promote its own agenda, used legislation such as the Sedition Act to threaten and silence opposition figures, and gerrymandered electoral boundaries to its advantage.

It also deliberately nurtures conservative, even extreme, currents of Islamic thought to convince the Malay Muslim majority that their faith and culture are under threat, and that only it can protect them. It articulates explicitly racist propaganda marginalising and attacking non-Malay minorities.

And above all, it suffers from an overwhelming perception of endemic corruption. Malaysia boleh, indeed.

On track

Aside from Anwar Ibrahim, there seems to be no figure with sufficient stature or credibility to harness the anti-government sentiment to any real political gain – and it’s far from clear that even he would have been able to hold the fragile opposition coalition together.

For many people, Anwar is a deeply compromised figure, part of the problem rather than in any sense the answer. He rose spectacularly through the UMNO ranks to the position of Minister of Finance and heir-apparent in Prime Minister’s Mahathir’s administration, and his fall from grace in the late 1990s, was just as sensational, amid torrid allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

The largest party in Anwar’s opposition alliance, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), is campaigning to augment Malaysia’s existing shariah laws with a much more severe form, known as hudud, a system much more akin to that which prevails in Saudi Arabia. None of the other opposition parties could countenance such a move – but PAS, which has around 1m members, is essential to any viable opposition, and it must be accommodated to assemble any real force against the government. Can a viable new politics be founded upon such shaky foundations?

Moreover, the leaders of the opposition political parties are publicly divided, their disagreements and feuds magnified in the popular press. It would be yet another irony if Anwar’s latest conviction and incarceration ended up uniting them, rather than depriving them of the leadership they so require.

There are likely to be widespread popular demonstrations against the Anwar Ibrahim verdict, and some rallying of opposition support. There will be appeals to Amnesty International, to Human Rights Watch, to the Commonwealth, to the United Nations. There will be much frowning and disapproval from statespeople and politicians around the world: the UK’s Minister for Asia, Hugo Swire, has already spoken out.

But in all likelihood, unless the Malaysian government and security forces engage in unusually brutal repressive measures and provoke some kind of popular uprising in response (extremely unlikely, given Malaysia’s history), the verdict will not do much to change the country’s political trajectory. Only with the emergence of the next generation of political agents, both within and without the existing parties, will there be significant change.

For an indication of the potential futures for Malaysia, we need perhaps to look at the contrasting fortunes of the regimes of the former Soviet Union, and of the People’s Republic of China.

In the Soviet Union, the ruling party collapsed under the weight of its appalling internal contradictions and was swept away (for better or worse). In China, incremental change transformed what appeared a sclerotic and bankrupt regime and a process best described as a Long Revolution continues to this day (again, for better or worse). If the Malaysian opposition stands little chance of changing things any time soon, it will be interesting to see whether Barisan Nasional can.

12 February 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

The Washington Post

By Editorial Board February 11 at 8:47 PM

SEVERAL YEARS ago it appeared that Malaysia, which has been ruled by the same party since it achieved independence in 1957, might be on the verge of a soft transition to democracy. Prime Minister Najib Razak promised to dismantle preferences favoring ethnic Malays, reduce police powers, repeal a repressive anti-sedition law and promote free and fair elections. He mostly stayed on course until 2013, when opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim led a multiethnic coalition to a popular-vote victory in national elections. The ruling United Malays National Organization clung to power only because of the gerrymandering of parliamentary seats.

Mr. Najib has since launched a campaign aimed at crippling the opposition — a crackdown that reached its peak Tuesday with the sentencing of Mr. Anwar to five years in prison. It was a major regression for a country that values its strategic partnership with the United States, and it was the continuation of a bad trend in Southeast Asia, following the military coup that toppled Thailand’s democratic government last year.

The criminal case used to imprison Mr. Anwar, who has been one of the foremost advocates of liberal democracy in the Muslim world, was as morally reprehensible as it was farcical. The opposition leader was charged with sodomy, which is still illegal in Malaysia but is rarely prosecuted. The 67-year-old married grandfather denied the charge, and the case against him was thin enough to be dismissed by a court in 2012. That Mr. Najib’s government managed to have that decision reversed by an appeals court and upheld by the Supreme Court demonstrated only that Malaysia still lacks an independent judiciary.

Mr. Najib has not limited his repression to Mr. Anwar. In recent months, dozens of activists have been charged under the same anti-sedition law that the prime minister promised to repeal. On Tuesday, police detained a famous cartoonist and announced that they were investigating two opposition members of Parliament because of tweets protesting Mr. Anwar’s conviction.

At the United Nations in September, President Obama decried such “relentless crackdowns” and promised “an even stronger campaign to defend democracy.” Sadly, the administration’s response to the Anwar conviction suggests the opposite. While saying that the United States was “deeply disappointed ” by the verdict and that it raised “serious concerns about rule of law,” a White House statement undercut those sentiments by affirming that “we remain committed to expanding our cooperation on shared economic and security challenges” with Malaysia.

Mr. Najib, who was invited to play golf with Mr. Obama in December, is unlikely to take the president’s “campaign to defend democracy” seriously unless it consists of more than such carefully balanced statements. One way to send a message would be to withhold the invitation to visit Washington that the prime minister is hoping for this year. A leader who has just jailed his main opponent should not be received at the White House.

11 February 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

PRESS RELEASE
10.02.2015

Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, Christoph Strässer, issued the following statement on 10 February on the sentencing of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to five years in prison for the accusation of homosexuality:

I was deeply shocked to hear of today’s verdict against Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. I followed the criminal proceeding against Anwar Ibrahim, whom I know personally. The trial and verdict raise serious questions on the protection of human rights, the independence of the judicial system, due process and democratic development in Malaysia.

The selective prosecution of members of the opposition has a detrimental effect on social development in Malaysia and on the country’s international reputation.

Moreover, the verdict on the grounds of alleged homosexual acts violates international Human Rights standards: No one may be persecuted because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

Background information:
On 10 February 2015, Malaysia’s top court upheld the verdict against former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Anwar bin Ibrahim, who had been sentenced to five years in prison for homosexuality. Anwar Ibrahim founded the opposition movement Reformasi in 1998. He later founded the opposition party People’s Alliance (Pakatan Rakyat), which he leads to this day. Since joining the opposition, legally questionable criminal proceedings have been brought against him. In 1999, he was accused of corruption and sodomy, for which he was sentenced to prison terms of six and nine years respectively. These verdicts were partially overturned in 2004.

Website of the Federal Foreign Office: www.auswaertiges-amt.de/EN

11 February 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Foreign Minister Murray McCully says New Zealand shares the disappointment expressed by other members of the international community about the five-year prison sentence handed down to Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

“While Mr Anwar has followed every avenue open to him to have his conviction overturned and to avoid imprisonment, the severity of his sentence, coupled with recent prosecutions under the country’s Sedition Act, are of concern to New Zealand,” Mr McCully says.

“We have followed developments in Mr Anwar’s case closely, and a representative from the New Zealand High Commission in Kuala Lumpur was among independent international observers at his appeal hearing in the Federal Court against a charge of sodomy.”

“New Zealand and Malaysia have a strong relationship and work closely together in the international arena – where Malaysia is a prominent voice for moderation and tolerance.”

“In the spirit of promoting human rights and political freedoms we have registered our concerns with the Malaysian Government and will continue to do so,” Mr McCully says.

http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/nz-disappointed-anwar-ibrahim-decision

11 February 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

NEWS RELEASE
Press Office
Embassy of the United States of America
376 Jalan Tun Razak
50400 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Telephone: (603)-2168-5000
Fax: (603)-2148-9192

ATTENTION: NEWS EDITORS
February 10, 2015

The United States is deeply disappointed and concerned by the rejection of Anwar Ibrahim’s final appeal and his conviction.

The United States has followed the trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim closely. The decision to prosecute Mr. Anwar, and his trial, have raised serious concerns regarding the rule of law and the independence of the courts.

The United States and Malaysia have a strong partnership, and in the context of this relationship, we have regularly raised our serious concerns regarding the Anwar case with Malaysian officials and emphasized that fairness, transparency, and the rule of law are essential to promote confidence in Malaysia’s judicial system and democracy.

10 February 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Statement by Anwar Ibrahim upon the judgement of the Federal Court on 10th February 2015.

I maintain my innocence of this foul charge – this incident never happened.

This is complete fabrication- coming from a political conspiracy to stop my political career.

You have not given proper consideration to the case presented by my counsel from day one – that this incident never happened at all.

I can go on and on but I see from your statement today that it will be fruitless – it appears as i have been condemned again as I was in the court of appeal. Only here we went through a facade of an 8 day hearing!

It is not a coincidence how the PM was able to release a full written statement on your decision barely minutes after you handed your judgment today, even before sentencing.

In bowing to the dictates of the political masters, you have become partners in crime for the murder of judicial independence and integrity. You have sold your souls to the devil, bartering your conscience for material gain and comfort and security of office.

You had the best opportunity to redeem yourselves – to right the wrongs of the past and put the judiciary on a clean slate and carve your names for posterity as true defenders of justice.

But instead you chose to remain on the dark side and drown your morals and your scruples in a sea of falsehood and subterfuge. Know you not that you are now wallowing in filth and foulness and the stench of your injustice will permeate through every nook and cranny of this so-called Palace of Justice and I do pity you all.

Yes, you have passed judgement on me – and I will, again for the third time, walk into prison but rest assured my head will be held high. The light shines on me.

But the shame is on you for you will be judged by history as the great cowards of humanity. Sitting on that high horse of judicial power, you have stooped so low to become the underlings of the political masters.

Students of law and professors of jurisprudence will scrutinise your
judgments and as they dissect your reasoning and your decision, your credibility and integrity will be torn to tatters. And you will be exposed as the fraudsters who don the robe of judicial power only to pervert the course of justice.

Do not forget that, as all of us will have to, you too will have to answer to your Maker. You will have to answer why you turned your backs on the principles that you had so solemnly sworn to uphold.

People who come into your court have to bow their heads and address you as ‘My Lords’ but don’t you know that you too will have to answer to your Lord one day? By then you will need more than bowing and prostration to justify why you wilfully transgressed Allah’s command as ordained in Surah an-Nisaa, verse 58:

“Indeed, Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are due and when you judge between people, judge with justice. How excellent is that which Allah instructs you. Indeed, Allah is ever Hearing and Seeing.”

Going to jail, i consider a sacrifice i make for the people of this country.

I have fought most of my life on behalf of the people of this country – for the people I am willing to go to jail or face any other consequence.

My struggle will continue, wherever I am sent and whatever is done to me.

To my friends and fellow Malaysians let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the support you have given me. And Allah is my witness. I pledge and I will not be silenced, I will fight on for freedom and justice and I will never surrender!

ANWAR IBRAHIM
10 FEBRUARY 2015

6 February 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Inaugural address by Anwar Ibrahim, MP and Chair, World Forum for Muslim Democrats at the Opening of the Biennial International Conference on Islam on 1st February 2015, in Ampang, Selangor.

Introduction

We gather here today in circumstances of turmoil and political unrest in the Muslim world as yet unprecedented in our modern history.

Whether it is in the Middle East, the Indian sub-Continent, or in Europe, hardly a week goes by without some negative breaking news of innocent people being kidnapped, beheaded, shot at or blown up by perpetrators who are ostensibly Muslims. Not since 9/11 have the repercussions of these vile attacks been so far-reaching and pervasive.

When the Twin Towers were attacked in 2001, I wrote an op-ed piece for Time magazine a week later but being still in prison, it took another two weeks for me to get it out. I had prefaced it with the Qur’anic reminder in surah al-Maidah ayah 8: “Let not your hatred of others cause you to act unjustly against them.” I then said:

“Never in Islam’s history have the actions of so few of its followers caused the religion and its community of believers to be such an abomination in the eyes of others. Millions of Muslims who fled to North America and Europe to escape poverty and persecution at home have become the objects of hatred and are now profiled as potential terrorists. The nascent democratic movements in Muslim countries will regress for a few decades as ruling autocrats use their participation in the global war against terrorism to terrorize their critics and dissenters.”

Today, religious groups in the name of jihad are trying to outdo each other in their demonstration of faith – who can kill more, be more violent and be as uncompromising as possible? Who are the champions in striking fear among those who do not subscribe to their beliefs?

In this perverse race for supremacy in brutality, ISIS has been at the forefront, issuing ultimatums for ransom to be paid for the release of foreign captives and beheading them with clock-work precision when the ransom is not paid. To add to the depravity, they also carry out mass summary executions by firing squad and shamelessly broadcast these atrocities to the world.

For fear of losing out to ISIS and other terror groups in notoriety as bloodthirsty and ruthless killers, the Taliban on December 16 last year struck their as yet ‘most cruellest cut’ in depraved violence by attacking a school in Pakistan and massacring 140 children.

Just two days before that, Boko Haram insurgents kidnapped at least 185 women and children, and slaughtered 32 people in a raid in Nigeria where, incidentally, twelve of its thirty-six states have introduced hudud punishments. The gunmen attacked a village, destroying half of it, shooting down men before herding women and children together.

But even all this seems to pale before the atrocity committed by ISIS militants in late October when they herded over 600 Shia, Christian and Yazidi men into the desert and executed them at point blank range.

They were forced to count themselves as they lined up before their executioners who, while proclaiming ‘God is great’, opened fire on them with machine guns.

Stabbing Islam in the back

Then of course there were the horrific murders that were carried out at the offices of Charlie Hepdo in Paris on 7th January followed by the brutal killing of four Jewish hostages. There was widespread condemnation of the Paris killings from people and quarters regardless of religion or creed. Once again, the savage acts of a few in the name of Islam had tainted the rest of the Muslim communities.

In this senseless and brutal killing, the perpetrators have stabbed Islam in the back. It is indeed the height of audacity for these murderers to say they are avenging the Prophet and protecting the sanctity of the religion.

By what authority do they justify killing people for insulting Islam or the Prophet?

Islam has survived for almost 1500 years without these self-righteous self-proclaimed defenders of the faith. It can certainly go on for another thousand years and more without them. The Prophet was sent unto mankind as a blessing and guidance, not a preacher of terrorism.

Al-anbiyaa: 107
“And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.”

We know that during his early mission, all kinds of insult, led by Musaylima, were hurled at the Prophet and his Companions urged him to fight back. The Prophet merely said: ‘Let him be. He is just a liar. Ignore him.’

When the enemies of Islam stepped up their ridicule and persecution, the Companions again asked the Prophet to curse them. At this, the Prophet replied, “I have not been sent to lay a curse upon men but to be a blessing to them.”

When the Prophet went to Ta’if, he attempted to call the community there to Islam. In response, they set the street urchins to hound, harass and then stone him. When he was utterly exhausted and bleeding from head to foot, did he curse his tormentors or seek help for revenge? On the contrary, as all Muslims know or should know, what issued from the Prophet’s lips was and remains indeed one of the most moving and beautiful du’a in Islam:

“O Allah, To Thee I complain of my weakness, my lack of resources and my lowliness before men.
“O most Merciful! Thou art the Lord of the weak and Thou art my Lord. To whom wilt Thou entrust me? To one who will misuse me? Or to an enemy to whom Thou hast given power over me? If Thou art not angry with me then I care not what happens to me. Thy favour is all that counts for me.
“I take refuge in the light of Thy countenance, by which all darkness is illuminated. And the things of this world and next are rightly ordered. I wish to please Thee until Thou art pleased. There is no power and no might save in Thee.”

So, where is the textual authority to establish that Muslims should avenge the Prophet by embarking on a killing spree?

The Prophet’s heart was always filled with love and compassion for human kind regardless of creed or colour. The hearts of these self-appointed avengers are filled with hatred and hostility.

The Prophet taught us tolerance and understanding. These avengers preach intolerance and animosity. The Qur’an tells us to reach out and get to know one another. These killers sow discord and division.

Of 9/11 back then, I had denounced it thus:
“The attacks must be condemned, and the condemnation must be without reservation. The foremost religious authorities are outraged and have issued statements denouncing the monstrous murders. All efforts to punish the perpetrators must be supported.”

Likewise, the response to the killings in Paris must also be unequivocal condemnation. It is cold blooded massacre, plain and simple. There’s nothing to justify or rationalise. It is also not the time for moralizing over U.S., French or European foreign policy.

As stated earlier, these acts of barbarism are tragically not new. We would recall the reaction of Muslims to the Danish cartoons. Innocent lives were lost and buildings were set on fire as angry mobs in various parts of the Muslim world went on a rampage to demonstrate their anger. Was that following the example of the Prophet?

Freedom of expression and double standards

Nevertheless, much as we must defend our fundamental liberties, the fact is that there is no such thing as absolute freedom of expression, not even in Europe and certainly not in France. When the comic book on the life of the Prophet was first published in France two years ago, I had deplored it as sacrilege against Islam. Indeed, I had called for calm and rationality in response even as we should denounce the cartoons as vile and contemptible.

To my mind, the Danish cartoons, Charlie Hebdo caricatures and the rest of the tasteless and insensitive publications ridiculing Islam and the Prophet are mere manifestations of Islamophobia in all its varied guises. They appear to betray a deep-seated Freudian prejudice or animosity harking back to the Crusades.

This is most disappointing considering the strong tradition of scholarship and interest on Islam in Europe that has yielded scholars such as William Muir, Richard Burton, Reynold Nicholson, Max Muller, Theodor Noldeke, Ignaz Goldziher, Ernest Renan, Louis Massignon and Henri Pirenne, to name but a few.

Inspired by Hafez (1325-89), Goethe (1749-1832) wrote West-östlicher Divan (West-Eastern Diwan). It symbolizes, not a clash, but interaction between the West and the East, between Greek and Persian civilizations and between Christendom and the Muslim world.

Goethe’s Diwan in turn inspired other works by European writers. In 1924, Iqbal (1877-1938) himself was moved to publish Payam-e-Mashriq (The Message of the East) underscoring the role of religion and spirituality in civilisation.

As we moved into the 21st century, instead of great works of literature celebrating intellectual convivencia between the Muslim world and the West, we are instead inundated with trashy and worthless writings and cartoons clearly aimed at provoking Muslims and causing unrest.

A clear line must therefore be drawn between freedom of expression and hate crimes.

So, while I condemn the Paris killings, I cannot subscribe to the chant of “je suis Charlie” because I do not support the portrayal of the image of the Prophet, let alone caricaturing him in any way. Likewise, I do not support blasphemy against Christians, Jews or any other religion. Neither do I support the freedom to incite hatred against anyone or community on account of religion, ethnicity or culture.

The publication of the Charlie Hepdo cartoons was highly offensive to many Muslims. The French government did nothing to hold to account the people responsible for that act of profanity. Now, in the aftermath of the Paris massacre, just a few days later the magazine republished the offensive cartoons and this was officially sanctioned by the French authorities.

These are blatant acts of provocation and must be condemned.

The issue here is: should there be freedom to commit blasphemy and incite communal hatred? It is true that crimes such as incitement to racial discrimination or hatred will always be challenged as a violation of the right to freedom of expression. But if someone makes a speech clearly liable to arouse feelings of distrust, rejection or even hatred towards a particular group of people of a particular ethnic background, it is incitement to racial hatred. His freedom of expression must then become secondary to the right to dignity and freedom from harassment or vilification on account of ethnic or religious differences.

Holocaust denial

In 2007, the European Union approved legislation that would make denying the Holocaust punishable by jail sentences. This was said to be a minimalist compromise because of the need to reconcile the protection of freedom of speech with protection of their citizens from racism and hate crimes.

This EU law mandates prison terms of as much as three years for “intentional conduct” that incites violence or hatred against a person’s “race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin.” The same punishment would apply to those who incite violence by “denying or grossly trivializing crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

Even before that, “Holocaust denial” laws were already in place in Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland and several other European countries: It is a crime publicly to dispute the official version of Holocaust history. So, this is a classic example of even established European democracies watering down freedom of expression. But no one, at least no Western media, has ever framed this issue as a clash between Judaism and freedom of expression.

I personally have no problem with that. ‘Holocaust history’ is something very sensitive to the Jewish community. To deny that indeed is to hurt the feelings of the Jewish community – and also to deny that they were victims of genocide. It may or may not incite violence in doing so. We don’t condone violence but we appreciate that the Jewish community is entitled to feel hurt by such denials.

Of course, those who subscribe to absolute freedom will not agree. We can debate this and there is no need to kill anyone.
But the question is why is it perfectly legitimate to hurt the sensitivities of Muslims by depicting their Prophet or caricaturing him?

Why the double standards?

If France is to remain true to its “je suis Charlie” credo which is the metaphor for absolute freedom of expression then they should repeal the “Holocaust denial” law too or other related laws. Or else, they should stop parading on their moral high horse in the name of absolute freedom of expression.
However, the constraint on freedom of expression in these matters must work both ways. For example, in the case of Malaysia, if action is taken against anyone for blaspheming Islam or ridiculing Muslims on account of their religion, then the authorities must also act even-handedly in cases of blasphemy or insult to other religions and faiths. This is not a hypothetical issue. In Malaysia, we have seen how certain prominent Muslim leaders openly insult Hindus or Christians and get away with it. Why the double standards again?

As even the great libertarian Hayek has said, liberty and responsibility are inseparable. A free society will not function unless its members accept the consequences of their action. Freedom also implies the freedom to speak the truth and not to spread falsehood or corrupt public morals.

Yet, in saying that not only Muslims but any right minded and decent individual may be offended by these kinds of publications, Muslims must learn temperance and tolerance in the tradition of the Prophet. Remember the Prophet’s du’a at Taif and stay true to the Prophet’s memory. Emulate his magnanimity in the face of ridicule and scorn from the enemies.

Between je suis and j’accuse

There is also the tendency to pin anti-Semitism in Europe to Islamic militants as was clearly the case in the Paris attacks where both the Israeli and French governments were quick to label them as anti-Semitic attacks.

Some perspective is needed here. We may recall that the French government has had a history of anti-Semitism. While the mantra is now “je suis Charlie”, at one time more than a century ago, it was “J’accuse”. That was the title of the open letter that Émile Zola published on the front page of a leading Parisian newspaper.

Expressed in highly emotional language, Zola charged the nation’s military top brass with conspiracy and anti-Semitism in dealing with the infamous Alfred Dreyfus affair.

Instead of bringing the culprits to book, the authorities lost no time in arresting Zola, charging him with criminal libel, and having him tried as a common criminal. The show trial was so well managed that an angry bloodthirsty Parisian mob gathered outside the court house clamouring for Zola’s head.

Anatole France, another eminent man of letters, came to his defence and valiantly testified to Zola’s “admirable good faith and absolute integrity.” But this was of no consequence as Zola was hastily convicted and sentenced to jail. However, thanks to his quick thinking and survival instincts, Zola chose freedom instead and dashed off to England. By his reckoning, there was a total failure of justice and it would be foolish for him to submit to an utterly corrupt and unjust system.

Today, France has swung to the other end of the pendulum in making itself among the most vocal in condemning anti-Semitism, apart from the “Holocaust denial” law.I have no quarrel with that. But placing anti-Semitism in juxtaposition with Islam or Islamist activities perpetuates a false dichotomy. It is misguided as well as misleading and only breeds further Islamophobia.

Islamophobia and the ‘clash-of-civilisations’ narrative

Should the Charlie Hebdo attack lead to a resurgence of the clash-of-civilisations narrative?

For the reasons as aforementioned, it should not. Why should it? If it does, then it is testimony to the success of the military jihadists’ doctrine of terror. Terrorism wins if we succumb to fear. It wants to sow discord, distrust and suspicion. Jihadist terrorists rejoice at the rising tide of Islamophobia for it sustains and justifies their hatred and killing. Islamophobia may deal a double whammy – it pushes moderate Muslims to a corner and moderate non-Muslims further to the right. The clash of civilizations would then become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There are portents of that possibility as evidenced by the rising cases of the German far-right extremists attacking foreigners, particularly Muslims. As of last year, there has been a significant nationwide increase in xenophobic offences.
At the same time, there has been a spike in anti-Islam ‘Monday marches’ under the PEGIDA banner. What can we expect from a movement that says “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident” if not more intense Islamophobia? There has also been a sudden rise in hate crimes against Muslims in France after the Paris killings.

It is therefore not only wrong but harmful to frame the Charlie Hepdo killings as a clash between Islam and freedom of speech, and hence the chanting of “je suis Charlie”. Such a narrative can only add to Islamophobia.

Islam and Muslims are not in this battle. Terrorists and murderers are. And they will continue to kill and maim not just to do battle against freedom of speech but against generally what the free world, including Muslims, want.

Islamic statehood

While it would be pointless to make sense of these acts of indescribable brutality, it may be instructive to review the underlying basis for excessiveness in religious observances.

This may be attributed to a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of istiqamah, a doctrine of piety grounded in Surah Fussilat: 30:

“Indeed, those who have said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’ and then remained on a right course – the angels will descend upon them, [saying], ‘Do not fear and do not grieve but receive good tidings of Paradise, which you were promised.’”

The term refers to persistence, taking a firm position, remaining steadfast in one’s religious beliefs, views and practices. But it should be pointed out that while istiqamah is enjoined, extremism is forbidden, as in surah Hud: 112:

“So remain on a right course as you have been commanded, [you] and those who have turned back with you [to Allah ], and do not transgress. Indeed, He is Seeing of what you do.”

Indeed, transgressing the limits means taking things to the extreme and that is not permitted. Whilst we cannot deny that jihad is textually ordained, it would be misconceived to equate it only with war and violence. Islam stands for peace founded on equity and justice. While Muslims are told to fight tyranny and oppression, force may only be used as a last resort.

As well pointed out by Esposito:
The two broad meanings of jihad, nonviolent and violent, are contrasted in a well-known prophetic tradition. It is said that when Muhammad returned from battle he told his followers, “We return from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad.” The greater jihad is the more difficult and more important struggle against one’s ego, selfishness, greed, and evil.

Yes, but as following the jihad al asghrar (the lesser jihad) and the jihad al akbar (the greater jihad) is the jihad al kabir or “great jihad” as mentioned in the Surah al Furqan 25:52,

“So do not obey the disbelievers, and strive against them with the Qur’an a great striving.”

This is the intellectual jihad, which is the universal principle that requires respect for knowledge, including freedom of thought, publication, and assembly. This jihad is a permanent effort. It is the responsibility of concerned citizens and those in leadership positions to bring the wisdom of Islam to bear on all issues of conscience.

Even though there is no real textual authority, Jihadi terrorist groups generally and particularly in the case of ISIS fall back on a simplistic but highly appealing interpretation of Islam to provide a moral imperative for martyrdom: fight in the way of Allah to establish an Islamic state ruled under shari’ah law with hudud and die as martyrs.

There is a certain romantic allure for this borne by history if we recall the abolition of the institution of the caliphate under Mustafa Kemal and the bitterness and resentment it caused to those who had felt that this indeed was the final severance of the link with Islam’s glorious past.

Whilst mainstream and moderate Muslims may find the idea laughable, for extremist groups like ISIS and to a slightly lesser extent, al-Qaida, the restoration of a caliphate and dying as martyrs in the process may well be a paramount goal.
This may well be a ploy by the powers that be in the organisation who personally may have more worldly rewards in mind, but to the highly impressionable and idealistic Muslim youth across Europe and other parts of the Muslim world, this could be their clarion call.

Nevertheless, it needs reminding that the state set up by the Prophet Muhammad in Medina after 622AD was not a Caliphate but a community with a constitutional Charter comprising Muslims, Jews, Christians or pagans whose fundamental liberties were protected including the right of all citizens to be free and equal.

This foundational doctrine of Islamic statehood is just lost on these jihadists and their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi with the self-proclaimed title of “Caliph Ibrahim”, arrogating to himself the highest authority in the Muslim world.
They pervert the concept of jihad and among the first acts they do is to force non-Muslims to convert and appropriate women and young girls as war booty.

In their fanatical drive to expand their state, they force into marriage young women and even children or worse, rape them, apart from the other acts of brutality as recounted earlier.

Unfortunately, we see that certain leaders of the Muslim community have chosen to remain coy in their responses to the spread of ISIS as well as to the murder and mayhem committed. They don the cloak of religiosity, pay lip service to upholding the sovereignty of the faith and exploit the ignorance of the masses.

Allah does not forbid you to be kind, uphold ties, return favours and be fair towards non-Muslims. Placed in the present context of ISIS and the manner in which they treat non-Muslims, we can see the gross violation of these zealots who are killing in the name of Islam.

However, the answer to the rise of fundamentalist jihadism is not just more bombs and fire power but more efforts at removing the fundamental reasons for their misguided notions of jihad as well as the factors that tend to disenchantment and alienation.

Military power, indeed, is essential on the battle front in terms of gaining geographical and territorial advantage but without winning the ideological war, jihadist terrorists will continue to sprout like mushrooms.

Justice and Moderation

In surah al-Baqarah:143, Allah enjoins:

And thus we have made you a just community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you.

Moderation and justice feature in all aspects of Islam.
Islam maintains moderation in faith and enjoins respect for other religions. The true Muslim believes in all the Prophets, Messengers, and in all Allah’s revealed Books.

Hence, controversy over use of ‘Allah’ and Malay translation of the Bible can be resolved once this fundamental principle is understood. The traditional conservative members of the Malay-Muslim community must therefore be actively engaged.

In Malaysia, groups like Perkasa and Isma should also be engaged on account of their truncated views of Islam and their apparent inability to separate religion from ethnicity.

Islam is moderate in the acts of worship it enjoins for it neither commands one to abandon it nor to dedicate oneself totally to it.

Islam strikes a balance between extremes of what are forbidden and extremes of what are permitted. The halal-haram controversy must be dealt with by using a moderate approach without the need for name-calling and hostile posturing.

In the pursuit of knowledge, moderation must be maintained by striking a balance between reason and Revelation. The human intellect (aql) is essential for material progress but without divine guidance, man’s propensity to go astray could take him to excesses.

As between reason and revelation, the raison d’êtrelies in jihad al kabir as mentioned earlier.

Maqasid al-Shari’ah

“Islam rahmatan lil ‘alamin” will remain just a catch phrase if the umma fails to rise up to the challenges of the globalized world. Jihad in the true sense must begin with the principle that all pursuits are to be actualised by striving for what is beneficial for mankind and preventing what is harmful.

Indiscriminate bandying of terms like ‘Shari’ah’ and ‘hudud’ serves no purpose other than offering a truncated view of Islam and perhaps enabling certain quarters to garner brownie points among the less informed.

To my mind, the generic prescription for the umma to face the challenges of the globalized world lies in the maqasid al-Shari’ah.

It is a manifestation of the miracle of the Qur’an that the more we subject it to our rational intellect, the more meaning it unfolds. This is quite apart from what we know as kashf or ilham, that is, infused knowledge or inspiration which is direct knowledge from Allah, accompanied by sakina (tranquility). In respect of the maqasid al-Shari’ah, it is jihad al-kabir that must prod us to go beyond mere labels. This warrants a sincere and earnest effort to strive intellectually in order to do justice to the true purport of revelation.

“He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding.” Surah al Furqan:32

In this regard, applying the maqasid al-Shari’ah in the economic sphere, the best prescription not just for the Muslim world but for the world at large must be nothing less than the establishment of a humane economy. The central doctrine of balance must be observed in order to achieve equilibrium free market capitalism and social justice.

In quibbling over whether or not hudud is mandatory or that the Shari’ah should be the law of the land, there is the unfortunate neglect of the main issues: socio-economic hardship with rising costs of living and growing unemployment, widening wealth gap, housing and health care problems, and of course rampant corruption and power abuse.

In governance, transparency and accountability cannot be compromised while corruption is shunned.

Again, the maqasid enjoins that the preservation of peace and security requires appropriate laws but this must be balanced by the Qur’anic imperative on justice and the rule of law.

Disconnect with modernity and shallow understanding of Shari’ah

Much of the underlying problem in the discourse about establishing an Islamic state, implementing the criminal punishment of hudud, and the need for Islam to be practiced according to its black letter tradition can be traced to a shallow understanding of the Shari’ah and the failure to consider the maqasid.

For example, in Southeast Asia where there is much clamour by certain groups for the imposition of hudud, much of the discourse on the subject of hudud is simplistic as there is generally neither a serious attempt made to understand a modern theory of criminal justice within the maqasid nor paying sufficient attention to the approaches used by the Prophet SAW.

Views by well-known ulema such as Shaikh Yusuf al-Qhardawi and Shaikh Taha Jabir al-Alwani on the position and priority of hudud are condemned as being apologetic.

In his treatise “Hudud in Present Day Discourse” Sheikh al-Qhardawi gives the basic guidelines on the method of implementation of hudud so as to narrow the gap of diversity and avert further discord and conflict.

Sheikh al-Qardhawi asserts that before the Prophet implemented hudud, the prerequisite was to ensure that the Muslim community must be fully prepared for it by having reached the level of advancement in aspects of faith, religious laws, morals, ethics and values.

He maintains that other laws pertaining to Islam should be implemented first before the implementation of hudud which is not ‘top priority’ especially while other crucial matters pertaining to the umma remain unresolved.

Citing the jurisprudence of Sheikh Abdul Wahhab al-Khallaf, (1998, Ilmu Usul al-Fiqh (The Science of Islamic Jurisprudence), Mansurah: Darul Kalimah, pp.34-35), al-Qardhawi says there are three main categories of the Shari’ah, namely, laws pertaining to faith, (aqidah), laws relating to morality, (akhlak) and laws governing practical affairs (amali).

Within this latter category of practical affairs (amali) there are two sub-divisions, namely, laws pertaining to rituals of worship (ibadat) and laws pertaining to transactions (muamalat).
Under this latter category of transactions, there are another seven sub-divisions of the law, namely, Family Law, Civil Law, Criminal Law comprising hudud, qisas and takzir, Legislation, Constitutional Law, International law, and law pertaining to the economy.

This categorisation clearly shows that hudud law is but one constituent of the vast corpus of the Shari’ah and not, as some parties would suggest, the be-all and end-all of Islamic law. On the contrary, as stated by al-Qardhawi, hudud law occupies the bottom rung in the overall scheme of the implementation of the Shari’ah.

Qardhawi’s view is also shared by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah al-Khatib, prominent leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and author of Risalah al-Ta’lim, Sharh Usul al-’Isyreen and other important works of Islamic jurisprudence. He has dismissed the claim that the implementation of hudud law is top priority.

In the words of al-Khatib, “hudud in Islam…comes at the end of the process of the Shari’ah because Islam places greater value on the human hand (rather than amputating it because of stealing), honour, property, and the overall quality of life.”

Qardhawi also asserts that Islam is not out to subject people to hudud punishment, as evident in the practice of the Prophet, who made it a point to avoid imposing it, even on those who had approached him with confessions of having transgressed the law.

Jurisprudence of priorities (Fiqh aulawiyat)

It remains to be said that this discourse is not about placing hudud in a less than favourable light but rather that al-Qardhawi’s view is part and parcel of his jurisprudence of priorities (fiqh aulawiyat) where the maqasid al-shari’ah warrant that matters of importance for the community should be ordered according to priorities.

Consequently, the implementation of hudud, being lower in the hierarchy of priorities, cannot supersede the attainment of the higher objectives of the Shari’ah. The principle of balance is therefore crucial to this as ordained in Surah al-Rahman (verses 7-9):
“And the Firmament has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance (of Justice) in order that ye may not transgress (due) balance. So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance”.

In taking this position, al-Qardhawi is also supported among others by Taha Jabir al Awani, Hasan Al Turabi and Rashid al-Ghanusi, all luminaries in Islamic scholarship and jurisprudence.

Jihad al kabir and the intellectual tradition

There is nothing wrong with ritualistic observance according to literalist interpretation in matters of dress, eating, food and socialising but a proper approach must take into account Islam’s far richer and more comprehensive moral tradition, one that gave rise to morally conscious intellectuals.

Jihad al kabir therefore warrants that rather than merely mouthing easy prescriptions we should clearly demonstrate our stand on injustice, the abuse of power, and society’s moral duty to uplift the social condition of the weak and oppressed.

The maqasid will also enjoin government by democratic process and the development of civil society and an intellectual culture in which issues can be vigorously debated where there is ample room for diversity of opinion on issues confronting society.

Diversity of views and inclusive engagement

According to one of the most influential public thinkers of our time, Nobel laureate Professor Amartya Sen, “the central issues in a broader understanding of democracy are political participation, dialogue and public interaction.”

The failure to allow for ‘government by discussion’ can be seen for example in the deprivation of a free and independent press. Without this, the advancement of public reasoning is constrained and is forced to find its voice through other channels. The benefits of a free and independent media have been well expounded by leading writers and empirically we know what that is all about.

Muslim leaders and a new discourse

Nevertheless, for much of the Muslim world, the problem of tyranny and corruption of power remains like a malignant cancer with no clear signs of abatement.

Whatever bright prospects that were held out from the Arab Spring have quickly dissipated into the dark and gloomy portents of despair. Egypt, which witnessed the short-lived democracy that gave much hope to the rest of the Middle East, is now under the stranglehold of a dictator said to be even more tyrannical than Mubarak. Yemen and Libya are back in turmoil while Syria’s Bashir al-Asad continues to massacre his own people with impunity.

Meanwhile, the plight of the Palestinians is all but forgotten. It is time for a reminder to the world that the notorious atrocities perpetrated against the Palestinians since 1948 are not about to disappear any time soon. The renewed massacre of thousands of civilians including women and children in July last year in Gaza cannot be anything but state organized terrorism although much of the West would never deign to refer to it as such.

Today, the Muslim world continues to bear the negative manifestations of a civilization in decay. Even in countries not ravaged by war and that are supposedly ‘democratic’, real freedom and democracy remain elusive. Repressive and archaic laws inherited from the colonial masters continue to prevail in addition to new legislation that stifle freedom and tend to lead to injustice.

With the exception of a few, there is no free and independent press. As a result, the people’s voice can only be heard through an alternative media, one which thrives in spite of the constraints imposed by the authorities by using a plethora of laws enforced with the full might of the organs of state power.

Muslim democrats and the umma

Against this backdrop, the World Forum for Muslim Democrats was recently established whose primary role is to provide a common platform for leaders, intellectuals and professionals in the Muslim world to set a new narrative on freedom, democracy and justice.

There will be zero tolerance for the propagation of extremism, fanaticism or the so-called jihadism of the likes of ISIS, al-Shabab or Boko Haram.

We must make it clear that such actions can never be jihad. This is corruption of Islam of the most vulgar and savage kind. They claim they are doing this for Islam and the umma but what they really seek is worldly gain and political power.
In truth, Allah has a perfect description of this subterfuge and hypocrisy:

And when it is said to them, “Do not cause corruption on the earth,” they say, “We are but reformers.” Al-Baqara: 11

Many attempts have been made to engage these extreme groups but it appears all calls for moderation and consultation have fallen on deaf ears. It is as if they are as what Allah has stated:

“Deaf, dumb and blind – so they will not return [to the right path]”. Al-Baqarah:18

To my mind, a new approach has to be articulated on jihad whose true imperative is not to drive wars and conquer new lands but to set the example for inclusive engagement and to drive home the message that differences of views are healthy. The crisis of the umma today is not one of differences of views but of bigotry and intolerance and thus inability to accept the diversity of opinions in a wide spectrum of matters.

In this regard, we must raise the bar in the engagement and go beyond mere tolerance of differing views. While remaining steadfast in our religious convictions, we must do our utmost to foster healthy and vibrant discourses and hold fast to the conviction that allows for freedom of conscience, opinion and expression.

Conclusion

Islam is a blessing and mercy to the entire universe. But Muslims have to make it happen. Muslim leaders can and must set the example for inclusive engagement and to drive home the message that differences of views are healthy.

Justice and moderation should always prevail over injustice and extremism in all its varied guises. The atrocities committed by the extremist groups and terrorists constitute the corruption of Islam of the most vulgar and savage kind.

Islam Rahmatan lil “Alamin must entail that all pursuits are to be actualised by striving for what is beneficial for mankind and preventing what is harmful.

In this new narrative, we must maintain within our moral compass the progressive notions of human rights, freedom of conscience and justice.

These principles will entail the moral duty to protect women and children, the old and the infirm, the rights of minorities. They will drive efforts to establish social justice – to uplift the living standards of the ordinary people, eradicate poverty and democratise access to education at all levels.

Ultimately, these principles will be the bedrock for true democratic governance where transparency and accountability will be virtually written in stone.

That is the true meaning of Islam Rahmatan lil ‘Alamin.

Thank you.

Switch to our mobile site