Sunday, 1 November 2009

15,000 Bibles in Malaysia

If you refer to this website, you will soon develop some sense of disappointment in the Malaysian government for trying to stop freedom of religion in Malaysia. I don't see the funny side of the Malaysian authorities in confiscating 15,000 Bibles imported from Indonesia on the basis that it contained the word "Allah" which referred to "God" in the Islamic Bible.

I have no disrespect for any religion in the world but I do believe that the Malaysian government's action in confiscating those Bibles was "rash" and deterred freedom of religion.

Before I go further, it is vital to understand the background to this controversial topic. The Malaysian population comprises of around 66% of Bumiputras (Majority of them are Malays and thus Muslims), 25% of Chinese and the remaining 7% to be Indian. It is widely accepted that the Malays will be actively running the government while the Chinese will take care of the country's economy. The Indians on the other side, will be providing professional services to the country.

Freedom of religion is always a controversial issue in Malaysia. One good example will be the ability of a Muslim to convert to non-Muslim. It is not a total freedom per se for a Muslim to convert to non-Muslim. If one were to do so, one needs specific permission from the Syariah Court. The most famous case in Malaysia Lina Joy undermined the ability of the Federal Court as the highest court in the country.

The Lina Joy case couldn't be more controversial. Lina Joy was a born to a Muslim parents. She was baptised and practised Christianity when she was 24 years old. She managed to change her name to Lina Joy legally and she practised Christianity ever since. However, her identification card still state that her religion is Muslim although she has changed her name and lived a life as a Christian.

Her appeal to change her identity from Muslim to Christianity was denied in the Court of Appeal. She also found no joy in the Federal Court. Many people including Muslim Non-Governmental Organissation Sisters in Islam condemned such ruling. Justice Gopal Sri Ram, a famous judge who sits in the Court of Appeal, gave his dissenting judgment in requiring Lina Joy to obtain a certificate from the Syariah Court before she could change her identity from a Muslim to a non-Muslim. However, there is nothing Lina Joy could do as there is no higher court in Malaysia to try this case other than the Federal Court. Basically, the courts are reluctant to interfere with Islamic Law. It goes to show that the Syariah Court is the highest court on Malaysian soil when dealing with such a case.

I do feel that the Malaysian government is still discriminating against non-Muslims in the country. How are we going to live peacefully in harmony for generations to come?

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