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Protest over Johor's Shariah laws misplaced

Posted: 19 Jun 2013 04:45 PM PDT

Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar, Harakah

Wanita ISMA is concerned over the calls to repeal the Syariah Criminal Offences Law by Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) as a response to Johor Religious Department's decision to whip offenders committing incest and having sex outside of wedlock.  22 out of 39 offenders were female.

Wanita ISMA feels that the calls are misplaced as the issue should be dealt comprehensively beyond the myopic angle of liberalism or feminism as it involves major offences as stated in Syariah Law, namely incest and fornication. Incest by definition is sexual intercourse between persons so closely related that they are forbidden by law to marry.

Facts that are overlooked by JAG were that in 2008, Johor and Selangor had the highest number of cases of incest, a total of 308 cases over a period of 8 years. According to the senior assistant director of enforcement of the Johor Islamic Affairs Department (JAIJ), Mohd Zambri Kambari, the usual punishment was a fine of RM5,000 or a jail term of three years. Obviously, both punishments, perhaps regarded as very lenient, had failed to deter people from committing the act. Incest breeds bigger problem in the society such as disrupting the lineage of a family especially if the illicit relationship bears offsprings. These children will definitely be subjected to psychological trauma.

Wanita ISMA fully supports the actions by Johor Religious Department to exercise the enactment of Syariah Law in the form of 6 strokes of whipping  as it is meted out in the manner that complies to the Syariah flogging. The Syariah flogging requires that the female offender is in sitting position as opposed to the opposite sex who needs to stand. This is a proof that Islam places great respect to female, without abandoning its principle that every crime must be punished, regardless of gender. Furthermore, the punishment will be postponed if the women is pregnant of in the period of nursing her child.

The offender  is fully clothed and the whipping will not be on her face, head and private parts or on body parts where vital organs are located, the abdomen and the chest. The flogging stick has been specified to meet certain length and thickness.  The executer cannot raise his hand more than his head in whipping and all these are very unlikely to cause physical harm to the offender.

Shariah is fundamental to a Muslim's  belief. Muslims have faith that the Shariah is relevant at all times. JAG claimed that there is no solid evidence that whipping is an effective deterrent to violent or sexual crimes. The problem is that the Shariah solution has never been given a chance to prove its effectiveness in curbing these crimes.

Islam places sufficient legislation to protect people from falling into sin as it  is a complete code of living that is not based on punishment. Punishment is not enforced except in cases where there is certainty about the offence and its perpetrators. However, when certainty is established, and in this case Wanita ISMA believes that the matter has been dealt delicately by the relevant authorities of the Johor Religious Department, the mandatory punishment must be applied, with no compassion shown to the offenders.

In the word of the late Syed Qutb, author of Tafsir Fi Zilal al-Qur'an, such compassion is misplaced, because it is in fact cruel to the community and human morality. Allah is much more compassionate to His creatures and He has chosen what He knows to serve their interests best. When Allah decides on a particular case, no believer, whether man or woman, can counter that choice. Nor is it right that anyone should speak out against such punishment, describing it as hard or savage. It is indeed much more compassionate than what awaits a community that allows adultery (an incest) to spread.

It is rather alarming that a more liberal view of incest is now being propagated in some parts of the western countries. The United States codifies incest prohibition in its law, but it doesn't stop one of the universities, the University of Missouri for offering a class on sibling incest for the spring 2013 semester in order to understand and accept the culture. Unmistakably and shockingly, there has been  a social pressure towards accepting sibling incests although parent-child incest is still considered offensive. The uncontrolled lust of human for forbidden sexual relationship has also boost the pornography industry that promotes incest porn as one of the genre.

Wanita ISMA is committed to work hand in hand with all parties in curbing social illness through all means, whether by education, public awareness, prevention and by law if necessary.

* The writer represents Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia, or ISMA.


Rebooting Chinese history

Posted: 19 Jun 2013 12:11 PM PDT 

Wow. They did all that even back then? My history books sure didn't teach me that. The Chinese in Malaysia certainly didn't get a free ride to where they are. But if I didn't know my community's history well, how could I expect others to know? 

June HL Wong, The Star 

There would be better understanding of the Chinese if their contributions to the nation were brought to light.

THE clue to the forgotten nugget of information came in the form of an e-mail.

The reader who sent it pointed me to a particular chapter in a book written by long-serving colonial officer Sir Frank Swettenham.

The book was British Malaya, published in 1907, and once I perused chapter 10, I understood why the reader thought I might find it interesting. Here's the pertinent excerpt:

"Their energy and enterprise have made the Malay States what they are today, and it would be impossible to overstate the obligation which the Malay Government and people are under to these hardworking, capable, and law-abiding aliens.

"They were already the miners and the traders, and in some instances the planters and the fishermen, before the white man had found his way to the Peninsula.

"In all the early days it was Chinese energy and industry which supplied the funds to begin the construction of roads and other public works, and to pay for all the other costs of administration.

"They have driven their way into remote jungles, run all risks, and often made great gains. They have also paid the penalty imposed by an often deadly climate.

"But the Chinese were not only miners, they were charcoal-burners in the days when they had to do their own smelting; as contractors they constructed nearly all the government buildings, most of the roads and bridges, railways and waterworks.

"They brought all the capital into the country when Europeans feared to take the risk; they were the traders and shopkeepers. Their steamers first opened regular communication between the ports of the colony and the ports of the Malay States.

"They introduced tens of thousands of their countrymen when the one great need was labour to develop the hidden riches of an almost unknown and jungle-covered country, and it is their work, the taxation of the luxuries they consume and of the pleasures they enjoy, which has provided something like nine-tenths of the revenue.

"The reader should understand at once what is due to Chinese labour and enterprise in the evolution of the Federated Malay States."

Wow. They did all that even back then? My history books sure didn't teach me that. The Chinese in Malaysia certainly didn't get a free ride to where they are. But if I didn't know my community's history well, how could I expect others to know?

If they did know, surely it would help create a deeper appreciation of the Chinese and assuage the suspicions about their loyalty.

As the nation mourned the loss of eight policemen and two soldiers and hailed them as heroes in the recent Lahad Datu armed intrusion, a blogger thought fit to write:

"As has always been the case, when we send our policemen and soldiers into battle and they are killed or injured, the chances are they are Melayus and bumiputeras. Perhaps there is wisdom in getting more Chinese and Indians to join the armed forces so that they, too, can die for one Malaysia."

"Always been the case"? How sad that the many Chinese Special Branch officers who died fighting the communists are unforgivably forgotten.

Online columnist K. Temoc who took umbrage at this blogger's "caustic and unfair" remarks pointed out that five Chinese police officers have been awarded the nation's highest gallantry award, the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SP), two posthumously.

Again, it shows how little is known about non-Malay heroes who served in the security forces.

This blogger certainly didn't and he clearly buys into the belief that non-Malays aren't willing to risk life and limb for the country and doesn't consider why there are so few of them in uniform today.

The irony is even if you are well-known, your deeds may not be officially recorded.

Hence, Robert Kuok may be a business legend in Asia but few Malaysians know he was the close friend and confidant of Deputy Prime Minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman.

As mentioned in Ooi Kee Beng's biography, The Reluctant Politician, Tun Dr Ismail and His Time, Kuok played a role in the nation's development and politics, including helping to pave the way for Tun Abdul Razak's historic six-day visit to China in May 1974.

So much is left out of our history books and our national museums.

It's telling that even Yap Ah Loy's tok panjang showcasing the family's exquisite dinner ware are housed in Singapore's Peranakan Museum, not in Kuala Lumpur, the modern city he founded.

I agree whole-heartedly with the Prime Minister that Malaysians must understand each other better if we hope to become a great nation.

Something therefore must be done to document and preserve the nation's history that is more inclusive and multiracial.

If the Government has been remiss, the Chinese should take it upon themselves to address this lack of understanding and appreciation of their community's immense contributions. It shouldn't, however, be a glossy and glossed-over coffee table account.

By all means include the darker and controversial aspects, including the Chinese-led Communist Party of Malaya's attempt to overthrow the colonial government (Interestingly, Kuok's brother, William, was a communist who died in the jungle).

But it was also a long war that was won with the help of the Chinese, like those S.B. officers.

While we take pride in celebrating our most famous Malaysians – Michelle Yeoh, Jimmy Choo and Zang Toi – we must also honour the unsung, unknown heroes like those mentioned by K Temoc: policeman Yeap Sean Hua who died while apprehending a criminal at Setapak and was awarded the SP, sergeant Lee Han Cheong and Deputy Commissioner Khoo Chong Kong who were both killed by the communists.

It's time to build a Malaysian Chinese museum that will tell a history – the good, the bad, the noble, the inspiring – that must no longer be hidden or forgotten.

> The writer believes the Malaysian Indian community also has a proud and even longer history to share and preserve. Feedback: or tweet @JuneHLWong 

Is mal-apportionment pro-rural, pro-Malay or pro-Umno?

Posted: 19 Jun 2013 12:09 PM PDT

Is the Election Commission mal-apportioning constituencies to benefit the Malay/rural voters at the expense of the non-Malay/urban voters? 

Wong Chin Huat,

ONE reason why electoral fraud and manipulation have not raised widespread objection is the myth that it is the necessary evil for the Malay-Muslims' political dominance. 
The bipolar society which Malaya was in the 1950s - with about equal number of Malays and non-Malays - led the Malay nationalists to be highly suspicious of democracy. 
Thinking in zero-sum game's mentality, like other nationalists in the world, the Malay nationalists shunned pluralism. They dreaded any possibility of the Malays being politically split, worrying that this would be exploited by the non-Malays, especially if the latter were united. 
They saw a natural trade-off between democracy and ethnic power and they picked the latter.
Perhaps nothing in our electoral arrangement illustrates this point better than the mal-apportionment of constituencies. 
As a matter of fact, "rural weightage" in the Federal Constitution was actually the code word for "Malay weightage", to ensure the Malays' political dominance, since in the early years, most Malay voters resided in the rural area and most rural voters were Malay.
Today, while many supporters and critics of the Election Commission (EC) may have a completely opposite value judgement, most of them would agree on one thing: the EC is mal-apportioning constituencies to benefit the Malay/rural voters at the expense of the non-Malay/urban voters.
Is this true?  
No. The cases of Baling and Alor Setar have made clear to us that the EC did not carry out pro-rural mal-apportionment as stipulated by the constitution. If anything, villagers of Baling today are punished with amplified difficulties in access to their MP, when their number is 35% more than the electorate of Alor Setar.
What about Malays? Could the anti-rural mal-apportionment happen because the EC went all the way out to over-represent the Malays in Alor Setar and under-represent the non-Malays in Baling?
Again, no. In 2004, Baling had 86.9% of Malay voters while Alor Setar had only 58.4%. The mal-apportionment of Baling and Alor Setar within the state of Kedah was not only anti-rural, but anti-Malay too. And this is not an isolated case.
Let's look at the mal-apportionment within the parliamentary constituency of Puchong, an unquestionably urban seat. 
In 2004, Sri Serdang had 39,688 voters while its neighbour Kinrara had nearly just its half, at 20,006. Sri Serdang was then a 59% Malay constituency while Kinrara was 61% Chinese in composition.(See chart above).
In other words, if you lived in the Malay-majority Sri Serdang, you would get only half of the attention of your state assemblyperson than if you lived in the Chinese-majority Kinrara.
It was as if one got punished by the EC for living next to too many Malays? Why so? Isn't the EC under the control of the Umno, whose raison d'etre is to protect the interests of Malays?
The 2008 elections revealed the secret. Then, the electorate of Sri Serdang had risen to 49,757. However, in a contest for 37,819 valid votes, Umno could only defeat PAS with a paper-thin margin of 45 votes, or 0.12%.
Umno's support base in urban area was said to be so weak that it could not ensure its victory without carving huge constituencies to bring in enough supporters to counter the anti-Umno votes.
Baling had a different story. In 1999, Baling had an electorate that was more Malay (90.1%) but much smaller (53,886 voters in total), which handed the victory to PAS. 
The mal-apportionment in 2003 hence might not be aiming at securing an Umno victory there, but to take away as many as possible PAS supporters from the neighbouring constituencies. In contrast, before 2013, Alor Setar had always voted in MCA candidates.
Sri Serdang and Baling were not the only cases where Malay voters, opposition supporters in particular, suffer under-representation. 

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