Posted: 01 Aug 2013 01:14 PM PDT
Using Section 298A of the Penal Code for causing disharmony on the grounds of religion clearly reflects the inability of the authorities to make a distinction between Islamic principles and Muslim prejudices.
Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
I refer to the Free Malaysia Today's "Woman in Hari Raya dog video arrested", July 31st.
When I read the whole report, I did not know whether to laugh, be sad or get angry and mad.
I felt like laughing because I cannot understand why the whole matter is so serious that it generated such brouhaha. Imagine girl arrested because of a video (that is already three years old) wherein she is with her dogs and greeting people a 'Selamat Hari Raya'. What is the point?
As the report clearly narrated:
"Dog trainer Maznah Mohd Yusof has been arrested following a public outcry over a three-year-old YouTube video showing her bathing her dogs and wishing viewers Selamat Hari Raya.
"According to law reform NGO Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), Maznah, or better known as Chetz, was arrested by police around 4.30pm and taken to Bukit Aman for questioning."
I feel sad because I cannot locate nor pinpoint any criminal intention on her part that warrants her arrest.
The whole thing makes me angry and terribly mad!
What is happening now to our Malaysia?
Are we now getting nuts? Are we now "going to the dogs"?
Are we becoming so sensitive that we are getting away by the day to the basic tenets of logic, reason and decency?
Whatever the hell happened to our humanity?
Why does it seem to me that some of our people are becoming paranoid?
Why is it that some individuals are linking and connecting normal and innocent matters to the issue of Islam, when in fact such is not the case?
On the Question of the legality of her arrest
I cannot help but wonder on the character of our law enforcer! I cannot understand why they are so slow to respond to the rising criminality that is besetting our nation, yet ironically they are so prompt and so quick to arrest people whose charges are flimsy and if I may say categorically, ridiculous and utterly preposterous.
Consider the case of Ong Sing Yee! She already voluntarily surrendered herself to the police, yet our so-called law enforcers still decided to put her in handcuffs. Her crime? She was caught stepping on the face of the national leaders in a pre-Independence Day rally.
As I stated in my article then, "Selective use of handcuffs reflects badly on cops", Malaysiakini, September 12, 2012:
It is clear from the reports that Ong surrendered to the police and voluntarily placed herself in the jurisdiction of the law.
What is the point or the purpose of putting her in handcuffs?
Yes, I admit that this 19-year old girl committed a wrong act, yet in the same vein, the very inhumane act of the police putting her in handcuffs; that is after she already surrendered peacefully to their jurisdiction is also wrong and utterly sinister.
In my view, the police are guilty of overkill. What they did was grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess of jurisdiction.
Their excessive act of showing their authority is a vulgar display of power.
Again to quote, Lim Kit Siang: "But is it right and proper for the police to treat her as if she is a hardened criminal requiring her to be handcuffed, when Malaysians can see for themselves BN VIPS, including ministers and former ministers, treated with kid's gloves although charged with grave crimes against the state and people?"
These are pertinent questions and they deserve to be answered squarely by the relevant authorities concerned.
The case of the Alvivi couple is another case in point. They were promptly arrested and thrown into jail, without first hearing judiciously their right to bail. Their crime? They are accused of offending the religious sensitivities of the majority.
Now, we have Maznah. Same as the Alvivi couple, our girl is also charged with offending the feelings and sensitivities of the majority especially during this holy month of Ramadan. (I invite the public to read the beautiful essay of Ravinder Singh, "Religious sensitivities --- respect begets respect", FMT, August 1st. Said article in my view has answered squarely the question of religious sensitivity.)
Specifically she is charged with allegedly violating section 298 of the Penal Code, which relates to "uttering words, etc, with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person." That is according to the Dang Wangi district police chief ACPT Zainuddin Ahmad.
The law stipulated that if found guilty, the offender faces between two to five years in prison. So, Maznah is in danger of spending time in jail because of her humanity? This is a shame and a tragedy! (I invite the reader to read that impassioned letter of Shenaaz Khan, "In the doghouse for being kind", FMT, August 1st.)
If ever she indeed violated the said provision of the law, the same law mandated the law enforcer to execute the operation of the same in the proper and decent manner.
Counsel Latheefa Koya told the FMT that:
"She called me and said she was being taken to the Bukit Aman commercial crime division. She did say she is under arrest…"
When the said paper asked the said lawyer, if the police were allowed to arrest Chetz before questioning, Latheefa firmly stated that:
"They don't have the powers. That's why I need to question them why they arrested her before taking her statement. It is rather rash of them".
I concur with the courageous view of the said counsel. The criminal procedure is clear on this matter. The police must first question the subject and duly record her statement before they can effect or execute her arrest.
Indeed, the police, as usual, has acted rather rash and agitated. Again, they have jumped the gun for the nth time!
Consider what they did - they arrested her first, thereupon only then they did question her and record her statement.
This is a clear circumvention of the law and a negation of our law enforcement processes at the prejudice and detriment of the citizens' constitutional rights.
The police in my view had violated Maznah's right to know the nature and the cause of the accusation against her! This is not allowed in constitutional law!
This is a clear case of unjust and vexatious acts of the police and a vulgar display of power that clearly betrays their ignorance of the standard operating procedure.
This is a shame!
The Question of the Offense
I cannot understand why some of our people are offended by the said video!
1. Are they offended with the greetings?
2. Are they offended with the dogs in the video?
On question one, what is the offense on greeting?
On question two: what is wrong with the dogs?
According to some, they are shocked and offended because the dogs are against Islam.
Abdul Rani Abdullah, the MJMM president who called for the arrest of the video producers, categorically stressed that: "We are angry, insulted and sad. Dogs are dirty in Islam."
Dogs are dirty in Islam? The pertinent question there is: how come?
Said accusation made me dizzy and utterly confused!
The Quran makes no mention of dogs being dirty in Islam or to Muslims.
Further, according to ex-Perlis mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin, a person who cares for dogs is rewarded in Islam, and hunting dogs is also allowed by the religion.
So now, it makes me even dizzier.
Some Muslims are saying that dogs are dirty, yet one Muslim scholar is affirming the contrary. The question here is: who among them is correct?
Nonetheless, in determining the truth and falsity of this controversy, it is my firm view that the authority on this whole matter is the Quran itself.
Is there a specific provision, a categorical pronouncement from the said book that clearly says that "dogs are dirty in Islam"?
If the answer is in the negative, then what is the basis of those Muslims who maintain the affirmative view?
If truly there is/are no provision that talks about the uncleanliness of the dogs in the Quran, then what is the basis of the allegation of those people who claim to be shocked, hurt and offended by this video?
Are they saying that they get offended and hurt by something that is not written in the first place in their book?
This is outrageous!
I overwhelmingly concur with Maznah's clarification with regard to the whole matter.
She said that it was not her intention to insult Muslims and Islam, but to remind them to celebrate Hari Raya with animals as well as humans.
In her Facebook message posted today, she asked:
"Is this Islamic? To those who called me a dog, I am very happy to be equated with an amazing creature of God."
"If you don't know the nature of true dogs, and don't bother about it, why do you accuse? It is because of Malay Muslims like these that Islam's good name is tarnished…"
What is the right of some judgmental people to call Maznah a dog?
Her only "crime" in my view is the undeniable fact that she is a good human being animated by extreme humanity that cares and love animals, unlike some bastard bloody creatures in our society who may admittedly have a human form, yet worse, acting like animals themselves and violating the rights of these lowly beings!
Some creatures not only violate the rights of the animals, yet irony of all ironies, even go beyond it and violate the rights and dignity of their fellow men!
Hence, the ultimate question here is: who are the true animals? Who is the true dog?
What is wrong with celebrating the Aidilfitri together irrespective of species, colour and origin?
I believe that our society, specifically those so-called people who were allegedly shocked and offended by Maznah's video with her dogs, instead of condemning her must and should rather commend this beautiful girl for being a being of kindness, gentleness, diversity and humanity.
Maznah has shown us what it means to be a true blue human being!
I call for her immediate release from detention and join the president Shenaaz Khan of the Malaysian Animal Welfare Society's call that:
Using Section 298A of the Penal Code for causing disharmony on the grounds of religion clearly reflects the inability of the authorities to make a distinction between Islamic principles and Muslim prejudices. And while there appears to be a crime wave in this country, animal lovers are being assailed by the authorities for promoting unity, tolerance and animal welfare! This madness must cease. Maznah should be commended not condemned. She has committed no crime and therefore must be released.
Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
Polytechnic University of the Philippines
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