Would a cesspool by any other name smell just as pungent?

The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and in-grafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.

Thomas Jefferson

Islam in Malaysia has oftentimes been equated to be like Hotel California, based on that one line in Eagles’ most overplayed song – you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. And it’s worse if you were born in Hotel California.

There currently is one court case where an individual who was born into a Muslim family is trying to leave the religion, and said individual is currently seeking permission to have her judicial review heard in the civil court system, as reported in The Malay Mail this week.

You can read the background of the case, summarized quite comprehensively in that report. The applicant had already gone through all kinds of hoops and legal hoopla, as is the case with the Shariah Court system in cases such as this, only to have her application to leave Islam rejected by the Shariah Court of Appeal.

If you’ve read lawyer Fahri Azzat’s piece some months back, you’ll know that this is not surprising at all. Not by a single iota.

But what’s interesting is part of the court’s reasoning why the applicant’s request was rejected (emphasis by Walski):

Shariah High Court had — in rejecting A’s bid to be known as no longer a Muslim — ruled that the right to freedom of religion in Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution is not applicable to Muslims.

The Malay Mail, Wednesday, 27 April 2020

A few perplexing things are happening here. One, does the Shariah High Court even have the right to rule on constitutional matters in the first place? Ask most lawyers, and the answer you’ll get in most instances is NO. But never mind that for the moment.

Let’s digress for a sec so we can do a quick recap of exactly how Article 11(1) of the Malaysian Federal Constitution is worded: Every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.

Every person – so, if EVERY PERSON has freedom of religion as a basic right, but this basic right is not applicable to Muslims, does that mean that in Malaysia Muslims are not even regarded as proper “persons”? If the answer is YES, then that goes a long way to explain the prevalence of herd mentality among many Malay/Muslims…

But all kidding aside, by making the ruling, the Shariah High Court has pretty much declared Malaysia to be a RELIGIOUS APARTHEID. At least that’s how Walski sees it.

Many a rational person would have to wonder: what’s the big deal if everyone – every person, to be specific – could exercise the fundamental right accorded by Article 11(1)?

Try to even broach this question, and the earth will undoubtedly start to shudder with the collective wrath of the “faithful”; HOW CAN YOU EVEN ASK SUCH A QUESTION!!! DOOMSDAY WILL COME IF THAT HAPPENS! THE EARTH WILL OPEN UP AND SWALLOW THE TWIN TOWERS, KL TOWER, AND MENARA 118!!!

Persist with the question, and you’ll probably find a gazillion police reports filed against you for the crime of intelligent enquiry…

But that’s the reality of this cesspool we’ve become. The entrenched status quo must never be questioned, even if the questions are reasonable ones. And why we’ve become the cesspool we are today has a lot to do with that quote by Thomas Jefferson.

And the root cause: political expediency; of trying to out-Islam the Islamists. Fast forward three decades plus change, the entire nation is the worse for it. We’ve become a religious apartheid, and as these things go, once Stockholm Syndrome sets in any attempt at change and rectification will be messy. And Malaysia doesn’t possess the political will to clean up anything that’s messy.

Regardless, the court challenge Walski mentioned above will be an interesting one to follow. Essentially, submissions to challenge have been made, and a decision on whether the challenge may be heard will be known come June 15. Well and good if leave is given, but if it is rejected then another round of questions will emerge. Either way, let’s hope the legal arguments presented are sound ones.

It is fortunate that the plaintiff’s legal team, the prosecution, and the court have unanimously agreed that withholding the applicants identity (the Islamists won’t be pleased, but screw ’em) is in the best interest of everyone involved. Because what will undoubtedly happen is harassment by the “faithful”, and maybe even threats to her life.

In the meantime, there is a sense of calm in this cesspool. For now, at least. Let’s just hope that calm isn’t the kind that precedes a ferocious shitstorm…

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