Perlis Mufti: Fatwa on illegitimate children not finalised
By Mohd Farhan Darwis
February 25, 2012
Juanda speaks during the “Apa Ada Pada Nama” forum in Kuala Lumpur, February 25, 2011. — Picture by Choo Choy May
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 — Perlis Mufti Dr Juanda Jaya today said the National Fatwa Council ruling that children born within six months of their parents’ marriage may not carry the father’s name, is not deemed final until it is formally endorsed by the Conference of Rulers.
The religious scholar explained that the ruling was merely the outcome of a council discussion and not an official meeting directed by the Malay Rulers.
“The decision needs a second look,” Juanda told reporters after a forum organised by Sisters in Islam, “Ada Apa Pada Nama” (What’s in a name), this morning.
“Members of the public may still contest it (the ruling) and take their grievances to the courts should they find difficulties in registering children born less than six months from their wedding,” he said.
Juanda added that lineage was Allah’s gift to mankind and that poor interpretation of “mafhum” (implied meaning) and “mantuq” (pronounced meaning) created victims of circumstance, when Islam had never decreed that a child born less than six months into a wedding could not attribute his or her lineage to the parents.
“Islam’s nature is to preserve the dignity of each child born, whether they came from an illicit union is another matter. If a father of a child admits paternity, in Islam, the child should be attributed via ‘bin’ or ‘binti’ to the father, that is the child’s human right.”
“But it is the judgemental nature of our society that has perpetuated social ills and widespread baby dumping. Because of the stigma of having children out of wedlock, these children are cast off and that opens another road to sin,” he said.
Juanda also regretted the actions of National Registration Department (NRD) staff, whom he viewed to be acting as though they were arbiters of an individual’s legitimacy of birth.
“I still don’t understand why they have to play enforcers in determining a child’s legitimacy. Who are we to judge that? It is something for religion to handle.”
He said, “Determining a child’s lineage in Islam is through four means: legal marriage, a marriage of doubtful legitimacy, ‘Watin Shubahah’ and ‘Qaffah’, but in any case the children are attributed to their fathers.”
Juanda’s sentiments were shared by the Chief Justice of the Terengganu Syariah court Datuk Ismail Yahya, also a speaker at the forum, who stated his regrets at such judgemental acts.
“Lineage lasts a lifetime, so when children start school, have families and so on, they will be haunted by their uncertain paternity,” he said.
Another member of the panel, Bar Council representative Nizam Bashir, said that in Articles 5 and 8 of the Constitution, it was already stated that each individual has the right to a surname and their family name.
A Berita Harian report before this stated that, according to records from 2006 to 2010, as many as 234, 647 instances of illegitimate birth have been recorded in the country. Of those, 85,079 were born to Muslim parents.
Sisters In Islam will be holding a public forum on the issue of illegitimate children.
What's in a name? In Malaysia, Muslim children born within 6 months from the date of the parents' marriage are unable to take the name of the fathers, and are instead registered with the surname "binti/bin Abdullah...". An indicator to the legitimacy of a child, it leads to serious and often unjust repercussions on the children's emotional wellbeing and their future. What are the origins of this practice and what are the implications? More importantly, can it be changed? Explore these questions and more at our public forum. Title: “Ada Apa Pada Nama?” / "What's in a Name?" Date: 25th Feb 2012 Time: 9.00am - 1.00pm Venue: Impiana Hotel, KLCC Kuala Lumpur Moderator: Pengarah KANITA, USM Prof. Datin Dr. Rashidah Shuib Confirmed Speakers: Yang Amat Arif Ketua Hakim Syarie Dato' Ismail Yahya, Mufti Perlis Dr. Juanda Jaya&Peguam Sivil & Syarie Nizam Bashir
Admission is free (Pre-registration is required) Pls RSVP your attendance to: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org or 03-77856121 before 24 Feb 2012 (Friday). The forum will be in Bahasa Malaysia (BM).
We learn much folk wisdom – some couched in semi-superstition – either from other people or simply from experience.
I USED to muse that there seems, these days, to be a lack of common sense, the wisdom that comes from basic knowledge and experience.
Everyone seems to be more interested in fantasising about imaginary things or providing far-out solutions when simpler ones may do.
People in leadership positions seem to have the least common sense of all, probably because they think people expect something different from them instead of the obvious.
I am reminded of this more and more lately. People are so obsessed with getting from A to Z that they skip over B and C and don’t realise that the wisest outcome is in fact D.
So we get, for example, people who think the ultimate goal is to bring out a website in English but who forget that in order to do that, one needs to first find someone competent in English to do it.
Or who, without checking a simple encyclopedia, wish the wrong people greetings for a religious festival. All it takes is some care and common sense.
There are of course worse examples. Sometimes it makes better sense to say nothing than to open one’s mouth and disclose that one’s head is full of rubbish.
It can be jaw-droppingly embarrassing for all observers, if not for the one speaking. Sometimes we can’t blame those laying out such nonsense.
Common sense comes from having some basic knowledge handed down from teachers and guides, as well as lived experiences and just plain intelligence.
Getting websites so excruciatingly mistranslated or sending out wrongly targeted tweets is not so much the fault of whoever wrote them but whoever supervises them.
If supervisors and leaders have not had the sense to lay down some basic rules and procedures, then it’s not surprising that such faux pas happens.
I recently had a request for an interview for a student research project. Reading their proposed project, I was appalled by the entire premise of their topic, one so nonsensical that had it been a foreign university, they would have been laughed out of their room.
But then I realised that it’s not the students’ fault. Such a research proposal should really not have passed by their supervising faculty at all.
Their lecturer should have questioned them much more, made them read more background material to come up with something that made better sense.
Then I had the awful realisation that maybe the lecturer, too, thought it was a topic worth researching.
In our lifetime we learn much folk wisdom either from other people or simply from experience. Some are couched in semi-superstition.
Our mothers would tell us not to cut our fingernails at dusk. It may have sounded a bit mystical but the real lesson was that if we cut them at a time when the light was bad, the chances are we’re likely to cut ourselves.
Or we would be told to close our mouths with our hands when we yawned so that the Devil would not enter our bodies, when in fact it was so that we would not rudely display our open mouths to other people.
When dealing with the public, simple psychology will often do. Nobody really likes to be berated all the time. Often gentle persuasion works better.
Most people have a certain innate sense of decency and justice, so will tend to take the side of the underdog.
Thus wielding a stick too heavy-handedly over someone much weaker will only elicit sympathy for that person. Being humble, even if suspect, usually wins over arrogance. Doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.
But repeatedly, all we see is the opposite of such common sense. Perhaps some people feel the need to be too clever, or assume that the audience must be simply too stupid.
This is the worst mistake of all. If there’s one of you and millions of them, chances are there are probably lots of people much smarter than you out there and they’ll outgun you with brains any time.
The trouble is, like those students, once there is no common sense at the top, the bottom takes the same cue and loses all ability to think clearly, too.
Whatever is the prevailing logic on high, no matter how absurd, becomes everyone’s logic, too. The illogic when unquestioned is accepted as gospel. Thus a talk becomes a seminar, a party becomes an orgy, a gathering a riot.
The simple matter of supporting evidence is ignored.
Where on earth will this collective stupidity lead us?
Will it make us stand tall and proud as Malaysians, punching above our weight, as someone put it, all round the globe?
Or will it make us increasingly isolated and provincial?
Or don’t we care?
PRESS STATEMENT: Sisters in Islam against the unjust deportation of Hamza Kashgari
Sisters in Islam against the unjust deportation of Hamza Kashgari
13 February 2012
Sisters in Islam (SIS) is deeply disappointed that the Malaysian government has deported the Saudi blogger Hamza Kashgari without due process. This deportation was carried out despite the absence of an extradition treaty between the two countries and the probability that Hamza might face the death penalty in Saudi Arabia for alleged blasphemy.
Home Minister Dato Seri Hishammudin Hussein’s statement that we have an agreement with other countries to always return their citizens should they ask for them is therefore questionable. In the absence of an extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia, under what legal provision did Hishammudin act in deporting Hamza Kashgari?
Secondly, from what we understand, Hamza Kashgari’s lawyers were denied access to see their client since 10 February 2012 and were not informed of his impending date of deportation. In fact, a court order was granted by Justice Rohana Yusof to stop the deportation. Therefore, we demand to know which legal provision was used by the Malaysian government to arrest and detain Hamza Kashgari. Thirdly, the Saudi penalty for blasphemy is death – a punishment found neither in the Quran nor under Malaysian law. What Allah exhorts in the Quran in Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 159 is this: “And it was by God's grace that thou [O Prophet] didst deal gently with thy followers: for if thou hadst been harsh and hard of heart, they would indeed have broken away from thee. Pardon them, then, and pray that they be forgiven. And take counsel with them in all matters of public concern; then, when thou hast decided upon a course of action, place thy trust in God: for, verily, God loves those who place their trust in Him.” Hamza Kashgari withdrew his tweet and made a public apology – surely the Islamic and humane way would be to show him compassion and forgiveness. Fourthly, do we not have any autonomy in deciding our own policies, or do we, as Hishammuddin implies, adhere to the whims of countries we perceive as more powerful? Do we no longer enjoy any independence in deciding what happens within our borders? The Malaysian government should have exercised discretion in favour of Hamza Kashgari and allowed for due process within our court system.
Sadly, despite having set up the Global Movement of Moderates recently in an attempt to promote Malaysia as a moderate Muslim country, the Malaysian government has failed to match its rhetoric with its actions. Nor indeed did it heed or advocate God’s Mercy and Forgiveness as found in the Quran.
By Nuradilla Noorazam and Akil Yunus KUALA LUMPUR email@example.com |
Youth wing should focus on pressing issues, says Sisters In Islam
PAS Youth must not regard themselves as "moral guardians" and impose their values on others without having a proper understanding on a specific issue. Sisters in Islam (SIS) said Pas Youth was impinging on the unity and solidarity of all Malaysians with their latest endeavour, urging Muslims not to celebrate Valentine's Day as it would lead to immoral activities.
"The party clearly lacks consideration for non-Muslims and others who choose to celebrate Valentine's Day," a SIS representative said.
SIS argued that Pas Youth must stop imposing their values on others as their actions might backfire.
"The more they try to curtail such celebrations, the more people will question and celebrate it anyway out of defiance," she said to the New Straits Times yesterday.
SIS also urged Pas Youth to give more priority to other pressing issues in the Muslim community rather than picking on topics like Valentine's Day.
"It will be better for them to concentrate on other important matters like the backlog of syariah cases in court or the payment of alimony to wife and children."
SIS was responding to a statement by deputy Pas Youth chief Nik Abduh Nik Aziz on Tuesday urging the government to air anti-Valentine's Day advertisements in the media.
Nik Abduh said that they did not want the celebration to become a trend among Muslims.
Malaysia Muslim Youth Movement (Abim) president Amidi Abdul Manan said Pas Youth should not blindly regard Valentine's Day as a Christian tradition.
"Associating Valentine's Day with Christianity is rather unfounded as the origin of St. Valentine and the celebration is still under much debate. Pas must investigate the true origin of this celebration first before creating a commotion which offends other religions."
Amidi said Pas Youth must consider the approach of educating instead of punishing people over their personal choices.
"They should not focus only on Valentine's Day as a cause of immoral behaviours because this happens in our society every day."
National Youth Council president Mohamed Maliki Mohamed Rapiee said the latest initiative by Pas Youth against Valentine's Day was excessive.
"Immoral activities during Valentine's Day has not reached a critical level where an anti- Valentine's Day advertisement is required. Instead, it should be the responsibility of non-governmental organisations and religious institutions to create awareness on immoral activities."
Maliki also said Pas should be more comprehensive in their aim to save the akidah (beliefs) of Muslims in Malaysia.
Malaysia Hindu Sangam said it had no issue with the celebration provided it was practiced in accordance with "moral activities".
Its president, RS Mohan Shan, said Valentine's Day celebration had only become an issue as Malaysians chose to Westernise the concept.
"Young people dedicate this day to their loved ones by spending all their time with them. We don't need a special day to celebrate or show our love. Say your prayers and ask for blessings for you and your partner instead of socialising."
My first taste of what UKEC was like came in July 2011, when I attended the annual Malaysian Student Leaders’ Summit (MSLS) they organized in Kuala Lumpur. I have heard of this student organization way before that, though at the time, it seemed to be a distant, foreign entity that I did not consider to be of particular relevance to Malaysia.
The moment I stepped into the Hilton, however, I realized the enormity of the event I was attending that weekend. Naturally, I was excited at the freebies I got (trust me, there were plenty!), and also at the number of students who attended the Summit. Having been part of the organizing team for Model United Nations conferences before, I was amazed at the sheer scale of the event. The fancy hotel, sharply dressed people and the general air of intellectualism impressed me, and got me
asking, why didn’t I join this last year?
A few months later, I was given the privilege to be part of UKEC’s Executive Council 2011/2012. People have told me that I like ‘politics’, and perhaps see my joining UKEC as a testament to that. This is laughable to me, really. Contrary to popular belief, I do not keep up with what’s going on in the US Presidential Race beyond reading the headline that Mitt Romney just won the Florida primary and (shamefully), I cannot name every single member of our Cabinet. What attracted me to UKEC were their efforts in raising awareness. Not just political awareness, but awareness of our duty as youths, and as Malaysians.
Prior to MSLS, I had the impression that Malaysian youths were a jaded bunch. They were apathetic, and could only care about their own individual futures, and could not care less about the nation as a whole. Call me idealistic, but if MSLS changed that view, joining UKEC threw that perspective out the window.
As I got ready for the marathon weekend that was our Ordinary General Meeting (OGM) and Projek Amanat Negara (PAN), in the midst of all the excitement, I realized that this was going to be my first tangible contribution to nation-building – words so often uttered by us in UKEC it has become some sort of motto, or rather catchphrase, for those on the more cynical side.
I am sure those who went to PAN would generally agree that a few things stood out from the conference. Pang Khee Teik and his giving away of Seksualiti Merdeka t-shirts, the religion session, and of course, the ‘slugfest’ of Malaysian politics – the debate between YB Khairy Jamaluddin and Rafizi Ramli.
While I have certainly heard of Seksualiti Merdeka and the whole controversy about the Government wanting to ban it, I did not have a clear idea of what the movement really was about. As for Pang himself, I have seen him and heard him speak at the Annexe Gallery before, when I attended a talk by Dr. Farish Noor there. I knew he was openly gay, and when I saw him on the speakers list for PAN, I had a feeling at the back of my head that this might ruffle a few feathers.
I have never seen an openly gay person speak about his homosexuality in front of me before, I did not know what to expect. I was impressed at how he brought his message across in a non-confrontational, peaceful way. Later that day, I asked a friend if he thought the session was too in-your-face, since not everyone is used to such open discussions regarding thorny issues like homosexuality. My friend’s answer proves my point that UKEC is all about raising awareness. He thought that it was good that Pang could talk about the issue openly, that homosexuality is not a dead end issue for Malaysians. I personally found it refreshing that Pang could talk about faith as going hand in hand with his homosexuality.
Agreeing or disagreeing with homosexuality was besides the point. The point was the discourse. That he could stand up there and make Malaysians listen to a topic that was such a taboo in Malaysia, was the true importance of the session.
Most people I talked to agreed that the Religion session was the best that day. This was attributed to several reasons – the capability of the moderator in handling the session and the quality of the speakers who were invited. I was especially impressed by the diversity of the speakers. It was beautiful to see Dr. Carool Kersten, a non-Muslim with a Ph.D in the Study of Islam and the Muslim World, sitting on the same table with Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad, a PAS Member of Parliament with a Ph.D in Toxicology, discussing Islam in the context of politics and governance. Ms. Zainah Anwar, founder of Sisters in Islam, and Karim Raslan, lawyer and prominent writer, completed the diverse set up of speakers for the session.
The strength of the session, I thought, lay in the fact that not one of the speakers were the traditional stereotype of a ‘religious’ person – a Ph.D in Usuluddin, Muslim, who wears the ‘jubah’ and skullcap. Yet here they were, reciting the Quran by heart, with perfect translation in English (in Dr. Dzulkefly’s case), and speaking of Hudud law and the feasibility of its implementation in Malaysia. Dr. Kersten also spoke about the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia, and the importance of democracy in Muslim countries. How unique can it get? What does that really tell you about religion, and us, the flawed humans that practice it?
Of course, everyone who attended PAN would remember the question that was posed to Ms. Zainah. A girl asked her what right does she have to speak about Islam, when she does not have any qualifications in Islamic or religious studies. I applaud her nerve at asking such a question in a public setting. Discourse is important. However, I must admit that it utterly baffled me how such a thought could even enter her mind. Didn’t she realize the irony of her question, when Ms. Zainah is sitting in the same panel as Dr. Dzulkefly, with his Ph.D in Toxicology? What gave him the right to talk about Islam then? Because he is a Muslim? So is Ms. Zainah! And Dr. Kersten, who isn’t a Muslim, but with his qualifications in the study of Islam, was he justified in speaking about Islam, then? Because of his degrees? And Karim Raslan. He is a lawyer. What right did he have to even be on the panel?
Ms. Zainah answered the question well, as according to her, it was a norm for Sisters In Islam to be perceived in such a way. The ignorance of it all should not be excused, however. Ms. Zainah pointed out the crucial question here – when will Malaysians move on from this idea that only an Ustaz or Ustazah can speak about Islam? Such mentality, I hope, is in the minority. I wished with all my heart that every other audience member in the hall could see the irony in the girl’s question.
I hope that the session raised awareness on the importance of discussing religion in a more diverse context, taking into account matters of governance and everyday life. Let it move beyond theological discussions.
The last session of PAN, dubbed by YB Khairy as a ‘slugfest’, was greeted with a crowd that spilled over to the adjoining room outside the hall. By now, numerous articles by different authors and news portals have been published in the cyber world, mostly praising the youth and intellect of these two leaders. I was pleasantly surprised by the civility Rafizi and YB Khairy had for each other. The last time I saw YB Khairy speak was at MSLS 2011, and he was on the same panel as YB Nurul Izzah then. The session wasn’t too friendly as YB Khairy got touchy after YB Nurul commented on his lack of a Cabinet position.
This time around, however, poking fun at Rafizi’s sweater (which was in the bright blue of Keadilan) was as uncivil as they got. Their debate centred on the different policies of their parties, and of where Vision 2020 was heading, all backed with relevant statistical data. When the moderator, Sachin, gave them each an opportunity to ask one question to the other, Rafizi did not (as the crowd, and perhaps YB Khairy himself, expected) touch upon the NFC scandal, but instead asked whether he, who is perceived to be one of the more progressive members of UMNO, ever considered joining Pakatan Rakyat.
YB Khairy, in return, asked about the strength of the Opposition’s union, and also about the Tan Sri Azizan debacle in Kedah, both questions being the most pressing amongst Opposition sceptics. The debate was everything it should have been – open, civil, policy-centred, and displayed perfectly the wonderful oratory skills of these two young leaders.
The one and only regrettable thing about it was that it didn’t happen in Malaysia. I will not lament on this, as Karim Raslan has put it perfectly in his article here. Whatever your political affiliations are, what matters is that the debate showcased both sides of the divide in a mature, equal manner, with no unnecessary personal attacks upon each other. Injected with a slight amount of humour, these two men make one wonder how vibrant our political scene will be if our friends back home gets their regular dose of these healthy debates as opposed to what is forced upon them in the mainstream news every day.
It is far too early for me to say that my journey in UKEC has come full circle. Indeed, it is only the beginning. What I am certain of so far is that now, the phrase ‘nation-building’ has made more sense. I may merely be an Executive, but I have come to realize that I am part of something much bigger. The role UKEC plays may not be big enough to shake the echelons of power, but enlightening minds is just as impactful.
Looking at the audience of 300 strong in that hall on Sunday, I realized that so many of our youths deeply care about our nation. Whether or not they choose to go back to Malaysia, at least they are aware. Aware of what is happening, and what needs to be done to propel the nation forward. And no matter what they decide to do with their lives, my conscience is clear. I have, and will continue to play my part in building that awareness. That, I like to believe, is what I can contribute to the bigger picture that is our nation. At least for now.
Aira Azhari is a first year Law student at the University of Liverpool. She finds bookstores therapeutic, believes that ignorance is not bliss, and that pink is the new black.The photograph from the Malaysian Student Leaders Summit 2011 was taken by Nazurah Aziz. The photographs from Projek Amanat Negara 2012 were taken by Nik Fikri.
If ever there’s a phobia one can promote, it should be a true loathing of graft in any form, regardless of it being the petty everyday variety or the major million dollar ones.
I’VE been thinking about phobias lately because there seem to be so many around. I have a phobia about snakes; I simply don’t like their slitheriness. I know lots of people who have phobias about spiders, cockroaches or even cats.
To have a phobia means to have both a fear and a loathing of something. There are people who have a total phobia about germs, and are obsessed with keeping things clean, because they fear if they don’t, they may get ill.
Phobias have nothing to do with evidence or reasonableness; most times they are irrational.
Hence it was with that 21st century phenomenon called Islamophobia, the fear and loathing of Muslims by those of other faiths. It leads to all sorts of irrational acts, including blaming Muslims for every single human infraction there is, and insisting that they are going to do things that they have no intention of doing, for example, setting up syariah law in the United States.
Witness the current Republican primaries. Almost every candidate has said something Islamophobic as a way, they think, of getting votes among the conservative right-wing Christian population.
In the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the biggest threat to multi-culturalism is young Muslim men.
What else would account for such a shocking and outrageous generalisation but a phobia about Muslims? It has to be said that such religious phobias do not go one way only.
The response to Islamophobia has been Christianophobia, where Christians are irrationally blamed for every social ill and accused of plotting to take over Muslim countries. (This fantasy always prompts the question in my head of why anyone would want to take over a Muslim country these days, when so many are ill-managed and under-developed.)
Judanophobia, the fear and loathing of Jews, also known in the West as anti-Semitism, is another one that goes a long way back, although Judaism is often wrongly conflated with Zionism.
There are some common features to these phobias. The first is that the target of the phobia is not one that the phobic actually knows.
Most of the most rabid Islamophobes have never met a Muslim in their lives. Secondly, it always involves reducing the human target of the phobia to negative stereotypes: “All Jews are tight-fisted” or “All Muslim women are submissive.” If you point out anyone who doesn’t fit the stereotype, then they are regarded as exceptions to the rule.
It helps to remember that every time we stereotype any group, someone somewhere is also stereotyping us. And those stereotypes about us are no more reasonable than any we make of other people.
But what do phobics care about such fairness? Thirdly, while some people may complain about being the targets of phobias, they also often have no problems having phobias about other people.
Many Muslims who complain about the injustices and oppression wrought by Islamophobia have in turn no qualms about oppressing their own women or groups who may not fit into their idea of mainstream Islam.
Homophobia, for instance, is a pretty routine reflex among many Muslim men, especially those men who are the most likely to be picked out at an American airport for further questioning.
In the end, we have to ask in what ways do phobias like these help to advance society? If the US becomes more Islamophobic, will it make Americans happier, richer or safer?
If Muslim countries become more Christianophobic, will their people be less hungry and better educated? If our societies allow homophobia to become the norm, will our schools be better and our public transport more efficient? Are phobias even worth using to get votes?
At the beginning of this year, Jamaica’s People’s National Party won a landslide victory on a platform that explicitly rejected homophobia and promoted greater inclusiveness. What’s more, Jamaicans even elected their first-ever female prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller.
It just goes to show that using negativity to win votes is a losing strategy because people really want positive and inclusive leadership.
Perhaps, if there was a phobia to promote, it should be a phobia about corruption. Our society should develop a true loathing of corruption in any form, whether it is the petty everyday variety or the major million dollar ones.
We should get to the point where instead of joking about it, the very mention of any form of bribe would be met with severe disgust and rejection.
Coupled with this should be a phobia for the sense of entitlement and impunity that some people enjoy while disregarding other people’s feelings.
Instead of simply putting up with this, we should collectively and decisively say it’s simply not acceptable. Now, that would surely be worth a vote or two.
Rafidah tells Malaysian students in UK to avoid Intellectual Arrogance
LONDON, 30 JANUARY, 2012: Former International Trade and Industry Minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz reminded some 500 Malaysian students from Britain's top universities not to be filled with "professional intellectual arrogance."
What is important is for students to learn from the bottom up and not let arrogance make them forget how to be humble when coming out into the working world, she said.
Rafidah was delivering her keynote address on "Career Development and Opportunities" at Projek Amanat Negara 2012, the annual summit of the United Kingdom & Eire Council of Malaysian Students (UKEC), at Marble Arch on Sunday.
Malaysian High Commissioner Datuk Zakaria Sulong, meanwhile, said that students should build on their intellectual capacity to be able to think critically while aspiring for the best in their studies.
"For those wishing to stay back in the UK and are not governed by any contract, you are free to do so but remember to gain as much knowledge and exposure as possible because one day you will come back and share your experiences back home with those who did not have access to this kind of opportunities," he added.
The one-day annual conference also saw discussions on various issues such as human rights, religion in the public sphere, politics and public policy.
Among the key panelists were social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, PKR Strategic Director Rafizi Ramli, Umno Youth Chief and Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin, Sisters in Islam founder Zainah Anwar and Kuala Selangor MP and PAS Central Committee Member Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.
Howls of protest are heard when attempts are made to block hate speech, which is ironic because very often the speaker has no interest in respecting anyone else’s rights either.
I JUST returned from a symposium on social media, freedom of expression and incitement to hatred in Asia.
Forty Asian delegates as well as Frank La Rue, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, gathered to discuss what is happening in our countries and what can be done to meet the challenges that the Internet, particularly, poses. The good news is that Malaysia is not the worst country when it comes to laws restricting freedom of speech on the Internet. This is not to say we don’t have such laws but we are still grappling with the whole issue.
Delegates told of how, in some countries, if anything said by an individual online offends anyone, then the person who said it can be prosecuted.
Thus, if you opine that someone is a nobody, or that you don’t like someone’s hairstyle, then that person can say he’s offended by it and report you.
In many countries, there are laws preventing people from insulting various entities, including the government, royalty and religion.
The trouble is often the definition of insulting is vague and governments tend to be insulted on behalf of other people who may not care at all.
But that would be reason enough for them to prosecute someone.
Thus this leads to much abuse by these governments, especially towards people they don’t like.
The right to freedom of expression is of course balanced by responsibilities.
As Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, the exercise of the right to freedom of speech carries with it special duties and responsibilities and therefore may be subject to certain restrictions.
However, these shall only be such as provided by law and are necessary “for respect of the rights and reputations of others” and “for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals”.
Our own Article 10 in our Federal Constitution allows the freedom of speech, assembly and association, but is then restricted by certain other provisions and laws.
For instance, it should be clear to everyone that child pornography, which violates the rights of children, should be prohibited and nobody should object to the blocking of such websites.
However, the Special Rapporteur reports that most governments rely solely on blocking of such websites and not on prosecuting those who produce them.
Also, despite child pornography being a by-product of child trafficking, most governments have done very little to tackle this root cause of the problem.
Another legitimate restriction to free speech is to censure hate speech, especially those that incite others to violence.
Even these have to be carefully enacted, so that only speech where there is a clear and immediate danger of violence occurring towards anyone or group is restricted.
We know that sometimes people say things in the heat of the moment they don’t really mean or intend to carry out. On the other hand, sometimes there are people of influence who seem to encourage their followers or supporters to take steps to harm others.
Those are the ones that need restricting or even prosecution.
The other issue is privacy. In order to be able to express their opinions freely, people need to have their right to privacy protected.
However, we now see governments requiring real name verification before comments can be made online.
This discourages many people in countries where there is legitimate fear of persecution for different views.
Even worse, there is little done when the personal details of people are posted online causing them to be harassed and even threatened.
We have seen very little will in governments to protect the privacy and security of these individuals, just because they may have different views.
Sometimes, it is not just the privacy of these individuals that are violated but also those of their families and friends. Clearly, in Malaysia, these violations of privacy and of freedom of speech overall are made not just by the government, and by their supporters, but also by those opposing them.
Hate speech has of late been allowed free reign on the Internet. Every time a blog owner tries to block someone who posts hateful comments, we get accused of restricting freedom of speech, which is ironic because very often the blocked person has no interest in respecting anyone else’s rights either.
Unfortunately, most Malaysians are complacent about these issues.
But as the Special Rapporteur pointed out, the freedom of speech, opinion and expression facilitates other rights such as the right to information, to education, to take part in cultural life and to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress.
Violations of free speech, whether through laws or just intimidation, affect all of us. We should always be watchful when it happens.
Draft Asean Human Rights declaration to be discussed with Suhakam, NGOs
KUALA LUMPUR: Suhakam and non-governmental organisations (NGO) can look forward to consultations on the draft Asean Human Rights declaration this year.
“We received a working draft of the declaration today and I will be conducting active consultation from now on,” said Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who is Malaysia's commissioner in Asean's Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) .
“I have so far only met with the NGO coalition Comango and the Bar Council,” he added yesterday.
He was asked to comment on a call by Amnesty International in the Jakarta Post on Saturday to make the draft public since human rights concerned every woman, man and child in the region.
Amnesty said it was “disappointed by the secrecy surrounding the drafting process so far”.
In the same report, Cambodian Human Rights Committee chairman Om Yin Tieng said Cambodia, which chairs Asean this year, aims to finalise the grouping's Human Rights declaration this year.
Muhammad Shafee, who is in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where the AICHR is meeting over two days immediately ahead of a meeting of Asean Foreign Ministers, said that he would be calling for consultations with Suhakam, Comango, the Bar Council, consumer groups, women's groups like Sisters In Islam, other interest groups and government representatives.
Asked why he had not met with the national human rights institution, he replied: “Suhakam invited me but I said I would do so after getting the working draft.”
Muhammad Shafee said the draft would not be made public but now that he had it, he would have “concepts” which he could raise with interested groups.
“For example, while Malaysia is a recipient country for labour, other members who are source countries might want to include the rights of migrant workers in the draft.” He added that if someone were to suggest “something extraordinary which I think is good, I would raise it at the next AICHR meeting.”
“But the final decision is by consensus and after us, it goes to the ministers.” He said groups or individuals could communicate with him directly or send their suggestions to the Asean desk at Wisma Putra.