Is G25’s Open Letter Constitutional?

G25 claims to be “an independent group of Muslim professionals, (who) have expressed their concern over recent developments pertaining to the administration of shariah laws in the country and the longstanding conflicts of jurisdiction between the civil and shariah courts”. They have compiled their list of ‘concerns’ in an open letter addressed to the ‘People of Malaysia’.

Interestingly, they did not address the letter to ‘Muslims of Malaysia’ but to a much larger, plural term – people, presumably regardless of their religion. It tickles me that while they accuse that some of the shariah laws and its implementation are unconstitutional, their letter encourages the consultations of non-Muslims in the regulation of Islamic religious affairs despite in Article 11 (3) of the Federal Constitution declared that:

“Every religious group has the right— (a) to manage its own religious affairs”.

The invitation to Non-Muslims into the managements of the Islamic religious affairs is clearly unconstitutional. Indeed, the managements of Islamic religious affairs and all matters relating to the religion of Islam should be under the Yang di-Pertuan Agong with the advice of an Islamic council pertaining to Article 3 (5) of the Federal Constitution.

Nevertheless, I have read G25’s Letter to the People of Malaysia: Champion Open Debate and Discourse on Islamic Law and the discrepancies did not stop there. I have quoted some of their complains which I find most inconsistent within the letter below:

The on-going debate over these matters display a lack of clarity and understanding on the place of Islam within our constitutional democracy….

Even as early as in the introduction, they claim that ‘there is a lack of clarity and understanding on the place of Islam within our constitutional democracy’. In actuality, the place of Islam within our federal constitution is clear – Article 3 (1) states that, “Islam is the religion of the Federation.” Anyone with access to the internet and the interest to look up and do a little reading would be able to find a copy of the Federal Constitution in both English and Malay from the website of the Attorney General’s Chamber of Malaysia.

Furthermore, Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy – not a constitutional democracy. Not even once had ‘democracy’ ever been mentioned in the federal constitution while the subject of Yang Di-Pertuan Agong as well as the Conference of Rulers have been mentioned numerous times throughout the constitution.

As moderate Muslims, we are particularly concerned with the statement issued by Minister Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, in response to the recent Court of Appeal judgement on the right of transgendered women to dress according to their identity. He viewed the right of the transgender community and Sisters in Islam (SIS) to seek legal redress as a “new wave of assault on Islam” and as an attempt to lead Muslims astray from their faith, and put religious institutions on trial in a secular court.

Such an inflammatory statement from a Federal Minister (and not for the first time) sends a public message that the Prime Minister’s commitment to the path of moderation need not be taken seriously when a Cabinet minister can persistently undermine it.

Nowhere in the federal constitution nor any other section of our laws, mentioned that Islam in Malaysia is being geared towards ‘extreme’ moderation or more accurately, liberation. In accordance to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), moderation is “the quality of being moderate in conduct, opinion, etc.; avoidance of excess or extremes in behaviour; temperateness, self-control, restraint.” Thus, having the restraint and self-control to avoid extreme behaviour, such as crossdressing, is in fact being moderate.

While on the other hand, according to OED, liberation is “Freedom from limits on thought or behaviour” which technically contradicts with the concept of becoming a Muslim, which comes from the Arabic term of ‘one who surrenders or submits to God’. No self respecting person who submits themselves to God would consider themselves ‘free from limits’ – they have after all surrendered themselves into God’s power.

The lack of public awareness, even among top political leaders, on the legal jurisdiction and substantive limits of the powers of the religious authorities and administration of Islamic laws in Malaysia. The Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land and any law enacted, including Islamic laws, cannot violate the Constitution, in particular the provisions on fundamental liberties, federal-state division of powers and legislative procedures.

As subjected to Article 37 (1) of the Federal Constitution:

“The Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall before exercising his functions take and subscribe before the Conference of Rulers and in the presence of the Chief Justice of the Federal Court the oath of office set out in Part I of the Fourth Schedule”

In which the Yang di-Pertuan Agong  swear:

Wallahi; Wabillahi; Watallahi; and by virtue of that oath do solemnly and truly declare that We shall justly and faithfully perform (carry out) our duties in the administration of Malaysia in accordance with its laws and Constitution which have been promulgated or which may be promulgated from time to time in the future. Further We do solemnly and truly declare that We shall at all time protect the Religion of Islam and uphold the rules of law and order in the Country.”

In accordance with this oath, the religious administrations had been set up and their authorities were bequeathed the responsibility to protect and regulate the Religion of Islam by the Rulers and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who are all acting as the Head of the Religion of Islam as subjected to Article 3 (2) in the federal constitution.

And concerning with the fundamental liberties of Malaysians, Article 5 (1) states that: “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law”.

As Muslims, we want Islamic law, even more than civil law, to meet the highest standards of justice precisely because it claims to reflect divine justice. Therefore, those who act in the name of Islam through the administration of Islamic law must bear the responsibility of demonstrating that justice is done, and is seen to be done.

When Islam was revealed to our Prophet saw in 7th century Arabia, it was astoundingly revolutionary and progressive. Over the centuries, the religion has guided believers through harsh and challenging times. It is our fervent belief that for Islam to continue to be relevant and universal in our times, the understanding, codification and implementation of the teachings of our faith must continue to evolve. Only with this, can justice, as enjoined by Allah swt, prevail.

If the members of G25 claim that the understanding, codification and implementation of the teachings of Islam must continue to evolve for justice to prevail, are they demanding for the divine justice to adapt to the the advancements of human civilization? Shouldn’t we Muslims humbly submit to Allah’s divine justice however inflated our egos are with the pride of our ‘great achievements’?

And finally:

where the rise of supremacist NGOs accusing dissenting voices of being anti-Islam, anti-monarchy and anti-Malay has made attempts at rational discussion and conflict resolution difficult

So has the rise of supremacist individuals and personnel who wrongfully accuse law asserting voices of being unconstitutional despite being so themselves, causing confusion and worsen conflicts rather than attempting to solve them…..

*Please click here for the link to the Malaysian Federal Constitution*