Friday, December 30, 2005

What's at stake in the Moorthy case

Before we go on let me pause for a moment and recognize that perhaps we have lots of bloggers writing about the Moorthy case. Can we all take one step back and take a deep breath. Perhaps the issue here is not whether Moorthy was a Muslim or a Hindu. The issue here is that we have someone who is dead and two parties claim him. As far as I know his wife, yes the lady who was by his side till the day he died, claims he died a Hindu. The religious authorities claim he was Muslim.

The wife has nothing to gain by claiming that Moorthy died Hindu and the religious authorities stand to gain by claiming he was Muslim. After all they gain the corpse of a nationally renowned climber and they stand to disinherit his wife from his legacy, both financially and culturally.

So why do the rest of us take issue in this case of Islamo fascists versus Moorthy's next of kin? Well here's why.

1) The courts have no place deciding the religion of a person. The secular courts exist to enforce the secular laws of a country. A religious court exists to rule over Muslims. The secular courts must judge with the consent of the judged or else they must compel using force, which is why we have a police force and so on. Yet their jurisdiction is over Malaysians only or those who fall under the sway of Malaysian rule such as foreign drug dealers. the religious courts similarly rule over those of the religion. In determining whether Moorthy was Hindu or Muslim the religious court would have had no sway if Moorthy was Hindu and that was a question not for the court (even the secular) to decide. The court has, at best, the role of determining what his religion was. In this determination they should study the evidence as they best can to see what it was that occured. The courts have clearly usurped the right of every free man to decide for himself what his conscience will permit in the way of believe, be it whether he chooses to worship the moon, a cow or a stone .

2) That the man was clearly a Hindu at one time is self apparent. The religious authorities claimed he converted. Claims require proof and claims of such magnitude require proof of such magnitude. That no proof was produced before the court in the way of documentation and so on is appalling. That any lawyer can stand before a court and state that the syariah court has decided on something so no evidence is necessary is not compelling enough. The syariah court is neither responsible to us nor are we responsible to the syariah court. It's an internal Muslim club and what your club has decided stays in your little sector of society. The rest of us don't really give a damm. That a man could be robbed of his heritage without any evidence shows that the courts have lost their way. A judge cannot say it's like this because I feel it, the evidence has to be there to support it.

3) That our national religion would tussle over a dead man is troubling. If a national religion cannot act with dignity and treat the weakest in the society with magnamity then perhaps its time for it to retire and let someone else take a turn, assuming we need a national religion.

4) That a Muslim judge could be allowed to ehar a case like this is equally troubling. A judge should have been found who was neither Muslim nor Hindu. After all the role of any court in any land is to be an impartial arbiter in any situation. Was justice done?

All the issues together are very troubling. What's msot troubling is that the majority in Malaysia who claim the name of Muslim are not outraged that, on their behalf, the Islamic authorities have taken to body snatching. Is there no more space in Islam Hadhari for a sense of shame at doing wrong or are we supposed to consider this as an inshala (will of god) moment?

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