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FEER: Question of Faith
By Kapal Berita
14/10/2000 3:08 am Sat
Rencana ini memang layak masuk ke dalam tong sampah.....
tetapi dihantar keforum ini supaya kita dapat
mengenalpasti siapakah yang berpura-pura berjuang dan
siapa yang "naik tocang". Lihatlah bagaimana Noraishah
dikatakan kononya "bercinta" sedangkan beliau
Seperti biasa ramai yang bersedap kata tetapi ia hanyalah
setakat dibibir sahaja. Patutlah gejala murtad tidak menemui
kesudahannya kerana negara asyik membina mercu tanda di bandar dan
di desa, tetapi lupa untuk menapak iman di dada...
Perenggan terakhir menunjukkan sikap Farish Nor yang
kekal sebagai seorang yang tidak mahu Islam mencorakkan
politik tanahair... ie fahaman sekular.
From The Far Eastern Economic Review
Question of Faith
Concern grows that the ruling party may seize the Islamic initiative
to win votes
By S. Jayasankaran/KUALA LUMPUR
IN KUALA LUMPUR in 1998, bank executive Nur'aishah Bukhari, a Malay
Muslim, fell in love with her colleague Joseph Lee, a Roman Catholic
of Chinese-Indian parentage. This should have mattered little in
Malaysia, where Muslim-Christian marriages are fairly common and the
non-Muslim partner typically embraces Islam.
But Nur'aishah converted to Catholicism, thus turning her back on
Islam and committing apostasy, a cardinal sin in the eyes of many
Muslims. The resulting uproar from Malaysia's majority Malays, who are
defined as Muslims by the constitution, finally forced the couple to
flee the country.
Two years later, apostasy is again a national issue, but with politics
This time the focus is a federal bill on apostasy drafted by the
United Malays National Organization, which leads the country's ruling
coalition. Designed as a guideline for Malaysia's states, which
administer sharia (Islamic) law, the bill has prompted many people to
wonder whether the supposedly secular Umno is trying to "out-Islamize"
the opposition Islamic Party of Malaysia, or Pas, which made big gains
in elections last year.
The bill was modelled on legislation adopted in April, with Umno's
backing, in the northern state of Perlis. It proposed sweeping powers
for religious officials to detain apostates--as well as anyone merely
suspected of planning to convert from Islam--for up to a year of
But in September, amid protests from women's groups and a lively
debate in the media, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad appeared to back
down. At this point, the measure was being checked by the
attorney-general prior to being put before parliament. "We have found
some weaknesses in it, rendering it quite ineffective, so we have yet
to make a decision on it until it can be improved," the prime minister
told reporters. "We cannot make hasty decisions," he added, noting
that apostasy has been debated since Islam emerged 1,400 years ago.
Nonetheless, the fact that the bill almost reached parliament and was
supported by Umno shocked many people. Critics fear it has been only
temporarily shelved and will be revived whenever Umno thinks it can
make political mileage out of it.
Opponents suggest Umno is seeking a more zealous image only to woo
disaffected Malay voters back from Pas. The Sisters in Islam, a group
campaigning to protect the rights of women in Islam, denounced the
bill as a "holier-than-thou battle for the hearts and minds of Muslim
Syed Azman Syed Ahmad, a Pas member of parliament, sees more than just
an attempt to win votes. "Some say Umno is trying to outwit Pas on
Islamic issues," he says. "One of the targets could be Pas. They could
arrest anyone on vague charges of apostasy or for supporting
Upping the religious stakes creates a potentially slippery slope in
multiracial Malaysia. The Perlis apostasy law allows "religious
authorities to decide who's a Muslim and who's not," says Farish Noor,
a writer on Islamic affairs. "There is no room for individual
interpretation of faith any longer. It's now become a matter for the
state authorities to decide." No one, however, has yet been prosecuted
for apostasy in Perlis.
WHAT NON-MUSLIMS FEAR
An Islamic resurgence has been evident in Malaysia since the 1980s,
but it posed no political threat to Umno until Deputy Premier Anwar
Ibrahim was sacked in 1998. To many Malays, Anwar represented Umno's
Islamic credentials, and the manner of his ouster on s###my charges
pushed them into the arms of the Pas-dominated opposition.
Farish warns Umno against going down the Islamist path. "That will
only play into the hands of the Islamists and add to the already
overdetermined role of Islam in this country," he says. "Nobody has
even thought of its long-term consequences. The bottom line is that
religion is an unpredictable variable that should not be used in