Sisters in Islam (SIS) strongly protests the extreme actions by Muslim NGOs and political parties in halting the Bar Council Forum on “Conversion to Islam: Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution: Subashini and Shamala Revisited” held on 9 August 2008.
SIS also strongly condemns the violent actions of throwing Molotov cocktails at the former residence of the President of the Bar Council, now the residence of Dato’ Seri Shahrizat Jalil’s family, and for the planting of two kerosene bombs in front of the Bar Council office.
Such violent acts only give a bad image of Muslims and Malaysian society surely does not tolerate these extremist or terrorist actions.
Government leaders should have helped to allay the fears of Muslims by giving proper explanations to the public. If the government anticipated any untoward incidents, the government should have taken the necessary measures to ensure the forum could proceed smoothly without any disruptions.
The police should not have bowed to the aggressive tactics that forced for the abrupt termination of a peaceful and mature dialogue.
The Muslim NGOs and political parties that caused the cancellation of the forum should realize that there were many Muslim lawyers and Muslim participants who supported the dialogue and did not regard the forum as insulting or challenging Islam.
The Malaysian Bar Council has duly informed several religious bodies about the forum. In fact, two religious officers – Tuan Dr. Haji Naim Haji Mokhtar (Syarie Prosecutor for federal territory’s Islamic Affairs Department & former Syariah High Court judge) and Dr. Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad (Director of the Syariah Law and Political Science Centre / Senior Fellow of the Institute for Islamic Understanding of Malaysia (IKIM)) have initially agreed to be the panelists for the said forum. It was unfortunate that both pulled out at the eleventh hour.
The fact was that based on the programme, three of the five panelists were Muslims.
SIS is of the position that Malaysian citizens have every right to discuss any national laws and policies that affect the rights of the people. In view that the Shamala and Subashini cases impact on the rights of non-Muslim spouses, non-Muslims have every right to discuss how to deal with conflicts in matrimonial and family matters such as divorce, alimony, custody and maintenance.
At the same time, the media reported an inter-faith dialogue organized in Universiti Malaya at the end of July 2008, amongst the government religious agencies, academicians, the Allied Coordinating Committee of Islamic NGOs (ACCIN) and the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST). Amongst the resolutions was for more dialogues to be held in discussing inter-religious issues in Malaysia including apostasy, conversion to Islam and its impact on matrimonial and family matters such as divorce, alimony, custody and maintenance.
SIS thus is at a loss at to why the government, political parties and the Muslim NGOs did not support the dialogue organized by the Bar Council.
SIS is disappointed that political parties which have been championing human rights, the voice of the people and citizens’ rights in airing their opinions etc, have obviously failed in practicing what they preach; in fact, they have acted against their own manifesto promised to the people in the last General Elections.
SIS hopes for all parties to respect the rights of all Malaysians in airing their views on issues that affect citizens’ rights.
SIS statement against the disruption of Bar Council Forum on “Conversion to Islam : Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution: Subashini and Shamala Revisited” held on 9 August 2008.