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Is caning a remedy?

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Dominic Damian believes there are moments when the light inspires and touches us – across the boundaries of faith and ethnicity – to have the grace of an angel.

The travesty in this nation and especially of a certain political party is in its fixation of trying to control women.

There is this controversial view of religion that is sometimes glaringly incompatible with some current situations in life. In using religion in the most negative sense as a tool of punishment, certain quarters are dogmatically using passages of religious teachings in a way that hurts individuals.

The trajectory of contradictions is unsustainable and unsubstantiated: one can’t proclaim the greatness of God while thinking of God as a small, vengeful being whose omnipotence and omnipresence can be compromised by the ‘joy’ of caning women.

If religion is designed and driven by a God who is proclaimed as compassionate and merciful, how can this be consistent with a prescription for painful, humiliating punishment?

It is shameful, even hypocritical – as it reveals selective courage – when the leadership of either side of the political divide does not conscientiously object to such treatment of women. It is no use being talented or incorruptible leaders when there is this prevalent fear of ‘rocking the boat’.

True courage means taking any and every concern by the scruff of the neck and addressing it, even if it means resounding defeat. One should not treat values as something expedient to gain political mileage.

One simple question to Muslims and people of other faiths or none: is a Muslim brother and sister an essential and integral part of our equation as family?

One can’t dither about it. When all is convenient, we can claim sister and brotherhood. But when there are issues like the caning of the women, it becomes an exclusively Muslim issue, and there is a siege mentality about it.

Good and powerful individuals who are fearless about everything else would suddenly choke up and be muted about these concerns. There cannot be a promotional ‘feel good’, plastic brotherhood and sisterhood. It is either there or not there – whether in good times or bad, in struggles and in triumphs, with no exception.

Is caning the complete ‘cure’ for those who are LGBT? The global medical community cannot determine conclusively, in a scientific manner, why people have different sexual orientations; it is a complex puzzle.

Some of us may not agree in a religious sense with LGBT – but neither should we condemn it. Does a puzzle which we are so far from solving become a sin? It may already be painful for those who wear this stigma. They would potentially face alienation from all segments of society. Here we have caning put forward as a remedy. How many would crush their souls in the rush for such a cure to be ‘normal’ like you or me?

Interestingly enough, certain quarters pushing for stern punishment have been shown up to be allegedly complicit, directly or indirectly, in the 1MDB scandal. If the law was judiciously applied equally to them for their alleged involvement, what would the penalty be for them?

As for the political party pushing for harsh punishments, they are doomed to be inconsequential, a fringe party at best – which is such a pity as my personal hero, for whom I have the deepest affection – the one and only late Tok Guru – was from this party.

I have some opinions that are formulated and based on my conscience, life experiences and the people I meet. I am inspired by those whose life actions are greater than the sum of even my thoughts. They are good individuals whose lives are lived in quiet dignity.

Let me share with you an anecdote. A Muslim employee of mine requested we save a dog stuck in a drain. The drain was filled with a combination of revolting odours – excrement, decayed food, rotting flesh, and all kinds of garbage in dark, putrid water. The dog was clearly infested and nearly bit both of us quite a few times.

We were overcome by nausea and vomiting. We managed to place the unfortunate animal in my car and drove all the way back to my home gasping for breath due to the unbearable stench. The dog died the same day.

The compassion to try and save the life of an animal despite overwhelming odds and not abandon it to its fate is a compelling lesson that narrow interpretation of the dictates of religion alone should not characterise our response.

I believe there are moments when the light of God inspires and touches a person – across the boundaries of faith and ethnicity – to have the grace of an angel.

I am fortunate that I have encountered the most exceptional Muslims and Malays who are placed in my life by providence or God for a reason beyond my comprehension. Their exemplary lives are sufficient evidence of the good that resides in the Muslim faith. Such lives also compel us to tackle concerns with regard to faith with sensitive discernment and discourse so that we can find a better path, a kinder way.

Most faiths profess the message of equality, justice and mercy. This is precisely one among the various compelling reasons why silence is not an option when faced with harsh punishments that affect every person.

Unjust application of what passes off as narrow interpretations of divine teaching is susceptible to abuse. Laws that affect life or limb without the possibility of rehabilitation and restoration of life must be subject to extensive discourse and debate on their application.

How does one prevent the undesired results that may arise from such implementation? Do we fully understand the implications of laws that may infringe on the rights that have been won by long hard struggle over the years in the quest to secure the highest possible human standard for all?

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