Posted by: malaysianchristian | July 25, 2007

LINA JOY: A Watershed Event In Malaysia


– Toward an Inter-textual Theological Reflection –

                                                            Jojo M. Fung, SJ 

      Lina Joy’s case is an issue symbolic of a religious crisis. It is certainly a “clear signs of the times” that urges thinking amongst the critical-minded Malaysians of the diverse religions. In this reflection, I hope to begin with legal citation-exposition of Dr. Shah Saleem Faruqi, a professor of Law at UiTM and then the more religious explanation of Dr. Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas, Director-General, and Md Asham Ahmad, a Fellow, both from the Centre For Syariah, Law and Political Science, IKIM. Then I will proceed with the inter-textual theological reflection that enables believers to better respond to God’s salvific actions in our world.  

Legal-Textual and Religious Explanations

Dr. Shah Saleem Faruqi argues that Article 4 (1) does not foreground “the idea of a theocracy” but rather the adoption of the Federal Constitution as a supreme Constitution” and not the syariah. Islam (Article 3 (1) becomes “the religion of the Federation, but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony.” (CAN News, Vol. 26, no.6, June 2007:30] He emphasizes that the syariah only applies to Muslims and that, too, in areas demarcated by the Constitution in Schedule 9, List II, Item 1” (Ibid.) In fact, the State aqida laws must not violate Article 11 or the supreme Constitution, and must never contravene the Federal list by criminalizing Muslims who submits themselves to “a formal procedural requirement of renunciation” for “acts of belligerency by murtad must be punished under the Federal Penal Code,” under section 298. (Ibid., 31-32).  

Dr. Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas and Md. Asham Ahmad postulate that the fundamental elements of Islam are premised on revelation, reason and language. According to both, “kalimah shahadah, namely, to profess the act of being bearing witness” is only accepted only when the testimony is “a truthful witness.” (Ibid., 26] for “the Qu’ran clearly mentions that God does not accept one who desires other than Islam as his religion. It means that whosoever ‘converts’ to Islam not for the sake of submitting to the will of God according to the religion of Islam is not truly a Muslim.” (Ibid., 27) In explaining reason, both emphasize that “knowledge is the property of reason (‘aql). Without reason there can be no true knowledge, and without true knowledge it is not possible to convert to Islam willingly and consciously” for the Prophet clearly stated “No religion (din) to one who has no reason (‘aql)”. (Ibid.) In summary, Dr. Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas and Md. Asham Ahmad are of the conviction that forced Islam without bearing a truthful witness, aided by true knowledge of the truth about Islam does not make anyone a Muslim.” (Ibid., 29) 

Dr. Shah Saleem Faruqi is concise and conclusive: “Obviously, one’s status as a Muslim is not eternal. It can be lost or forfeited.” (Ibid., 29) Besides, “it is a flagrant violation of the Constitution as drafted in 1957 to imprison someone for his religious belief.” (Ibid., 32) Dr. Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas and Md. Asham Ahmad assertively state that “Islam is not to be made the desperate handmaiden of any political party” and “using the mechanism of the judiciary to ‘Islamise’ people, or to prevent them from leaving Islam is totally absurb” lest “Islam will be put on trial.” But alas “this is already happening.” (Ibid., 28). All three scholars are in agreement that forced Islam does not make Muslims truthful Muslims.  

Inter-Textual Theological Reflection

The open letter of the 38 leading Muslim religious scholars and leaders around the world (see Herald, Herald, Nov 5, 2006:11] proves to be a great source of relevant Qu’ranic teachings. First and foremost, the Qu’ranic tenet, ‘There is no compulsion in religion’ addresses those “in position of strength, not weakness,” a teaching that takes to task the political and judicial powers that reduces Islam to a handmaid and ‘islamicizes’ the weak. These scholars and leaders further attest that “the earliest commentaries on the Qu’ran (such as that of Al-Tabari) make it clear that some Muslims of Medina wanted to force their children to convert from Judaism or Christianity to Islam and this verse was precisely an answer to them not to try to force their children to convert to Islam.” [See An Open letter to Pope Benedict XVI, Herald, Nov 5, 2006:11] Liberty of worship is paramount in Islam: Say: “The truth is from your Lord; so whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelief.” (al-Kahf18:29); and Say: “O disbelievers! I worship not hat which ye worship; Nor worship ye that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which ye worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion. (al-Kafirun:109:1-6) [Ibid.)  

The Qu’ranic teachings further enjoin Muslims to maintain “a consonance between the truths of the Quranic revelation and the demands of human intelligence, without sacrificing one for the other. God says, “We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and in themselves until it is clear to them that it is the truth (Fussilat 41:53). Reason itself is one among the many signs within us, which God invites us to contemplate, and to contemplate with, as a way of knowing the truth.” (ibid.) Only by living in such undivided consonance can those in power administer Qu’ranic justice with kindness and the Qu’ran enjoins, “Lo! God enjoins justice and kindness, and giving to kinsfolk, and forbids lewdness and abomination and wickedness. He exhorts you in order that ye may take heed (al-Nahl, 16:90). Equally, God says in the Qu’ran that “He has prescribed for Himself mercy (al-An’am, 6:12) and that God says in the Qu’ran, “My mercy encompasses everything.” (al-A’raf 7:156). [Ibid.] 

With justice and mercy, Muslims are to live peacefully with their neighbours: “And if they incline to peace, do thou incline to it; and put thy trust in God (al-Anfal 8:61); “Let not hatred of any people seduce you into being unjust. Be just, that is nearer to piety.” (al-Ma’idah 5:8) “Who so slays a soul not to retaliate for a soul slain, nor for corruption done in the land, it shall be as if s/he had slain humankind altogether (al-Ma’idah 5:32). In the final analysis, these scholars and leaders categorically state that “We emphatically agree that forcing others to believe – if such a thing be truly possible at all – is not pleasing to God and that God is not pleased by blood. Indeed, we believe, and Muslims have always believed, that “Who so slays should not to retaliate for a soul slain, nor for corruption done in the land, it shall be as if he had slain mankind altogether (al-Maiidah 5:32) [Ibid.)  

Biblical teachings are equally emphatic that powers must not be used for unlawful usurpation and victimization as indicated in 2 Samuel 12:9-10 when David put Uriah the Hittite to the sword and coveted his wife. Those in power must lend themselves to the service of the least of the brethren in society (Matt.25: 40-41) in the act of feet-washing (John 13:14-15 in which the disciples are to emulate the self-giving action of the master) and willful self-emptying of hierarchical superiority (Phil 2:6-8). Such behavior demonstrates the ‘solidarity from the below’ with those on the margin who are powerless and branded as ‘sinners, tax-collectors and prostitutes’ (Matt 9:10-13; Mk 2:15-17; Lk5:29-32) In fact the trail of Jesus demonstrates sufficiently that the Roman Imperial powers that is seemingly powerful is hollow. In fact, St. John takes pain to unmask the earthly powers by asserting: “You would have no power over me at all if it had not been given you from above.” (John 19:11). The power from on high is the only power that subverts the earthly power with all its wicked attempts to bury the victims in ‘tombs of judicio-political limbo’ as if the buried would be silenced forever by handing “a considerable sum of money to the soldiers” (Mat. 28:13), with assurance that “should the governor come to hear of this, we undertake to put things right with him ourselves and to see that you do not get into trouble.” (Mat. 28:14-15) Yet this power erupts gloriously ‘from below’ to liberate all those who are entombed and enslaved by the powers that be.  

The Risen Lord is “I am with you always: yes to the end of time” (Matt. 28:20) is present to us in Spirit. This Spirit continues to be the source of power of the marginal peoples (comprising Jewish-Hellenist communities of equal disciples and citizens) who struggle against the might of the Greco-Roman world. Through the boundary-shattering power of the Risen Lord, the God of Judaism is de-monopolized and became the God of “anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God” for God “has no favourites.” (Acts 10:34-35) This God is “the God not only of the Jews …most certainly of the Gentiles too, since there is only one God.” (Rom.3:29) This God at work in the power of the Spirit of the Risen Lord which enjoins the early Christian communities to bring about “God’s saving justice” in terms of working for “peace and joy” that signify the presence of God’s Kin-dom: “So then, let us be always seeking the ways which lead to peace and the ways in which we can support one another.” (Rom. 14:17-18) This concerted efforts is motivated by the Spirit of the Risen Lord who “is the peace between us” and “by restoring peace to create a single New Human out of the two of them” (Eph.2:14-16) for God is a “God not of disorder but of peace.” (1 Cor.14:33) In this way, God eventually becomes the God “of all, through all and within all.” (Eph.4:6)  

Believers, especially those with power, must be reasonable, open to revealed truths and do what is right and just so as to be acceptable to God and thus bears truthful testimonies to their faith in the ONE GOD. Only God’s saving justice and truthful believers can erase the prejudices and suspicion that spawns tyranny, ensure the democratic space for religious liberty of worship, fosters and nurtures the much desired peace between the believers.  


      The Creative Spirit of God continues to motivate all who are prophetic in our times, be they the 38 leading Muslim Scholars and leaders, Dr. Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas and Md. Asham Ahmad, Dr. Shah Saleem Faruqi, Richard Malanjun or Lina Joy herself. The supremacy of the Constitution must guarantee greater constitutional democracy for those who willfully and conscientiously want to exercise their fundamental freedom of religion. All of them deserve our moral support. Let this nation in the next 50 years be guided and shaped by believers and citizens of goodwill who subscribe to revelation, reason and just practices.


Posted by: malaysianchristian | July 24, 2007

A Secular State or an Islamic State?

A Secular State or an Islamic State?

Written by Chandra Muzaffar
Monday, 23 July 2007

Malaysia is not a secular state within the conventional use of the term. Neither is it an Islamic state in the classical sense.

It is not a secular state since the Malaysian state formulates policies and organizes activities from the building of mosques and the administration of the Hajj, on the one hand, to the establishment of Islamic schools and the dissemination of Islamic awareness through public broadcasting channels, on the other, which demonstrate that it is actively involved in sustaining and strengthening the position of Islam in society.  Judicial pronouncements and political utterances from the past which suggest that Malaysia is a secular state do not in any way negate the fact that the state has functioned in a non-secular mode, especially in the last three decades.

Nonetheless, for the majority of contemporary Muslim jurists, Malaysia is not an Islamic state since its constitution does not state that governance is based upon the Qur’an and Sunnah (the way of the Prophet Muhammad). Neither is shari’ah the supreme law of the land.  Hudud (the Islamic criminal code) is not in force anywhere in Malaysia. These are legal and political attributes of state which are found in almost all those countries that are acknowledged as ‘Islamic’.

More than the actual situation prevalent in Malaysia, there are perceptions of what a ‘secular state’ is, and what an ‘Islamic state’ will be, which have shaped the outlooks of both Muslims and non-Muslims in the country.  For a lot of Muslims, the term ‘secular’ connotes antipathy towards, or worse, rejection of, religion in the life of the nation. Since Islam encompasses all aspects of life, including government and politics, the idea of a ‘secular state’ has become anathema to them. Similarly, for many non-Muslims, an ‘Islamic state’ conjures up a frightening vision of Malay dominance reinforced by religious dogmatism. These perceptions – even if they are misconceived – carry tremendous weight and impact directly upon inter-ethnic ties.

This is why it is unwise to insist that Malaysia is a secular state or an Islamic state. There is no need to do this. It will only widen the chasm between the communities. It will exacerbate ethnic tensions.

Why is it necessary to categorize Malaysia as a secular state or an Islamic state when the character of the Malaysian state, its guiding principles and goals, and its vision of the future, have already been spelt out with such lucidity and clarity in the three fundamental documents that were meant to be our signposts in the last 50 years? The most important of these — the Malaysian Constitution— embodies a dozen or so basic principles which tell us what this nation is. In a nutshell Malaysia means;-

  1. A parliamentary form of government based upon the concept of one person, one vote.
  2. A federal system of governance.
  3. A constitutional monarchy.
  4. The supremacy of the rule of law.
  5. An independent judiciary.
  6. Protection of fundamental liberties.
  7. Malay as the national and official language.
  8. The right to use and study other languages.
  9. Islam as the religion of the Federation.
  10. Recognition of the right of non-Muslims to practise their religions.
  11. The special position of the Malays and other indigenous peoples.
  12. The legitimate interests of the other communities.

These principles enunciated in 1957 when we achieved Merdeka were reiterated in one form or other in the Rukunegara, the nation’s charter, in August 1970. It is significant that the first of the five principles of the Rukunegara is Belief in God. Young Malaysians recite this and the other four principles in school every morning but what is not emphasized at all are the five goals of the Rukunegara— the goals of a united, just, democratic, liberal and progressive nation. Twenty-one years after the Rukunegara, its principles and goals were further elaborated in the nine strategic challenges of Vision 2020 which include the creation of a moral and ethical society.

If we reflected upon the Malaysian Constitution, the Rukunegara and Vision 2020, it would appear that they represent a trajectory in the evolution of the nation’s identity and character. It is as if the three documents embody the steady maturation of the Malaysian state and society.

It is important to emphasize at the same time that most of the principles and goals articulated by the three documents do not in any way contradict the universal values of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Indeed, in certain respects, they seek to give meaning to some of the eternal concerns of the religion about justice, accountability and ethical conduct. Likewise, those who subscribe to a secular vision of society which is not antagonistic to the Divine, would applaud the fact that the Constitution, the Rukunegara and Vision 2020 uphold such principles and goals. In other words, when we go beyond labels such as ‘secular’ and ‘Islamic’ and connect with the substance of our three principal documents we will discover that there is a degree of congruence between the two positions.

This is why as we observe the fiftieth year of our Merdeka, we should reiterate our trust and confidence in the three documents that speak to the spirit of the Malaysian people and their shared destiny. To embroil ourselves in the unending controversy about whether we are a secular state or an Islamic state is to forfeit our future.

Posted by: malaysianchristian | July 19, 2007


The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism is very unsettled by the comments of the Deputy Prime Minister that Malaysia is an “Islamic State” and that “We have never been secular because being secular by Western definition means separation of the Islamic principles in the way we govern a country. We have never been affiliated to that position. We have always been driven by our adherence to the fundamentals of Islam.

Islam may be the “religion of the Federation” but Malaysia is not and ought not to be considered an “Islamic State”.

There have been numerous statements by our politicians and judges that Malaysia is, and was always meant to be, a secular nation. In this sense, secular undoubtedly means a country where religion, religious principles and religious dogma do not influence the business of governance.

The “innocuous” provision in Article 3 of the Federal Constitution was never meant to transform Malaysia into an Islamic State. This was affirmed by the Alliance (comprising UMNO, MCA and MIC) themselves in 1957 when our forefathers stated clearly and unequivocally that ‘The religion of Malaysia shall be Islam. The observance of this principle shall not impose any disability on non-Muslim nationals professing and practicing their own religions and shall not imply the State is not a secular State.We recall that this assurance was given by Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Tun V T Sambanthan who were the signatories to the Independence of Malaya Agreement.

The MCCBCHST is firmly of the view that Malaysia remains a secular country as it was intended to be from Merdeka.

Relevant provisions of the Constitution, and statements from politicians and judges of yesteryear, which reiterate the secular nature of Malaysia’s constitution is enclosed as an appendix. It appears therefore that our decision to publish our Note of Protest recently is all the more timely. (The Note of Protest can be downloaded at )

We urge the Government, the Judiciary and all Malaysians to respect the social contract which was formulated in 1957 and reaffirmed in 1963 and object most strongly to attempts by the Government and the Judiciary to now change the status quo surreptitiously and thereby jeapordizing the democratic freedoms of all Malaysians.

Dated 17th July 2007


Datuk A Vaithilingam


Note: This Statement is issued on behalf of the MCCBCHST by its President. The MCCBCHST is a registered society dedicated to the promotion of goodwill, harmony and unity. It comprises the national organisations of the five religions, namely Malaysian Buddhist Association, Buddhist Missionary Society of Malaysia & Sasana Abhiwurdhi Wardhana Society; Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Council of Churches Malaysia & National Evangelical Christian Fellowship; Malaysian Gurdwara Council, Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia & Khalsa Diwan Malaysia; Malaysia Hindu Sangam and Federation of Taoist Associations, Malaysia. Together, it aims to be the de facto representative body for 45% of the Malaysian population who does not profess Islam as their religion.

Read More…

Posted by: malaysianchristian | July 19, 2007

Malaysia is a Constitutional Democracy, and Not an Islamic State



Address: 26, Jalan Universiti, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

Telephone: (03) 7957 1278, (03) 7957 1463, Fax: (03) 7957 1457




Malaysia is a Constitutional Democracy

and Not an Islamic State


The Christian Federation of Malaysia wishes to express its concern at the following remarks of Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak on 17th July 2007 in response to questions from reporters:



“Islam is the official religion and Malaysia is an Islamic State, an Islamic

State that respects the rights of the non-Muslims and we protect them.”



As he is the Deputy Prime Minister of the country and for all Malaysians, he should not have made those remarks. The use of the term “Islamic State” is unacceptable to Malaysians of other faiths, on three grounds.



Firstly, the term “Islamic State” is not used in our Federal Constitution to describe the country. By citing Art. 3(1) of our Federal Constitution to infer that Malaysia was meant to be an Islamic State runs contrary to the original intention of the Constitution. The Constitution does not provide for a theocratic state.



Secondly, it was never the intention of the social contract entered into at the independence of Malaysia that Malaysia would be an Islamic State. The Constitution was structured to guarantee the right of all religious communities to co-exist and relate with each other on an equal basis as citizens of one and a united country.



Thirdly, to-date, the non-Muslim coalition parties that make up the Barisan National Government had never consented nor officially endorsed the use of the term “Islamic State” to describe the country. The Deputy Prime Minister’s statement must therefore be viewed as lacking official endorsement by the government of the day.



The Christian Federation of Malaysia appeals to the Deputy Prime Minister to retract his aforesaid remarks and to the government to refrain from the use of the term “Islamic State” in the description of Malaysia and instead to vigorously advocate the description of Malaysia as a secular constitutional democracy.




Bishop Dr. Paul Tan Chee Ing, SJ

Chairman, Christian Federation of Malaysia

Dated: 19th July 2007


From the Introduction:

“The constitutional guarantee that “Every person has the right to profess and practise his religion” has been substantially eroded by the majority decision o the Federal Court, Malaysia’s highest court, in Lina Joy’s case1. The latter is the culmination of a series of court cases and governmental actions that indicates an increasing Islamisation of law and public policy in Malaysia.

This creeping Islamisation process has created a sense of fear amongst non Muslims comprising Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Taoists and others, who form about 45% of the population of the country. Many Malaysians from all races and religions are frightened how easily the safeguards entrenched and enshrined 50 years ago in our Federal Constitution are now being eroded through the back door.”


Posted by: malaysianchristian | June 21, 2007


This was a press release on June 19, 2007, Tuesday:

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism today launches a Note of Protest that we intend to disseminate locally and internationally to highlight various infringements of religious freedom that threaten national unity in Malaysia.

The Note of Protest highlights the personal tragedies of various ordinary Malaysians suffering anguish as a result, in one way or another, of the misuse of religion e.g. persons who are treated as “Muslims” against their will, some who are being detained for “rehabilitation” merely because they want the Government to recognise their choice of religion and women (and men) who are faced with the loss of their children merely because of the religious conversion by one spouse.

The Note of Protest contains as an annexure a Memorandum submitted to the Government, through the National Unity Advisory Panel, in October 2005 which contains an exhaustive summary of our position on various issues of concern as well as our suggested solutions. The conclusion of the Note of Protest reads as follows:-

“In a memorandum entitled ‘RESPECT THE RIGHT TO PROFESS AND PRACTICE ONE’S RELIGION’ dated October 2005, we had set out all these problems and urged the Government to make urgent legislative reforms to alleviate these concerns. Until today, no such reforms have been made and more and more Malaysians are suffering.

“After much deliberation, it is therefore our considered decision to make public that Memorandum and the reforms we had proposed together with our rationale for the same and to disseminate it both locally and internationally in order to encourage debate so we can all jointly seek solutions to these problems.

“We urge the Government to urgently alleviate these concerns, so that our nation and people can concentrate on the more pressing tasks that face us in achieving our shared national vision and aspirations.

“In closing, we reiterate the stand of MCCBCHST since its inception in 1983 that Malaysians of all ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds can best resolve whatever differences of opinion which may arise through peaceful engagement in mutual respect and genuine dialogue. As we prepare to observe our 50th anniversary as an independent nation, let us be in prayer for a peaceful and just society which will find UNITY IN DIVERSITY.”

In addition, we will also be holding a candlelight vigil tonight, Tuesday, 19th June 2007 from 8.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. in solidarity with Revathi, the Indian lady held in “rehabilitative” detention at the Islamic Rehabilitation Centre in Ulu Yam, Selangor. Revathi says she is a Hindu and wants the Government to recognise her choice of religion. Further details of Revathi’s case are set out in the Note of Protest. The vigil is a joint initiative of civil society groups including the women’s rights groups All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Sisters in Islam (SIS), Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Women’s Centre for Change, Penang (WCC) and Women’s Development Collective (WDC). The venue for the vigil is at the base of the flagpole at Dataran Merdeka, where 50 years ago our independence from colonial rule was first proclaimed. The venue was intentionally chosen to give Revathi some hope that she too will have freedom soon.

MCBCHST Executive Committee


The Vigil was peacefully conducted as planned.  Farish A. Noor chips in his views here in  A Vigil for Malaysia:

Needless to say, Malaysians of all creeds and races have begun to ask: What is the government of Abdullah Badawi doing to curb these tendencies, and where is Malaysia heading?

Fed up with what they see as the singular failure of the current Badawi administration to defend the secular constitution of the country, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCBCHST) have issued a protest letter entitled Unity Threatened by Continuing Infringements of Religious Freedom.
The protest letter contains a memorandum originally submitted to the Malaysian government in 2005, asking the government to take steps to ensure that religious freedom would be respected and protected in Malaysia. But now with the failure of Lina Joy at the courts and with the detention of Revathi by the state’s religious authorities, non-Muslims in Malaysia feel that they can no longer protest in silence.

In a significant gesture pregnant with symbolic meaning, the MCBCHST organised a candlelight vigil at the Merdeka (Independence) square in downtown Kuala Lumpur, where Malaysian independence was first proclaimed half a century ago this year. The vigil was meant in support of Revathi, the Malaysian citizen who now faces an unknown fate detained in one of the country’s ‘Islamic rehabilitation centres’ and separated from her husband and child. No doubt, the country’s non-Muslims are worried about where the trend of religious-based politics is taking Malaysia, and there as many Muslims who likewise have questioned the wisdom behind the government’s overtly political attempts to turn Islam into part of the state’s ruling ideology.

In the end, however, cases like Revathi’s and Lina Joy’s revolve around the fundamental freedom to believe in what one believes, and to be recognised as such. The Muslim majority in Malaysia are not Muslims because their identity cards and passports tell them they are, but because they simply are, and exist, as Muslims.
The time has come for the laws of the land to recognise that being Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist in Malaysia has little to do with paperwork and legal technicalities, but in the more fundamental nature of existential being itself. Until then however, those trapped in the legal chasm where Revathi and Lina Joy are in at the present are the unfortunate victims of a legal system at odds with itself and which oddly defend freedom of belief for some and yet not for others…”


Posted by: malaysianchristian | June 21, 2007

You are the Light: For Revathi

Candle Light Vigil for Revathi

Many came to the Candlelight Vigil In Support of Revathi’s Freedom of Faith.

Better have less words for this post at least, and let the light shine … and do all the talking.

Words for the Vigil

Posted by: malaysianchristian | June 15, 2007

Malaysia, After Lina Joy (1)

Dear Hilmi,

How are you? It’s been more than 20 years since we’ve last been in touch.   I remember those days in school fondly.  Both of us transfered from another school and landed up sitting next to each other 🙂 You still look almost the same only with the extra hairs on your face.  I’m losing hair rapidly.

I was at the DAP Forum on Malaysia, After Lina Joy: A Dialogue and was a little surprised with the overflow in the meeting room. I don’t we had a true free flow dialogue but it was a good chance to hear some of the views in person. These big events are always good for awareness but less so for in depth conversation.  It’s just the limitations.  Glad to see you there too.  What do you think about the dialogue?

I’m reading here that it’s too one sided. Nice to read more personal accounts here by Zainol Abideen  and Khoo Kay Peng . I had the same feeling too with KJ John on Yusri’s participation in the event.  His presence was one reason why I decided to go even though as he mentioned he represented a minority opinion in the forum, the fact is I was interested to hear his presentation of what could very well be the majority opinion of the country.  I confess, I do empathize with his desire to be a good muslim and faithful to his faith and beliefs. I tried hard to put myself into his shoes as a spokesperson and as an ordinary guy with a family like me.  I read some interesting thoughts by a friend of mine:

“Given my many interactions with PAS members, it has been necessary for me to put myself in their shoes.It’s of no use saying to them, we want a secular state and what you’re doing impinges on the framework of our secular constitution, therefore you should stop what you’re doing and stick to the constitution.”

I agree with this friend’s observation and I feel the same way  when it comes to make sure we are talking to each other, because I know that you take your religion seriously and there’s no separation for you.  But what does that ideal mean in the light of the complexity of living with someone like me? For me, I want to integrate my faith with my way of life as a Christian too, so I can relate with another person who wants to do the same.  But how shall we do it? Is there a way for us ordinary guys to talk about this beyond a purely secular state or purely theocratic state way of thinking? Since like Yusri said in the forum things are complicated, but then again it can’t be too muddled until we can’t engage in decent conversation and constructive efforts 🙂

It’s a little late and my mind is probably moving into incoherent stage.  Thanks for keeping in touch.  I would value your thoughts. Oh yes before I forget, best birthday wishes to your son, I’m sure he’s going to have a wonderful birthday party next week.  Wish we could be there 🙂 Let me know whether the present we got for him did arrive.  Sometimes the postal service may have hiccups!

Until the next round .. God bless you, and may peace be with you. Don’t work too hard and take care of your health.

Posted by: malaysianchristian | June 14, 2007

Candlelight Vigil In Support of Revathi’s Freedom of Faith

Candlelight Vigil

In Support of Revathi’s Freedom of Faith


Please attend the following peaceful candlelight vigil in support of Revathi, and many others like her, who are unable to fully exercise their Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of faith. The vigil is an initiative of civil society organisations including MCCBCHST (the Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism) and various women’s rights groups (All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Sisters in Islam (SIS), Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Women’s Centre for Change, Penang (WCC) and Women’s Development Collective (WDC)).


Date: Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Time: 8 p.m.

Venue: Dataran Merdeka (at the flagpole)


Please come to show your support in affirming the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and its protection of our fundamental liberties, including the freedom of belief.

Please bring candles, candle-holders and banners.

Read More…

Posted by: malaysianchristian | June 14, 2007

Malaysian Christian Statements on the Lina Joy Judgement

Sivin Kit was a little faster than me on this one. And so was Syariah Online.

From Council of Churches of Malaysia

CCM Press Statement on Court of Appeal Judgement on Lina Joy

The Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) views with great regret and concern the majority judgement that was made yesterday by the Federal Court.

We believe that the constitutional provision in Article 11 which guarantees freedom of religion in our country has been severely diminished.

The majority judgement has denied the individual a right guaranteed under the constitution, a right to freedom of conscience and choice of religion. It would appear that the constitution is being read subject to extraneous (Syariah) considerations.

It is, therefore, vital that the necessary legislation be enacted to ensure that no citizen would feel penalized when he or she exercises the individual right to choose a faith and to practice it in freedom.

The CCM calls on the government to set in motion measures to protect religious freedom as originally envisaged in the Federal Constitution of 1957.

On this our 50th anniversary of Merdeka we cannot feel a strong sense of celebration when a citizen like Lina Joy, and others like her, are denied their fundamental rights, taken away from them from the very courts that are duty bound to protect the civil liberties of all citizens and treat all as equal under the law.

Rev. Dr. Thomas Philips
Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri
General Secretary

Dated: 31st May 2007

From National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Malaysia


NECF Malaysia is gravely disappointed by and dissatisfied with the Federal Court’s dismissal of Lina Joy’s appeal.

First of all, the Federal Court’s decision does not uphold the constitutional safeguard of freedom of religion. It is a person’s fundamental right to profess a religion of her own choice free from compulsion or interference by the state or its institutions. Freedom of religion under the Federal Constitution can only be restrained where a person acts contrary to any general law affecting public order, public health or morality. Therefore, it defies all logic that Lina Joy’s freedom to profess and exercise a faith of her own choice can be subject to administrative barrier in the NRD refusing to effect a change to her religious status except upon the order of the Syariah Court.

The foundational principle of supremacy of the Constitution over all other laws must be upheld.

NECF Malaysia is also deeply dismayed that the majority decision of the highest court has failed to bring about resolution to the present interfaith issues. By insisting that a person who no longer professes the religion of Islam but has embraced another religion to seek an order of the Syariah Court is equivalent to insisting that a muallaf 1 who has attained the age of majority is obliged to seek the clearance of the religious leaders or authority of his former religion. Mutual respect and tolerance surely cannot be fostered without due regard to the principle of reciprocity.

In affirming the decision of the Court of Appeal, the Federal Court has perpetuated a most unfair and untenable position for Lina Joy and others in a similar dilemma. They now cannot enjoy the full rights as citizens as they are trapped in a religion which they no longer profess and are unable to lawfully marry, have children and live in accordance with the values, precepts and practices of the religion of their choice.

Finally, NECF Malaysia is extremely concerned that the Lina Joy case demonstrates the highest civil court retreating in the face of the relentless onslaught on their position as the third institution in a democratic system of government. In the hierarchy of the judiciary, the Federal Court is vested the judicial power of the Federation.

In this case, the judiciary has unfortunately failed to play its most important role of being both the guardians and interpreters of our Constitution. As an institution above the fray of politics, it is the only institution that can neutrally and without partisan considerations decide the serious issues raised in the Lina Joy case. It is constrained only by true and loyal allegiance to the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution, the twin pillars of our Rukunegara.

In the civil court’s abdicating its judicial power in religious matters on the basis of Article 121 (IA) of the Constitution, the Federal Court is placing undue stress and strain on the government to legislate or amend related laws when the due exercise of its judicial power as interpreter of the Constitution would have brought about a fair and just resolution to the issues.

While the country has undergone a significant shift towards “islamization” since the 1980s, the proclamation of Malaysia as an Islamic country in 2001, though a political expediency, has had considerable psychological impact and further polarized Malaysian citizens of different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Religious vigilantism has been heightened among not only the religious ones, but also the bureaucrats. Administrative actions whether in policies or laws are being implemented without scrupulous regard to the requirements of the policies or laws but with the imposition of syariah rules and requirements. For example, non-Muslim police women are to wear Muslim headscarves for the annual parade. The happenings in recent years are indeed grave concerns. Among others, there are religious authorities breaking up families in the name of religion, the custody tussles between a non-Muslim parent and a Muslim parent, and public morality based on the principles of a particular religion.

The Christian community acknowledges the special position of Islam as the State religion for ceremonial purposes, and recognizes the application of Islamic family laws to those professing the religion of Islam in areas outlined in the Federal Constitution. We uphold the sanctity of the Malaysian Constitution as the supreme law of the land, and it is our hope that the Prime Minister, who has publicly declared to be the Prime Minister of all Malaysians, would fulfil his promises to establish a clean, just, harmonious and prosperous nation.

The decision of the Federal Court sets a landmark example of making legal judgement based on religious sentiment and thus inadvertently disregarding the fundamental right of an individual to profess and practice the religion of his or her choice. In the light of this, NECF Malaysia urges all Christian leaders to encourage their congregations to set aside time, both corporately and privately, to pray for our nation as a whole, in the next few weeks and months. Let us bring to God these matters of extreme gravity and urgency, and humbly ask Him to intervene so that truth, righteousness and godliness will prevail in our land.

The very basic structure of our nation, our institutions, our Constitution and the Rukunegara must remain the solid rock on which Malaysia will continue to prosper and stand tall among the community of nations, and on which all Malaysians strive and thrive together as a multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious society. Let us, the concerned citizens of Malaysia, exercise our rights to make a good decision at the right place and at the right platform.

1 Muallaf: a convert from a non-Islamic religion who has chosen to profess Islam

From Christian Federation Malaysia

CFM Statement on Lina Joy’s Case

The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) is disturbed and saddened by the decision of the Federal Court in the Lina Joy’s case, where the Court has confirmed the National Registration Department’s right to insist on a certificate from the Syariah Court that she has apostatized, prior to registering her conversion in the identity card.

We reiterate that the NRD’s insistence on such a certificate being produced has curtailed the fundamental right of an individual to profess and express his or her religion as provided for in Article 11.

We have also noted with much concern that this decision reflects a growing trend of decisions in the courts where civil courts are abdicating their responsibility of providing legal redress to individuals who only seek to profess and live their religion according to their conscience.

As a result of this decision, it is now more pressing for the government and lawmakers to revisit the relevant legislation and to reinstate the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts so that equal protection of the right to choose and express one’s religion is accorded to all Malaysians, as enshrined in Article 11.

The CFM will continue to cooperate with the government and all Malaysians to uphold the Government’s vision of upholding the multiracial, multicultural and multireligious character of our nation.

Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing, SJ
Chairman and Executive Committee
Christian Federation of Malaysia

Dated 30th May 2007