Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Of the Bar Council Forum and Islam

headlines after headlines as to the issue of the Bar Council Forum can be spotted in the newspaper and on the internet. endless phone calls kept pouring in, in the aftermath of the forum. As a Muslim who is also a lawyer, i had the duty to explain what this whole fuss was all about.

when i first got to know about the forum weeks before the issue of this forum got heated up in the mainstream newspaper, i was interested to join the discussion as i need to listen to all panelists' point of view on this matter. a respectable former lecturer of mine, Tuan Hj Naim who used to be a Syariah Court Judge was one of the panelists. sadly, the Muslim panelists who first agreed to participate in the discussion pulled out the very last minute. i guess every one knows why.

when we talk about this issue, it all boils down to one thing, understanding, which we have yet to grasp what it means.

to make things worse, this issue was being politicized as to incite racial and religious hatred.many people fell for that. and it couldn't get any worse that there are also sections of Muslims who fail to understand the issue at hand. perhaps, we are so used to the culture of being oblivious as to the duty to find the truth, or in a simpler term : getting the facts right. we are so used to believing in rumors rather than established facts. we choose to be ignorant.

Article 121 (1A) explains the separate jurisdiction of the Civil Court and the Syariah Court. Muslim parties are subject to the jurisdiction of Syariah Court and the non-Muslims are subject to jurisdiction of Civil Court.

when non Muslim parties contracted a marriage under the civil law, their rights and obligations are set out under the civil law and they are both subject to the jurisdiction of Civil Courts.

when one of the parties to the marriage converts to Islam, the situation would change. the non-Muslim party will go to the civil court to ask the court to decide on the issue of custody, maintenance and status of the marriage.

whereas the Muslim party (the convert) will go to the Syariah Court to decide on the same issues.

obviously there is a conflict as to the situation:

1) can two different courts of separate jurisdiction decide on the same subject matter?
2) how does the civil court enforce its decision on the Muslim party where he/she is not subject to the jurisdiction of the civil court?
3) how does the Syariah court enforce its decision on the non-Muslim party where he/she is not subject to the jurisdiction of Syariah Court?

these questions are real questions as there are based on real cases which are brought before the Court.

but the problem is, these questions have yet to be resolved as the courts are unable to rectify the loopholes created by Article 121(1A) in cases of conversion.

the next question is: Is it fair for the parties involved that their predicaments are not being resolved or addressed? is it just that the wife is left without maintenance? is it just that the status of the marriage is being kept in uncertainty?what about the issue of custody of the children?

the forum aimed at discussing these legal/technical problems of A.121(1A) as majority of people have zero knowledge about this issue. and why is it important to discuss this forum in the presence of the members of the public is because we have the duty to address this issue as there are people out there who are suffering from this and all they want is justice. just because this matter does not affect us directly or it does not happen to us or to our family members doesn't mean that we can just ignore the fact that there is a serious issue of law that needs our attention and support.

justice is absolute, be it for the oppressed or the oppressor, the rich or the poor, Muslims or the non-Muslims.

when it comes to issues on Islam, the word ''sensitive'' is often mentioned.why?

Being a Muslim, i truly understand the sentiment that majority of Muslims have particularly in the aftermath of 9/11, where Islam is accused of being a religion of violence. being a Muslim, i understand how hurtful it is having to endure accusations and insulting insinuations directed to Islam by the ignorants time and time again. and as true Muslims, we have to respond to these baseless accusations with wisdom and knowledge.

as true Muslims, it is our duty to show that Islam, as a religion is the key to bridging the gaps with the world at large by holding fast to the principle of justice and truth.

and it is our duty to prove to the world that the divisions in our world is not the result of the Religion.

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