Saturday, March 22, 2014

Halimah Versus the Malaysian Syariah Court

"O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not (personal) inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort (your testimony) or refuse (to give it), then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted."

Verse 135, Surat An-Nisā' (The Women), Al-Qur'an

The name Halimah has Arabic roots and it means "gentle" or "mild mannered". I think that it is high time that Malaysians know its meaning considering how frequently we see it mentioned in our news these days.

Halimah is the singular name of a 42-year-old Indonesian migrant worker who, on December 8, 2011, was arrested by six inquisitors officers from the Penang Islamic Religious Department (JAIPP) at a reflexology spa along Jalan Seang Tek, Penang. She was questioned for two hours before being brought away in handcuffs - because presumably, the JAIPP officers were afraid that she would overpower all six of them and escape.

Her crime?

Khalwat. Like her name, that is a word that has Arabic origins and it means "solitude" or "alone", and in Malaysia, it refers to the so-called crime of "close proximity". She was accused of khalwat with a client she was attending to i.e. massaging his foot. You see, unmarried and unrelated members of opposing sexes in Malaysia - if one or both of them are Muslims - aren't allowed to fraternise unchaperoned in case something sexy happens although details are sketchy on how long and how close do you have to be to someone for it to be considered khalwat. I suppose it depends on how holier-than-thou the Islamic officers are feeling that day when they catch you but I don't really know and care very little.

Once, a Muslim girl from my med school asked me out on midnight walk on a deserted hill (alone) because she was feeling depressed from a recent break up with her Chinese boyfriend. I had also went out to dinner with her and always afterwards, gentleman that I was, walked her home (alone every time). In another instance, I accompanied her (alone together for most of the day) when she went to get some travel papers sorted out. I thought I was just being a good friend and didn't realise that I was her accomplice in her heinous acts of khalwat! I suppose I must turn her in now.

Anyway, for committing sweet, sweet khalwat, Halimah was sentenced to a 14 days jail term and a RM3,000 fine. Now, why am I bringing Halimah and her khalwat case up? What distinguishes her from the thousands of khalwating couples that the Islamic enforcers haul in everyday?

Hint: It ain't her mole.

Halimah is a Christian woman.

I guess the Arabic name Halimah must have thrown them off because Malaysian Muslims are easily confused. They also made it illegal in Malaysia for non-Muslims to use the word "Allah" because they were afraid that it might lead them astray, causing them to walk unwittingly into churches and accidentally fall into baptismal pools - in spite of the fact that the use of the Arabic word for God predated the existence of Islam. And as this case demonstrated, even the smartest, most learned Muslim men on Islamic laws in Malaysia (presumably that's who they staff their state enforcement departments and Syariah Court with) are similarly susceptible to befuddlement when it comes to separating anything Arabic from Islam.

Being a Bandung native of little education, Halimah's command of the Malay language (though it sounds like Indonesian) is limited. Her poor grasp of on our national language is evident when she was asked questions in Malay, which had to be repeated several times to her before she can understand them. And being Indon and Catholic, she was also not very cognizant of the crime that she allegedly committed so when they hauled her in front of the Lower Syariah Court without any legal representation and read the facts of the case to her in Malay (without reading her charge sheet), she "pleaded guilty". It was on that basis that they sentenced her, and as far as I can tell, she was punished for the crime of stupidity and incompetence - the JAIPP officers' and the Lower Syariah Court's stupidity and incompetence, that is.

"I told them that she’s a Christian, not a Muslim, but they would not believe me," Halimah's employer, Datin Josephine Ong, said. "When they took her back for questioning, they kept telling her to just admit to it and admit that she’s a Muslim and that if she admits, nothing will happen to her."

Nothing will happen to her? Dishonest much? It seemed like her "confession" was also extracted under duress and deception.

Furthermore, Halimah's boss's assertions which if true, would have rendered their charge null, but they didn't even bother establishing that their perp is Muslim before charging her under Islamic laws! That means they are lazy as well. Damn, the crimes of JAIPP and the Syariah Court is multiplying!

So due process went on and last year in September, Halimah and her allies appealed to the Syariah High Court - which I imagine must be presided over by the absolute top dogs in Syariah legalities (unlike the riffraff in the Lower Syariah Court) and isn't as susceptible to simpleminded confusion - and they... sustained the decision of the Lower Court.


Just so you know, Halimah has a family registry that records that she, her husband and all her children are Catholics. She has a baptismal certificate proving that she was baptised in Medan on June 19, 1982. She even has a letter from the Indonesian Consulate verifying the authenticity of the documents! The Islamic authorities have EXACTLY ZERO proof that she had ever converted to Islam.

Yet, she spent the last three years fighting their illegal charge and sentence on her. She have not returned to her home to see her husband and kids since her arrest in 2011. And it looks like she would probably miss her daughter's wedding in May this year as well. I am a simple man and I don't know much, but I know what justice is and the Syariah Court seems to be in the business of upholding its opposite.

On Tuesday, she appeared in front of the Syariah Court of Appeal. Why she didn't simply walk away, fart in the general direction of the Syariah Court while flapping both middle fingers is beyond me. They have no case and no jurisdiction over her. If they try to nab her again, she should sue the fuckload of them for unlawful arrest because she's Catholic and the Syariah goons, in the immortal words of MC Hammer, "can't touch this".

And since the Syariah Court is now in the business of ruining the lives of non-Muslims like Halimah, I see it in turn as an invitation for non-Muslims to criticise their actions and judgments - like how they approved 1,022 child marriages last year. Whenever I discuss or argue over Islamic theology, I was always told by enraged Muslims that I am a kafir who does not understand scripture, and that I should always read the Qur'an and the Hadiths with the guidance of someone who is well-versed in them so I would not misinterpret them. 

Well-versed how? Like a JAIPP witch hunter or a Syariah Court judge? You let these bumbling zealots rule your lives? That's real faith alright.

Immune to the Syariah Court,
k0k s3n w4i

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have relatives whose name are completely muslim name; but truth is they are christians. Reading this story of Halimah, i m quite worry about them.