PETALING JAYA: One of Malaysia’s highly regarded former judges has joined the G25 group, saying he wants to stand up and be counted in the fight against extremism in the country.
Former Court of Appeal Judge Datuk Mohd Hishamudin Yunus, who retired last month, said he was invited to join the G25 group of eminent Malays and said yes after mulling it over for a few days.
“I’m not really prepared for difficult questions,” said Hishamudin with a laugh when asked why he joined, although he was quick to add that he had faith in the group’s cause.
“I believe in what G25 stands for. It promotes moderation and is against any type of extremism, either religious or racial, and one of its objectives is to counter such forms of extremism.
“I am now retired as a judge, so there is no prohibition on me from joining this group,” said Hishamudin, 66.
The group derived its name from its original 25 members comprising senior retired civil servants who penned an open letter urging the Government to initiate a rational dialogue on the position of Islam here.
Since then, G25 has become a vocal campaigner of moderation and held its ground in rejecting what it perceives as extremist views in the public sphere.
In his 42 years as a judge and officer in Malaysia’s Judicial and Legal Service, Hishamudin served in various positions, including as a Syariah Appeal Court judge and a member of the Fatwa Council when he was legal adviser in Selangor.
He became a Court of Appeal judge in 2009, staying there until his retirement on Sept 9. Throughout his career, many of his rulings have been regarded as landmarks.
These include a ruling he delivered last year in a transgender case, where he held that criminalising cross-dressing for Muslims was an unreasonable restriction of a person’s freedom of expression.
In 2012, Hishamudin ruled that Section 15 of the University and University Colleges Act barring university students from participating in political activities was unconstitutional.
Hishamudin, who grew up in Gemas, Negri Sembilan, said he attended an English-medium school from Standard One and since there was a good mix of races in the school, many of his friends were non-Malays.
He is concerned that the ties binding multi-racial Malaysia now no longer seem as strong.
However, although extremists try to drive a wedge between Malaysians, Hishamudin said they were outnumbered.
“I believe that the majority of people in this country believe in integration and tolerance, and that the extremists are few in number,” he said.
Hishamudin is looking forward to joining fellow retired judges who are also members of G25, including former High Court judge Datuk Syed Ahmad Idid and former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Seri Shaik Daud Md Ismail.