APRIL 26 — I write in support of Zurairi A.R., who in his column, criticised the raids carried out by the religious authorities in the Federal Territory and Selangor to arrest those organising the transgender fund raising dinner which the Islamic enforcers accused was a cover for a beauty contest and the other one, to break into the home of a young Malay celebrity lady on suspicion of committing khalwat.
Such raids indicate that Muslims in this country have less freedom than their non Muslim brothers and sisters because they are subject to so many restrictions in their social activities that they are all the time at risk of running foul of the religious departments and their laws of punishment on personal sins.
Living a normal life and enjoying it is not easy with the moral police on the look out for sinners in the city parks, entertainment centres, restaurants, book stores, public forums and in our own homes too.
In many cases both here and in other Muslim countries, the raids carried out by the enforcers of the moral code have resulted in injuries and loss of life to the victims.
The humiliation meted out by the overzealous raiders of the night is often very degrading to the human dignity of Muslims.
Further, the harsh implementation of the religious laws by criminalising personal sins is clearly unlawful and unacceptable by international conventions.
As Zurairi pointed out, and as reported in a Reuters news release, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has decreed that their dreaded moral police will no longer be allowed to carry out raids with powers to arrest for offences under the fatwas and shariah rulings on personal sins and instead the religious enforcers are required to conduct themselves in a friendly and gentle manner without taking the law into their own hands.
There is no confirmation whether this Saudi cabinet decision will be actually implemented but with the kingdom facing internal and external pressures to reform its entire political, economic and social systems in order to address the serious problems facing the country following the sharp drop in the oil price, plunging the national budget into deficit for the first time in its modern history, there is every reason to assume that this trend towards a liberal attitude in governing the country will become the new face of the regime.
The western educated technocrats, princes and princesses are telling their king that reforms are essential to align the kingdom to the international standards of justice, especially on human rights and the treatment of women, in order to achieve progress in transforming the country into a modern society, with the private sector and the liberated women providing the momentum for change.
The Saudi planners are hoping that the reforms towards making the kingdom a tolerant country will attract foreign investors to bring in their expertise and technology needed for transforming the economy from an oil based to a more diversified and stable structure.
Our political leaders should point out to the religious officials at Federal and state level that this Saudi softening in implementing its Islamic laws should be taken as a sign that no country can live with out - dated social value systems in the face of the daunting challenges facing every part of the world.
Malaysia too needs to change its administration of Islam to become more tolerant of the modern lifestyles of the youths, as they are the ones who will take the country towards the 2020 goal of being a developed country in every sense of the term.
If we allow the rule of law to be subservient to the dictates of the religious establishment, we are destroying the enthusiasm of our youth and women for life and with everyone having to tread carefully in their daily interactions with members of the opposite sex, there will be less room for innovation and creativity in the education system and in the work place.
We need meritocracy and this comes only when there is, among other factors, a greater degree of personal freedoms on religion.