WHEN the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) announced that our Royal Malaysia Police would assist Islamic department officers with syariah law enforcement, I was utterly shocked. For me, this can only happen in the ultra Islamic state of Aceh (Indonesia) and Taliban-controlled areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan. We are Malaysians! How can we let this happen on our shores?
Moral policing by the police should not be a priority. They even need the support of the army to protect tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur, and suddenly they have extra manpower to assist the religious authorities in enforcing syariah law?
Moral policing seems to be taking centre stage in our community these days. Last year, the Terengganu Islamic and Malay Heritage Council (Maidam) made headlines when it announced that non-married couples who ride together on a motorcycle would be taken into custody and charged under Section 34 of the Terengganu Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 2001. If proven guilty, each person could be jailed six months or fined not more than RM1,000.
It was also reported that Maidam would cooperate with the Road Transport Department in conducting joint roadblocks to nab the offenders.
In March, the Johor branch of the Public Works Department (JKR) was in hot water for putting up a notice reminding Muslim women to cover their hair.
The notice was mounted on a signboard along a road in Batu Pahat.
The department has since taken down the signboard as it irked not only the public but also the Sultan of Johor, who made a statement about it in an interview withThe Star, “Stop trying to be like Arabs, Ruler advises Malays” (March 24).
Enforcing certain sets of morality will not help Malaysians in any way possible. It will not put us on the map as one of the successful nations in the world.
We understand that Muslims need to respect syariah law but the interpretation and implementation of such laws need to be thoroughly discussed before any action is taken by any authority in this country.
Religion, rituals and enforcement of religious beliefs do not ensure stability and the development of a state or nation. In the same way, how one person dresses does not make him or her a good or bad person.
We should not enforce a certain set of morality or religion in order to ensure the people stay in line. What we should do is spread love and compassion which is the tenet of all religions.
Our religious authorities should also have faith in humanity as we are able to self-regulate rather than force us to accept and follow their brand of faith.
It is crucial for all religious authorities to understand that religion comes from faith. Faith is something that cannot be enforced or compelled by authority. It comes from the heart and mind of a person who chooses to follow a set of beliefs.
Faith differs from one person to another. You can command a person to do something forcefully but at the end of the day, he or she will only believe what he or she wants to believe.
No one has the power to change another person’s heart. After all is said and done, we are all equal in the eyes of God. If you truly believe that he is the Most Benevolent, Most Fair and Most Merciful, then let Him judge us and forgive our transgression towards one another.
AHMAD SOFFIAN MOHD SHARIFF
Shah Alam Welfare Association, Selangor