Those disagreeing with the National Fatwa Council should approach it with their views, says an official of the Muslim Lawyers Association.
PETALING JAYA: Although the fatwa prohibiting Muslims from participating in illegal assemblies cannot be challenged in court, there is room for discussion to reconsider the edict, according to an expert.
An official of the Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association said the National Fatwa Council could issue another fatwa to clarify the current one although it was unlikely to reverse its decision.
“Remember the indelible ink episode? It first said that it was haram. Later, after much consultation and deliberation with various parties, it put up a clarification that only inks with a certain percentage of chemicals is haram,” said Abdul Rahim Sinwan, the association’s deputy president.
He said parties disagreeing with the council could still approach it to present their points of view.
Since the fatwa was issued last Sunday, many Islamic scholars have argued that a person’s intention of participating in any such rally should be taken into consideration.
They argue that it would not be sinful for Muslims to join a rally calling for clean elections and good governance because Islam champions such causes.
According to Abdul Rahim, a fatwa is not legally binding until gazetted as law at the state level.
“Since religious affairs fall under state jurisdiction, the state has to first gazette the fatwa into law. Only then can one be penalised by law if one goes against the fatwa,” he said.
Asked to comment on disagreements with the fatwa expressed by officials of Pakatan-held states, Abdul Rahim noted that such matters were under the purview of the sultans.
“Religious affairs directly fall under the Sultan’s purview. Therefore it is the Sultan who decides if the state will abide by the edict,” he said.
Fatwa not a law
The speaker of the Kedah state assembly, Abdul Isa Ismail, meanwhile told FMT the announcement of the fatwa was made under“very curious circumstances”.
“So many assemblies have taken place before” the Bersih rally, he said. “Why it is that only now the council has issued a fatwa?”
The speaker added that a fatwa, to him, was merely a statement and not a law.
“There is a fatwa banning Muslims from smoking. They still do it. You don’t see them being prosecuted.”
Last month, the Kedah government issued a general fatwa stating that no religious edict could be challenged in court.
Commenting on that, Abdul Isa said: “You have to read our fatwa in full. We said that there was no need to challenge the fatwa in court. We stand by that. A fatwa is a statement, not a law. Should people decide to ignore it, nothing can be done.”
He added that people should continue to voice their opposition to the anti-rally fatwa and present the National Fatwa Council with alternative views.
“They must listen to both sides and not jump to conclusions,” he said.