PETALING JAYA: Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) chairman Ahmad Farouk Musa and his lawyer Rosli Dahlan have expressed concern over Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad’s “acceptance” of a lower fine imposed by the Selangor Shariah High Court which had affirmed his conviction for teaching Islam without valid credentials.
Speaking to FMT, both Farouk and Rosli said that Khalid’s decision not to file an appeal to set aside the conviction suggested that the Amanah communications director had accepted the definition of “teaching without a permit”.
“Khalid’s approach suggests that the Selangor Religious Affairs Department (JAIS) was right in taking action and prosecuting him for ‘teaching’ without credentials,” Rosli said.
Farouk echoed the sentiment, saying that if Khalid had insisted that he was not teaching but only sharing his experiences in Palestine, the MP should have filed an appeal against the conviction.
“By not appealing, he is implicitly saying that JAIS was right in defining the meaning of the clause ‘teaching without credentials’,” he said.
Khalid was found guilty of teaching Islam without valid credentials when he delivered a talk at a surau in Taman Seri Sementa, Klang, in 2011, contravening Section 119 (1) of the Selangor Islamic Law Administration Enactment.
Khalid claimed he had been invited to the surau to speak about his trip to Palestine and not to give a religious lecture.
Selangor Shariah High Court judge Salehan Yatim reduced the amount of the fine from the RM2,900 imposed by the lower Shariah Court in Klang to RM1,900, which means that Khalid will be eligible to contest in the coming general election.
Article 48 of the Federal Constitution states that a MP is disqualified from duty if he is convicted of an offence by a court of law in the federation and sentenced to a jail term of not less than one year or a fine of not less than RM2,000.
In an immediate response, Khalid had told FMT via a text message that he would not file an appeal to the Shariah Court of Appeal to set aside the conviction.
Farouk questioned whether the reduced fine, which now allowed Khalid to contest in the coming 14th general election, had led Khalid to ignore the bigger picture.
“There is a wider repercussion for him in not appealing. It has set a very bad precedence for similar cases.
“The bigger war out there is fighting the imperious despotic bigotry of the religious authorities in this country.
“We should not abandon that cause simply because they slapped us on the wrist with a small fine.”
Rosli also said he was disappointed with Khalid’s decision, adding that he hoped Khalid would change his mind and file an appeal.
“This is a perverse law which was perversely implemented and enforced to stifle free thinking.
“MPs and all legislators must stand for what is right and not just for what is convenient. The country must be administered by rule of law for truth and justice to prevail.
“MPs must not make compromises, otherwise, where does the common man in the street stand? What will be his chance to be treated fairly and get justice when perverse laws are enforced against him?
“It is incumbent on all MPs and legislators to ensure that perverse laws are not passed and enforced. Challenge such oppressive laws at every level until they are struck down.”
Rosli said what he found most troubling was that after he had studied section 119 of the Selangor enactment and section 11 of the Federal Territories Act, there seemed to be no clear definition of what the word “teaching” was.
This, he said, not only gave the religious authorities a free hand in using the law but the very existence of the law itself undermined the constitution, Parliament, state assemblies, as well as the religion.
“It is JAIS’ and Jawi’s (Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department) own guidelines that define almost anything as ‘teaching’ and that guideline was never debated in Parliament or any state assembly.
“How can that become part of the law of a state or country?
“Is a discussion, forum, debate or any form of discourse also teaching? If so, does that mean Muslims can’t have any form of discourse about Islam without credentials?
“This would mean the end of thinking, the end of ijtihad (legal interpretation).
“Is that constitutional when the Federal Constitution guarantees the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression?
“Implicit to that right is the freedom to think and express such thoughts.
“Is that Islamic when Muslims believe that the first revealed verse is Iqra, which means to read, which means to think and understand and find knowledge?”
Khalid to continue fight
When contacted, Khalid insisted that he was not giving up the fight and would continue pushing for a clearer definition of the word “teaching”, as stated in the law.
“Amanah has raised this in Parliament and I did stand up and talk about it but of course (minister in charge of religious affairs) Jamil Khir Baharom is still defending that interpretation,” he told FMT.
“We do agree that if you want to ‘teach’ Islam then you should have credentials but for giving talks on Islamic economics, for example, speaking about opinions on philosophical development, speaking about Gaza, that’s not teaching.
“The current law includes motivational speeches or even general speeches that have anything to do with Islam.
“Even (Prime Minister) Najib Razak needs credentials before he can say anything that has got anything to do with Islam.”
He said that although his decision not to appeal further might have seemed like he was accepting the definition, it was not true.
“An amendment to the law is something that must be tabled in the state assembly and then suggested to the sultan.
“The law is the law, and whether you disagree with it or not, you can’t run away from it.”