By Danial Ariff Shaari
Last September 28, a Singapore court sentenced a blogger, Amos Yee, to 6 weeks imprisonment for “wounding religious feelings”. This was the second time Yee, aged 17, had been sentenced to jail for hurting the feelings of others, implying that he had repetitively committed the offence out of defiance, arrogance and ignorance. I must say that it is befitting that the court and the law of that country treated his case seriously, as should we.
On July 6 last year, Yee was given four weeks’ jail for making remarks that were derogatory and offensive to Christians.
Amnesty International stated that the day on which Yee was convicted was “a dark day for freedom of expression”. Without acknowledging the fact that Yee’s conduct was insensitive and constituted disrespect towards the religions of others, the international organisation further stated back then:
“Amos Yee is not a criminal. He should never have been charged, let alone convicted. He has been punished solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression” (Rupert Abbott, South East Asia and Pacific Research Director at Amnesty International, July 6, 2015).
This reaction is not much different compared with that of Malaysian citizens, especially the liberal proxies, in their attempts to impose the same narrative. A columnist of The Malay Mail Online claimed that “being insensitive isn’t a crime” and the columnist of a different news portal accused law enforcement officers of behaving like “thugs” and committing “police bullying”.
Recently, Bersih 2.0 Chairman Maria Chin Abdullah, was reported as saying:
“It is not about keeping silent. People do all sorts of things, but it is not harmful. It does not bring physical violence to anybody. For me it is not about remaining silent, it is about allowing the space for people to express their anger. That is more important rather than criminalising it” (MalaysiaKini, Oct 19, 2016)
Maria’s statement was in response to a question regarding her silence and inaction following the overboard and rude behaviour of Bersih 4.0 supporters who had made mock graves and performed traditional Chinese funeral rituals for Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife.
Not to mention, Maria and the liberal proxies have yet to criticise or even express their regret for the act of Bersih 4.0 supporters who stepped on the pictures of Najib and Abdul Hadi Awang, who symbolise Malay-Muslim unity.
It seems that for Maria and the liberal proxies, as long as there is no physical harm inflicted on any person, anyone can behave and act in an insulting, rude and outrageous manner towards anyone else as an opportunity, or rather a right, to express their anger or feeling of dissatisfaction.
Based on this dangerous and arrogant premise, Muslims were provoked by an incident too familiar just last month regarding the tweets by Sidek Kamiso and Jelutong Member of Parliament, the DAP’s Jeff Ooi, which was nothing less than an insult to the former PAS mursyidul am the late Haron Din.
Also, quite recently, the media were preoccupied with the middle finger flashed by a lawyer and an activist, Siti Kasim, during a forum on the Shariah Court and amendments to Act 355, out of anger and outrage showing disrespect, and not to mention, plain rudeness in a public event at a public space. Not to my surprise, Mariam Mokhtar viciously defended her, purportedly saying:
“Siti’s middle finger is not just about the freedom to express a view that opposes the establishment. It is also about woman against man and common sense against the thinking of the brainwashed. It is about more than rude gestures and decorum. Siti reacted in the only way that the hecklers would understand. She fought fire with fire” (Free Malaysia Today, Opinion, Oct 16, 2016)
The laws of this country are clear, which provide as follows:
Under Section 509 of the Penal Code, “Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”
Section 298 of the Penal Code states: “Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”
Undoubtedly the liberal proxies intend to suggest the abolishment of these ‘over-sensitive’ provisions. However, Malaysians citizens should be wary of the implication, and normalisation, that will follow should the law enforcement bodies be prevented from taking any legal action against these kind of people in our midst, especially when these intolerable and insensitive remarks or behaviour are made based upon religion or race.
Islam is a religion of peace and it comes with good manners and attitudes. The right to dissent, as how Maria creatively fashioned it, the right to express anger and dissatisfaction in any way that is not physically harmful is a dangerous premise to hold on to. It will open the doors to more serious degradations of modesty and manners if we fail to set the boundary.
Danial Ariff Shaari is an ISMA (Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia) activist.
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