Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Philip Bowring: Malaysia's racial politics - Editorials & Commentary - International Herald Tribune

It's a good article and I do generally agree with what it says. I think it says alot about the politics when there is a racial government party and a racial opposition party e.g. a Chinese-aligned party in UMNO and a Chinese aligned party in opposition.

But what (to me anyway) is interesting about the article is the legal stuff and the legal part is what is truely fascinatiing. Here's the paragraph in question:
Currently attention in Malaysia is focused on a high-profile case, now before the Appeals Court, as to whether a person has the right to cease to be a Muslim and (in this case) become a Christian and hence no longer subject to the Shariah courts. At the most obvious level it is a clash between a secular Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion and the notion of apostasy - that a Muslim must remain Muslim - in a country where Islam has a privileged position.

If anyone actually cares about it, I will point you to the constitutional article in question. Recall that our Constitution is effectively taken lock, stock and barrel from Malaysian Constitution EXCEPT for the parts we changed and this is one of them.

But anyway, since Islam has a privileged position (very privileged actually, another thing that we changed in our Constitution), calling it a secular Constitution is kinda pushing it but I suppose if one considers the alternative to be a theocretic one then secular is fine for the purpose of the article.

Back to the freedom of religion clause in the Malaysian Constitution, this issue is not new and in fact such a case has come up before the Malaysian Supreme Court before. The decision then was that freedom of religion, or more accurately, the freedom to propergate and practice a religion DID NOT include the right to leave that religion.

The reason I mention this is because of the recent fiasco that occured in Malaysia recently when a inter-faith organisation tried to bring up dialogue on this issue. Of course, some called them rabble-rousers and claimed that the manner in which they went about doing it was inciting violence. Tensions apparently got so bad that the PM Abdullah Badawi effectively just shut the entire thing down.

This, in fact, was one of the reasons why I am ever so concerned when speech is silence because it incites violence as opposed to merely provoking violence. The distinguishing feature is that one calls of violence, the other because the other side is unable to deal with it without violence.

Another sad thingw as how people actually considered what that group was proposing as "an attack on Islam" which commits what is called the fallacy of false equivocation. It's the exact same way as a creationist who uses the argument against me that "I have faith in Science" in the same way that I deny their "faith in Religion". The difference is that my "faith" is borned out of the system of open inquiry, checks and balances and the peer-review system and a desire for truth. In that regard, I "accept" Science is more accurate.

Similarly, this is an "attack" on Islam only insofar as it restricts their right and privilege as a religion (yeah, it's kinda vague but acceptable for the purpose of this argument), it is not an attack by preventing adherents from preaching or practicing the core tenents of their faith. Thus the fallacy equivalancy.

If one wants to consider this an "attack" just because adherents should be allowed to get out of the religion, then one must similarly accept that it is an attack on all the other religions that preach evangelism because you are restricting their ability to gain new adherents.

But that's how the world works and the dismaying about about the Fundie Word Redefinition Project. But anyway, now that I know of this case, I'll try to follow up on it closely and see what comes out of it.


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