Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Catholic Lawyers Statement on the 'Al-Islam' article. Should expression be responded with other expressions...or by the State?

Wrong-doings of a few individuals should not be transformed against the whole community of the same faith or ethnicity of the said wrong-doers.

Freedom of expression is a right...a freedom - but it also has its boundaries. The question should be as to how these 'boundaries' are to be set or defined, and who has the task to ensure that these 'boundaries' are not breached. Or maybe, we should just not have boundaries at all. These may be the questions that we must reflect on and decide.

We have all seen what can happen when it is the government of Malaysia that determines these 'boundaries' - and use laws to prevent people crossing these boundaries.

The words that define these 'boundaries' have been words like...

  • prejudicial to the security of Malaysia
  • prejudicial to the maintenance of essential services therein or to the economic life
  • prejudicial to public order
  • for the suppression of violence or the prevention of crimes involving violence
and at the day, it is the 'Minister' that decides what it means, and detain people using the ISA and other Detention Without Trial Laws..., and, of course, the Minister's reasons or the basis of that reason cannot be questioned by anyone...not even the courts.

Today, the Catholic Lawyers, in their press statement, call on the State to consider charging the alleged perpetrators under the law...and even using that draconian Printing Presses & Publications Act 1984.

See the
words, as found in section 298A of the Penal Code, i.e."...act that is likely to cause disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will; or prejudice or attempts to prejudice, or is likely to prejudice, the maintenance of harmony or unity, on grounds of religion, between persons or groups of persons professing the same or different religions...'. The breadth is unacceptable...and it can even be used against legitimate discourse about religion, even amongst adherents of the same religion. Who decides the meaning? The Judge?

I wonder whether the course that we should be taking is by means of criminal prosecution, or the banning/restriction of the publication permits. Maybe, a civil action. Or better still, by our very own exercise of our freedom of expression in a responsible manner...and that has been done through press statements, blog postings, letters to editors, etc. It would be good if the leaders of nation could also come out and express their outrage...and disagreement with the conduct and actions of Al-Islam (the magazine), its publishers, editors and journalists. It is good to note that there has been almost no Malaysian groups that have come out in support of the actions of Al-Islam (or did I miss that).

Hence, my hope is that Al-Islam, its publishers, its editors, its reporters... repents the wrong that they done to Catholics/Christians. It would be good if they do publish an apology...and we move on.

Catholics are genuinely angry with the actions of these few people...and, maybe the expression of this anger should suffice...and will deter others from repeating such actions...

It would also be good if leaders/persons of other faiths could also express their condemnation of the article that appeared in Al-Islam (one unknown publication...which has suddenly become 'famous'...).

"This is the sum of Dharma [duty]: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you". Mahabharata, 5:1517 "

"...a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?" Samyutta NIkaya v. 353

"And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself." Epistle to the Son of the Wolf

"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31, King James Version.

"Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence." Mencius VII.A.4

"None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." Number 13 of Imam "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths."

do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. Mahabharata 5:1517

I publish the Catholic Lawyers Society Press Statement, as like many attempts to express themselves never get the required amount of publication by the press/media - and, that soemtime is the reason why people finally have to resort to other means that will get the people's and the media's attention. But alas, these 'other means', be it a peaceful assembly, candle light vigil, a public forum, a 'dinner' talk.... all also get the unwanted attention of the very 'anti-freedom' Malaysian police...



The Catholic Lawyers’ Society Kuala Lumpur expresses dismay over the recent article appearing in the May issue of Al-Islam entitled ‘Tinjauan Al Islam Dalam Gereja – Mencari Kesahihan remaja Melayu Murtad’.

The article written by Muhd. Ridhwan Abdul Jalil @ Erwanz, displays utmost disrespect to the Catholic community when he admitted consuming Holy Communion and photographing the sacred specie. Although a police report has been lodged, no charges have yet been brought against the writer, the editor or even the publishers of the magazine.

There has been todate no sign of remorse or apology from the writer, editor and/or publishers of the Al Islam for the intrusion, violation and defilement of the most sacred element of the Catholic faith

The writer and editor of the magazine have shown utter contempt to the Catholic community and the Catholic Lawyers’ Society call on the authorities to expedite their investigations and haul up those responsible to Court as a deterrent so that no other religious institution will be subjected to such similar sacrilegious acts by other individuals.

Section 295 of the Penal Code states that it is an offence,

“to defile damage or destroy any object held sacred by any class of persons, with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons, or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage, or defilement as an insult to their religion…”

Section 298A of the Penal Code states that it is an offence,

“to cause or attempt to cause, or do any act that is likely to cause disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will; or prejudice or attempts to prejudice, or is likely to prejudice, the maintenance of harmony or unity, on grounds of religion, between persons or groups of persons professing the same or different religions….”

The actions of the journalist and the magazine clearly contravene inter alia sections 295 and 298A of the Penal Code.

We also call upon the Ministry of Home Affairs & Internal Security to investigate the magazine and its publishers to ascertain if there has been any violation of the printing and publishing licences and permits issued by the Ministry and if there has been violation of the Printing Presses & Publications Act 1984.

The society expresses concern that in 2007 no criminal charges were levied against those responsible for circulating false information of mass conversions of Muslims in a church at Selibin, Ipoh that saw an unruly crowd disrupting the celebration of first Holy Communion for 90 Catholic children. Now, matters have gone one step further with the violation of the Holy Communion itself. We are concerned that this pattern of interference and violation of that which is sacred to persons of a particular faith and then publishing the same for all to know transgresses any attempt made so far towards harmony and mutual respect.

It is in this light that we call on the Police and the Home Minister to take immediate action against those responsible.

Dated 21st. July 2009

Mabel Sabastian

President Catholic Lawyers’ Society KL

Tel No: 016-6381276


Browsing through the internet, I came across other relevant responses to the article in the Al-Islam magazine...

PRESS RELEASE - 8th July 2009

Muslim Men Spying in Catholic Churches

We are deeply concerned that two Muslim men acting on false information that the Catholic Church was converting Muslims into Christians had recently entered a Catholic Church service for the purpose of gathering information as to whether this was occurring. They were also investigating whether the word 'Allah' was being used in church services. These men participated in the church service and even took part in the rituals that are strictly for Catholics and in doing so violated the sanctity of what Catholics hold very sacred. These men later wrote about their experience in an article entitled "Tinjaun Al Islam Dalam Gereja:Mencari Kesahihan Remaja Murtad" which was published in the May 2009 issue or the Al Islam magazine.

The men had consumed the 'communion' which is a white wafer which is blessed by the Priest in a Catholic ritual that dates back 2000 years. Via this ritual the 'white wafer' is supernaturally transformed into what Catholics believe to be Jesus Christ and when consumed allows Catholics to experience life after death. The 'communion' is held with great reverence and cannot in any way be mishandled or with a lack of respect. Even Catholics are not allowed to take home the 'communion' but are instructed to consume it immediately during the service. Catholics go through an elaborate process of preparing themselves to receive this 'communion' worthily and those who have not done so are advised to refrain from receiving it.

As such we are outraged that these Muslim men consumed it only to spit it out later, have it photographed and have its image published in the Al-Islam magazine. The total disrespect shown to what Catholics hold in closest to their hearts and believe to be most Holy strikes deep into our hearts and invokes much anger. While we are resolved not to allow anger to guide our actions and instead pray that these ignorant will be forgiven by the Allah, we want to know what has become of this most holy 'communion' and demand its immediate return to the church authorities.

We are further outraged that these Muslim men have violated our sense of privacy to freely worship. Would these men tolerate non-Muslims entering the mosque and violating the sanctity and holiness of their worship? We believe that all places of worship and the form of worship practiced in these places must be respected with the greatest sensitivity and reverence be they the church, mosque, temple or gurdwaras. Entering these premises with the intention to spy and worse to violate the sanctity of the worship only serves to incite anger and hatred that could lead to potentially dangerous consequences that would tear this country apart.

As such, as concerned Catholics, we have made a police report at the Patani Road Police station on 8th July 2009 and thereafter held a press conference at the same place. We requested that the police investigate this matter with great urgency and bring to books those responsible for acting to incite hate and resentment among the Catholic Community. We also call on the police to investigate both the Al-Islam magazine and the writers of the article.

Joachim Francis Xavier & Sudhagaran Stanley


Press Statement By Christian Federation of Malaysia

Address: 10, Jalan 11/9, Section 11, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan , Malaysia
Telephone: (03) 7957 1278, (03) 7957 146, Fax: (03) 7957 1457



The Christian Federation of Malaysia deeply regrets the surreptitious manner in which information was gathered for, and the publication by the magazine Al Islam of, the article entitled “Tinjauan Al Islam Dalam Gereja: Mencari Kesahihan Remaja Murtad” in its May 2009 edition where the “investigators” took it upon themselves to be “undercover spies and policemen”.

Firstly it is not proper or acceptable for adherents of one religion to spy on worshippers of another. Matters of faith and belief are personal, and it should not be the case that citizens of Malaysia should be made to live in fear of professing and practising the religion of their own free choice in public. Regrettably the interpretation/existence of certain laws, customs, practices and teachings in Malaysia has bred a type of religious imperialism, intolerance, intemperance and illegality which is unhealthy and unhelpful in the development of a truly multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious society where everyone is able to profess and practice their own faith free from the interference of the authorities, whether civil or religious.

Secondly, no right-thinking publication and editor should have stooped so low so as to condone, let alone permit, this so-called investigative piece of journalism (if the article can even be called that) to be published. The authors of this article clearly failed in their stated aim as described in their chosen title – to seek the truth about Muslim youths who had converted to Christianity. It should have ended there. That it went further, and led to the actual publication of the article and the proud disclosure of acts which can only be described as religious desecration (by the illicit and wrongful participation in the rite of Holy Communion of Christians without understanding its meaning and consequences), only goes to reveal the moral, ethical and journalistic bankruptcy of the editors of this publication. The sacrilegious behaviour of the authors simply breached all standards of common decency. All God-fearing and peace-loving Malaysians, regardless of their faith traditions, should rightly distance themselves from such conduct.

Thirdly, Christianity has nothing to hide. If people indeed seek the truth, if they are curious about what Christianity is all about, what Christians do, what Christians believe, they need only ask. If they sincerely wish to learn, we welcome them with open and loving arms, as we do people of all faiths, or of none, into our churches and seminaries to learn more about Christianity. There is no need to snoop or to spy. Doing so is merely going about things the wrong way.

Finally, we trust that the authorities will do the right thing and take the necessary action to correct the wrong that has been done.

The Rt. Revd. Ng Moon Hing
Chairman, Executive Committee Christian Federation of Malaysia

17th July 2009

And guess what, it was UMNO's Khairy that seem to have come out 'first' on this issue. What has happened to good old Anwar, Hadi Awang,...did they come out and condemn the actions of Al-Islam magazine, its journalist and editors?

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin became the first Umno leader to speak out against the two Muslim journalists who went undercover to two Catholic churches, describing their action as “appalling and offensive.”

His latest blog posting blasted the Al Islam journalists for pretending to be Christians and taking part in its rituals — receiving and spitting out the Holy Communion wafer for photographs — saying their action was unacceptable even by a Muslim such as himself.

The pictures of the crushed wafer were published alongside the article in the Al-Islam magazine.

Khairy's posting makes him the first Malaysian-Muslim politician to speak on the issue which has upset many in the Christian community. The two journalists were investigating reports of mass conversions at the two churches.

"I have no reservations whatsoever in condemning this instance of unethical journalism, grounded in both disrespect and ignorance," said Khairy.

"The Islamic virtues of empathy, respect and tolerance were obviously absent in both the journalists and the magazine's editorial team that sanctioned the publishing of the article and the methods employed to gather information," he added.

Khairy, who is also the MP for Rembau, further said those behind the fracas should imagine what they would feel if Christians were to do the same thing, going to a mosque pretending to worship as Muslims and then making a mockery out of their religious practice.

"I suspect Al-Islam failed to consider the fact that the gravity of their own actions were similar to this hypothetical situation where the sanctity of the Muslim place and act of worship are violated," commented Khairy.

This incident plus the recent arrest and overnight detention of nine people who were allegedly on a conversion mission at Universiti Putra Malaysia have made many people doubt the sincerity of the 1 Malaysia concept.

Another case which has left many Christians upset is the swift legal action taken against the Catholic Church for using the word “Allah” in their newspaper. “Allah” in Arabic simply means god but many Malaysian Muslims believe that non-Muslims should not be allowed to use the word. - Malaysian Insider, 16/7/2009, Khairy condemns actions of two Al Islam journalists

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