Sunday, March 07, 2010

Decision not to charge Al-Islam reporters (and reactions) indicative of UMNO-led BN's respect for Christianity and other religions

What the 2 reporters of Al-Islam did was very wrong. 

The fact that the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional government's AG's decision not to charge the 2 reporters was a clear indication that the UMNO-led BN government has little or no respect for Christians and persons other faiths in Malaysia.

Ignorance - not malice was the justification of the Attorney General for not charging. This is unacceptable. The trial judge would have taken into consideration whether it was an action done with malice (or out of ignorance) at the point of sentencing, and  it is not for the AG to determine at this stage on this question. If a crime has been committed, and there is sufficient  evidence, then the AG should have just charged them in court. That is the role of the AG, in my opinion. 

So many persons, ignorant of the fact that they have drugs with them, let alone that they are 'trafficking drugs', get  charged and sentenced to death.

As a Malaysian, you should have had respect for all other religions... If a non-Muslim pretended to be a Muslim and participated in the worship in a Mosque, and maybe 'spit' on the Holy Quaran, would the AG have come to a similar decision? I wonder...In a multi-religious country like ours, it all the more important for the AG and the government, to be independent and to act indiscriminately especially in cases of these nature. 

Maybe, somebody should take a case to challenge the decision of the AG - and maybe then the courts can have the opportunity to give clear guidelines to the AG, and the considerations that he should take into account when coming to a decision of whether to charge or not charge. The AG is not the PM, and we hope that the different roles be clarified soonest.
KUALA LUMPUR: The desecration of the communion wafer at a Catholic church here last year was an act of ignorance, not malice.

This was the reason why Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail decided not to press charges against two magazine reporters, who had offended Catholics in the country.

In a statement yesterday, Gani said while the two Al-Islam reporters might have hurt people's feelings, he was satisfied that they did not intend to offend anyone.

"It was an act of sheer ignorance," he said.

"In view of the circumstances at that particular time, and in the interests of justice, peace and harmony, I decided not to press charges against them."

While investigations against the two Al-Islam reporters were going on, there was also the inflammatory cow-head protest in Shah Alam.
Several months earlier, a pig's head was found wrapped in a Pas flag at a surau in Universiti Malaya.

Gani said he had made similar decisions (not to prosecute) in previous cases involving other religions.

The incident involving the Al-Islam reporters occurred at the St Anthony's Church in Jalan Robertson near Puduraya in May last year.

The reporters went to the church to verify allegations that Muslims were being converted into Christianity.

"Their observation showed that the allegations were not true," Gani said.

The reporters then took part in the ritual of Holy Communion, one of the most sacred Catholic rites.

One of them consumed the communion wafer, spat it out, took some pictures and published them in the magazine.

"They did not know the significance of the 'white bread' (communion wafer)," Gani said.

Earlier yesterday, the Catholic church announced that it would not file a civil suit against Al-Islam magazine for abusing the Holy Eucharist. Instead, the church said, a simple apology would suffice.

Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam said when Tamil newspaper Makkal Osai published an offensive depiction of Christ, all it took was an apology for matters to be ironed out.

"Makkal Osai used a very disturbing picture of Christ with a cigarette in one hand and a can of beer in the other.

"As soon as the editor apologised, I told them 'I accept your apology and the matter is closed'," he said, adding that Catholics were happy with the church's stand.

The reaction, Pakiam said, would be similar if Al-Islam apologised.

He said the "modest act" of an apology by the journalists, editor and publisher of the magazine would go a long way towards healing the "wound" in the Catholic community.

Pakiam held the press conference to express his disappointment over Gani's decision to drop the case against the Al-Islam reporters.

"We Catholics believe that during mass, the host is transformed and becomes the body of Christ.

"In this form, it is sacred. Its desecration is a most heinous offence," he said, adding that the incident showed contempt for the Catholics' beliefs.

He added that the decision not to take action against the reporters and the magazine implied that no crime was committed despite sufficient provisions in the Penal Code for that purpose.

The New Straits Times contacted the Al-Islam magazine to ask if it would apologise.

A spokesman declined to comment, stating that the case was still being investigated by the police. He maintained his silence despite being told that the case had been dropped.- New Straits Times, 5/3/2010,
Church unhappy A-G dropped 'Al-Islam' case
This is also an indication of the fact that the Attorney General just have too much  unfettered power, and our AG seems to be influenced by factors that an independent AG would not have been influenced by.
That explains why opposition personalities and other activist may be charged, but maybe not UMNO/BN people or those connected. Does it also explain why Najib was not investigated, or charged with regard the various police reports and allegations levied against him?

No reasonable Muslim, or Malaysian would have done what they did. This is not a case of being pro-Islam or anti-Islam, but a case of being a good Malaysian or not.
PETALING JAYA (March 5, 2010): The Attorney-General should "appreciate the severity" of the conduct of two reporters of a Malay-language periodical who had allegedly desecrated the holy eucharist of the Catholic church and not dismiss their actions off-hand, said Catholic Lawyers Society, Kuala Lumpur, president Mabel Sabastian.
"Ignorance of the law is no defence in the commission of a crime. The A-G as the guardian of our laws must foremost appreciate the severity of the acts and conducts of the offender, particularly bearing in mind the severity of the issues involved in a multiracial society like ours," she said.

Sabastian's statement was in response to the one released yesterday by AG Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, who said he did not give the order to prosecute the two journalists as they had committed the act of out of "sheer ignorance".

"The actions of the two reporters may have hurt the feelings of the people but I was satisfied that they did not intend to offend anyone," he had said. 

Sabastian pointed out that the two journalists from the Malay-language magazine Al-Islam "should know the limits and boundaries of their actions" in seeking stories. 

"Investigative journalism does not give them carte blanche to do as they wish. The journalists ought to have known full well the significance of the Holy Communion as they participated in a Bahasa Malaysia Mass, in which the description of the white bread as the Body of Christ is repeated many times."

In the mass, the consecrated "white bread" is transformed into the body of Christ. It can only be consumed by baptised and practising Catholics, something that is always mentioned during mass just before the holy eucharist is distributed.

Sabastian said the A-G must surely appreciate the scope and applicability of the sedition and criminal laws of Malaysia and called on him to act "without fear or favour". 

"By failing to take action. the A-G has downplayed the significance and importance placed on this sacred specie by the Catholic community. He further overlooks that the laws are put in place as a deterrent to all from committing such incidents in future," she said. 

In May 2009, two reporters, including a Muhd Ridwan Abdul Jalil @ Erwanz from Al-Islam wrote an article on their attempts to investigate a rumour that Malay youths were converting to Catholicism.

Though their report states that the allegations were untrue, the two had taken the Holy Communion wafer given to them and then spat it out and photographed it.

This prompted a police report by a Catholic, KS Sudhagaran Stanley against the two under Section 298A (1) of the Penal Code for causing disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will, or prejudicing the maintenance of harmony or unity, on grounds of religion.

If found guilty, an offender can be sentenced to jail for a period of between two and five years.

This report was subsequently dismissed by the A-G's Chambers as requiring "no further action", and the announcement was made through the Dang Wangi police station on Feb 25. 

The Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam had in a statement yesterday said although the church would not press for further action against the reporters for now, a public apology would suffice to ease the feelings of the Catholic community. However, he said, that has not been forthcoming. - Sun2Surf, 5/3/2010, AG should appreciate severity of Al-Islam incident: Catholic lawyers
If the Al-Islam had already apologized...if the said 2 reporters had already apologized...and the Malaysian Catholics and the Catholic Church had accepted this, and called on the AG not to charge  them (or to withdraw the charges), and the AG did so then, it would not have reflected so badly on the AG, and the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional Government. The silence of the PM after the AG's decision was made public is also telling, and one wonders whether the PM is the PM of Malaysia (and all Malaysians)...or just the PM of certain groups of persons. [We remember the intervention of the PM, DPM, MInisters, Rulers, etc...after the court decided on the 'Allah' case, and we note the silence after this decision of the AG.]

Let us also not forget that UMNO, in the person of its Youth Chief, came out in support of the AG's decision not to charge.
Did the AG make the decision himself? Did the AG act on the instructions that he received from PM Najib, UMNO, BN, or some other? What really are the considerations that the AG should take into account - should it not just be whether a crime has been committed, and whether there is sufficient evidence or not to prosecute the case? I believe that other external considerations should be of little (or no) concern of the AG.

The fact of the controversy surrounding the 'Allah' case, or some other cases should not really have any bearing, as far as the AG is concerned, when it comes to a decision to charge or not to charge in this case.
Note, the apology from the magazine comes much later. Note also that there is still no personal apology from the 2 reporters, who also 'pretended' to be Catholics and participated in the worship.

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said today the Attorney General’s decision to let two Al-Islam magazine journalists off the hook for allegedly desecrating Catholic Communion hosts should not matter so long as the magazine has “learned its lesson from this episode.”

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders including the DAP’s Lim Kit Siang and PAS central committee member Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, however, believe the decision not to charge the two may send a negative signal that the rule of law can be undermined by politics.

Khairy told The Malaysian Insider that it would be inappropriate to speculate on the reason behind the decision by the AG’s chambers to take no further action.

He, however, argued that the decision may have been reached to “balance out” the racial and religious tension caused by the “Allah” row in a bid to prevent further unease.

The “Allah” row had triggered a nationwide uproar among conservative Muslims. The tension escalated into attacks on houses of worships of both Christians and Muslims.

The attacks also tarnished Malaysia’s moderate credentials among the international community.

“I don’t want to speculate on the reason..but there are things that you can take to court and others best to leave it to other sensible ways for solution,” Khairy said.

“But I feel that whether or not the charges are dropped is not important. What is important is that people learn from this lesson and I am sure that the magazine has learned its lesson from this episode,” he added.

The two Al-Islam journalists had pretended to be Christians and took part in a Catholic Mass to probe allegations that Muslims were being converted.

In their article, the two admitted to receiving Holy Communion — which is in the form of bread which Catholics believe changes to the body of Jesus Christ through the rite. They said they subsequently spat it out in what Catholics consider an act of desecration.

A police report was subsequently lodged against the two journalists.

The duo were then investigated under Section 298A (1) of the Penal Code for causing disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will, or prejudicing the maintenance of harmony or unity, on grounds of religion.

It was reported yesterday that the Dang Wangi district police headquarters, through the officer in charge of the case, had sent a letter to the complainant telling him that the AG’s office would not be pressing charges.

No reason was given for the decision.

Lim said the decision not to charge the two indicate the lack of seriousness by the authorities to safeguard domestic religious harmony.

“The decision shows the AG is not serious in protecting and safeguarding religious and racial harmony in the context of a plural and multi-racial Malaysia,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Mujahid on the other hand agreed with Khairy that it was not apt to speculate on the reason behind the decision to drop the charges.

But he regretted the possibility that politics could have been behind the decision to drop the case.

“They might have strong reasons to do so. It may be for security reasons but there has been much doubt about this (even if its true) as many of its (AG’s chambers) decision are done due to political reasons,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

The Parit Buntar MP also agreed that the decision may be connected to the “Allah” row and that it was done to prevent further tension.

But he said the authority should tackle the negative perception that it is upholding the law based on religious and political considerations.

Courtesy: TheMalaysianInsider - Herald, 27/2/2010, Khairy defends AG in Al Islam row  

No comments: