There is a rights disconnect in Malaysia.
Much of the debate is mismatched – and the debate as usual is Islam.
On one corner there is the Islam first group. It is important to note that they are not all the Muslims in the country, just the percentage of Muslims who feel all things must generate and begin with the Islam question.
For example, for them to know God (let’s suspend our logical contentions for now) comes before knowing anything.
But they would be equally adamant that learning is important, do not get them wrong, however to discourse without God is meaningless. More importantly to discourse without prominence and dominance of their idea of God is sacrilegious.
That is why for them – and they are being as sensible and reasonable as they can possibly be – for non-Muslims to oppose fatwas (yoga, tomboys, take your pick) is unreasonable.
For them, it has nothing to do with non-Muslims what Muslim laws dictate upon those identified (not necessarily want to be identified as) as Muslims.
The strenuous opposition by Nik Aziz to those protesting against the tomboy fatwa is most natural – to him. So are the cries from bloggers like Mahaguru etc
Natural law and nation-state
Natural law and its organic growth globally has looked at rights from non-theological basis although it may be theologically derived.
What is previously right or wrong is re-examined on its universality, and over time much society’s have re-established themselves on reason – logic has prevailed and dictates.
The kinks remain, and there are baffling contradictions, but society has yielded to debate rather than authority to decide.
People are not stoned for working on the Sabbath, and neither are killers murdered in line with ‘an eye for an eye’.
The second development was the conception of the nation-state.
A compact is formed between citizens and the state, with the central core being equality. There can be no state without equality. The advancement of rights, became vital in the democratic development of western European nations contrary to eastern ones that were tied down to feudal-serf constructs.
In many senses the Industrial Revolution was the fuel for those nations to be more driven to democracy. The same can be said of the Information Revolution taking place now, that is set to drive all of the world to greater democracy – based on natural laws and universal protection.
In the nation-state, all matters that evolve in it are matter concerning all members of the state.
At this point, it is salient to point out, only that the model of democratic driven nation-states that have been most resilient in the last two century.
It is their institutions, not their people that have kept those nations valuable to their people, therefore worth defending.
It is the extension of that think, the dominant concept that is steering Malaysians of all hues and colour to speak all things inside their nation-state.
It is their state, as much as it is Nik Aziz’s.
Any law that transgresses on the personal liberties of any Malaysian is the concern of the very next Malaysian – Muslim or not.
The example – and I admit it is an extreme example – of the 2002 deaths of 15 Mecca schoolgirls is salient here.
The long and short, the religious police decided that it is better for the girls to die in the fire than to be not covered fully – since they were running out of their dormitory beds.
The argument is, since it is a religious matter, no one can challenge it, if you an adherent of the faith.
My argument is – I’d walk and save the girls, as I would trust many Muslims, because we would believe natural justice would demand us to act.
Now the religious police might not agree, since the rules are pretty straightforward, and this is where the disconnect occurs.
Can I save the lives of these girls since their religious dictate requires them to be fully covered?
Am I challenging the religious police and the religious clerics they serve by acting in a matter involving those of their faith, and by extension the girls have nothing to do with me?
The example, again I concede is extreme and rare, as there was much remorse over the episode in Saudi Arabia, but with no real tangible advance in the “how strict can religion be” debate.
Come back to tomboys and those who like to wrap their limbs extensively (read: yoga enthusiasts), the question is, why is the non-Muslim involving in a matter involving Muslims.
Firstly, those protesting the tomboy fatwa are both Muslims and non-Muslims.
Second, a person is not limited to their faith or the faith consigned to them. They have gender, age, birthplace and a favourite football team perhaps.
All these determine the content the person of the person and also their connection to me.
But even if they don’t share any demographics with me, they still are my countrymen.
And for that I am interested in their rights, as my rights are intertwined in theirs.
The erosion of everyone’s civil rights begin with the strict regulating of the perceived majority.
But above all that, everything in the nation-state is up for debate. Everything.
That is how you keep the country attractive to everyone.
Dalil Boubakeur ethnic Algerian – all French head of the main mosque in Paris and former leader of the national Muslim organisation is outspoken for secularism and a more inclusive Islam. Fairly certain many will be in dissonance with him, but the point is, the idea of a more engaging Islam within the confines of a nation-state has base. And in my estimation, will grow.
Nik Aziz, Mahaguru and a whole bunch of people have just have to come to terms with the idea that all things will be discussed and they will be discussed widely, deeply and continuously – if they affect any Malaysian.
The idea of Muslims or non-Muslims staying in their own corners is frankly outdated and retrogressive. In the nation-state all its members will be in constant interaction, and debate.