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In chair contest, lawyer campaigns to ‘Islamise’ KL Bar, boost Muslim representation (VIDEO)

Screengrab of Amir Bahari from his campaign video for the KL Bar election that will be held on Feb 23, 2017. — Picture via YouTube/Amir Bahari

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 — A lawyer who is seeking to be elected Kuala Lumpur Bar committee chairman tomorrow wants to increase Muslim representation and has pledged to “Islamise” the professional body.

Mohd Amir Sharil Bahari Md Noor, who is also known as just Amir Bahari, confirmed his plans to “Islamise” the Kuala Lumpur Bar, which he said could easily be done simply by fulfilling just one of the many pledges on his election manifesto.

“Actually to Islamise, I just need 10 per cent, no alcohol, that’s it. If no alcohol, [it’s] already Islamised. If just take out alcohol, then it’s Shariah compliant,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.

No drinking

Amir Bahari, who is running for the second time for this position after having made an unsuccessful bid for the 2015/2016 term, said he would ensure that the KL Bar would discontinue serving alcohol at all its events, including during its main functions of Charity Night, Annual Dinner and Appreciation Dinner.

Amir Bahari claimed that the serving of alcohol makes Muslim lawyers “uncomfortable to attend” as they would allegedly face “peer pressure” to drink — an act prohibited in the al-Quran, adding that this was allegedly deterring Muslim lawyers from becoming more involved and costing the KL Bar “many talented people who can contribute”, noting that he himself would not have attended if he was not also a serving KL Bar committee member.

“It happened in military before. Last time in the military, they served alcohol for all officers, but slowly they managed to phase it out, so what I am proposing has been precedent (sic) before in other bodies,” the three-term KL Bar committee member said, adding that he would like to start by introducing a “no alcohol” policy with the KL Bar.

Amir Bahari further highlighted that serving alcohol would allegedly raise the costs of each event by 40 per cent, as well as cause harmful effects to health when it is consumed excessively.

He also said the mannerisms of drunk lawyers would change, adding that his planned policy is aimed at being “sensitive” to the needs of the KL Bar’s multireligious members and that “serving alcohol does not reflect the culture of a plural society”.

More Muslim lawyers

In a February 10 YouTube video that featured the line “Raise the Bar” along with silhouettes of what appeared to be minarets — structures typically found at mosques, Amir Bahari offered himself as a chair candidate to increase the “diversity” of the KL Bar committee and for Muslim lawyers to fill up close to half of the committee.

Noting that the local legal profession is very “open” where law firms hire lawyers regardless of ethnicity, he claimed however that there was a need for more Muslim representation as he estimated that up to 50 per cent of both the KL Bar and the Malaysian Bar were composed of Muslims.

“Basically the Muslim representation is very low in the Kuala Lumpur Bar committee and Bar Council level because in the Kuala Lumpur Bar it’s only 18 per cent, Bar Council 32 per cent are Muslims, so we are underrepresented,  when we are close to majority practitioners. I would like to fill in the gap because when I feel there are [sic]too much gap, it won’t be a healthy relationship between members of the Bar,” he told Malay Mail Online.

Amir Bahari said he believed that the alleged low levels of Muslim lawyers’ participation both at the KL Bar and the Bar Council was due to reasons such as time constraints, as well as Malays purportedly feeling that their voice cannot be heard effectively at the Bar Council.

“The Muslim lawyers feel inferior and insignificant especially the young lawyers,” he said. “The Muslims [do] not feel they can contribute effectively as they have a practice to run.”

He also attributed “negative attitude and aptitude” as the reason for relatively low Muslim participation, saying that non-Muslims tend to work on common issues while Muslims’ tendency to be divided over political differences and ideologies would in the long run negatively impact Muslim lawyers’ role in society.

RUU355 and what Shariah lawyers need

Amir Bahari said the proposed introduction of a joint Malay language and Shariah sub-committee would help resolve the problem of Muslim lawyers shying away from taking on an active role in the KL Bar committee, adding that such a sub-committee was already in existence in the Selangor Bar and would enable state Bar committees to indirectly make recommendations via the Bar Council to the federal government and Shariah courts.

He pointed out that lawyers like him who are both practising civil law and Shariah law currently have the Malaysian Syariah Lawyers Association as their only avenue to raise complaints with the Shariah courts, while a KL Shariah lawyer would be able to raise such issues through the more authoritative sub-committee if it was formed.

“Because we intend to be inclusive, when there is a Shariah and Bahasa Melayu committee, then we will pull back all Muslims into the fold of KL Bar,” he told Malay Mail Online.

Amir Bahari said his team’s agenda is to express support for “RUU355” or the proposed amendment of the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 to enable harsher Shariah punishments, adding that there was a need to educate the public on the need to increase the Shariah courts’ current maximum sentencing powers of three years’ jail, RM5,000 fine and six lashes as it was “restrictive”.

He explained that the Shariah courts’ sentencing powers are currently not aligned to the civil courts and should be brought to the same level, adding that people may otherwise not take Shariah courts seriously as they would perceive it to have less severe punishments compared to civil courts, likening it to motorists brushing off summonses from Kuala Lumpur City Hall as opposed to those issued by the police.

“It is a clarion call for Muslim lawyers to unite and say we must support this, because it is something positive to our community,” he said of the RUU355 cause, having suggested in the same video for KL Bar members to vote for a chairman and committee members that support the proposed amendment.

Among other promises that Amir Bahari and his team have made is to increase the number of networking events for lawyers including through the hosting of open house events for all major festivities, as well as have in place programmes to coach lawyers to become more effective in their work.

According to a campaign poster, Amir Bahari is running with five other lawyers under the song-inspired name “Team Eye of the Tiger” in the KL Bar committee election that will be held together with its annual general meeting. Lawyers Muhamad Izwan Ishak, Faidhur Rahman Abdul Hadi, Ismail Arifin have confirmed to Malay Mail Online that they are contesting along with Amir Bahari and shared the same views in the manifesto.

Lawyers Suhaimi Harun and Aishah Aslah were also featured as his team members in videos uploaded on Amir Bahari’s YouTube account.

Malay Mail Online understands that three lawyers — Amir Bahari, current KL Bar honorary secretary Goh Siu Lin, current KL Bar committee member Alex Anton Netto — have made known their intentions to contest for the KL Bar chair post and shared their manifestos online.

The Malay Mail Online