We read with alarm the interview conducted by The Malaysian Insight (“TMI”), being a relaunched Malaysian Insider with the same editor in chief, Jahabar Sadiq at the helm, of Kassim Ahmad, in which he is extolled by the online portal as a “Muslim scholar” and a “well-known intellectual”.
Kassim Ahmad is no stranger to Malaysians, in particular Muslims, especially with regard to his controversial position on the place of Hadith, or collection of sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad, the final messenger of Allah in Islam and was arrested and detained under the now repealed Internal Security Act 1960 in the mid-1970s for propagating such controversial beliefs in the public sphere.
In the Malaysian Insight interview, titled ‘Governments have no business meddling in Islam, says scholar Kassim’ he is quoted as saying that the way Islam is governed in Malaysia leads to religious conflicts. Moreover, he even had the audacity to call for the Federal Constitution to be amended to remove all references to Islam as the religion of our federation.
Article 3(1)’s position in our Constitution is clear cut and not up for debate. It is part of the constitutional compromise by our forefathers, in which recognition is duly given to the history of the Malay Muslim Sultanates that make up Malaya in which Islam and its jurisprudence has always been accorded recognition. This has even been affirmed by past colonial powers such as Britain, in which R.J. Wilkinson acknowledged the supremacy of Islamic law amongst the inhabitants of this land, and the judicial recognition thereof in early cases such as Ramah v Laton.
It is a fundamental pillar of our modern state and forms part of the basic structure of our Constitution which cannot be altered in any way whatsoever.
To call for the repeal of Islam’s exalted status as the religion of the federation is tantamount to sedition as envisaged by the Sedition Act 1948 as amended in 1970 following the 1969 racial riots in which other fundamental pillars and parts that make up the basic structure of our Constitution were questioned, namely the position of Malays per Article 153 of the Constitution and the status of Malay as the national language per Article 152 of the same. The Act was amended to prohibit the question of such fundamental pillars to ensure that racial riots would never again recur.
The call by Kassim Ahmad therefore, constitutes a criminal offence of the type envisaged above and TMI, by carrying such an interview is guilty by association and implication. The offence is one that, quite plainly, will have serious consequences for racial and religious harmony in our fragile multicultural community and have adverse effects for our economic well-being.
We therefore accordingly call upon the authorities to investigate Kassim Ahmad and TMI for sedition, as well as possible other offences in the Penal Code, and prosecute the same parties to the maximum extent possible under the law.
Let it serve as a warning too to those harbouring similar thoughts that any attempt to seditiously undermine the religion of Islam and incite racial tensions amongst the diverse races shall not be tolerated at any expense.
*The above is a Press Statement by:-
1. Azril Mohd Amin, Chief Executive of the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA)
2. Aidil Khalid, Campaign Coordinator for the Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ)
3. Faidhur Rahman Abdul Hadi, Chief Executive Officer of Young Professionals (YP)
4. Dato’ Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar, President of Persatuan Peguam Muslim Malaysia (PPMM)
5. Mohd Luttfi Abdul Khalid, Chairman of iPeguam