by Joshua Wu Kai-Ming | Sep 16, 2019 | Law, Religion
On the 7th of September 2019, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) conducted a raid at a centre in Gombak and arrested 23 individuals for investigation under shariah law for opposing the fatwa on the practice of Shi’ism. This is not a new matter as JAIS and other Islamic religious authorities have conducted similar raids in the past.
Suhakam Commissioner, and former Court of Appeal judge, Datuk Seri Mohd Hishamudin Md Yunus, was recently reported as having said that Article 3 of the Federal Constitution, which establishes Islam as the religion of the Federation, does not specify a denomination or school of jurisprudence. This would be a correct observation as Article 3 of the Federal Constitution merely states the following:
“(1) Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.
(2) In every State other than States not having a Ruler the position of the Ruler as the Head of the religion of Islam in his State in the manner and to the extent acknowledged and declared by the Constitution, all rights, privileges, prerogatives and powers enjoyed by him as Head of that religion, are unaffected and unimpaired; but in any acts, observance or ceremonies with respect to which the Conference of Rulers has agreed that they should extend to the Federation as a whole each of the other Rulers shall in his capacity of Head of the religion of Islam authorize the Yang di-pertuan Agong to represent him.
(3) The Constitution of the States of Malacca, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak shall each make provision for conferring on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be Head of the religion of Islam in that State.
(4) Nothing in this Article derogates from any other provision of this Constitution.
(5) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be the Head of the religion of Islam in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan; and for this purpose Parliament may by law make provisions for regulating Islamic religious affairs and for constituting a Council to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in matters relating to the religion of Islam.”
However, as lawyer Aidil Khalid has pointed out, the Supreme Court in Mustak Ahmed bin Dato’ Haji Abdul Rahim Gulam Rasool Shaik v Abdul Wahid bin Dato’ Haji Abdul Rahim Gulam Rasool Shaik & Ors  2 MLJ 449 [Mustak Ahmed] has held that, “as enshrined in our Constitution, the official religion Malaysia is the Islam of the Shafie sect from the school of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah (Sunnis).”
Though the Federal Constitution does not in and of itself define or elaborate on the term “Islam,” it would appear that the highest court of the land has developed jurisprudence on this matter and therefore “Islam” refers to Sunnism. It is worth noting at the outset that there are incidental remarks (obiter dicta) by High Court judges to the effect of recognising Shi’ism as an Islamic school of jurisprudence.
by Joshua Wu Kai-Ming | Jul 21, 2017 | Religion
Artikel ini bertujuan membalas kepada artikel oleh Menara.my yang bertajuk, “Kristian Di Malaysia Bersimpati Dengan Negara Haram Israel?”  Saya sebenarnya berpeluang menghadiri dialog tersebut dan telah menulis sebuah artikel mengenainya. 
Pertama sekali, tajuk artikel Menara.my ini memberikan tanggapan bahawa semua umat Kristian di Malaysia bersimpati terhadap Israel, namun dalam perenggan pertama, penulis artikel tersebut dengan tepat melaporkan bahawa apa yang dikatakan oleh Rev Hwa Yung adalah, secara umumnya orang-orang Kristian di Malaysia sememangnya bersimpati dengan Israel, atas sebab “our two faith are so closely linked” (kedua-dua agama kami begitu berkait rapat).
Adakah penulis artikel tersebut ataupun editornya menggunakan tajuk yang bersensasi (“sensational”) untuk mislead mereka yang hanya membaca tajuk artikel tanpa pedulikan isi kandungannya?
Selain itu, penulis artikel itu dengan tepat memerhati bahawa “… Rev Hwa Yung tidak pula memperincikan apakah yang dimaksudkan dengan “our two faith are so closely linked”?”. Kemungkinan besar Rev Hwa Yung tidak memperincikan apa yang dimaksudkannya, kerana topik dialog tersebut, iaitu ‘Deceitful? Distracting? Or Dedicated? Evangelicals And Current Controversies In Malaysia’, tidak pun secara langsung berkaitan dengan isu pandangan umat Kristian terhadap negara Israel.
Artikel ini akan memberikan beberapa sebab mengapakah negara Israel dan agama Yahudi berkait rapat dengan agama Kristian. Saya ingin menyatakan dengan jelas bahawa poin-poin yang akan saya bangkitkan tidak mewakili Rev Hwa Yung, tetapi merupakan pandangan saya, sebagai seorang umat Kristian.
Pertamanya, terdapat persamaan dari segi teks suci dan nabi-nabi. Tanakh yang digunakan oleh penganut agama Yahudi di negara Israel sama dengan Perjanjian Lama (“Old Testament”) dalam Alkitab (“Bible”) agama Kristian, walaupun buku-buku dalam Tanakh dan Alkitab disusun sedikit berbeza. 
Nabi-nabi yang disebut dalam kedua-dua buku suci dipercayai penganut agama Kristian sebagai utusan yang dihantar oleh YHWH  kepada umat yang dipilihNya.
Di samping itu, umat yang dipilih YHWH dalam Perjanjian Lama merupakan umat Israel (“Israelites”). Ini jelas dilihat dalam ayat-ayat Alkitab yang berikut: 
a) Mazmur 105:8-10:
“8. Ia ingat untuk selama-lamanya akan perjanjian-Nya, firman yang diperintahkan-Nya kepada seribu angkatan,
9. yang diikat-Nya dengan Abraham, dan akan sumpah-Nya kepada Ishak;
10. diadakan-Nya hal itu menjadi ketetapan bagi Yakub, menjadi perjanjian kekal bagi Israel …” 
b) Yesaya 41:8:
“Tetapi engkau, hai Israel, hamba-Ku, hai Yakub, yang telah Kupilih, keturunan Abraham, yang Kukasihi;” 
c) Jeremiah 31:1:
“Pada waktu itu, demikianlah firman TUHAN, Aku akan menjadi Allah segala kaum keluarga Israel dan mereka akan menjadi umat-Ku.” 
Bukan sahaja itu malah terdapat ramalan (“prophecy”) dalam Alkitab bahawa Mesias (“Messiah”) merupakan seorang umat Israel. Mari kita mengambil contoh, Bilangan 24:17 menyatakan bahawa Mesias merupakan bintang terbit dari Yakub (“star coming out of Jacob”):
“Aku melihat dia, tetapi bukan sekarang; aku memandang dia, tetapi bukan dari dekat; bintang terbit dari Yakub, tongkat kerajaan timbul dari Israel, dan meremukkan pelipis-pelipis Moab, dan menghancurkan semua anak Set.” 
Mesias juga diramalkan sebagai keturunan Daud, dan ramalan ini menerima pemenuhan dalam Yesus Kristus.  2 Samuel 7:12-13 menyatakan:
“12. Apabila umurmu sudah genap dan engkau telah mendapat perhentian bersama-sama dengan nenek moyangmu, maka Aku akan membangkitkan keturunanmu yang kemudian, anak kandungmu, dan Aku akan mengokohkan kerajaannya.
13. Dialah yang akan mendirikan rumah bagi nama-Ku dan Aku akan mengokohkan takhta kerajaannya untuk selama-lamanya.” 
Tambahan pula, Mesias dikatakan akan dilahirkan di Betlehem. Mikha 5:2:
“Tetapi engkau, hai Betlehem Efrata, hai yang terkecil di antara kaum-kaum Yehuda, dari padamu akan bangkit bagi-Ku seorang yang akan memerintah Israel, yang permulaannya sudah sejak purbakala, sejak dahulu kala.” 
Matius 2:1-6  dan Yohanes 7:40-43  dengan jelas mengindikasikan bahawa Yesus memenuhi ramalan ini.
Lanjutan daripada itu, Alkitab menceritakan bahawa YHWH masih ada rancangan untuk Israel. Dalam buku Roma, bab 11, ayat 1 dan 2, firman YHWH berkata,
“1. Maka aku bertanya: Adakah Allah mungkin telah menolak umat-Nya? Sekali-kali tidak! Karena aku sendiripun orang Israel, dari keturunan Abraham, dari suku Benyamin.
2. Allah tidak menolak umat-Nya yang dipilih-Nya …” 
Dalam bab yang sama, ayat 25 hingga 29 memberitahu kita bahawa,
“25. Sebab, saudara-saudara, supaya kamu jangan menganggap dirimu pandai, aku mau agar kamu mengetahui rahasia ini: Sebagian dari Israel telah menjadi tegar sampai jumlah yang penuh dari bangsa-bangsa lain telah masuk.
26. Dengan jalan demikian seluruh Israel akan diselamatkan, seperti ada tertulis: “Dari Sion akan datang Penebus, Ia akan menyingkirkan segala kefasikan dari pada Yakub.
27. Dan inilah perjanjian-Ku dengan mereka, apabila Aku menghapuskan dosa mereka.”
28. Mengenai Injil mereka adalah seteru Allah oleh karena kamu, tetapi mengenai pilihan mereka adalah kekasih Allah oleh karena nenek moyang.
29. Sebab Allah tidak menyesali kasih karunia dan panggilan-Nya.” 
Adalah diharapkan dengan artikel ini bahawa mereka yang bukan beragama Kristian dapat lebih memahami hubungan unik di antara negara Israel, agama Yahudi, dan agama Kristian. Walapun terbuktinya sebuah kaitan yang rapat, kita perlu mengingati kenyataan Rev Hwa Yung yang kebanyakan “orang-orang Kristian di Malaysia bukanlah Kristian Zionis.” Secara amnya, mereka hanya bersimpati dengan Israel kerana kaitan rapat yang telah diperincikan di atas.
by Joshua Wu Kai-Ming | Jul 9, 2017 | Religion
I had the wonderful opportunity of attending a dialogue yesterday, entitled “Deceitful? Distracting? Or Dedicated? Evangelicals & Current Controversies”, which was organised by Kairos Dialogue Network (KDN) and the STM Centre for Religion and Society. 
First off, I have to say that I was greatly encouraged by the number of muslims who attended the dialogue, especially since the event was held on Wesley Methodist KL’s grounds, albeit in a multipurpose hall. There were also attendees from IKRAM (Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia), ABIM (Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia), and the CFM (Christian Federation of Malaysia).
Bishop Emeritus Dr Hwa Yung started off his presentation by briefly mentioning a few issues which have recently arisen, namely, accusations against YB Hannah Yeoh’s biography , the planned Jerusalem Jubilee event , the CEO of CENTHRA (Centre of Human Rights Research and Advocacy)
calling for evangelicalism to be outlawed in Malaysia , and YB Nik Abduh’s statement that Christians have infiltrated a major political party in the country to carry out their Christianisation agenda .
Dr Hwa Yung went on to say that such issues are based on a confusion of terms, a misrepresentation of who evangelicals are, and religion being highly politicised. He then explained the difference between evangelicals, evangelicalism, and evangelism, based on an article written by local Christian theologian, Dr Ng Kam Weng. 
The fact that the CEO of a think tank conflated such terms  are highly illustrative of why interfaith/interreligious dialogues are necessary! If the CEO of a think tank could make such a mistake, what more us ordinary folks?
Dr Mazlee, later in the dialogue, gave an example of Christians praying for the establishment of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and how Muslims may be alarmed because they fail to understand what a Christian means when he/she says that. Understanding each other can most definitely, allay unnecessary fears and conflicts.
During his allotted time, Dr Mazlee Malik raised a good point, suggesting that one of the ways forward is by dialoguing, but more specifically, by engaging more mainline islamic groups such as ABIM, PERKIM (Pertubuhan Kebajikan Islam Malaysia), and MACMA (Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association). Or even figures like the Mufti of the Federal Territories and/or the Mufti of Perlis, both of whom represent the more mainstream Islam.
On top of Dr Mazlee’s suggestions, I would like to put forth certain propositions for the consideration of any party concerned in this matter.
Firstly, civil societies like Kairos Dialogue Network should go even further than what Dr Mazlee suggested, by engaging with groups like ISMA (Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia) which are perceived as more hard-line.
Its president, Dr Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman, has been under the spotlight in recent years due to a few controversial statements he has made  . It would be good for him to be able to present his views on interfaith matters, free of any misrepresentation, and to be allowed defend them under scrutiny (either through the questions of fellow panellists or by way of questions from the audience).
Inviting speakers of differing views would also make the dialogues more productive. As much as I respect Dr Mazlee and his willingness to participate in these dialogues, his moderate views might result in the dialogues being an echo chamber or information cocoon of some sort.
Perhaps these dialogues could also be streamed live on platforms such as Facebook and/or Youtube. Although yesterday’s dialogue was recorded, a live stream would allow the entire discussion to be shared on social media, hence raising awareness about the existence of such events. People who could not attend the dialogue due to a plethora of reasons would be able to have access to the content of what was discussed, in the event there is a livestream.
Besides that, the moderator, Rev Dr Sivin Kit mentioned before the start of the Q&A sessions that the organisers are aware of suggestions that the dialogues should be conducted in the national language and be held elsewhere. It is my sincere hope that the organisers can implement these recommendations in the future. Having these dialogues in the national language would allow the information discussed to be heard and .understood by a greater majority of Malaysians.
Furthermore, if muslim groups are open to this idea, future dialogues could/should be held on mosque grounds (not necessarily at the area where prayers are conducted if that would be inappropriate). Understandably, not all Muslims are comfortable entering church grounds. Thus, having it on mosque grounds would it much easier for Muslims to participate in these dialogues.
It cannot be stressed how important interfaith dialogues are, especially in our multireligious society. Efforts by organisations such as KDN should be applauded. Ordinary Malaysians should make time to attend these events as it would allow them to have their misconceptions corrected, and to allow them to ask any pressing questions they may have been dealing with.
by Joshua Wu Kai-Ming | Jan 7, 2016 | Law, Religion
Mr K J John wrote an excellent piece on the Indira Gandhi case and his article inspired me to offer a legal perspective on the controversial issue of unilateral child conversions
So what does the supreme law of our land say about the religion of a child and how it is determined? Article 12(3) of the Federal Constitution expressly provides that “no person shall be required to take part in any ceremony or act of worship of a religion other than his own”
The Constitution then goes on to say that for the purposes of Article 12(3), the religion of persons below the age of eighteen years shall be decided by his parent or guardian [Article 12(4)]
In reading Clause (3) in light of Clause (4), this is the long and short of it:
a) The religion of a child (i.e. a person below eighteen years old) will be determined by his/her parent or guardian [note the use of the nouns in a singular form]
b) Once the parent or guardian has determined the child’s religion, the child will have the right not to be forced to take part in any ceremony or act of worship of another religion
Upon literal inspection of the aforementioned provisions, one may come to the conclusion that the Federal Constitution permits unilateral conversion of a child’s religion
However, statutes are not only to be interpreted literally as the “English language is not an instrument of mathematical precision” (as per Lord Denning in Seaford Court Estates Ltd v Asher)
Judges have a broad arsenal of rules of construction to choose from. A particular provision can be interpreted using the golden rule, the mischief rule, the purposive approach, etc
The golden rule allows a judge to depart from the ordinary meaning of a word and modify it if adhering to the literal sense of a word would lead to a “manifest absurdity or repugnance” (Lord Wensleydale in Becke v Smith)
A practical application of the golden rule could involve construing that although the singular noun “parent” was used, it should actually mean both the parents of a child (the manifest absurdity or repugnance being the ability of one parent to unilaterally convert his/her child/children)
The purposive approach would involve the Judiciary looking at the intention of the Legislature for enacting the particular provision and for using particular word(s) before determining how the provision/word should be interpreted
In respect of the Federal Constitution, the Reid Commission’s 1957 report as well as the transcript of the debates of the Federal Legislative Council (the predecessors of the Malaysian Parliament who were responsible for the debate and passing of the Federal Constitition) are documents of extreme importance in ascertaining the Legislature’s intentions
Simply put, if our Malaysian judges were bold enough to render the single noun “parent” to include both parents, they would be able to circumvent the entire issue of unilateral child conversions
If a child cannot be converted by only one parent, the conversion of Indira Gandhi’s children (and the many other children unilaterally converted) would be void ab initio (i.e. from the beginning), thus there would not be the quandary of whether the Syariah court or Civil court has jurisdiction over the matter
However, in all honesty, if the judges did so, some groups (legal experts included) might render their actions as too extreme
The panacea would be for Parliament to amend the Federal Constitution to limit child conversions to both parents (save in exceptional circumstances, e.g. one of the parents absconded, one of the parents is dead)
In 2009, the Cabinet decided that in the event of any dispute, a child must be raised in the faith professed by both parents at the time of marriage (hence impliedly denouncing unilateral child conversions)
However, the Executive branch’s reassurance is good-for-nothing, as the fact of the matter is, the Federal Constitution, when applied literally, appears to provide for unilateral child conversions
So instead of dishing out false assurances, the Executive (who also has the majority of seats in the Legislature), should push for Article 12(4) to be ammended in light of their 2009 Cabinet decision (if indeed it is still their stance today)
*This article also appeared in Free Malaysia Today, The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini
by Joshua Wu Kai-Ming | Apr 20, 2015 | Law, Religion
This article is in response to the recent protest outside a church in Taman Medan, Selangor
The Inspector General of Police’s brother (who was present at the protest), was quoted as saying that “the residents [of Taman Medan] just panicked after seeing the cross. They were uncomfortable and sensitive.”
“Some of them complained that the first thing they saw when they opened their windows was the cross.”
As a result of their “uncomfortableness”, a group of about 50 people decided to protest in front of the church, demanding that its leaders “remove the cross symbol on the outside of its shop lot premises”
It was then reported that the cross was taken down by church leaders a few hours after the protest
The ever impartial Inspector General of Police remarked that the protest was not seditious as “it did not touch on Christianity but only on the location of the church”
Is the whole issue truly on the location of the church as claimed by the IGP, or was it about the cross “affixed to the house of worship”?
It is widely reported that the protest was to get the church to remove the cross which was allegedly “challenging Islam” as well as “could sway the faith of the youth”
Clearly the issue is not about the location of the church, but about the presence of the cross. So, is the IGP trying to justify the unjustifiable? Or was he misinformed of the purpose of the entire protest?
The entire incident can easily be construed to fall under the ambit of Section 3(1)(a) of the Sedition Act 1948. The particular provision defines a seditious tendency as a tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia
Any reasonable person would be able to come to the conclusion that the entire protest AT LEAST had the tendency (a very low standard) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between the Muslims and the Christians
However, one need not rely on the Sedition Act as the Penal Code, specifically section 298A(1) makes it an offence if an action
(a) causes/attempts to cause/is likely to cause disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will, or
(b) prejudices/attempts to prejudice/is likely to prejudice the maintenance of harmony or unity
on grounds of religion
It is hard to see how our present facts does not satisfy the wordings of the above section. Similar to the Sedition Act, “likely to cause” and “likely to prejudice” imposes a very low standard to be satisfied
So dear IGP, you need not trouble yourself and even consider the controversial Sedition Act. You have the Penal Code at your disposal!
Whether or not the protesters should be charged in a court of law, is a task for the Attorney General. Whether it actually amounts to an offence, is for the Judiciary to decide. Considering the public interest in this case, it at least warrants an investigation on the part of the police force
*This article appeared in The Malaysian Insider, The Malay Mail Online and Free Malaysia Today
by Joshua Wu Kai-Ming | Nov 15, 2014 | Law, Politics, Religion
Many of us would like to express our gratitude to Selangor MB, Azmin Ali for orchestrating the return of the Malay and Iban language bibles which were seized by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) in January 2014
Under the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution (which contains the legislative lists), religion is under the purview of the state
As per Frank Murphy (former US Supreme Court judge), “religious freedom is too sacred a right to be restricted or prohibited in any degree without convincing proof that a legitimate interest of the state is in grave danger”
Although religious issues are under the scope of the state, it is trite law that state enactments cannot contradict the Federal Constitution which is the ultimate law of the land.
Prima facie, the Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation among Muslims) Enactment 1988 is constitutional as it is made as per Article 11(4) Federal Constitution which allows for laws to be made to control or restrict the propogation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam
Under section 9(1)(a) of the Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation among Muslims) Enactment 1988,
a person commits an offence if he in any published writing uses any of the words listed in Part I of the Schedule, or any of its derivatives or variations, to express or describe any fact, belief, idea, concept, act, activity, matter, or thing of or pertaining to any non-Islamic religion
At first glance it appears as though as the Malay and Iban bibles breached s. 9(1)(a) by virtue of containing “Allah.” However, there shouldn’t be an offence under the enactment for the following reasons
Firstly, there is no proof of propogation because the bibles were taken from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM)’s premises. At most, JAIS can say they acted under suspicion, but whether their suspicion is reasonable is a different story
Then BSM president, Lee Min Choon, pointed out that all its Malay bibles were imprinted with a picture of the cross and the words ‘Penerbitan Kristian’ on the cover and noted that the Home Ministry regularly inspects its bible shipment imports .
This is a huge sacrifice on the part of BSM to abide by the law in order to ensure that its customers may have access to Malay bibles
As to why the bibles are in our national language, “more than 60 per cent of Malaysian Christians only speak Bahasa Malaysia, and the word used for God in the Bahasa Malaysia Bible (Al-Kitab) since its translation in 1731, is “Allah.”
“The word is used by Bumiputera Christians who only have Bahasa Malaysia as their common language in Sabah, Sarawak and peninsular Malaysia, and by the Baba community in Malacca” (Christian Federation of Malaysia)
Regarding why the Bibles are in Selangor and not in Sabah and Sarawak, it is important to note that BSM is the one that imports, prints and distributes Malay bibles to Sarawak and Sabah (as per Nic Ng, BSM’s executive council member). Perhaps the bibles were in storage awaiting importation?
Even if some of the bibles were not to be imported, it shouldn’t be an issue that the bibles are in Selangor because there are Malay speaking Christians in peninsula Malaysia (e.g. sabahans and sarawakians who come over looking for jobs)
If Malay language bibles aren’t allowed in Selangor, it would most definitely infringe on the right of the Malay speaking Christians to freely practice their religion (enshrined in Article 11 of the Federal Constitution)
In June, after much investigation and deliberation, the Attorney-General (AG) accurately concluded that JAIS erred in seizing the bibles and ordered for the case to be closed.
US Politician, Mike Quigley once wisely said that the “protection of religious freedom means considering the faiths and beliefs of everyone involved.”
In future, JAIS and other religious enforcement agencies should not be so overzealous, especially when dealing with holy books of other religions. Perhaps a more thorough investigation (which would have made the raid unnecessary) could have prevented this dark dent in our history
Even if the roles were reversed and Qur’ans were superfluously seized, right thinking Malaysians would stand up and speak out against the blatant infringement of the freedom of religion!
*This awesome article featured in The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini, Malaysia Chronicle, and The Malay Mail Online