Thursday, September 07, 2006

Letter to Lina

Did anyone of you read this mail to Malaysiakini dated Sept 4? Written by someone who calls himself/herself The Carpenter and addressed to Lina Joy, it begins with a sympathetic commendation of Lina’s “beliefs” and her struggle for religious freedom. Perhaps it’s just me, but there’s a patronizing whiff in the writer’s advice which I find discomforting. I’m posting it here so I can comment on it later.
Dear Lina,

Firstly, let me commend you on your courage in facing what must be tremendous pressure to be true to your beliefs to struggle for your religious freedom. I cannot even begin to imagine the stress and anxiety you and your partner must have gone through over the last 8-10 years.

Unfortunately, the hearing of your appeal comes at the most sensitive time for the government of the day. Not only does it face a guaranteed backlash from its grassroot supporters should you win (which I think is unlikely for the same reason), it is also facing its severest test in standing up to the internal division that may result from the former PM's challenge to the present leadership. I do not expect the government to do the right thing in your case for this reason: It cannot afford to. It will do what it needs to survive the present crisis.

There is also the cost of reprisal to non-Muslim communities that will arise, not through any fault of theirs, but simply because some of your former co-religionists who feel insecure and threatened by any change in the status quo are hinting at possible violence. This is most unfortunate and grave as it goes to show that half a century of after independence, there are still many in this group who do not believe that religion is an individual's choice and strictly between her and her God.

They believe they can usurp God's place on the throne of judgement and pass judgement on their fellow human being even after the Prophet (pbuh) clearly stated "There shall be no compunction in religion".

Back to the present. For you to succeed in your petition, it is not only necessary for the judicial system to be unbiased (very difficult to believe after 1988 and especially in today's environment of religious hysteria), it is also necessary for the democratic institutions and most importantly its polity to be mature in their approach to such issues. I have seen no evidence to substantiate these pre-requisites.

In fact, all the indicators point in the opposite direction i.e. backlash to the point of death threats being circulated on certain lawyers, yourself and your beloved. We are no more mature today then half a century ago. I would argue we are even less mature due to the politicisation of religion. The ruling coalition under the former PM capitulated to PAS and religious extremism. These religious bigots have managed to set the political agenda for our nation. Today our nation pays the price for it. We have become enslaved by religious hysteria.

While the cause of right is on your side, the cause of might is on theirs. We must choose struggles we can win and avoid those we have no hope of winning today. Sometimes it is better to live today to continue the struggle for another day when conditions have changed.

So if marrying your beloved is your main goal, leave this nation for better shores elsewhere. There are many options out there. I would not be surprised if some countries offer you and your beloved asylum given the religious persecution you have been subjected to at home. There is no shame in choosing this option. Even the prophets of yesteryear had to flee the madness of the mob, at times, in order to see God more clearly.
If staying in your country of birth is more important then stay but be prepared not to officially marry your beloved.

I wish you Godspeed in the choices ahead of you. May you find the freedom and joy you seek.

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