Friday, March 16, 2007

Meanwhile, in the real world...

If you crush out individuality by the strong arm of the State,
then ultimately the state will be all,
and the individual and the family will be nothing,
and liberty will be destroyed."
J. Gresham Machen (1934)

Here we go again. This is a landmark judgment with serious implications and there has been so little commentary:

PUTRAJAYA: A non-Muslim married to a person who has converted to Islam has to seek remedy in the syariah court over family matters.

In a landmark ruling, the Court of Appeal also held that a Muslim could make an application to the syariah court to convert his or her underage children without the permission of the non-Muslim spouse. However, the three Court of Appeal judges were divided in their opinions.

Judges Datuk Suriyadi Halim Omar and Datuk Hasan Lah dismissed with costs the appeal of R. Subshini, 28, a company secretary, who wanted an injunction to restrain her husband, Muhammad Shafi Saravanan Abdullah, 30, a businessman, from:

• converting their two children, Dharvin Joshua, 3, and one-year-old Sharvind to Islam; and,

• commencing any proceeding in any syariah court with regard to their civil marriage.

Datuk Gopal Sri Ram, who was the dissenting judge, said the court would hear a formal application from Subshini to stay the order sought by her husband in a day or two.

Very little has been reported about natural justice, the rights of the mother and children, the duplicity of the ex-husband, the legal impasse that shouldn’t be, the creeping elevation of one religious system over and against the Constitution. It’s an almost impossible situation pitting Muslim judges who for obvious reasons cannot be seen to undermine the perceived superiority of Syariah by suggesting the civil courts have greater jurisdiction.

Meanwhile Malaysia Hindu Sangam has released a statement that it is gross injustice to ask Hindus to submit to Islamic canonical law, to which Hindus do not subscribe.

Question: In what way is the gospel of Christ relevant to our society – when all parties of various religious persuasion and ethnicity decry the aggression of the other, and fear the loss of their own cultural identity and way of life? What is the kingdom response to the whittling down of political space by powers-that-be so that the majority race and their religion ride roughshod over the rights of others?

Here's another true story.

A friend calls me up from the Labour Office in a panic saying he fears for his life. At a hearing to demand unpaid salary and commissions, his ex-employer abuses him loudly and threatens bodily harm – all in front of a presiding officer. A scuffle ensues in court, he hurts his hand defending himself, and again, the presiding officer does nothing to restrain the offensive former employer, issues no warning, and ignores the fracas? I am there standing at the lift lobby next to my friend who's ashen-faced and shaking, while his former employer continues to berate and threaten while we leave through separate exits.

Another question: How does the church of God respond to the numerous counts of corruption and systemic evil that are shackling our country and perpetuating a climate of fear?

While conversations continue, life intrudes. Reality is decidedly less pleasant. I have a flood of questions, all emotionally-charged, and none with any resolution in the near term.

More questions: What does the church do in the face of racial polarization, religious extremism, institutionalised mediocrity, urban poverty, abuse of power, and rise in crime? What is the call to action for followers of Jesus other than participating in the political process and eschewing corrupt practices ourselves, and praying for God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven? In the Kingdom of God, how does a Christian act justly, practice mercy, and walk humbly?

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