Thursday, July 13, 2006

Lawyers set up group to defend Islam

Fauwaz Abdul Aziz
Jul 13, 06 2:00pm

About 100 Muslim lawyers attended a meeting at the Federal Territory
Syariah Court building yesterday to form a group, Peguam Pembela Islam
(PPI) or Lawyers in Defence of Islam, to counter what they termed as
concerted efforts to attack Islam.

Top on the PPI agenda is to tackle the 'partisan stand' taken by the Bar
Council on cases of apostasy from Islam. In the long term, PPI also seeks
to counter moves by certain quarters to 'liberalise' the Federal

"Cognisant of the recent attacks against the religion of Islam, a group of
Muslim lawyers held a meeting today to take action to defend the position
of Islam in this country," former Bar president Zainur Zakaria told a press
conference held after the three-hour meeting.

"Some quarters have questioned and challenged the position and status of
Islam in this country by using the argument that the human rights of
individuals is higher than Islam," he added.

Zainur (left) heads the pro tem PPI committee that includes Kamar Ainiah
Kamaruzaman, Zulkifli Nordin, Shamsuriah Sulayman, Zaiton Othman, Mohd
Razi, and 10 other senior civil and syariah lawyers.

At a Federal Court hearing on the appeal of Christian convert Lina Joy, the
Bar Council, for which lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar held a watching brief,
was questioned on its 'partisan stand' on the Lina Joy case.

To strengthen Islam

In an earlier proceeding, Malik had submitted that Article 11 of the
constitution pertaining to religious freedom allowed Joy to declare the
religion of her choice without being certified to do so by the Islamic
religious authorities.

Zulkifli, representing the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, argued that
the Bar did not have the mandate to assert its position either for or
against the case before the court.

Zulkifli also contested that Malik's submission was not representative of
the Bar's 4,000 Muslim members.

Bar Council president Yeo Yang Poh later came out to express the Council's
full support of the 'partisan stand' as stated by Malik.

At yesterday's meeting, PPI committee members said a resolution on the
matter has acquired the endorsement of more than 50 Muslim laywers and will
be sent to the Bar Council very soon.

During the meeting, which also saw the participation of several Muslim
non-governmental organisations, Zulkilfli said that Muslim lawyers should
seek to strengthen Islam within the framework of the Federal Constitution
and laws within the country.

"If (certain groups) want the constitution to be liberalised, we want the
constitution to be strengthened to reflect the supremacy of Islam," said

Zulkifli (left), who decried the non-chalant attitude of many Muslim
lawyers and NGOs on the issue, also said that apostasy has far reaching
implications for the Muslim community.

Among the implications of allowing Muslims in this country to apostasise,
he argued, was religion could become arbitrarily interpreted and practiced
in any manner chosen by its adherents.

Persons professing the faith at any point in time could choose to declare
their apostasy from the religion in order to escape Islamic legislation,
said Zulkifli, referring to proscriptions against adultery, fornication and
other matters.

Zulkifli also said religious bodies such as the Department of Islamic
Development (Jakim) and the various state departments and councils of
Islamic religious affairs would become powerless.

The prerogative of the Malay rulers would also be non-existent as matters
of religion provided for by the Federal Constitution would no longer be
under the powers of the sultans, he said.

Most importantly, Zulkifli added, Muslims could no longer be assured that
their children would abide by the tenets and practice of Islam once the
doors to apostasy to those who reached the age of majority were open.

He also said that apostasy also throws into question the constitutional
definition of the Malay, which has been based on the practice of Malay
customs, the use of the Malay language, and the adherence to the Islamic

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