Wednesday, 4 July 2018

My weekly news: Underage marriage and the Kelantan state government

Malaysians woke up this week with a few shocking news. First of all, the ex-PM has been charged today. I guess that wasn't so much of a shock. I am a bit sad, not for him but for my beloved country. I have read about these corruption cases involving leaders in other countries and many are comparing this to Marcos scandal of the Philippines many years ago but you just never expect it to happen to your own country. I can't think too much about it or I will get angry so I am going to be quiet and see how the case unfolds. I hope justice will be served. 

What I do want to talk about is the case of the 11-year old girl from Southern Thailand who recently 'married' a 41-year old man whom I believe happened to be her parents' employer. This little girl is from a poor family, father is a rubber tapper and mother is a cook. They are from Southern Thailand but lives in Gua Musang, Kelantan, North of Malaysia. 

A bit about the news report: 

There has been outrage and all sorts but I want to talk about the state government. This is because people are pointing fingers and pressuring our Deputy Prime Minister to do something. What we need to realize is that Malaysia already has a law against marrying a minor. According to the Malaysian law the age of consent is 16 years old.

PLEASE READ THIS VERY CAREFULLY regarding STATUTORY RAPE. For any perverts who think they can have sex with a minor in this region. According to the Malaysian law any man caught having sex with a minor even with her consent is considered statutory rape. There is no 'ifs' or buts about it. 

The issue with this case is with regards to marriage because even though the legal marriageable age is 16 years old but the state Shariah court (Islamic court) can allow marriage to happen (with no minimum age) with evidence and investigation including no coercion, parent's consent obtained, child is mature enough to understand and other criteria. Each matter is handled on a case-by-case basis. The issue is about marriage only because sex before marriage in Islam is completely forbidden and sinful, therefore there is no issue of having sex at any age for that matter. 

However, in this particular case, the marriage was conducted OUTSIDE of Malaysia (in Southern Thailand) and is not recognized by Thailand nor Malaysian authorities. The man denied consummation of the marriage and is therefore, not considered statutory rape yet. 

The federal marriage law VS state shariah law. 

My disappointment is actually with the state government of Kelantan. The state government is supposedly run by an Islamic party (PAS) and yet, what is it implementing in Kelantan? It argues that the Syariah court cannot set a minimum age for marriage due to the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad and yet, it conveniently ignored the Sunnah that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w promoted education and calls for all people to seek knowledge from cradle to the grave. 

We know during the time of the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w that there was no formal education and in fact, he himself was illiterate until he received the revelation. However, if he was alive today I have no doubt in my mind that he would ensure all children go to school and complete their education rather than to get married; because today, we have an opportunity that they never had before. We take it for granted because school has become a norm, even going to university is like nothing special. Yet, just imagine there was no school and university was unheard of at the time of the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. 

Did we know that the first ever university was established in the year 859 CE at Al-Karaouine, Morocco and it was founded by a woman called Fatima al Fihri? 

Evidence of the first university here

Yes, the first university of all time was founded by a Muslim woman. The Prophet Muhammad s.a.w would have been so proud to know that Muslims founded the first university and had he been alive today, I have no doubt he would send Aisyah r.a. and his daughter Fatimah to school and who knows? Aisyah with her brilliance could have furthered her studies and obtained a PhD Wallahu A'lam. 

The Prophet Muhammad s.a.w wanted to see men and women seeking knowledge and furthering their quest in finding the truth, proving the world around us and understanding the creation of God. So, why are we going backwards and focusing on getting 11-year olds to marry? The state should be focusing on kids to go to school and gain education. If the state government truly wants to implement Islam, it should ensure that all boys and girls obtain an education. Give help to those who are poor and cannot afford to go to school because it seems that their only option at the moment is to get married. Is that really an Islamic solution at a time where opportunity is for everyone? 

Sometimes Islam does not give us a particular law but it gives us concepts and ideas. It shows us a way on how to do things better. I would like to see the state government truly implement Islam, not just in the implementation of hudud but in its approach to life itself, to governance, to promote cleanliness on the streets, education for boys and girls, creating an atmosphere of seeking knowledge in all aspects of life, after all science is nothing else but the study of God's creation, to ensure that men are responsible and fulfil their duties towards their wives by providing for them and looking after the family. Show us true Islam, not be embroiled in political dirtiness and the culture of accusations. 

Give that 11-year old girl an alternative, show her there is another way. Send her to school, help her family and if 6 years from now after she obtained her Certificate of Higher Learning (SPM) results and she is still in love with this (by then) 47 year old man then marry them off. 

Saturday, 9 June 2018

My weekly news: Fake news abolishment and free speech

Three days ago, in his usual lunch time speech our PM confirmed the abolishment of fake news act which was hastily brought in by ex-PM prior to the election. This is good news for most of us. However, since the results of GE-14, we have been inundated with various 'fake news' and often misleading headlines even from main stream media reporting, not to mention the various unnecessary negative and sometimes outright rude comments from some members of the public. So, how do we strike a balance between protecting the rights of people to express themselves versus the protection against fake and malicious intent? 

I agree that introducing a law is not the answer because even if a law was created with good intentions, it can somewhere along the way be abused by those in power. Therefore, we need a better long term solution. My thoughts would be on self-regulatory based on the concept of professionalism. First of all, let me introduce the meaning of Professionalism 

Professionals often pride themselves through their ability to self-regulate. Therefore, as a doctor I am a professional and I have a regulatory body which is the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) that ensures doctors maintain a certain standard of practice through defined codes and ethical conduct, will not abuse their power and will be investigated if commit any medical wrongdoings. 

If as a nation we pride ourselves in our ability to express our views and not be restricted by a government law then perhaps we need to regulate ourselves. This regulatory should not come from the government because people hate government interference (irrespective of any government whether it is BN or PH or PAS). Therefore, these regulatory body should be independent. It is perhaps easier for media outlets for example, I am sure they have a regulatory body and if they don't, they should have. However, when we talk about the people in general, it is slightly difficult because people are people, so there are no one regulatory body as such. 

However, we can have general guidelines and NGOs or other professional bodies that can promote a responsible type of behaviour, a form of education to the public as to how to become professional in our responses and remarks towards others. 

For example:

1. When you read a news or statement do not react immediately, take time to think about it and how you would react. Don't jump to conclusions, do not assume. Just take a few seconds to think. 

2. Before you share a news or statement, think first what is your objective of sharing? Is it to educate or for malicious intent? Do not spread lies or have malicious intent. Spread for the purpose of education or information.

3. When we express our views, are we simply venting out our frustration or do we intent to incite feelings in others? Venting out our own frustration in public may not be a bad thing as long as people know that is what we are doing. We must always remember that whatever we write, will be read by people from God knows where and from which background. They may not always understand or agree. Therefore, be clear if we are simply venting out. Use emoticons if needed. 

On the contrary, if we intent to incite feelings in others, this may lead to sedition (hasutan). We must know the difference and we must be aware of our role in this issue. There is already a 'Sedition Act' in Malaysia and it is not going to be rid of anytime soon. 

There are a few issues that are considered 'sensitive' in Malaysia and it is already in the Malaysian constitution. This includes the rights of the 'Nine State Royal Kings' of Malaysia, the rights of the Malay Natives and Indigenous (Bumiputera) people and so on. How do we handle these issues? I don't believe we should declare these topics as untouchables, but I do believe that within our education system, the way we convey the message to our children should be clear. Make history interactive and let the children discuss these issues. Children are innocent, they do not yet have the understanding of good and bad but they need to know why history has shaped the way things are today. They need to appreciate history and learn to respect others. 

As for the constitutional rights as above, these should be protected and remain however, I also believe that our Malaysian Chinese and Indians whose parents, grandparents, perhaps even great-grandparents were born and brought up here, should be given some form of 'Bumiputera' equivalent status and rights. After all, their forefathers came here with a hope for a better life, a better future and equal opportunity. Most importantly, we share a history, a national language, a national anthem, same national heritage. We celebrate one another's culture and we have respect and understanding of one another's beliefs. Chinese and Indians learning Mandarin or Tamil is not a problem, if anything we should all become trilingual but exclusion is not the answer and vernacular schools is not the answer. I will leave it to the politicians and I know it sounds weird and people would probably cuss me for it but we all worked together to make this country great so, why not? 

Well, it is not for me to decide. I am just a small fish in the sea. However, the issue of fake news need to be address because we cannot allow those who are irresponsible or malicious to taint the good intent of the other 99% of the people in this country. At present, a month after the GE-14, the people are still in an intoxicated state, like someone who have just achieved freedom and people are saying whatever they want to say; but there needs to be some form of regulation and in most cases, equilibrium will be achieved by itself, unless a catalyst is introduced. So, be mindful people! 

My weekly news: Underage marriage and the Kelantan state government

Malaysians woke up this week with a few shocking news. First of all, the ex-PM has been charged today. I guess that wasn't so much of a...