Saying no to illegitimate children

zaid-ibrahim

By Zaid Ibrahim

PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang’s proposed amendments to the Shariah Courts Criminal Jurisdiction (Act 355) are meant to strengthen and give more power to the Shariah Court.

According to Prof Mahamad Naser Disa of the Institute of Islamic Strategic Research Malaysia, this initiative is necessary as the Federal Government is reluctant to do so. Naser had also said that removing present limitations on the Shariah Court is intended to enhance Islam.

He proudly told a recent forum that in 2004, when he was in the Attorney-General’s Chambers, he had proposed to elevate the Shariah Court by amending the Shariah Court’s (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, but was opposed at the time by the Barisan Nasional.

Naser said that he was happy that Hadi had taken the proposal to Parliament and that the late Haron Din had managed to get Umno Ministers, including the prime minister, to support the Bill. Naser also thanked God that because of Haron’s advice, everyone from the PM downwards had agreed to support the move.

Naser also voiced his concern over reports that suggest there are more than 150,000 illegitimate children in Malaysia, which in his moral universe, is a problem that must be curbed.

He did not say if these children are Muslims but I presume so, otherwise, he and Hadi would not be bothered.

This is where I have a problem with Islamists like the learned professor and his friends in PAS. What is the connection between the high number of illegitimate children and the powers of the Shariah Court?

What is Hadi’s new law going to do about the problem? Send the mothers to jail for 10 years? Which provision is he referring to exactly? And is sending the parents to jail for a long period going to solve this problem?

This is the type of Taliban thinking that makes Muslims so backward in this country. All they know to do is to punish, punish and punish to try and make any problem go away.

We already have the death penalty and long jail terms for drug possession, yet that problem has not disappeared. Can the good professor explain why, when such severe sentences have not been able to get rid of the drug problem, he believes giving the Shariah Court the power to increase jail sentences will solve Muslims’ sex problems?

If the good professor and PAS leaders want to reduce the number of illegitimate children, they should learn from the Singaporeans.

Why do our neighbours across the Causeway not have such problems? The answer is that Singaporeans talk about sex and teach their children about sex, including about safe sex and unsafe sex.

They talk about sex within the family and in schools. They teach them about responsible relationships and about the healthy mixing of the sexes so that social problems, like getting pregnant when they are not ready, are reduced.

Here, we do not even allow girls and boys to mix. We do not allow them to have normal social relationships that human beings need, and which modern societies permit. We arrest them just for holding hands in the park.

That’s why in this Taliban country, when young men and women have an opportunity to be together, they do it straightaway – without a condom, without even knowing what a condom looks like.

They go after each other without thinking. It’s pure instinct. That’s why we have so many illegitimate children. Now do the good professor and PAS understand where the problem lies?

Book of pahala and dosa

I know they are going to say that I am encouraging promiscuity and sinful behaviour. They will say that I am encouraging Muslims to commit “dosa” or sin. I am not.

I am being practical about reducing the number of illegitimate children. Sin is not my business and it isn’t the business of PAS leaders either, by the way. That is something for Muslims to manage themselves.

PAS leaders must first show me their record book of pahala and dosa before I concede that they have the expertise to talk about Islam and sin management. They must not behave as if they are sin-free and eager to punish everyone else all the time. They should instead help Muslims with their problems, and not worry about their sins.

What have the good professor and PAS done to help those 150,000 illegitimate children anyway? Have they provided any financial assistance or put together an emotional support group to help them?

What about the parents? Do these misguided young parents receive any help from PAS, such as counselling services? Probably not, because PAS do not help sinners – they only punish them.

I urge Muslims in this country to be wary of Islamic leaders whose only interest is to send people to jail, and whose only idea for solving problems involves punishment. These are lazy leaders who have no interest in really helping those in trouble.

Sure, modern societies have lots more social problems than those living in the remote deserts of Saudi Arabia. That’s why, as members of a responsible community, we need to come out with new ways of dealing with societal problems.

This, of course, requires some thinking, and a progressive attitude. Talk to Amanah leaders, not PAS about complex isssues. – FMT

Zaid Ibrahim is a former law minister.

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