Stretching social mores

It is time we re-looked at laws governing social behaviour that, instead of protecting people’s dignity, expose them to shame and humiliation.

HOW do we know if social mores are deteriorating? Is it when more people are arrested for doing wrong in public? Is it because people are keener to report their neighbours? Or is it because the definitions of social wrongs are expanded?

I wonder about this because of two recent cases. In one, 39 young people were charged with khalwat for all being together in one room.

Previously, khalwat was the charge put on two unmarried people in close proximity. Now, it seems a whole roomful of people can be charged for the same thing.

It makes you wonder if this might mean that people in a classroom or lecture hall can be charged for the same offence. Would this be a lead-up to having single-sex classrooms?

What is even more disturbing is that none of the young people charged had any legal representation when they had to face the syariah judge.

Does this not compromise their rights? Or do we presume that young people in a room together should have no rights at all.

Then last weekend in another case, the Federal Territory religious department not only saw fit to burst into an apartment in the early hours of the morning but its officers also ransacked the place and broke doors while shouting at some girls living there.

They didn’t even identify themselves as religious officials and when asked could not be specific about what the alleged crime was.

In both cases, the religious authorities claimed to have acted on a complaint but neither the complainant nor the nature of the complaint was made known.

What sort of society are we turning into?

We are the only Muslim country in the world that has laws that allow invasion of privacy.

Neighbours or others are allowed to call the authorities on suspicion of activities that they cannot possibly ascertain or verify and who remain free to besmirch others’ reputation for no apparent reason.

Are we turning into a society of sneaks and snoops? More importantly, is a society of sneaks and snoops Islamic?

In the Quran, God admonishes: “O you who believe! Do not enter houses other than your own houses until you have asked permission and saluted their inmates; this is better for you that you may be mindful” (Surah 24:27).

A hadith states: “Beware of suspicion. For suspicion is the most untrue form of speech; and do not spy upon one another and do not revile one another” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al birr wal silah, Bab al nahy an al tajasus).

Where does breaking down doors and destroying property come into it?

Not only does the Quran emphasise respect for privacy, it admonishes against making false accusations.

“And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations), flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors” (Surah 24:4).

And yet we are keener to flog the supposed accused rather than the accusers.

Indeed, there is a story of the Caliph Umar who, while patrolling Medina one night, saw a man and a woman committing adultery.

The following day the caliph informed other companions and asked them whether he should enforce the prescribed penalty (hadd) for zina (fornication) on the basis of his own observations.

To this, Ali replied that the law of Allah stated clearly that four witnesses were required to prove zina, and that this provision was to be applied equally to the caliph.

Other companions are also reported to have concurred with Ali’s opinion (quoted by Al Ghazali, Ihyaa Ulum al Din; Kitab Adab al Suhbah p.369).

While quoting this report, Al Ghazali observes that this is strong evidence that the shariah demands the concealment of sins (satr al fawahish); it also discourages spying on or reporting the private affairs of others [Kitab al Adab p.345-6].

So we have to ask whether we have strayed far from what our religion says, in that instead of protecting people’s dignity, we are instead keener to expose them to shame and humiliation.

It is time we re-looked at our enthusiasm for these laws, as they clearly have no basis in religion nor in any sense of fairness.

What’s more, their implementation will always be discriminatory.

It is no coincidence that the people caught in these recent cases are invariably young and living in apartments affordable to students or those who just started work.

This makes them more vulnerable to such allegations than those who are able to afford apartments with better security. Is this justice?

Let us not forget that it is up to the accusers to provide proof of guilt, not the accused to prove their innocence. Otherwise, they should be sued for defamation.

Source: The Star

0 Response to "Stretching social mores"

Post a Comment

Powered by Blogger