Apostasy - no need to return to 7th century

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I am shocked that Mohd Elfie Nishaem Juferie could pen such a vitriolic attack on democratic values pertaining to religious freedom.

Liberal values were not concocted as part of some 'Western conspiracy against Islam'. Rather, they are there to ensure religious harmony.

Presumably the likes of Elfie would support the conversion of non-Muslims to Islam - as he fits the profile of Muslim orthodoxy.

My question to him would be - how will the non-Muslims in Malaysia feel regarding such an asymmetry in the interpretation of religious freedom ? Where is justice here? How will the Non-Muslims react to such unfairness? May 13 anyone?

Malaysia is not Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan under the Taliban. Elfie can continue to practice whatever religion he believes in. That's his business. Just don't tell me how to practice mine.

Stay out of the personal, religious affairs of others. Malaysia does not need to return to the 7th century. Modernity is here to stay whether or not Elfie approves of it.

Kindly also allow me to refer to the letter Islam does not bar inter-religious marriage by Arbibi Ashoy.

I do not know what 'mazhab' Arbibi comes from since in the Syafi'i school of jurisprudence, Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslim men and Muslim men can - at best - marry only the 'People of the Book' i.e. Judaeo-Christians.

Certainly Arbibi has done a disservice by making claims which cannot be backed up by the rulings of both past and present Islamic scholars. There are many available texts and books on Islamic rulings regarding marriage and divorce in Islam.

The reader is encouraged to check for himself.

Secondly, I wish to emphasise that no one is encouraging the apostasy of Muslims. The issue before us here is one of human rights. Can a Muslim choose to become an apostate as per his/her own freewill and conscience without facing undue discrimination and harassment ?

The problem is that the Syariah - based on 10th century jurisprudence - has set rules of varying nature all stacked against the apostate. Indeed the ruling in the Syafi'i 'mazhab' for those apostates who refuse to repent, is the death penalty.

Can this be reconciled with today's notion of human rights? Such is the issue before us.

And finally ,I would like to ask Arbibi the following questions. What is the illiteracy rate in the Middle East ? How much was the inter-Arab trade worth last year? How much science and Technology do the Middle East account for in terms of patents and research papers? And what are their economic growth figures - if you minus the effects of the rising price of petroleum?

These and many other questions clearly show that the Middle East is far removed from development. Perhaps its time for the Middle Easterners to criticise themselves before blaming others.

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