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I write in light of the larger debate currently taking place in Malaysia on the right to determine one's faith and the need to uphold the secular Malaysian constitution. Lina Joy's case has highlighted, above everything else, the Malay-Muslim obsession with the boundaries of who is considered an 'insider' and who is an 'outsider'. Individuals, particularly women, who transgress the preset borders of racial and/or ethnic purity are seen as deviant communal actors with blatant disregard for the survival of the Muslim ummah, thus the act of transgressing these borders allows for racial and/or ethnic supremacy to be normalised, reproduced and reinforced (in this case, through manufactured consent of ethno-religious uprising).

Why the obsession with demanding that Lina Joy remain a Muslim? Is this obsession a reflection of Malay-Muslim religiosity? Is it really about Islam? If we interrogate Malaysian history of ethnic relations and religiosity, it will be apparent that this debacle is not about one's faith. It is about politics, or more accurately, the politicisation of religion in the public sphere. It is about

maintaining Malay-Muslim hegemony and the power of the ruling coalition party. It is about preserving special privileges accorded to the Malays in the name of national unity and ethnic 'tolerance'. More importantly, it is about having the Malay majority rule the country without contest, ever.

Where do we locate Islam Hadhari (Civilizational Islam) in this controversy? Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's claim to fame has been hailed as the foundation for promoting a more liberal interpretation and legislation of Islam, but do we see this in practice in Malaysia? Is it 'civilized Islam' to deny Lina Joy justice and dignity in the name of politics? If Abdullah is sincere in promoting Islam Hadhari and conscious of the rising ethno-religious conservatism that might, in the near future, lead Malaysia down the road of religious extremism, than government-sponsored Islamic institutions responsible for monitoring 'proper' understanding and practices of religion should be re- evaluated, re-structured and eventually abolished.

These institutions are not only dictating how a person's faith should be practiced, but also dangerously narrowing the diversity of Islamic understandings and interpretations according to the limited worldview of its visionaries.

Muslims of any race and ethnicity should value their own thought process and ability to understand and interpret religion (to a certain extent) for themselves. Islam is the religion for those who think and reflect. Privileging the doctrine of blind imitation (taqlid) denies Muslims the right to independent reasoning (Ijtihad) and the understanding that Qur'anic messages and teachings are amenable to change according to the socio-historical conditions of contemporary

Muslim societies.

The Qur'an is a blue print for living one's life and not a blue print for oppression and tyranny. Gatekeepng is at best, an embarrassment to Malay-Muslims specifically, and to the ruling coalition generally because it reflects a mentality that is frozen in time. Gatekeeping will not ensure that more Malay-Muslim will not renounce Islam.

Lina Joy was denied justice and dignity not because she transgressed the boundaries of the religion (remember, the Qur'an states that there is no compulsion in religion, Al-Baqarah 2: 256), but because she transgressed the boundaries of what is permissible and beneficial to Malay- Muslim hegemony. Lina Joy is punished because she dared question the power and authority of the gatekeepers who must, for their own political hegemony, maintain a tight rein over the main defining characteristic of the Malay-Muslim majority, that is all Malays are Muslims.