Educate Not Incarcerate

We, the undersigned, are concerned about the sentence that has been meted out to the Facebook account holder for a posting deemed insulting to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. Considering that this is the holder’s first offence, we think that the punishment should weigh towards being rehabilitative, rather than punitive.

The Facebook account holder was sentenced by the Kuching Sessions Court after pleading guilty to 10 charges under Section 298A of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998.

The quantum of the sentence is disproportionate when compared to the fact that rapists and perpetrators of domestic violence often receive much lighter sentences, with some hardly receiving any prison time at all.

Disproportionate and unjust prison sentences are likely to fester resentment and does little to affect meaningful change in a person. This is especially true when there are opportunities to educate instead of punishing.

The posting insulting the Prophet and Islam clearly comes from a place of ignorance, and it is the duty of every Muslim to correct misconceptions. Muslims have responsibility to educate about the compassionate and just person the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.)  was and this cannot be done through harsh punishments.

In the lifetime of the Prophet, he was ridiculed, teased, and falsely accused of terrible things. Despite all these, the Prophet was far from knowing anger and quickly showed compassion for things (Imam Ghazali, Ihya’u Ulumiddin, Vol. 2). Even when he was cruelly stoned during his trip to Ta’if, the Prophet declined the angel Jibrail’s offer to collapse the two mountains surrounding the people of Ta’if and crush them. Instead of seeking revenge upon the people of Ta’if, the Prophet prayed for them (Sahih al Bukhari 3059, Sahih Muslim 1759).

In February 2018, three teenaage Muslim boys in Lebanon were sentenced to learn verses from the Holy Quran about Jesus after pleading guilty to insulting Christianity. The Judge who delivered the sentence called the law “a school not a prison.”

In order to support our government’s ambition for a racially and religiously harmonious New Malaysia, the authorities need to seriously reconsider the sentence delivered to the Facebook poster and others charged with similar offences. Brashly administering harsh sentences over matters such as social media postings dangerously reflects how we have become polarized and exclusive as a society. The government should instead, embark on initiatives that advocate and promote greater racial integration, religious appreciation and multi-cultural harmony.

Endorsed by:
1. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
2. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
3. Knowledge and Rights with Young People Through Safer Spaces (KRYSS)
4. ALIRAN
5. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
6. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
7. Malaysia Muda
8. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (GERAK)
9. Agora Society
10. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy

11. Pusat KOMAS

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