STOP VIGILANTE ACTION
The authorities and responsible citizens must take immediate steps to stop vigilante punitive action taken by overzealous individuals in the name of religion.
The “hudud” punishment inflicted on Mohd Asrul Ahmad and a female student reflects a distorted obsession with sex, morality and punishment among Muslims who feel that they have the right to take the law into their own hands in the name of religion.
Equally distressing is the behaviour of those who witnessed the brutality, and yet did nothing to help the two students, but instead applauded and counted the lashes. The incident also brings into question the role of the school authorities in ensuring the safety and security of the students. It is perplexing that these outsiders managed to have contact and access to the students right on the school premises.
For too long, Malaysians have been silent and silenced in the face of the growing conservatism and intolerance in the country. Over the years, we have received many reports of a whole range of vigilante action taken in the name of religion. This has spanned from women being stopped by security guards from entering public buildings because of the way they dress, to state-sponsored vigilante groups targetting couples under “khalwat” offences.
It has reached a point where Islam has come to be equated with spying into the private lives of citizens and humiliating and harsh punishment, rather than with mercy and compassion.
The obsession with sex, morality and segregation between the sexes has resulted in a mindset that men and women, boys and girls are incapable of having platonic friendships and that any kind of interaction between them could only lead to “maksiat”.
That Mohd Asrul and the female student were flogged 25 lashes for the “crime” of chatting in public should serve as a wake-up call to the Malaysian public of the dangerous path we tread when we remain complicitly silent on issues pertaining to religion.
Sisters in Islam
14 March 2003