by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, on Wednesday, 25th July 1979:
DAP calls for the disbandment of the Government committee to make it a offence and punish non-Muslims involved in khalwat with Muslims
The Minister without Portforlio in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Mohamed Nasir, told a dialogue of kadi-kadi, penghulu-penghulu and Religious Department officials in Johor Bahru two nights ago that the Government has set up a committee to introduce new laws which would enable non-Muslims involved in khalwat with Muslim women to be punished. (Utusan Malaysia, 25th July 1979, Malacca/Johore edition).
Datuk Mohamed Nasir said that such new law is necessary so that there would not be double standards in the country, and that it did not matter under what name such law is described.
I am shocked to read of such a report, for it not only infringes a fundamental constitutional provision that non-Muslims would not be brought within the purview of Muslim laws and customs, but because such extension of Muslim laws and practices to non-Muslim sections of the country would gravely undermine Malaysia’s multi-racial, multi-religious basic of nation building.
I do not defend non-Muslims involved in Khalwat with Muslims, but the argument that non-Muslims should be punished to avoid double standards where Muslims are punishable could logically lead to very divisive and destructive extensions like:
*The demand that non-Muslims should be punished for not fasting where Muslims are fasting and could be punished for not fasting, to avoid double standards in the country;
* The demand that non-Muslims should be prohibited from eating pork where Muslims are prohibited from eating prok and punishable for doing so, so as to avoid double-standards.
The extensions into other spheres are innumerable, and completely changes the basic of Malaysia’s nation building process.
It also does not require intelligent minds to realize that such attitudes and approaches would so divide and Malaysia’s multi-racial and multi-religious peoples, that the entire nation building process would be set back by 20years!
Surely, there are more important issues to occupy the attention of government leaders than to panders than to such obscurantist and obviously anti-national sentiments.
In fact, I would say that the raising of these issues, which would further set the people apart from each other, are not only a grave disservice to Malaysian nation building, but also to Islam. This is because suck talk and demands, let alone such laws, could only reinforce the belief in many non-Muslim minds about Islam being bigoted and fanatical, especially after the year-long occurrences of desecration of Hindu temples.
This is a disservice to Islam because as many government and religious leaders have repeatedly emphasized, Islam is not bigoted or fanatical, but is of universalistic application with its ethical values of equality, social justice, tolerance, democracy, respect for the worth and dignity of man.
I will like to ask Datuk Mohamed Nasir whether the establishment of the special committee to introduce new laws to punish non-Muslims in khalwat cases has the sanction and approval of the Cabinet.
It is inconceivable that on a matter such as this, which could so gravely damage the inter-racial and inter-religious harmony and relations in the country, the Minister without Portforlio in the Prime Minister’s Department could be allowed to proceed without Cabinet authorization.
I also want to know what the leaders of the various component parties in the Cabinet, whether UMNO, as to whether they agreed and gave their approval to this new venture to make non-Muslims punishable for acts which the Islamic religion regards as wrong.
If the Cabinet has not given authorization or sanction to the establishment of this government committee to draft new laws to punish non-Muslims involved in khalwat offences, then this committee should be disbanded without any more ado.
Datuk Mohamed Nasir should not try to use this highly delicate issue to boost up his own declining political image and that of his party, Berjaya, for this to play/fire with the delicate multi-racial and multi-religious relations in the country.
Before I conclude, I also want to know who comprise this Committee, whether they all belong to one religion, or they constitute representatives from all religious faiths.
Enough is enough, and the Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, should firmly step in to stop this folly before it gets too far.