Tuesday, November 11, 2008

ISA-Whither thou, my sweet Jesus?

The Internal Security Act (malaysia), a much maligned and misunderstood piece of legislation that is now embroiled in another tussle as to its continued survival in the nation' s statute books. What is the ISA and Why was it conceived? Why the sudden resurgence and stridency in calls for its repeal? Is it a tool for political repression or a mechanism to ensure public order and social stability in a diverse polity where there are more irrational people than sane ones and where critical understanding and appraisal of issues borders on zilch? Is it against the tenets of religion, particularly Islam? Is opposition against it premised on truly non-partisan reasons or is there an hidden agenda? Let us examine these issues in context, using the signposts of fact as our compass as we seek the sift for truth amidst a rubble of lies and deceit.

What is the ISA?
The ISA was conceptualised as An Act to provide for the internal security of Malaysia, preventive detention, the prevention of subversion, the suppression of organised violence against persons and property in specified areas of Malaysia, and for matters incidental thereto. [West Malaysia - 1st August. 1960; East Malaysia - 16th September. 1963.]

WHEREAS action has been taken and further action is
threatened by a substantial body of persons both inside and
outside Malaysia-
(1) to cause, and to cause a substantial number of
citizens to fear, organized violence against persons
and property; and
(2) to procure the alteration, otherwise than by lawful
means, of the lawful Government of Malaysia by
law established;
AND WHEREAS the action taken and threatened is prejudicial
to the security of Malaysia;

AND WHEREAS Parliament considers it necessary to stop
or prevent that action;

Now therefore PURSUANT to Article 149 of the Constitution BE IT ENACTED by the Duli Yang Maha Mulia
Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong with the advice and consent of the Dewan Negara and Dewan
Ra'ayat in Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:........

Thus goes the preamble of the ISA. Fast forward to the current scenario where one side is hell bent on wresting legislative power via unholy means and one understands why there is an upsurge in demands for the ISA's repeal. For all intents and purposes, the ISA stands as a bulwark against a power grab engineered by frogs hopping wild over pecuniary promises, and other sundry strategies such street demonstrations burning out of control from candlelight vigils (this clearly falls within the ambit of (2) above). In other words, get rid of the ISA, neuter the executive's power to maintain constitutional decorum and power will fall into the zombie brigade's waiting arms via foul means. Hence, the brigands are out in force to implement a carefully planned strategy under the patriotic guise of saving Malaysia!!

Is the ISA against the tenets of Islam?
While it would be superflous to argue on Islamic principles based on the fact that this country is no Islamic state and far from being a syariah shangri-la (though it would be infinitesimally better if it were so), it would be pertinent nevertheless to view detention without trial from the perspective of apostasy, which Muslim scholars (Shia or Sunni) generally agree is a form of treachery to the Islamic collective or Ummah much as in the same way the illegal removal of legally constituted authority would be in a secular framework. Note that in apostasy : the penalty includes the loss of freedom (incarceration) preceding execution (death). For details, read : The Penalty for Apostasy in Islam According to the Four Schools of Islamic Law by 'Abdurrahmani'l-Djaziri's : 1st English Edition (Villach): 1997. For further views on the matter of treason and apostasy from the Shia perspective, read : Apostasy in Islam (Irtidad) by Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi where it is patently stated that :
In Islam, the concept of treason is not limited to political and military aspects; it also has a spiritual and cultural dimension to it. In the Islamic order of sacredness, Allah, then the Prophet, and then the Qur'ãn occupy the highest positions. Tawhid, nubuwwa, and qiyãma form the constitution of Islam. Just as upholding and protecting the constitution of a country is sign of patriotism, and undermining it is a form of treason - in the same way open rejection of the fundamental beliefs of Islam by a Muslim is an act of treason. Apostasy, i.e., the public declaration of rejecting the fundamentals of Islam, has also negative influence on the Muslim society; it is indeed a major fitna. And that is why Islam has prescribed harsh punishment for irtidãd.

It can concluded that in both Islamic sects, apostasy is akin to treason in much the same way the illegal removal of a duly elected government would be in a secular state. Hence, deprivation of freedom for perpetrators of such crimes are perfectly in order and not out of sync with Islamic precepts.
Be that as it may, to trot out the canard of consanguinity between Islam and the ISA is in actuality a travesty to the notion of Islamic justice in the first place. This is because given that Malaysia is a secular state governed by a man-made constitution, any recourse to use religion to cast aspersions on a secular law is purely an exercise in academic futility. For what good would an appeal to the Islamic sense of justice do in light of the fact that ISA was never conceived within an Islamic epistemology in the first place. In other words why comment on it from the Islamic perspective in the first place knowing full well that the ISA was conceptualised under secular framework in which the sacred and the profane will never meet. The ISA is purely a secular child frolicking in a realm where its parents and peers have divorced the spiritual from the mundane, a realm whose moral firmaments are bounded by a relativistic moral universe whirling ephemereally amidst the eternal coalescence of nebulous clouds of ethics and other ethereally surreal values. In short, Islam has no locus standi in a wholly secular carnival but a certain old alim had commented earlier that ISA is incompatible with Islam and i merely used this platform to debunk that myth.
This brings us to the penultimate issue: Is it a tool of repression or a mechanism to ensure social stability? Just like during the Communist era , the ISA on the whole has been used in the latter context. Take for example in 1987, when Tun Dr M launched Operasi Lallang, the purpose was merely to cool down chauvinistic passions stoked and fanned unwittingly/wittingly by the then Minister of Education in his sudden zeal to introduce Malay administrators in vernacular schools. In the process, a motley rabble of social activists, chauvinistic politicians and opportunistic journos were rounded up for trying to arouse racial tension through their words and gestures. Similarly in 1998, the Act was used to nip in the bud a nascent street uprising ala indonesia and Thailand at the height of the Asian financial crisis. The chief mastermind being a certain choir boy sans his education, finance portfolios and about to face criminal charges. Between 2000-2007, the Act was used against a ragtag army of peasants who were suspected of being Islamic militants in keeping with the atmosphere created by the 9/11 fiesta. It is funny to note that neither candle light vigils were held nor jossticks or frankincense were burnt in memory of these village bumpkins who still languish in the gaols of Kamunting until November 2007 when the Hindu sadhus hit the streets and gift shops enjoyed a roaring trade in teddy bears and the little 'uns joined in the fun and frolick as ethnic cleansing ground to a permanent halt.
Then September 2008 - Witness how the network swung into swift action, once 3 shady characters were rounded up on intelligence reports. The subsequent flipflops and policy indecisions emboldened the "network' who continued with their vigils until the last of the infamous 3 was recently released by a heroic judge who was mock-heroically elevated to legendary status in many a blog that dot the landscape of cyberspace in Canland. Now the demand for a full repeal gathers steam with patriotic mimicry, the dirge of the hour. Holding a candle and singing Negaraku in true line dance tradition is now the in-thing in malls and open spaces nationwide. Never mind if you dont remember the lines or the words are in alien Bahasa, sing along in mock unison...
Why a repeal? this is the crux of the matter: u see if the ISA is repealed, it just opens the way to effect a power grab via the streets now that the frog mating season is over and many a frog hobo has given up on making a leap of joy weakened as his hind legs are by the rigours of mating and the scarcity of insects due to the economic tempest. The ISA is all about prevention,, sure there are other laws to deal with uprisings and acts of violence but none as effective as the ISA which functions a priori before the fact and not after the horse had bolted the stable. "Remove the ISA' is the war hoop now. Once removed expect the gutter to flood main street and someone helming the rabble to demand the ceding of power............. familiar tales in democratic climes.

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