Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Scholar Kassim Ahmad loses bid to challenge religious authority


Muslim scholar Kassim Ahmad arriving at the Kuala Lumpur High Court today. Kassim lost his bid to challenge the federal Islamic department for charging him with insulting Islam. – The Malaysian Insider by Najjua Zulkefli, January 6, 2015.

Muslim scholar Kassim Ahmad arriving at the Kuala Lumpur High Court today. Kassim lost his bid to challenge the federal Islamic department for charging him with insulting Islam. – The Malaysian Insider by Najjua Zulkefli, January 6, 2015.
Muslim scholar and activist Dr Kassim Ahmad lost his bid to challenge the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) which charged him with insulting Islam after the High Court today ruled that his case fell under the Shariah Court.
The civil court today dismissed a judicial review application by Kassim, 82, who had challenged his arrest and prosecution in the shariah court by Jawi last year for allegedly insulting Islam and disobeying the religious authorities over his participation at a seminar.
"The applicant (Kassim) was challenging his detention and prosecution of enforcement authorities, " Judge Datuk Asmabi Mohamad said.
She said Kassim should have submitted to the shariah court and appealed if he was not happy with the outcome.
"He could have taken his case to the shariah high court and the shariah court of appeal which have supervisory and revisionary powers."
Kassim was first charged at the Shariah High Court in Putrajaya in March last year.
Asmabi said Kassim 's judicial review application was in fact directed  at Jawi and its Shariah chief prosecutor, and the mode of challenging them was wrong.
"Since the challenge is against the  prosecution agency, a judicial review is not amenable as this is not an administrative action," she said.

Asmabi said Kassim's cause of action against Jawi and the chief prosecutor was by way of private law if his rights had been infringed.
This means that Kassim should have filed a civil suit and asked for damages as a result of the arrest and prosecution, adding that Kassim was still within the time frame to file the suit against the relevant parties.
An aggrieved person has up to three years to file lawsuits against public authorities like Jawi and the chief prosecutor.
The judge, who only delivered an oral ruling, wondered why Kassim came to the civil court when it was clear that the Shariah Court had jurisiction to try the offences he was charged with.
On March 26, Jawi enforcement officers searched and arrested  Kassim, 83, at his home in Kulim, Kedah, for allegedly insulting Islam  and defying religious authorities.

On June 26, Kassim filed a leave application for judicial review and named Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, the chief Shariah prosecutor, Jawi and the government, as respondents.
He was seeking, among others, an order to strike out the chief prosecutor's decision on March 27 to prosecute him for allegedly insulting Islam and defying the religious authorities.
He wanted his case in the Shariah Court to be suspended, pending the decision of the judicial review.
Kassim was first charged in the Shariah lower court in Putrajaya with insulting Islam and defying religious authorities at a seminar in February that was opened by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
However, the prosecution later produced him in the Shariah High Court.
Kassim had pleaded not guilty to both charges.
It was previously reported that Kassim was being investigated for remarks he had made at the seminar entitled "The thoughts of Kassim Ahmad: a review", which was organised by the Perdana Leadership Foundation, of which Dr Mahathir is the patron.
Kassim had apparently accused some ulama (religious scholars) in Malaysia of imitating the "priesthood caste" system.
He riled up Muslims on both sides of the divide when he questioned the use of hadith to interpret the Quran, and described the Prophet as "just a messenger of Allah".
In his lecture titled "The nation's direction in the next 30 years", Kassim also questioned the hijab (Islamic headscarf) worn by Muslim women, saying that "the hair is not part of the aurat" (parts of the body which need to be covered according to Islamic teachings).
Asmabi today fixed January 12 to hear a stay application of her ruling pending Kassim's appeal to the Court of Appeal.
Lawyer Rosli Dahlan, who appeared for Kassim, later told reporters that the notice of appeal would be filed soon.

Former de facto law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who was present in court today, said he was not surprised with the court's decision.
"I have always been taught that there is one system in this country. The higher court is the civil court and the Shariah Court is only a subordinate court," he said.

Zaid said  it was disappointing for the judge to declare that there were two legal systems and that Kassim had to go to the religious court to  seek remedy. – January 6, 2015.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/scholar-kassim-ahmad-loses-bid-to-challenge-religious-authority#sthash.rNFAzLIM.dpuf

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