Friday, 17 December 2010

On Maryam, the 14-year-old bride


Dear Sir,

I refer to your articles and letters regarding Maryam Mahmod, the 14-year-old bride, namely:-
It is good that this case has been brought to the fore in our country. Here is a perfect example where the usual attendant element of coercion is totally absent from the picture. The girl consented, her parents consented, and the Syariah Court approved. So, the only issue left is whether a 14 year old girl marrying a 23 year old man is right, or wrong.

Many say that it is wrong. They give reasons. Good reasons. They are entitled to their opinion. I respect that. Here's mine: I think that they are wrong. I think that they are imposing their world view and values on Maryam and her family. That is wrong. For Maryam and her parents made the decision freely - and that decision was scrutinized by the Syariah Court; and it approved of that decision.

Whether that decision is right or wrong remains to be seen. But only Maryam, her parents, and indirectly, the Syariah Court, will be the ones who will bear the burden and blame should things go sour in the future.

As of right now, no law has been broken. No one has been forced to do anything against their wishes. So who are we to say that we know what's best for that family? How dare we?!

Just because they don't share your world view that a child has to finish schooling, get a job, have savings, get a car, a house and only THEN think of marriage does not make them a lesser human being than you. It does not mean that you are smarter or more enlightened. It just means that they look at life differently than you do. Bear this in mind: Maryam and her family did all of this on the up and up. They were scrutinized by the Syariah Court. They participated in a public wedding ceremony for goodness sake.

It's all good to talk about rights and freedom. But that includes the right for someone else to do something that you personally think is stupid - as long as it is not illegal.

Jason Kay
17 Dec 2010

Monday, 8 November 2010

St.Thomas Primary School, Kuching caning over non-halal food - Oct/Nov 2010


Dear Sir/Madam,

I refer to your article Mother demands probe over non-halal food caning at school

Specifically, I am referring to:-

... on Oct 19th, Angela wrote a letter to the school asking for a written reply on the rules of bringing outside food into the school compound.
On Oct 28, she went to the school again with a legal advisor and was given a written reply from the headmistress the next day.

Is it possible for you to update your article and provide a link to a copy of the said letter?


Jason Kay

08 Nov 2010

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Was there a typo in this report, "Eighth Rank Shows Success Of Malaysia's National Education System"?

(01st September 2010)

To: Editor- in-Chief


I refer to your report "Eighth Rank Shows Success Of Malaysia's National Education System"

where you quoted Deputy Education Minister Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi as saying "Malaysia's eighth world ranking in the field of education as listed by the Newsweek magazine".

A quick check at
shows that Malaysia is ranked 36 on the education list.

Was there a typo?

Jason Kay


(04th September 2010)

To: General Manager BERNAMA , "Senior Manager, Centre for Excellence BERNAMA" , "Manager, Quality Management System (QMS)"
Hello all,

I have yet to receive any response from Editor-in-Chief (
Would you kindly favour me with a reply to my query as contained in the "forwarded message" attached below?

Thank you.

Jason Kay


(08th September 2010)


Factual accuracy in Journalism

Hi all,

I am writing to you as editors of the main stream newspapers purely for some closure on this question: Factual accuracy is important for journalist, right?
I do not wish to point fingers or assign blame. I was merely hoping for a reply on what I consider an important factual error (which would impact the tenor of a story) that was not addressed.

The issue
The question which struck me upon reading this article
Eighth Rank Shows Success Of Malaysia's National Education System
was, "Is Malaysia ranked no. 8 or no. 36?" since the Newsweek website says Malaysia is no. 36 for education

I emailed Bernama twice
but to date (08/09/2010 at 10.21am), there is no answer.

What I hope this email will achieve
I am merely hoping that one of you will be able to respond and tell me why this seemingly important factual error was not addressed, or pass this email to someone in Bernama who could give a response (I am not unaware that I probably may have sent my email to the wrong place, but I did get the email addresses from

Thank you for your time. I will publish any reply from you on my blog and facebook profile. I will not visit this issue anymore other than to say that I will know how to act accordingly in the future based on the response / non response I receive from this and my previous emails on the subject (again, I must stress, I am not out to point fingers, merely to highlight what to me is an important factual error - most probably inadvertent)

Jason Kay

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Censorship - "The Expendables"

To the editor The Star -,

I would be obliged if you could forward this to CONCERNED PARENT, the author of “Movie fan complains on the lack of censorship” which appeared in your letters section in the 24/8/2010 of your main paper. If you wish to run this reply in your paper, feel free to do so too.

Jason Kay



Dear Concerned Parent,

You are wrong. I disagree with your letter titled Movie fan complains on the lack of censorship”. Being a parent (I assume you are a parent from your pseudonym) in Kuala Lumpur in 2010 and being ‘shocked’ at foul language is funny, to me. Have you lived such a cloistered life being uptight that you do not know the world has changed? The Censorship Board must be in a bind trying to balance the numerous criticisms over the years that they are ‘too strict’ with views such as yours, i.e. not strict enough.

Insulting the Board, I quote verbatim, “It is clear that some members of the Board obviously have a very poor command of the English language” is simply in bad taste. Here’s a tip: You attract bees with honey, not vinegar.

Before you think I’m all against you, know that I am not. I do have my reservations with graphic scenes of violence – and I have passed my teenage years long ago – but I have a simple censorship device that is 100% effective: I avert my eyes. I don’t like excessive violence, but I give allowance to the possibility that my threshold is probably lower than others, and instead of raving and ranting, I practice self-censorship. I don’t like horror movies, so I practice self-censorship by not watching them (even if they are shown on terrestrial TV – which means they have been properly ‘sanitized’/censored for a wider audience than movies shown in the cinema).

Look, no one forced you to watch “The Expendables”. You had to pay good money for the experience. So don’t whine about how bad it was for you by blaming the Board and exhorting the Home Minister to “view this movie in a cinema hall” – He has better things to do with his time lah. Chalk it up to experience and don’t watch action movies in the future.

Jason Kay

Sunday, 22 August 2010

concerning the Court of Appeal decision Kaliammal v. MAIWP

To: The President,
Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (

Dear Rev. Thomas,

I read with a little trepidation the comment from MCCBCHST on the recent Court of Appeal decision for the case of Kaliammal v. Majlis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan & 2 others, delivered on 20th August 2010 as reported in the newspapers (Star – 1st report, 2nd report, SinChew); with the brief facts and arguments found at the Attorney General’s website. This case is so ‘explosive’ that even the Malaysian Bar has said something about it.

Let me to try to allay your concerns. Kaliammal’s lawyer has indicated that he will apply for leave to appeal to the Federal Court, which may or may not decide to hear this case, and which may or may not decide to overturn the unanimous ruling of the Court of Appeal. Even if the appeal is not heard / is dismissed by the Federal Court, there is still hope for further discussions / amicable settlement if the call for the setting up of a Royal Commission is heeded, or if the Cabinet / Parliament steps in to find / propose a solution that will be acceptable to all. So there are still plenty of steps before the doom and gloom period starts.

I don’t think you should worry just yet. In fact, you should not worry at all, or, as you put it, (be) "disappointed". Is it not written, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" (Matthew 6:25-27, NIV)

The situation is still a-ok. Here’s why (I am commenting on the decision of the Court as reported in the newspapers reports listed above):-

  1. The Court of Appeal was unanimous in its decision.
  2. The Court made 2 important observations, which were (and I am paraphrasing here),
    1. in our dual judicial system, where there is irreconcilable dissonance (disagreement), it is for the legislature to provide the remedy; and
    2. although Kaliammal was not subject to the Syariah Court, she nonetheless can go there via the Federal Territory Religious Council (MAIWP), to obtain relief (i.e. to try to set aside the ex-parte order of the Syariah Court stating that Moorthy had embraced Islam prior to his death).
  1. The above 2 comments, to me, are indicative of the reasoning the Court is adopting, which I am summarising as follows:
    1. The Court has taken a strict literal approach to the written law. It is choosing not to be an activist bench – hence the clear ‘sign’ pointing in the direction of the Legislature to fix the hole / lacuna in the law (the "irreconcilable dissonance"). This approach is a valid method in interpreting written law. In legal-speak, the Court chose the literal rule over the golden rule, the mischief rule, and the purposive approach.
    2. The Court understands that strictly speaking, although Kaliammal does not have any locus standi to appear before the Syariah Court, it hints that MAIWP may be able to assist her in this. This is a very positive view of the enhanced role MAIWP can play not only for the Muslims in Wilayah Persekutuan, but for the non-Muslims too. Admittedly, there will be trepidation / disbelief in the lay person’s mind that MAIWP will actually help a non-Muslim (eg. Kaliammal) and go to the Syariah Court on his / her behalf to set aside a Syariah Court declaration that a person (eg. Moorthy) was a Muslim – but if the Court of Appeal of Malaysia is confident that such a role for MAIWP is possible, we should not be so negative / suspicious about it, should we? At present, I am not aware of any instance where MAIWP has ever said that it WILL NOT assist a non-Muslim to set aside a declaration that a deceased is a Muslim. So it IS possible that assistance from MAIWP might be forthcoming.
  1. The Court of Appeal has answered the questions posed to it, and it has even taken the time to give advice to Kaliammal (the enhanced role that can be taken by MAIWP to assist non-Muslims). Frustration should not be vented in the form of anger / disappointment towards the Court just because it didn’t decide the way you were hoping it would. That is not the correct thing to do.

In the end, whatever happens here, I think it bears repeating here that "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few." (Ecclesiastes 5:2), and "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." (Romans 12:18-20, NIV).

Jason Kay
22nd August 2010

P.S. MCCBCHST is almost impossible to remember. May I suggest "MCCoBuCHSiTa", which if re-typed with amendments to capitalization, would be "McCobuchsita" (suggested pronunciation: Mc-Co-BUC-SI-Ta). This is easier, for me at least, to remember.

P.P.S. I am very eager to read the full 14-page judgment when I get my hands on it.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Comment on IKIM's "What makes a syarie lawyer?"

09th June, 2010

To: IKIM -
c.c Editor, The Star -

Dear Dr. Wan Azhar,

I read with interest your article titled "What makes a syarie lawyer?". I have but 2 observations.

  1. You wrote, "the duty of a syarie lawyer is not only to present and argue a case for the interest of his client but, more importantly, to assist the court to arrive at a just and fair decision even if the decision of the court may not be in favour of his client quoting Farid Sufian Shuaib, Administration of Islamic Law in Malaysia, 2001

    Non-syarie/civil practitioners have a rule with a similar reasoning. It is Rule 20(a) of the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rules 1978, which reads, "An advocate and solicitor shall put before the Court any relevant binding decision of which he is aware which is immediately in point, whether it be for or against his contention."

  2. I do not follow your logic when you made the following analogy: "How best can a non-Muslim “syarie lawyer” fight for the interests of his Muslim client if he himself actually does not sincerely believe in Islam and practise the religion? Understanding Islam based on unguided readings or attending sporadic short courses is far from enough for one to claim so. A 150-hour course in Islamic law, for example, does not guarantee that one understands syariah to the extent that he is qualified enough to talk confidently in the area. By analogy, can a non-Christian like me, after claiming some knowledge in the religion, apply to become a priest without changing my religion? By the same token, can I apply to be a Hindu or Buddhist monk just by having a certain diploma in certain respects of these religions without abandoning my original faith? No religious authorities would allow that “encroachment” to take place as that would only create suspicions, problems and confusion in their respective groups in particular and in the masses in general. It does more harm than good."

    For me, the following is the correct analogy:
    Buddhist - monk
    Christian - priest / pastor
    Hindu - monk
    and Islam - Imam, and not syarie lawyer which you seem to imply (I welcome correction on this)
Jason Kay

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Comment on IKIM's "Let religion be the business of the experts"

01st April, 2010

To: IKIM (

Comment on IKIM's "Let religion be the business of the experts" as published in The Star newspaper on 30/3/2010

I wanted to write a proper response to your article (IKIM's "Let religion be the business of the experts"), but time does not permit. So my brief thoughts:-

1. This part I totally agree. Bad manners/discourtesy/kurang ajar does not help in any situation, what more when the topic is religion.
"One of the signs of wisdom is to know one’s limit of knowledge. This implies that one is not supposed to comment on things that one is not well informed of. If one lacks knowledge on anything, one must first gather sufficient information and data before making any remark."

2. But, citing doctors, lawyer and engineers, etc ... err ... not that right.

It is amazing to learn the paradox that people conveniently acknowledge the authority of certain professionals in certain fields but hardly do the same in some other areas.

For example, many will not risk their health or life visiting unqualified physicians for their medical problems and later question the prescription given.

They do not dare challenge any registered lawyer, accountant, engineer, or architect for any matter within their respective fields of expertise and professionalism. Ironically, when it comes to religion, many believe that it is “free” for everyone to interfere with. I fail to understand this logic.

My comment:-

I see a difference.

Firstly, religion tells people what to do, or what is good or bad, without being asked. Doctors / lawyers / engineers / accountants / architects only do so if or when they are asked (consulted). Religion tends to 'interfere' with (encroach into) people's lives (sometimes uninvited). Resentment towards this, justified or not, is natural, if not logical. So I don't see anything illogical by someone reacting to a perceived imposition into their lives, ie. step on my tail, and I will bite back. HOW that reaction takes shape ... now that's a test of adab.

Secondly, there can always be a 'challenge' in the form of getting a 2nd opinion from another doctor / lawyer / engineer / accountant / architect, and a 3rd, or 4th opinion (ad infinitum) if necessary. This should be the case with religion (going by the expert analogy). But it is usually not the case. Experts who have the first say, or who have the backing of people with big sticks (power) tend to not be contradicted (for a variety of reasons). So the expert analogy is inaccurate UNLESS getting a 2nd opinion for religious matters is encouraged. So if 2nd opinions on questions such as "Which is correct; Catholicism or Protestantism (or Orthodox); Sunni or Shia; Theravada or Mahayana?" are allowed and encouraged, only then would the expert analogy be accurate, IM(very)HO.

Jason Kay

Friday, 19 February 2010

Disassociation with Malaysian Bar President’s Press Statement of 18 February 2010

First, the Press Statement

Press Release: Corporal punishment is still against international human rights principles even if carried out secretly
Thursday, 18 February 2010 03:49pm

The Malaysian Bar is shocked and disappointed with Minister of Home Affairs, Dato’ Seri Hishamuddin bin Tun Hussein’s announcement yesterday that three Muslim women were caned by the prison authority for offences committed under the Syariah Law.

The Malaysian Bar Resolution unanimously adopted at its 61st Annual General Meeting on 17 March 2007 denounced and rejected whipping as a punishment for any offence as it is anachronistic and inconsistent with a compassionate society. Our position echoes international human rights norms that condemn whipping and other forms of corporal punishment as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Given that the Kartika issue remains unresolved and the public outcry on issues of constitutionality in regards to the fact that corporal punishment is forbidden for women under Section 289 of the Criminal Procedure Code, it is indeed shocking that the Government has made the announcement only after the punishment had been carried out.

We call on the Government to immediately review and abolish all forms of punishment involving whipping and proceed to comply with international norms and principles on punishment.

Ragunath Kesavan
Malaysian Bar

18 February 2010

My reply.

Disassociation with Malaysian Bar President’s Press Statement of 18 February 2010.

With respect Mr. President, and with reference to your press statement of 18 February 2010, I wish to note a few points:-

  1. There is a difference between normal caning and Syariah caning.
  1. The Malaysian Bar does not (strictly speaking) represent Syarie lawyers who practice in the Syariah Courts.
  1. As I understand it (and I welcome correction), the punishment of caning/flogging for an adulteress is allowed in the Quran. Adultery is clearly an "offence" against the percepts of Islam if committed by a person professing the religion of Islam.
  1. So, for the Malaysian Bar (who does not represent Syarie lawyers) to make a sweeping statement calling for the review and abolishment of this form of punishment (without commenting on how Syariah caning is different, and without explaning that section 289 of the CPC does not bind the Syariah Courts – 2 reasons that immediately leap to mind) is a little insensitive; having regard to the fact that this particular offence derives its authority, ultimately, from the Quran – which to a Muslim is God's very own words.
  1. The short reference to 'international norms and principles of punishment' as a comparison does not do justice to this issue.

I therefore disassociate myself from this press statement.


P.S. Was it prudent that the announcement about the caning of the 3 women for adultery came only after the fact? Of course NOT, given the background of the whole issue.