(function() { (function(){function b(g){this.t={};this.tick=function(h,m,f){var n=f!=void 0?f:(new Date).getTime();this.t[h]=[n,m];if(f==void 0)try{window.console.timeStamp("CSI/"+h)}catch(q){}};this.getStartTickTime=function(){return this.t.start[0]};this.tick("start",null,g)}var a;if(window.performance)var e=(a=window.performance.timing)&&a.responseStart;var p=e>0?new b(e):new b;window.jstiming={Timer:b,load:p};if(a){var c=a.navigationStart;c>0&&e>=c&&(window.jstiming.srt=e-c)}if(a){var d=window.jstiming.load; c>0&&e>=c&&(d.tick("_wtsrt",void 0,c),d.tick("wtsrt_","_wtsrt",e),d.tick("tbsd_","wtsrt_"))}try{a=null,window.chrome&&window.chrome.csi&&(a=Math.floor(window.chrome.csi().pageT),d&&c>0&&(d.tick("_tbnd",void 0,window.chrome.csi().startE),d.tick("tbnd_","_tbnd",c))),a==null&&window.gtbExternal&&(a=window.gtbExternal.pageT()),a==null&&window.external&&(a=window.external.pageT,d&&c>0&&(d.tick("_tbnd",void 0,window.external.startE),d.tick("tbnd_","_tbnd",c))),a&&(window.jstiming.pt=a)}catch(g){}})();window.tickAboveFold=function(b){var a=0;if(b.offsetParent){do a+=b.offsetTop;while(b=b.offsetParent)}b=a;b<=750&&window.jstiming.load.tick("aft")};var k=!1;function l(){k||(k=!0,window.jstiming.load.tick("firstScrollTime"))}window.addEventListener?window.addEventListener("scroll",l,!1):window.attachEvent("onscroll",l); })();

M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Releasing Prisoners To Honor Ramadan

 Releasing Prisoners To Honor Ramadan

M. Bakri Musa

April 12, 2023


During Ramadan the gates of Heaven are opened and that of Hell closed, with the devils chained for added measure, goes an ahadith. That reflects Allah’s generosity. It is also a soothing balm for believers who have lost their loved ones during this holy month. To me however, that prophetic wisdom encapsulates the essence of Ramadan – a season for charity, forgiveness, and generosity.


            It is not a surprise that many Muslim countries grant clemency to their prisoners during Ramadan. Iran, as in past years, pardoned thousands, a magnanimity worthy of an Islamic state. The late Shah Pahlavi imprisoned and tortured many, especially his opponents during Ramadan, mocking its sanctity. The Saudis, already with the highest per capita execution rates, also have a similar forgiveness program during Ramadan. That aside, they created an uproar recently when in an unprecedented action executed a prisoner during this holy month.


            Self-professed Islamic Malaysia has yet to demonstrate such magnanimity. The best that she could muster was in 2009 when the Agung deferred the caning of one Kartika Shukarno till after Ramadan. Her ‘crime?’ Drinking beer in public! 


            Canning is cruel, inhuman, and degrading, an affront to human dignity. Kartika was sentenced not in a secular criminal court rather the Syariah. Thus very Islamic, as Malaysia defines it. The outcry (locally and abroad) was not that she was to be caned (thousands of Malaysians have endured that) rather that she was a young mother, and it was to be done publicly during Ramadan.


            Anwar Ibrahim has a splendid opportunity to imprint an Islamic face to Malaysia this Ramadan, his first as Prime Minister. Institutionalize this spirit of generosity and forgiveness by initiating a formal clemency tradition. Commute the sentences of at least 99 prisoners, thus opening their gates to heaven (restoring their cherished freedom) and closing their hellish past. That number has special significance for Muslims, as with the 99 names of Allah. I cannot think of any other gesture worthy of Islam Madani, and what a legacy that would be for Anwar!


            Abdullah Badawi went through five Ramadans as Prime Minister, yet this Imam of Islam Hadhari did not see fit to grant a single pardon, not on Hari Raya or Merdeka Day. Prime Minister Mahathir, dismissed with undisguised contempt by the Islamists, released a few political prisoners during Ramadan, most notably Kassim Ahmad and Syed Hussin Ali. Never mind that Mahathir had jailed them without trial in the first place, a very “un-Islamic” practice.


            A Ramadan pardon would have a tremendous positive impact on the prisoners, prison system, and society. It gives them hope, a sparse and precious commodity in a prison. Even the slimmest hope would motivate them to behave, thus easing the warden’s job. At another level, those prisoners would now have another reason to look forward to Ramadan.


            Canada, a secular society, goes further. Apart from the Governor-General’s pardon powers, those convicted could, after they have served their sentence, apply to have their criminal record expunged after a specified period of being law abiding, thus giving them a fresh slate. That is a powerful incentive for them to remain “on the straight path,” as our Qur’an puts it. Indeed the recidivism rates of those pardoned is only 4 percent, compared to the historical 20. An important proviso with Canada’s program is that victims of those criminals would have a major voice at the pardon hearing. For those who committed victimless crimes, their approval would be statutorily routine.


            Former Prime Minister Najib Razak was jailed for corruption – pilfering public funds. That is not a victimless crime. Millions, especially the poor, suffer as a consequence. As such his pardon should not be decided by the Agung alone. Najib’s victims should and must have a major say.


            I am reminded of the story of Caliph Omar on one of his famous late night anonymous “walkabout management.” He spotted an amorous unmarried couple and barged in, pronouncing them guilty of adultery, punishable by stoning to death, at least for the lady. Unperturbed, her male companion wagged his finger at the Caliph. “Yes Sir, I have sinned against Allah, but you have wronged us by breaching our privacy. A Merciful Allah may forgive you, but we will not!” At which point the Caliph, the great leader that he was, apologized and withdrew. Caliph Omar implicitly acknowledged that certain inherent and inalienable rights of citizens (in this case to privacy) trumped over their sins against Allah, or the Caliph’s presumed knowledge of His dictates.


            Canada’s pardon program reflects generosity and forgiveness, as well as the trust leaders have in their followers, even those who have initially stumbled. Those are also the values cherished in our Qur’an.




Post a Comment

<< Home