Recently in Malaysia, six men were fined and jailed for not attending Friday prayers in Terengganu. It was the first known case in Malaysia.
Terengganu is the same state that refused to ban child marriage.
Rights group Lawyers For Liberty spoke up against this matter. However, the Malaysian Islamist group ISMA shared a statement from a Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party politician showing his full support. *Article is in Malay
“In fact, he (Ahmad Amzad) said the offense should not be disputed because morality and crime are closely linked and inseparable to protect people’s lives.”
The Islamist politician is not wrong to say that morality and crime are closely linked, but what about attending Friday prayers? Call it immoral, call it a sin, but should we consider it a crime?
Where do we draw the line?
Let’s first get one thing right:
- Crime is a legal concept.
- Sin is a moral concept.
Morality allows a society to bond and live together harmoniously. But should all that is immoral, especially in the religious sense (sin), be criminal too?
It is undeniable that sin and crime overlap in some areas. However, sin and crime do not mean the same thing. What is considered a crime may be a sin, but not all sins are considered a crime.
In the article, the PAS politician mentioned that we need to “protect people’s lives”. This beckons the question:
Who are people harming when they sin? Did someone get hurt? Can the harm be empirically proven?
Sure, religious people can argue that sinning hurts a society’s faith in religion. This will then unleash a myriad of divine punishments upon the community. However, this is a rhetorical answer at best.
In the context of Terengganu, how is skipping Friday prayers more harmful than child marriage?
“This strict enforcement needs the support of all Muslims in Malaysia so that those who want to challenge the authority of Islamic law do not dare to openly oppose it.” — Ahmad Amzad
This enforcement is only justified in a theocratic state that bases their laws on “God’s will” and the opinions of religious scholars. Even then, theocracies are problematic because it turns religion into government and government into religion.
People should be allowed to stand against unjust laws and policies by the government without seeming like they are standing against religion.
When we refuse to draw a line between sin and crime, we are allowing overzealous religious bigots to dictate how we live as a community. They can claim to be carrying out God’s will, but in reality, it is only human manipulation.
If the sin does not harm another person, it should not be treated as a crime. We should not treat people who are not “perfect Muslims” as criminals. The same thing applies to other religions as well.
Here is a reminder for everyone:
“My dear, religion is like a penis. It’s a perfectly fine thing for one to have and take pride in, but when one takes it out and waves it in my face, we have a problem. And please don’t try to shove it down my children’s throats.”