Since yesterday morning, people who know I blog (and even one commentor) have been asking me about what I think about the Lina Joy decision. I’m not sure whether they are looking for a political, religious or socio-economic perspective. Maybe they want to know how I feel (happy, sad, relieved etc.) about it. Perhaps they expect an irreverent or humorous comment from me to make light of what is a very troubling issue.
To tell you the truth, I feel nothing. Only because the decision is expected.
I notice many bloggers highlighting the fact that the 3 judge quorum of the Federal Court were made up of 2 Muslims and 1 non-Muslim so it was no surprise that it was the Muslim judges who decided against Lina Joy with the non-Muslim judge dissenting. The conclusion must be that the proceedings was biased against Lina from the start.
What we saw yesterday was a classic example of legal realism at work. If the term is new to you, let me offer a definition. It is the theory that common-law adjudication is an inherently subjective system that produces inconsistent and sometimes incoherent results that are largely based on the political, social, and moral predilections of judges. In short, it has little to do with the attainment of justice which was expected by both camps of the apostasy argument.
We cannot really say why Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim and Justice Alauddin Mohd Sheriff dismissed her appeal. To me, analyzing the basis of the judgment is unhelpful. Anybody armed with a law degree can cook up proper justification for any legal decision. What more judges who have the benefit of legal submissions from counsels and research by their registrars (although the registrars could probably do better than that “whim and fancy” argument). Who knows why the Muslim judges decided in that manner? It could be out of their own religious convictions. Maybe they sought to avoid civil unrest (somebody pointed out that it is less likely for Christians to riot than Muslims in Malaysia). Maybe they wanted to serve their political masters, if any. For all you know, they may have eaten something bad for breakfast.
I don’t want to comment on whether this is the right or wrong way to go about it, but that’s the way it is. It would be naïve to think that the courts in our Malaysia would decide on something as politically charged as the Lina Joy case based on the simple notion of justice.
What is really heartbreaking is how we are torn apart by this. Despite the endorsement of the highest court in the land, Lina Joy won’t be the last Muslim apostate in Malaysia, I'm sure. The ignorance, paranoia and bigotry revealed through the postings and comments that have been up since yesterday are frankly quite disturbing. Yesterday, the Global Peace Index was announced and we are put at No. 37 on the ranking of the world’s peaceful countries. Today, I’m not so sure.
Tell me again. Who won?