30 September 2011

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.

Wednesday September 28, 2011
A holistic look at laws needed

Legislation can be interpreted in many ways, and the innocent may end up being wrongly accused just because they look different.

I’VE often heard it said, in discussions on our more repressive laws, that if you never do anything wrong, you would have no need to worry about them.

This reasoning always sounds appealing and if you are not one to think too hard, then there doesn’t seem to be a good counter-argument against it.

But what we often forget is that while laws often seem well-intentioned, the people carrying them out may not be.

A good example is the Patriot Act in the United States. Ostensibly, this is meant to catch any would-be terrorist bent on repeating what had transpired on Sept 11, 2001.

It is meant to keep Americans safe from those who mean harm.

But what has really happened is that the lives of one group of Americans, all Muslims, have been severely disrupted and disturbed by the Act.

Innocent people have been accused of collusion with terrorists, have lost their jobs and, in their daily lives, have to endure insults and humiliation from their fellow citizens.

Even some non-Muslims, such as turbaned Sikhs, have to suffer various slurs just because they look different.

So it may be that you are totally innocent and doing nothing to break the law but once a law is in place, you can suffer from wrongful accusations, and worse if someone merely suspects that you might be up to something.

Donating to a particular charitable organisation, or even buying certain books, can be deemed as proof of guilt.

The good thing about the US is that there are people in the American Civil Liberties Union who are always vigilant about these abuses of the law and will take action to defend the rights of those wrongly accused.

Thus never intending to break a law is not safe enough protection from a repressive one.

There are other laws that some people want to introduce, which they insist will not affect anyone outside its purview, or anyone who isn’t intending to break the law.

The first issue is whether you even know there’s a law you might break.

Secondly, even when you don’t think you’re breaking the law, there is someone else who is sure you have and makes your life miserable for it.

For example, there have been several married couples who have been caught for khalwat, even one non-Muslim couple on holiday here.

Do they get any apology or compensation for the humiliation and embarrassment from the overzealous agencies responsible?

Such laws are not exempt from the test of justice. Just because a particular law is in place doesn’t make it just. That is the worry.

Even if you know you will never break that law, you still have to worry whether the enforcers have any sense of justice at all.

How sure can we be that all the safeguards that we need against being wrongly accused are also in place?

As many American Muslims can tell us, just being of the “wrong” faith is all it takes to make life take a distinctly miserable turn.

It’s also only a certain set of people who are most confident that these laws will not affect them.

Invariably they are elite and have the sort of money that can buy them the best defence.

Again, we need only look at the majority of people caught for khalwat, usually young and poor, to see that laws are not applied fairly across the board.

If you can afford a posh hotel or apartment, you can get away with it.

Similarly, some people have been musing about having laws that punish people for stealing by cutting their hands off.

Other laws purport to punish adultery by stoning those found guilty.

Again, will this mean that those who are poor and caught for stealing petty sums will have to face this, while those who steal millions can get away with it?

Celebrities who get caught for khalwat only need to have a grand wedding, complete with designer gowns, and all is forgiven and forgotten.

If such laws cannot be enforced in the fairest way, then why have them?

This is why we should not have any of these laws at all.

There may be some need for security laws but the intentions and safeguards must be clear and made known to all. They cannot be made redundant by provisions lurking in some other law.

It’s not enough to repeal selective laws. A more holistic look at all laws in the interest of justice and equality is what is needed.

I welcome the recent announcements of repeals of these laws. But like everything else affecting our lives, the proof is in the pudding. Right now it hasn’t even started cooking yet