Malaysian Atheist

An avowed atheist living in Malaysia.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Khalwat raid

The latest hoo-hah involves the Kedah Islamic Affairs Department when they conducted a khalwat raid on an elderly American couple in Langkawi. They were woken up at 2 am by enforcement officers accusing them of khalwat or being in close proximity with a member of the opposite sex who isn't one's spouse. They were asked to produce their marriage certificate and their passports. The stupidest thing is that they've been married over 40 years and they are not even Muslims!

This is an inexcusable blunder, but the real issue here is that we still have such moral policing in this country. Granted this is practised differently by each state and where I come from, we've never heard of such raids. But in certain parts of the country, these raids have been carried out actively. The Syariah law allows officers to enter houses without warrant, permission, based on mere suspicion. In other words, one is guilty until proven innocent.

If we look at it from a religious perspective, such policing is good, because it prevents people from committing sin. This practice upholds God's law, God's law which is universal and absolute. But as always the case, things are never that simple. The term khalwat itself is subjective. When interpreting close proximity, how close is close anyway? 1 meter? 2 meters? What if the man is giving the woman a ride home in his car? What if the man is walking the woman to her car to ensure her safety? What if they're just having dinner or watching a movie together? Seems like all of these activities will be considered khalwat. You see, our world is not absolute. Everything is relative and in upholding an absolute law in a relative world, the applicability of the law in effect, becomes each man's interpretation, which in effect, becomes man-made laws! Worse still, each man's interpretation has different degrees of applicability. It just doesn't work!

You see, sinning (going against God's law as interpreted for men, by men) always begins in the mind. But unless we have a machine that can read people's minds, we cannot tell with certainty, who is sinning and who isn't. As they always say, only God knows. Two men may be doing the same act but with different intentions. One may have good intentions while the other may have evil intentions, but just by observing the act, we cannot tell which is which. By outlawing the act altogether, we are also preventing the person acting with good intentions. When a man is prevented by law to do good, that really defeats the purpose of having laws in the first place.

Of course, the other effect of this policing is that no one is permitted to go out on a date! You got to resort to writing letters, using the telephone or chatting online to ensure that you're safe from these khalwat raids. Unless, perhaps, if you are gay.

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