Time for Malaysia's laity to lead

posted 20 May 2010, 19:03 by Stefan Gigacz
Malaysia is currently undergoing profound changes. More than 20 years of iron-fisted rule by former prime minister Mahathir Mohammad saw the erosion of civil and political rights and the submission of independent institutions such as the judiciary, the media and the police to the prime minister. His successor in 2003 Ahmad Badawi has provided some breathing space. The judiciary seems to be regaining its independence, alternative media especially on the Internet are thriving, and civil society groups are able to voice their opinions more freely.

However, this new found space has also allowed groups that are not so civil to rear their ugly heads. The ugliest scene is the current Constitutional crisis in relation to the shariah law. In Malaysia, the federal constitution is the supreme law of the land; however, the constitution provides for shariah law to govern Muslims in religious matters, such as conversion and morality, and family law such as marriage, divorce, custody of children and the division of property. The nub of the current conflict is: Which law is supreme when one party in a dispute is a non-Muslim?

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What is the role of the Church, both the hierarchy and the laity at times like this? Can the hierarchy provide a leadership role or should the laity take on these issues themselves as citizens of Malaysia?

Greg Lopez

Read the full article: Now is the time for Malaysia’s laity to lead (National Catholic Reporter, reproduced at Greg Lopez Blog)

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