KUALA LUMPUR― Muslim intellectual Kassim Ahmad, 84, died around 10am in Kedah’s Kulim Hospital after falling into a coma yesterday, his lawyer Rosli Dahlan confirmed.
Rosli also said Kassim’s family has instructed him to seek compensation from the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) via court proceedings, as they believe its refusal to drop Shariah charges against the octogenarian had worsened his health.
“He passed away this morning. He was in coma since the night before,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted today.
Yesterday, Kassim’s son Ahmad Shauqi said his father had been hospitalised since mid-September due to a lung infection and a blocked aortic valve, and had slipped into coma early yesterday.
Today, Rosli said Kassim’s daughters living abroad had emailed him regarding the religious authorities to say that “this is what they have done to Papa”.
“The family feels very strongly that he was deeply troubled with the problems that he faced with Jawi and they have instructed me to go full out to seek compensation from Jawi because his situation deteriorated when he had to come up and down every time there is a case,” Rosli said.
Describing the religious authorities as “arrogant”, Rosli said the pursuit of compensation against them was to show that “they did wrong and must show remorse”.
“And since they can’t show remorse, therefore they must pay for it,” he said.
Rosli said that the Shariah prosecutors had not even been prepared to withdraw charges against Kassim even when the Federal Court ruled that Jawi had no case against him, noting they had used the excuse that the post of Chief Syarie Prosecutor was vacant.
“Eventually finally the judge agreed with me, that there was no basis to continue with the charges.
“And that is what caused a great deal of distress to him. So he kept himself alive, he remained strong to prove he was right and vindicated,” he said.
‘THEY PUSHED HIM TO THE END OF THE ROAD’
Just two months ago, the wheelchair-bound Kassim was finally freed from three 2014 Shariah charges of allegedly insulting Islam and defying religious authorities, which were each punishable with a maximum RM3,000 fine or maximum two-year jail, or both.
After the Court of Appeal’s December 2015 and the Federal Court’s March 2016 rulings that found Jawi’s prosecution to be invalid and illegal, the Shariah prosecutors had on August 7, on the instructions of the Shariah court, finally dropped the charges against Kassim.
Kassim had in August expressed relief and gratitude to God over the Shariah court’s acquittal and said he had been vindicated.
His son had then told Malay Mail Online that he was thankful that the whole ordeal stretching over three years was over, noting that his father previously had to just endure the frequent four to five hours’ car trips from Kedah’s Kulim to Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya to attend court cases.
Last February, Kassim had spoken of the difficulties he faced as an 82-year-old in making the regular trips from Kedah to the courts here, while Rosli had then said the bail imposed meant that both Kassim and his three bailors must physically attend every single Shariah court hearing.
Commenting today on Kassim’s victories in the civil court, Rosli said: “As you can see, after he won the case (in the civil court), instead of just offering compensation, Jawi wanted to fight the assessment of damages. They wanted to push him right to the end of the road and he has now reached the end of the road.”
The Court of Appeal had in December 2015 ordered for an assessment of damages to be paid to compensate Kassim for his trauma and the tarnishing of his reputation, but this has yet to be heard at the High Court.
Rosli confirmed that the family would be pursuing this issue of damages in the High Court, adding that they would “consider” whether or not to file a separate lawsuit to seek for compensation from the religious authorities.
Rosli also described Kassim as a “great Malaysian”.
“Today is a passing of a great Malaysian, a Muslim intellectual who does not conform to mainstream thinking, but that does not make him less of a Muslim.
“Muslims are supposed to think, but religious authorities like Jawi do not want Muslims to think. They do not want Malay Muslims to think, that’s why you have a situation of the arresting of Mustafa Akyol and now they want to charge Dr Farouk Musa.
“It would be a sad day for Malaysians and Malays and Muslims when we are not allowed to think, when we have no independence of thought. For that we have to fight because the Constitution guarantees our intellectual freedom,” he added.
Kassim will be buried after Asar or afternoon prayers for Muslims today.