While the “bin / binti Abdullah” issue may not have much to do with us in a direct sense, it nevertheless entails our legal and moral cognition as well as conflicts between secularization and religionization.
We can never say the issue is impertinent, judging from how a country decides from one particular case.
Allow me to first explain how this whole controversy has come around.
Because a Muslim couple in this country have given birth to a baby boy within six months of marriage, the child cannot bear the father’s name but use the standard “bin Abdullah” patronym instead.
The JPN explains that according to an edict issued by the National Fatwa Council in 2003, a Muslim extramartial child or one born less than six months from the parents’ marriage cannot bear the father’s name but the standard “bin Abdullah” patronym.
The couple appealed and the Court of Appeal made a decision last week that their child could bear the father’s name and not “bin Abdullah”
Citing the Birth and Death Registration Act 1957, the Court of Appeal ruled that a child can bear the father’s name if the father recognizes the child as his own, with the mother’s consent.
Moreover, there is no legal provision for “bin Abdullah” in the first place.
On top of that, the Act has not specified differential treatment for Muslims and non-Muslims. In other words, it applies to Muslims too.
The Court of Appeal’s verdict has triggered the wrath of conservative Muslim society, thinking that this has contravened the fatwa.
The JPN, meanwhile, is also prepared to appeal to the Federal Court and will not execute the Court of Appeal’s verdict for the time being.
DPM Ahmad Zahid supports JPN’s decision to appeal, and has urged Muslims to defend the National Fatwa Council in unity.
Of course, we also need to understand why the council has come out with such an edict.
Some claim that the objective of this edict is to prevent premarital sex and extramarital birth. Perak mufti Harussani Zakaria is one of them.
Nevertheless, Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin is himself supporting the Court of Appeal’s decision, feeling that the innocent children should not bear such punishment. He argues that not all Islamic sects have such an edict against extramarital childbirth.
On the surface this controversy does not seem to have anything to do with non-Muslims in any way, but as citizens of this country, we are never completely free from its legal and social repercussions.
Firstly, it involves the relative weights of the federal and Islamic laws.
The legal fraternity is of the opinion that JPN’s powers have been given to it by the country’s laws, and it must therefore execute its duties as specified by the laws and conform to court.verdicts.
It is unlawful for JPN not to comply with the laws or court verdicts but operate in accordance with the edicts of the National Fatwa Council.
They feel that the fatwa has no force of law and is only a kind of proposition or suggestion.
The council has previously issued an edict against smoking but has never enforced it.
Secondly, it is also a social and moral issue.
Although extramarital birth may not meet religious or moral requirements, if an innocent child is not allowed to bear the father’s name, he or she will be subjected to peer discrimination for the rest of his / her life, and be denied the deserved social status and dignity as well as the right to inherit the family estate.
If a religious edict is above the federal law, then is our country run by the laws or religion? Can we not be concerned and worried?