A few days ago, the Shariah Court in Selangor upheld the conviction of Khalid Samad, the Member of Parliament for Shah Alam, for teaching Islam without valid credentials.

His fine was, however, reduced from RM2,900 to RM1,900. Many are happy about the reduced fine as this means that Khalid remains eligible to be a candidate in the coming elections.

I am happy for Khalid too, but I feel sorry for Muslims in Selangor. The outcome of this case means Muslims in Selangor must not talk/ teach/ comment about Islam at all, as they run the risk of being prosecuted under the same provision as Khalid.

Muslims may only speak about Islam with written permission or tauliah from the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS).

There are four different types of tauliah and you must apply for the right kind, depending on what it is about Islam that you want to talk about. In Khalid’s case, he was talking about the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, so it’s unclear which of the four categories of tauliah he should have applied under. But it would not have mattered — his defence that he was not teaching or propagating Islam was rejected.

If your neighbour who has just converted to Islam asks you what verse to use for the morning or subuh prayer, you need a tauliah before offering your help, i.e. the tauliah that allows you to teach/talk about fardhu ain.

If a curious student in your school asks if there are similarities between Islam and other religions, you must not respond until you get your tauliah with respect to comparative religion. Don’t give any advice or talk about Islam unless you are from the Islamic Development Department (Jakim), Jais or the Federal Territories Religious Department (Jawi). Perhaps you are also not required to have a tauliah if you are an Umno or PAS leader.

In fact, the safest thing to do is to shut your mouth. Do not talk about Islam or anything connected with the Arabic culture because you may run afoul of the law. Talking about or discussing these Islamic matters may be construed as teaching or propagating Islam without their permission.

Jais and the shariah court are not interested in explaining what the term “teaching” means here. Unlike the discipline imposed in the training of lawyers under the common law system, where terms are exhaustively defined to give clarity, shariah institutions and the shariah court need not bother about such methods.

You see, since the law and the courts are labelled shariah, justice is done ipso facto because it’s a superior law.

What is disappointing to me is the fact that Jais brought this case up in a state led by the reform-minded (so-called, anyway) PKR state government. It’s clear that when it comes to matters of Islam and Islamic institutions, it matters very little if you are living in states led by PKR, or PAS or Umno.

None of them is willing to approach the Ruler for a more progressive, responsible and open-minded interpretation of Islam that is consistent with the democratic rights of Muslims in a modern world.

None of them is willing to engage with Jais or Jakim on Islamic reforms. Votes are obviously more important, especially now, so “why stir the hornet’s nest” seems to be the code practical politicians live by — even in a reformist party like PKR.