I will fight Islamic authorities till the end, vows Kassim Ahmad


(The Malaysian Insider) – Hounded by Islamic authorities and taken to court for having different religious views, Muslim scholar and activist Dr Kassim Ahmad, who is facing charges for allegedly insulting Islam, has vowed to fight to the end.

The 82-year-old Malay scholar’s slight, frail frame belies a tenacity to stand up for his views and beliefs. He believes that God willing, he will be the victor in court.

“I am an incorrigible optimist. I am a fighter. I won’t give up. You fight, you lose. You fight again and you lose again. Then you will win… like a child learning to walk has to fall down and get up again,” he told The Malaysian Insider recently at his home in Kulim.

He said his age was not an obstacle for him to continue his legal battle although going to court in Kuala Lumpur was tiring.

On January 6, Kassim lost his first appeal to challenge the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) that charged him with insulting Islam.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that his case fell under the Shariah Court, dismissing his judicial review application to challenge his arrest and prosecution in the Shariah Court for allegedly insulting Islam and disobeying the religious authorities over his participation at a seminar.

Kassim was first charged in March last year at a Shariah lower court in Putrajaya with insulting Islam and defying religious authorities at the seminar entitled “The Thoughts of Kassim Ahmad: A Review”, which was organised by the Perdana Leadership Foundation.

However, the prosecution later produced Kassim in the Shariah High Court. Kassim had pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Kassim had apparently accused some ulama (religious scholars) in Malaysia of imitating the “priesthood caste” system. He riled up Muslims on both sides of the divide when he questioned the use of hadith to interpret the Quran, and described Prophet Muhammad as “just a messenger of Allah”.

In his lecture titled “The nation’s direction in the next 30 years”, Kassim also questioned the hijab (Islamic headscarf) worn by Muslim women, saying that “the hair is not part of the aurat” (parts of the body which need to be covered, according to Islamic teachings).

Kassim said his lawyer had filed his appeal to the Shariah High Court and he would leave it to him to make the arguments in court.

“If I am younger, they (the authorities) would have gotten it from me… Without wanting to boast, I can take them on. I just have to use the Quran, the highest authority in Islam. History will vindicate me,” he said.

The former Malay Studies lecturer at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies lamented that people in Malaysia were losing their freedom to think and voice their views, and that the authorities were becoming more narrow-minded.

“From my experience, religious people in the country are narrow-minded. This was never in Prophet Muhammad’s nature. They are doing what the prophet never did in his life.

“It is as if they are talking on God’s behalf and nobody dares question them,” he said.

Kassim also asked if it was so wrong that he wrote a book that presented his interpretation of Islam, which was different from the mainstream interpretation prescribed by the authorities.

The book he referred to was the banned “Hadis: Satu Penilaian Semula” (Hadith: A Revaluation) published in 1986 which earned him the label ‘anti-hadith’.