The World’s Most Powerful Apostate and the Fallacy of Malaysia’s ‘Islamic Justice’

We can all breathe a huge sigh of relief now that President Obama’s visit to Malaysia has come and gone without a major diplomatic incident. Given the ferocity with which our religious authorities have been enforcing their interpretation of the law, I was becoming increasingly concerned that they would attempt to arrest Obama in order to charge him in a shariah court. Needless to say, this would have put Malaysia in the world’s headlines again for all the wrong reasons.

“Absurd” I hear you say? Not at all. Here’s why.


Obama’s biological father and step father were both Muslims. In the eyes of the Malaysian religious authorities this would make him, despite what he himself may say or think, a Muslim. As numerous court cases in Malaysia have demonstrated, Islam in Malaysia is like the Hotel California: once you check in, there is no checking out.

Given that Michelle Obama was raised as a Christian, if she were to have accompanied her husband to Malaysia this would have created some difficulties. Since Obama is a Muslim in the eyes of Malaysia’s religious authorities and Michelle has not converted to Islam their marriage would not be recognised. Accordingly, if they were caught alone in a room together by a religious snoop squad they would be guilty of the offence of khalwat under Malaysian law, the penalty for which is either a jail term or a fine. Even non-Muslims are not spared such unwelcome intrusions, as fellow Americans Randal and Carol Barnhart discovered several years ago. Can you imagine JAKIM enforcement officers armed with a battering ram and camcorders bursting into the Obama’s hotel room?

As one unfortunate Indonesian Catholic recently discovered, even a Muslim sounding name (hers is Halimah) is enough to get you hauled up before a shariah court. So having Michelle refer to him as ‘Barry’ for the duration of their trip would not have been enough for Obama to avoid the long arm of JAKIM.

Thankfully for the Obamas, Michelle wisely opted out of this trip. Nevertheless, Michelle’s absence would still not have been enough to put Obama outside the clutches of our religious authorities.

The most powerful apostate in the world

While Obama would be viewed as a Muslim in the eyes of our religious authorities he is in fact a practising Christian so we can expect him to dispute the notion that he is a Muslim. This would make him an unrepentant apostate as far as our authorities are concerned.  What fate can an unrepentant apostate expect in Malaysia?

If convicted of apostasy Obama would likely face the prospect of either (a) several years in jail like Kamariah Ali who had to serve back-to-back convictions for refusing to repent or (b) detention in an Islamic rehabilitation camp like Revathi Masoosai. Ultimately, he wouldn’t even be able to count on the highest court in Malaysia to affirm that he is a Christian as Lina Joy (a Malay) attempted this and failed.  Lina Joy ended up leaving Malaysia.

Yet, Obama escaped unscathed. The world’s most powerful apostate was on Malaysian soil and yet our religious authorities did absolutely nothing to apprehend him. It was a golden opportunity to demonstrate to the entire world the universality and strength of their brand of Islamic justice.

And they did absolutely nothing.

Where were the demonstrations by the self appointed defenders of our faith? The likes of ISMA and PERKASA? They were quieter than church mice.

What about our illustrious Prime Minister?  He was too busy taking selfies with the most famous murtad in the world.

Obama & Najib take a Selfie

So yes, we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief since nothing untoward happened.

But there is a wider lesson we can draw from all this.

Chiefly, it is that the raison d’être of our Islamic authorities, their reason for being, is premised on a lie.  The examples I refer to above are people who in various ways were disenfranchised and voiceless.  Our religious authorities promise us universal ‘Islamic justice’ which by definition must be applied without fear or favour – yet their ‘justice’ is only meted out on the weak and powerless.  The easy targets. While the rich and powerful and the most corrupt roam free and sleep easy.

Theirs is not a universal justice.  It is a subjective one, applied in the service of their political masters.

And now our politicians speak gleefully of introducing hudud law and amputations.  Why should we expect these religiously inspired laws to be implemented and enforced any more fairly than the current ones? Because they carry the label ‘Islamic’ when in reality they are merely human (and thus fallible) interpretations of Quranic commandments and injunctions? Our religious authorities have unequivocally demonstrated that they practise double standards when it comes to enforcing the existing religious laws. If hudud is implemented we can all guess whose hands will be chopped off. It won’t be the hands of the rich and powerful.

All citizens have the right to have a say about the public policy of their nation. The fact that religion is being used to formulate a segment of public policy should not be used as a reason to exclude a segment of the citizenry from having their say on those aspects of public policy. With this in mind, I would urge all my fellow Malaysians to not allow themselves to fall into the trap or be cowed into silence: be prepared to take a public stand against the implementation of hudud (which are not God’s laws but instead are men’s interpretations of God’s commandments) or be prepared to be judged by future generations of Malaysians over your failiure to do so.

What we need are not more religious laws but fairer laws that are uniformly enforced.

Umran Kadir is a lawyer who now lives in the UK.

2 replies on “Obama Escapes Malaysia’s Islamic Authorities”

  1. we must make our view and arguments known about hudud and its implementation here. i am happy to see your arguments against it. carry on …. we need people like you

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