Monday, January 24, 2011

Beyond The Surface

A thief breaks into a house while the occupants are fast asleep; or so he thinks. He is very careful not to make too much noise while he's picking the lock at the front door. Little does he know that the occupant is a very light sleeper. Realising his front door lock is being picked, he rises from the bed and reaches for the baseball bat, and then waits behind the door.

When the door opens and the thief walks in, the occupant is already there to deliver the blow with the baseball bat. He hits the thief on his head, and the latter falls down to the ground, groaning in pain.

The police arrives a short while later and arrests the poor thief. A couple of days later the thief, through his lawyers, files a legal action against the house's occupant for intentionally causing grievous injury on him.

There is, I think, some sort of law which stipulates that when one intentionally commits grievous bodily harm on someone else, he is guilty of a crime and may be punishable with a jail term. But because I am not a lawyer, I am unable to quote the statute and case law on this. I have only heard of some cases through casual conversations with some friends.

At any rate, that is not important here, as I don't intend to discuss the law—not that I'm qualified to discuss it anyway. I'd like to know, however, what are your thoughts about the thief in the story above? Do you think his legal action against the person who injured his head with the baseball bat would succeed? And do you think that action should succeed?

I think sometimes lawyers, after practising for some years, can lose themselves in the profession. Mia, for example, used to say that she's into law because she wanted to pursue and uphold justice. I told her quite honestly that there is no such thing as justice! A big part of the legal system is about procedures and technicalities. Evidence, even if genuine ones, may not be admissible on technical grounds in some courts, and that had in the past resulted in criminals escaping the hangman's noose.

To the non-legal minds like mine, that is something which is hard to fathom. I wonder how many of the lawyers and judges, after practising for some years, have revisited the question of why they wanted to become lawyers and judges when they first set foot in law school.

When strictly looking at the law from the surface, it may be too easy to find all the requirements to arrive at a conclusion in favour of the thief. After all, the occupant of the house did hit him with a baseball bat. And he did it with the intention of causing harm too!

There is a need to look at the law beyond the surface; that it is necessary to fathom the intention of that law. When looking at the law from the surface, one might speculate that the thief's action would succeed. But when looking at the law beyond the surface, i.e. understanding its intention, one might conclude that that action should not succeed.

I think in that sense laws of religions are also very much like man-made laws. If, for example, a woman is required to cover her hair, or face, or even her entire body from top to bottom, there must be a reason for that law—there must have been a special reason or intention for that law to come into being.

In Malaysia, we have many Muslim women who wear the tudungs. I was given to understand that this was a religious requirement on grounds of decency. Apparently, some men may have funny ideas—perhaps even start fantasising—when seeing a woman's beautiful long hair or pretty face. That's why the woman must cover up her hair (and face) to prevent such from happening.

I'm not sure how many men in Malaysia would actually be affected in such a way when seeing a woman's hair or face. However, many of those same women with tudungs would also go around in public in jeans or other tight outfits, thus showing the shapes of their bodies. I'm inclined to believe that that might attract men's attention too—at least some of them. And maybe the kind of attention that they can attract may be even more than if they exposed their hairs and faces? That is why I sometimes find it strange that many women are so concerned about putting on the tudungs while in public, but at the same time wear sexy outfits below those tudungs. So one has to wonder what is the intention of wearing the tudungs?

Likewise, I'm also keen to know that, if it's true that Muslim women are not allowed to shake hands with men, what is(are) the reason(s) or intention of that rule? Or is one not even allowed to ask, but instead expected to accept that rule unconditionally?


unsettledsoul said...

"That is why I sometimes find it strange that many women are so concerned about putting on the tudungs while in public, but at the same time wear sexy outfits below those tudungs. So one has to wonder what is the intention of wearing the tudungs?"

I think that means, in a lot of cases, that tudung is worn simply because of family or society pressure, not because they have some deep understanding of what it is supposed to represent. I support girls who do wear what they want with tudung, because many times tudung is worn out of pressure, not because she just wants to wear it so badly. I guess it is her own way of making a choice about what she wears, because maybe she feels no choice with tudung.

Cornelius said...


My view about religions in general - and I'm not referring specifically to Islam only - is that the majority of the followers actually don't learn from the holy books. Instead, they learn from people who proclaim themselves as the "Scholars". And these so-called scholars are not necessarily accurate in their interpretations of the holy books - at least not accurate all the time. Consequently, and not surprisingly, many of the followers may do things without really knowing the reasons for doing them! That is why, for example, they are people who would actually commit arson, and fully convinced that they're doing the right thing in the name of the religion.

I can still remember the time when I made an effort to go to church to listen to the sermons. When the rest were kneeling down to pray, I did not kneel. When they were "showing the sign of peace" to each other, I remained unmoved. You should've seen all those piercing eyes staring at me! People don't really give you a choice; they expect you to follow what they're doing even if you don't really understand why.

unsettledsoul said...

I have realized this also, in my own ways and experiences, which is why I am finding myself no longer interested in religion.