Truth about technology by zainul ariffin nst 12 jun 2011
By Zainul Arifin
Anwar, his family, friends and supporters have denied it was him in the video. He had even made a police report against it.
His supporters claim it is a conspiracy, which it is, of course. Three men admitted to be behind the initial showing of the video. Anwar and his supporters want to link them to Umno and its leadership.
Among his supporters, many have chosen to highlight side issues such as the legality or illegality of the distribution of the material. Some have also sought the higher moral ground by suggesting how dirty politics, and by extension Umno, has become. The liberals among us say that they do not care what a person does in private.
But by being legalistic and convolutedly confusing, they have instead thickened the plot.
Four witnesses of unquestionable character could testify on someone’s character and morals, he said.
True, while a video cannot be a witness or charge someone, it surely can be corroborating evidence. Realistically, catching someone on tape, for instance dipping his hand in a cookie jar, is as good as a signed confession that he did so, I think. No?
It seems now, at least to me, it is immaterial whether it is Anwar or not in the video. An ulama is now taking things to another level — making a fatwa of sorts that flies in the face of logic, at least to my legally and theologically untrained mind. I am not sure if Hadi was referring to this particular case or he was making a general rule.
What if someone were caught on camera in an act of robbery, or worse, rape? Will the videos be allowed as evidence?
Should we, and Islam, be receptive of a technology that can lead us to the truth and justice? The four witnesses of men of unquestionable character is to prevent someone from being victimised or wrongly accused. It remains the gold standard, of course. Yet logically, surely a high-definition video recording, in living colour and audio, for example, can come close.
What then do we make of DNA technology in criminal investigations, which can prove to a point of certainty to whom some bodily samples belong to. How about fingerprint technology?
Lately, there is face recognition technology that is improving in leaps and bound and coming close to DNA technology in accuracy. For instance, it can identify a person in all manner and quality of video or picture with almost certainty. Can that be accepted?
Should all these be dismissed, too, because they are metal or plastic or bits and bytes in ether and not human?
What about contracts or oaths done on paper? Are they not valid because they are made of wood pulp?
I am not certain if there are legal implications, either in the civil or syariah courts, over what Hadi said, or they are just for the political environment that we are in now.
Many of us do not really care for the video — it is divisive and disgusting. We would rather that it go away. And we understand the need of politics and the desire to sweep problems away. But in the pursuit of political influence I suppose one should not be to hasty in matters of religious edicts.
Maybe videos cannot be used as evidence, as suggested by Hadi, but it should come from other ulamas as well. Hadi is both a politician and an ulama and this can be complicating. Some may have reason to wonder which side of him is talking. (Excerpt from an article in New Sunday Times Truth about technology by zainul ariffin nst 12 jun 2011)