IT'S about the principle of the matter".
An often heard saying, a few incidents in recent weeks have caught my eyes on its application. In this week's piece I'd like to share my observances.
The first was the Bar Council's extended silence with regard to Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram's appointment as lead counsel for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's legal defence team.
To briefly recap, in March the Bar Council passed a resolution declaring that a retired superior court judge should be prohibited or restricted by law from appearing as counsel (many believed this actually referred to Datuk Seri Gopal).The reason? The Bar Council was concerned that retired judges appearing as lawyers could intimidate other judges ("This is the law because I said it is!") or create the perception of an advantage ("I've been in the legal fraternity before you were born"). The latter relates closely to the maxim "Justice must not only be done but seen to be done".
Trick-or-treaters on the South Lawn of the White House on Halloween, in Washington, DC, October 2014. - EPA
Eventually the Bar Council came out with a statement standing by their resolution but emphasizing that "the law didn't prohibit it".
Fair enough. Yes, the law doesn't disallow it. But when has "the law" prevented the Bar Council from principally objecting? This isn't even a call for them to file a judicial review.
The second situation relates to Halloween. Background: A fatwa was issued forbidding Muslims from celebrating Halloween because it was "a western tradition and against the values of Syariah".
What piqued my curiosity was an interesting article by a famous (or infamous, depending how you look at it) blogger, who argues that applying the same principles, celebrations such as National Day, and even Birthdays – all of which are practices introduced by the British – should be banned.
In all fairness, there is a distinguishable basis here: celebrating a pagan ritual as opposed to a day commemorating our nation's heroes' sacrifices is very different.
Nevertheless, the line is fine and the principle can sway.
In celebrating our nation's heroes, some could interpret it as idol-esque worship. And others could say that Halloween is celebrated for the fun, not to pay homage to the dead (lest fun is also frowned upon. Something I shall not touch upon today).
The above aside, I'm sure we can think of other instances where we've questioned the consistency of the principles being espoused, be it in politics, business or our personal lives. A favourite one of mine is how my mother apparently favours me over my siblings, according to them (that's right, mum might be a principle contradiction in love).
Taking a step back, I believe that how we apply our principles boils down to the complexities within us as human beings. Our biases, influenced by our upbringing and beliefs, make us apply our principles differently.
But it doesn't stop there. More importantly, it influences how we see others apply their principles.
What do I mean? Well, to some, the Bar Council and Majlis Fatwa have done no wrong, principles intact, and their reasoning remains as solid as stone (no worship intended) whereas to others, both are the epitome of everything that's wrong with the world today (I may be exaggerating just a little bit here).
I like hearing out both sides before taking a position. For me, that's a matter of principle.