By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
Much has been said about Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang’s intention to table a private bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 355 made at the last parliamentary session. The fact that his proposal had gained the support of some Umno bigwigs had caused fear in peace-loving Malaysians who are averse to the implementation of syariah law.
Although Hadi’s objective is merely to remove the limits on punishments that syariah courts in Kelantan can impose on offenders, the attendant fear is that it will pave the way for other states to follow suit. And judging from what is apparent today, such a scenario is not something impossible.
Hadi will not stop at just one bill, he plans to table another bill to make other forms of punishments such as asta zir (punishment at the discretion of the judge or ruler), qisas (law of retaliation – an eye for an eye), sex with animal and bodily injury permissible. It will make hudud pervasive in the Malay heartland of Kelantan.
Amending the federal law is one clever strategy by Islamist party, PAS to enable the Syariah Criminal Code 11 (1993), Kelantan’s so-called hudud law, to be enforced fully in the state. An amendment requires only a simple majority whereas a Constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority, a feat PAS stalwarts knew they could not muster.
A simple majority requires only 112 votes out of the 222 lawmakers in the Malaysian Parliament. Hadi is certain his two bills will appeal to the Muslim representatives and they will provide him the required quorum.
PAS’s obsession with hudud is to reinforce its commitment to Islam. It may seem so to the simple-minded Malay-Muslim community but to many it is downright silly. Nowhere in the Muslim world is an Islamist party that is so serious about introducing hudud. Even Arab countries that had undergone a revolution and had seen Islamist parties gaining power, had no desire to even discuss the viability of hudud, especially in the 21st century.
So will introducing hudud in a Malay-majority Kelantan, for starters, make a difference? My answer is a big “NAY”.
Let us examine records of countries that observe hudud law. Injustice inflicted on citizens of Nigeria, Sudan and Pakistan is immeasurable. The draconian Islamic law imposed in these countries is purely an opportunity to prop an unpopular ruling party. Malaysia, an upper-middle income country, is prepared to join the ranks of these failed states? It is sheer madness.
Our leaders go about thumping their chests that Malaysia is the global leader of Islamic moderates while at the same time they allow some myopic mullahs to call the shots. It does not make sense. Are they playing to the gallery or is it merely a ploy to garner waning support from the Malay-Muslim mass?
Whatever the reasons are, the recent by-elections have proven that Hadi’s decision was ill-timed, ill-conceived and not in concert with the feelings of the majority. The Islamist party was soundly beaten in the state constituencies of Sungei Besar and Kuala Kangsar. This is indicative that hudud is not applicable in a multi-racial society like ours.
Will the defeat dampen Hadi’s desire to the do the inevitable? This is the burning question on everyone’s lips. My gut feeling says it will not. The die is cast. A reversal will only backfire on the party’s long-standing Islamic agenda and tarnish its credibility, especially among its diehard supporters.
The party will continue to do its utmost to propagate its Islamic credentials at the behest of liberal-thinking Malays like yours truly. Well, that is the challenge I have to face in the twilight of my years. And people of my vintage will agree.
We have more pressing problems up our sleeves than Hadi’s two private bills. The mistaken belief that vaccination is “haram” and a Jewish-made concoction designed to undermine Muslims is set to propel the Malay-Muslim community to the Dark Age. The number of Malay parents refusing to vaccinate their children is growing and this is worrying. We have to brace ourselves for such gibberish, as more are coming our way.
By Fathol Zaman Bukhari