Standing Up For Your Rights

By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

Are there crimes committed in the country that entail the wrong-doers a prison sentence of 30 years or a fine of RM100,000 or 100 lashes of the cane? But this will be a reality should amendments to the controversial Syariah Court Act 355 get a nod in parliament. The Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS) has been pushing for heavier punishments in Syariah courts for many years. And the eagerly awaited debate on the subject is due once more in this month’s parliamentary session.

The burning question on every sane people’s mind is, does a moral mistake deserves the same kind of punishment as a criminal act? If our political representatives in parliament, our so-called Yang Berhormat, deem it fit that those on the wrong side of the law should be so punished, then religion has assumed a new dimension in our racially and religiously-diverse country.

I consider this charade as nothing more but an act of political desperation. What we have now is two Malay-based parties jousting for power and influence. One wishes to remain in power forever while the other wants to remain relevant with its mainly Malay-Muslim supporters, which is dwindling in number and size each passing day. The dominant ruling coalition party, Barisan Nasional (BN), is courting the Islamist party purely for reasons of expediency and nothing more.

And those caught in between, for one reason or another, are ordinary folks like you and I who want no piece of the action but prefer to maintain our current lifestyle. A lifestyle as defined by our nation’s Constitution that abhors violence, discrimination of any sorts and above all, upholds racial and religious equality. In short, no one race or religion should dominate over the other. Malaysia, as it is, is a secular nation both in letter and spirit. Period.

Although PAS President Hadi Awang’s proposed amendment bill (popularly known as RU355) is to enhance the powers of the syariah courts in Kelantan there is this nagging feeling that the bill, once passed by parliament, will have a knock-on effect in other states. Thus the fear of hudud has taken a new meaning.

Hudud has long been identified with the amputation of limbs for thievery and the stoning of women for adultery. This form of punishments is deemed barbaric in this modern age. Countries that observe such archaic laws, which are considered divine, are nowhere near the world’s marginally-advanced economies. Most, in reality, are failed states where corruption and religious bigotry are rife. I am sure no sane Malaysians would want their country to degenerate and become another Afghanistan or perhaps Syria where sectarian violence is the norm.

Kelantan and Terengganu have been languishing behind other states economically. Crime rate, especially in Kelantan, is high and so are incidences of poverty, sexually-transmitted diseases and AIDS. I wonder if increasing the penalties for syariah-related crimes by Muslims would make the state any better than it is now. A glaring example is the fate of flood victims. The problem has not been fully addressed three years after the devastation occurred and now the PAS-led government wants to introduce hudud. Come on, I am certain Allah has other better things to do than to ensure that his “laws” are being strictly observed by his adherents at this moment in time.

All this has to do with how Islam is perceived in Malaysia. California-based physician and author, Bakri Musa, a one-time columnist with Ipoh Echo said that the fallacy of contemporary Muslim scholars is their obsession with the islamisation of knowledge.

“The conceit flies in the face of reality as evidenced by the wide spectrum of views within Islam throughout history and now. Muslim ulamas and leaders prefer the flock to be like sheep, subscribing to the only one true form of Islam they see fit,” he lamented.

Yes, they prefer us to be dumb followers who don’t question our leaders’ decisions. It is blind faith and loyalty to the masters. Corruption, they claimed is not an offence, as there is no mention of it in the Quran. Therefore, the insistence that justice is prevalent in Islam is a myth.

Islam, in its infinite truth, is not about punishment only and what is haram and not haram. It is not about what so-and-so ustaz or ustazah uttered and proclaimed. It is about humility, righteousness and treating your fellow citizens, regardless of their race or creed or sexual orientation, with respect not disdain.

But the opposite seems to be the case with Malay-Muslims today. There is more to the religion than caning, stoning and amputation. If the religion preaches compassion and forgiveness then why the urgency to enforce stricter punishments for crimes? Is the current syariah system inadequate and flawed that it needs to be corrected? Correct yourself first before correcting others. Isn’t this more divine?

My one advice to all peace-loving Malaysians, stand up for your rights. Don’t allow bigots and the ill-informed con us into submission. As if the arrogance of the expelled North Korean ambassador is not enough, we are being browbeaten by some self-professed mullahs whose credentials are suspect. This is most unbecoming.


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