*The author is a final-year law student who spends 30% of his law-reading time studying about Sharia’ law at his law school.
As the world bids farewell to the passing of Lee Kuan Yew, his legacy of effective leadership and good governance continues paving its way to face contemporary modern-day challenges. The then politically-volatile Singapore has transformed itself into a safe, high-income, effective, transparent and accountable nation state within 50 years–owing to the vision of an exemplary Lee Kuan Yew.
Ironically, not far across the Straits of Tebrau, Malaysians are still squabbling over one form of idealogy over the other.
Yes, I meant it when I say ‘idealogy’ as the imposition of Kelantan’s Hudud laws over Muslim Malaysians aren’t entirely divine and infallible, but are the result of man’s interpretation of Allah’s laws over the years.
The Farcical Notion of an Islamic State
Muslims like myself and non-Muslims alike are anxious and concerned not because we have no faith in the good intention to warrant justice by our fellow brethrens in PAS.
We are worried as the attitude shown by the PAS lawmakers and supporters in dismissing constructive criticisms are akin to the attitude of religious zealots of the past who threatened, apostasised, and chastised others with the arbitrary whips of blasphemy.
The sense of divine novelty is rife among many Malaysian Muslims that Hudud warrants salvation from the social degradation and economic oppression that we are facing today.
When questioned on the know-hows of implementation, the nitty-grittys of governance and administration or measures of economic reforms, their usual easy way out is by placing the burden of proof on Allah, rather than by optimising their duties through wise policy-making and strategic political alliance with focus on universal principles that aren’t necessarily unIslamic, or forbidden.
It is true that the legal paradigm mentioned in the Quran are meant as crime prevention, as well as in maintaining social order through some of the maximum punishments warranted. One may quote verses after another to strengthen his need for the passing of Hudud, but eventually the moral compass leads to the same point that justice is paramount for the well-being of the people.
The measure of justice is one that’s heavy-handed, as proven in the history when only 4 people have had their wrists cut off for the offence of theft (sariqah) during the era of the Caliphates. Justice here encompasses the economic situation, the accountability of governance, impartiality of judiciary, perceived independence of the law enforcers (i.e the police, prosecutor), and trustworthiness of witnesses, among others.
Such flawed assumption of the divine ‘domino effect’ upon the introduction of Hudud as a founding platform to utopian governance-–without linking the precepts of ‘divine punishment’ with its corroborative rational sense–is what leading to the barbarism of ‘Hudud’ as implemented in Nigeria & Sudan i.e where rape victims are punished. Of course, one may claim that Malaysia is not like Nigeria and Sudan, but the right question to be asked is: whether justice, social order and crimes prevention can only be ensured through the interpretation of religious texts?
Islamic Means, but unIslamic Commitment
The Chairman of the World Union of Muslim Scholars, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi had elucidated that Hudud (be whatever forms) cannot be enforced before these conditions are fulfilled, namely;
1) establishment of true Islam where society is pious and Allah-fearing,
2) ensuring the economic needs of the people are met,
3) providing employment opportunities for all and ,
4) reducing the income gap and ensure there is no poverty.
In a multi-racial and multi-religious country like Malaysia, it’s unrealistic to expect our diversed communities to adhere all Islamic rules, even among the Muslims ourselves. There’s a reason why the concept of repentance exists, mainly to plug the loophole that humans make mistakes and only Allah can judge us until the final passing of time.
But let’s not forget that humans can live by values as these transcend beyond categorisations of religion,race and nationalities; which are more pragmatic and harmonious with the social nature of the humans themselves. Values such as tolerance, respect, protecting each other’s rights, dignity and property, freedom of religion–are all universal yet Islamic.
Like it or not, Malaysia’s legal structure encompasses many of the hindrances set by Islamic laws, such as punishments for murder, rape, theft, criminal breach of trust, discrimination, and heck, even blasphemy. Although the laws are not definitionally ‘Hudud’, the laws are meant to provide us with the moral compass in maintaining a just social order–alike how the set of rules in Hudud are.
Proper Utilisation of Democratic Tools
The lawmakers of PAS have shown it to us on how democracy can be utilised to garner political mileage in the passing of Syariah Criminal Code (II) Enactment in Kelantan.
If Malaysians, especially Malay-Muslims are genuinely concerned about the social, religious and economic grievances of Malaysians today, why can’t they propose public policy or legal reform to the existing ones? For example, didn’t we Malaysians manage to corner our Government to recently adhere to the rights of the people to freedom of assembly, which was painstakingly difficult only a decade back?
Issues such as drug abuse, incest, murder, rape and robbery cannot be superficially-linked to the ‘holiness’ or lack of preventative factor in any sets of laws, unless if the punishments are grossly inadequate in comparison to crimes committed (such as by paying RM1000 fine for the conviction of murder).
As far as I’m concerned, the criminal Penal Code in use now has punishments that are as harsh, if not more deadly than Hudud can ever be (such as death penalty for drug trafficking, which is not within the ambit of Hudud)–yet crimes still happen prevalently.
Again, do we blame the laws, or do we blame ourselves for the lack of enforcement of the laws available?
Even if one were to argue that the police have done their best to combat the crimes, have there been a thorough understudy on what went wrong in our community before we start using religion as the starting point of constructive arguments?
This is akin to comparing massive flood in Kelantan as a sign of Allah’s wrath when it’s crystal clear that the Kelantan State Government had failed to prevent excessive logging, be it legal or illegal in water containment areas.
Am I Less of a Muslim if I Don’t Support PAS’ Hudud?
Protection of fundamental rights. Welfare. Eradication of corruption.
Impartiality of judiciary, public prosecutors, and the police force.
These are the issues that plague day-to-day Malaysians which continue being unresolved; not due to the fault of our legal structure, but for the lack of political will and lackadaisical attitude of the many to question and push for reform within the means available to us.
While it’s agreeable by many that Allah’s revealed laws in the Quran are meant for the well-being and protection of the innocent, I have to say that PAS’ Hudud is nothing more than another set of quasi-man-made laws derived from scholastic views of their own choice.
Even if the humanity can ever provide us with religious interpreters who can accurately decipher the true contextual intention of the divine words, I am sure that principally; the results would be the same for justice to be served, none humiliated for the crimes undone, the innocents remain so until proven guilty, and for the perpetrators to be punished accordingly–as fairly determined by looking at the severity of the situation.
And I believe that we can take a lesson or two from how efficient the Singaporean Government has been in crimes prevention and in tackling social disorder, more so than the Hudud-ed Nigeria and Sudan.