Because of my politics – the libertarian kind – I always find representing the collective will as something hard to do. I would think of voting as a way of settling such matter but there is always something to disagree with and I am mindful of the times when I might find myself in the opposition camp. It is tough accepting the result that one disagrees with. Even in a democratic system we use to decide on things – at least a liberal democracy, the one I like – the power of the majority is always limited to secure the rights of the minority.

In a mature democratic society, we must accept the results of an election under normal circumstances. Win or lose, we need to respect the results for if we only respect it whenever we win, why would others respect it whenever they lose? Trust in democratic institutions would quickly evaporate into thin air that way.

But I think acceptance is conditional on the understanding that the winner would not change anything significant, or effectively changing the institutional structure of the country, after winning the election. We are not playing a modified Calvinball. We are deciding the direction of our society. The winner does not take all.

For instance, in Malaysia, if you want to abolish the office of the Agong, I think winning a general election alone is insufficient to do so, especially if the election is a divisive one. Or if the winner suddenly decides to do away with elections to become a pure dictatorship, then it is hard to respect the authority granted by the election to the aspiring dictator. You would need a strong consensus to do so.

I think the need for a strong consensus is especially important where there is no opportunity to undo a policy that fundamentally changes the structure of a country. Winning the simple majority vote is not enough a backing. A strong consensus does.

I am writing this because I am thinking of Scotland. Scotland tomorrow will vote on whether they would stay within the United Kingdom, or become independent. I think it is safe to say that there is little chance for a u-turn if Scotland becomes independent, and opinion polls show voters are divided right in the middle. There is no consensus among the stakeholders, the Scots.

I do not know much about Scottish politics and while I think I prefer Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom, I do not have a strong opinion on the matter. I am not a citizen, I have never been too far north of London and it is quite an effort for me to think of ways which a Scottish independence would affect me directly. So, my opinion matters less than a Scot’s.

But clearly, the referendum is a template to further separatist agenda all around the world peacefully. This is the mature way of doing things, not by throwing those with separatist sentiment into prison or by going to war.

Here, I think of Sabah within the Malaysian context. But also on a more general level, within the context of a new country.

A country where the 50%+1 votes for independence and the rest opposing it sounds like a country that is  heading for a political disaster. There is little consensus to start with and the effort of building national institutions will be a big problem. How can you start when you disagree on the fundamentals at the very starting line?

If you had the consensus, then perhaps there would be a wide common ground to begin a new grand political project.

I wrote political disaster because I wonder, what would the 50%-1 resort to? Not everybody everywhere will conduct themselves in a peaceful way. At midnight Malaysian time, I am having trouble thinking and looking for examples. I wanted to use the Partition of India as one, but that might be stretching it since there was no voting. I looked through Wikipedia and I found the Partition of Bengal. While they voted in their legislative hall, I am too tired to read and make sense of it. I am so tired, I think I am making a lot of typos and grammatical mistakes more than usual. But in both cases, there were violence and even ugly population exchanges.

But I think the point I am making is that with such a large fraction of society, almost a majority even, disagreeing, you as a country will have recurring existential issues. It might not be violence but politically, I think there will be hostile exchanges and that will set you back.

Besides, would it not be utterly unfair for the 50%-1 to suddenly find themselves living in a different country that they do not want to be in? Such a new country will not begin with a clean slate. They will have a very large almost a majority fraction to appease. Again, it is not a case of winner takes all. The losers will form an important component of the new country.

I do not know what the “consensus benchmark” should be. All I know is that it has to be considerably higher than 50% but not too high as to make the referendum a joke. If 100% is a practical sign of consensus, then why bother have one? The 100% level risks a referendum its credibility, dishonestly tilting the results toward the status quo.

Two-thirds benchmark sounds reasonable to me only because it is the usual ratio used to amend the constitution in Malaysia. But I do not know. Finding a benchmark seems like an arbitrary exercise to me.

What I know is that in my ideal world, there need to be a strong consensus. In the context of Scotland, the need for a strong Yes before the Yes is actually implemented, and not merely a simple majority. But Scotland has agreed to their referendum and their benchmark. So they will have to live with it and I sincerely wish them all the best.

But for us Malaysians, if it ever comes to that somewhere in our federation, I think we need a higher benchmark. It has to be higher that 50%, beating some higher level signifying consensus. I think this is for the well-being of the almost majority in that state, and for the good of the Malaysian citizens, too.

My two fears are distortion and inaccuracy, or rather the kind of inaccuracy produced by too dogmatic a generality and too positivistic a localized focus. In trying to deal with these problems I have tried to deal with three main aspects of my own contemporary reality that seem to me to point the way out of the methodological or perspectival difficulties I have been discussing, difficulties that might force one, in the first instance, into writing a coarse polemic on so unacceptable general a level of description as not to be worth the effort, or in the second instance, into writing so detailed and atomistic a series of analyses as to lose track of the general lines of forces informing the field, giving it it’s special cogency. How then to recognize individuality and to reconcile it with its intelligent, and by no means passive or merely dictatorial, general and hegemonic context? [Edward Said. Orientalism. 1978]

I think a lot of us Malaysians have engaged in those long never-ending debates about racism before. The problem with these debates is that they are framed within the context of Malaysian citizenry and more often than not, they ignore the universal value of equality across the human race. This gives rise to hypocrisy among those who believe in equality among Malaysians. They disapprove of racism against Malaysians, but have no problem practicing it against foreigners.

I write this as a reaction to the proposal in Penang to ban foreigners from becoming cooks in that state. I find the rationale behind the proposal extremely flimsy: the state government wants to preserve food authenticity. It is about protecting Penang heritage.

This assumes cooking styles and recipes cannot be learned, with cooking being an innate special ability. It assumes there is something special about Penang people cooking Penang cuisine.

But the reasoning should be deconstructed to its logical end, right up to its building blocks. If we are worried about food heritage, then perhaps some Malaysians should be banned from making some Malaysian food.  Chinese cooks should not be allowed to make Malay food. Malay cooks should not be allowed to prepare Indian food. Run the logic of innate cooking ability for every single ethnic group and see if you like the results.

The differentiation between Malaysian and foreign cooks is just a pretty veneer hiding the ugly prejudice. One might argue there is a difference between racism and anti-immigrant sentiment: we are not discriminating against a race but against immigrants in general. But deep down there beyond artificial categorizations, is there really a difference between racism and xenophobia? Both definitions have more than a tinge of prejudice in it. Xenophobia is just racism by another name, it smells just as stink.

Besides, the proposed ban will likely affect foreign workers from poor countries. What if the cooks are of European origin? Would we worship them as gods instead? That line separating racism from xenophobia looks thin and blurry, if there is even a line in the first place.

Additionally, around the internet, the question of hygiene has been raised to suggest foreign workers are dirty people and of poor health, supporting the proposed ban and more importantly, revealing a crasser form of racism. The counterpoint on hygiene is that if you have gone to any of the stalls in Penang manned by the locals, you would conclude hygiene is not a priority of those hawkers. I definitely concluded so when I ate my noodles and cendol on Macalister Road in George Town recently.

I am not a good cook myself but I did try cooking when I was away as a student abroad. It appears to me that you can learn cooking and what makes it good is practice. I do not practice my cooking but I am quite certain if you learn and practice something, you will be good at it. If you intend to work as a cook, then you will need to go the extra mile to be good at it.

After all, we have Chinese Malaysian cooks making relatively good roti canai on Goulburn Street in Sydney. Does that make it less authentic? I ate the roti canai anyway and ordered another. I am sure there are more examples of that in Malaysia and all around the world. If we truly bought into the point about food authenticity and heritage, then these Malaysians should be condemned for cooking something belonging not to their ethnic heritage. But we do not.

In fact, a lot of us are proud of them for spreading Malaysian culture abroad. And for those of us who travel, sometimes we miss the food from home and we are thankful we can find Penang food just around the corner in Chicago, for instance. Some of us cannot eat anything else but Malaysian food even after years of living abroad, mixing only in Kampung Malaysia in London and elsewhere, which is a bit worrying but let us not go there for now.

So, why would it be okay for Malaysians to cook Malaysian food but not foreigners? Simple. We advocate equality among Malaysians, but to hell with others. In my books that prejudice comes close to racism.

At the end of the day, the judge is the customers. If they like you, they will patronize your stalls or restaurants, paying you good money for a good meal. If you are a bad cook, whoever you are, Malaysian or not, the photo-snapping hungry crowd will not visit your establishment all too often. We do not need the government to tell us we cannot buy food from certain parties. We can decide that ourselves.

The Penang proposal is not the only example of that kind of racism. When the Federal Territory Minister wanted to ban the homeless and soup kitchens from the Kuala Lumpur city center, civil society stood up against him and all the state machineries under his control. In defending the proposal, among others, the minister said most of the homeless and beggars were foreigners anyway (not true because based on news reports, City Hall “relocated” 965 homeless persons in 2013, with about 13 per cent of them foreigners). In his imagination, that makes the proposal more palatable. Since the homeless were foreigners, he thought he could do whatever he wanted, forgetting that foreigners are human beings too.

And this does not stop there. Some of us think immigrants are lesser beings. That is why we abuse them. How many times have we heard of foreign maids abused in Malaysia? Some of us want them out completely, putting all kinds of blame on immigrants, regardless whether it is true or not. Low wages? Immigrants! No jobs? Immigrants! Rising crime rate? Immigrants! Low women labor participation rate? Immigrants!

Of course, really, they do not mean all immigrants and definitely not those under the Malaysia My Second Home program. Oh no, not the so-called high-skilled workers. Just immigrants from certain poor countries.

Citizenship grants us certain rights, but that does not make non-citizens less human. They bleed red too, like Malaysians.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved
First published in The Malay Mail on July 17 2014.

I am angry at pro-Kajang people. I firmly identify the maneurve as the source of the current political crisis in Selangor. But with everything moving at lighting speed, I find myself being angry at everybody.

I am angry at Khalid Ibrahim for going against democratic ideal, ruling without the majority support in the state assembly. I had supported him, but after all that happened, that support becomes untenable. I am angry at PKR for forcing him into a corner, leading him to do what he has done. I am angry at PAS for delaying their decision when there is an urgent need to decide whether it wants to be part of Pakatan or not. I am angry at DAP and PKR for declaring that they have the majority support in the state assembly before PAS came to a decision, risking breaking up PAS and Pakatan Rakyat even.

It was hard to focus with all that anger around. So, I took a step back, breathed in and out, and thought about what I ultimately wanted out of this mess.

I remember what I care the most is the sustainability of Malaysia’s two-party system. I want Pakatan to stick together and everything else is secondary, including the control over Selangor. I feel if keeping Selangor means the breaking up of Pakatan, I rather Pakatan lose the state.

Without PAS, Pakatan is not a viable challenger to  Barisan Nasional at the federal level. Let us gets real. Both DAP and PKR have no real presence in the rural areas. In Peninsular Malaysia, they depend on PAS to bring in the rural votes. In Sabah and Sarawak, while PAS is an insignificant force, DAP and PKR need to do a lot of work cracking those so-called BN fixed deposits. I see DAP making small progress. I do not see PKR doing anything other than making outrageous promises that appeal to naive Sabah nationalists. PKR is the master of outrageous promises. Yea, sue me.

I do not know whether PAS decision on Sunday will lead to it leaving Pakatan, but until it decides, I think both DAP and PKR leaders should not condemn PAS too much to the point poisonous accusations and curses are thrown. I maybe am naive in politics, but I somehow think if you want to appeal for somebody to join you, you do appeal to them, not curse them. Not by treating them in a way that creates a gulf between you and them.

This is not simply about Pakatan. This is about Malaysia. The country sorely needs a check-and-balance mechanism to work properly and achieve our potential. I have long believed that for us to grow further, we need to address the chink in our armor and that is our weak institutions. There is only so much physical infrastructure can do. To begin and further improve our institutions, we need the two-party system. We need Pakatan to stick together.

Just earlier this week, the Federal Court said the Penang state government could not run its own local election. We need federal powers for that. This is an example of a weak democratic institution that we have and the only way to address it to have the federal government reintroduce those local elections. We need to put strong pressure on the federal government to reinstate local elections into our lives. I want an elected mayor for Kuala Lumpur. I do not want Putrajaya to appoint a mandarin to run the city. Without pressure, there will be no local election. That pressure comes, realistically in the years to come, in the form of Pakatan Rakyat.

Do you think a third force is there out there? That what those Sabah activists thought in the last general election. They turned out to be more wrong than wrong, more hubris than actual knowledge on the ground, with independent candidates turned out losing to Pakatan candidates, even as Pakatan lost to BN.

Without the two-party system, with Pakatan breaking up, BN can do whatever it wants. I remember the Abdullah years. The abuse was so blatant. I remember a BN 4-by-4 vehicle with siren on top blaring, telling people to move aside. I always curse whenever police escort shoves us commuters aside for a VIP, be it ministers or some members of the royal house. To have a BN official with no position in the government at all to behave like they had the authority of the police, to behave like they were rajas?

I remember “Satu Lagi Projek Kerajaan Barisan Nasional.” Have you all forgotten? I have not. I remember the excesses very well.

I do not want to return to that time.

I want Pakatan to stick. I want the two-party system to stay.

There seems yet another water crisis on the horizon, or here even. But walking around, it is hard to know that for sure. Out there in the streets well out of the dams and water plants, building management are instructing their workers to water the grass even after the rain, keeping it green and all. I spotted one worker watering a tree with a huge trunk for several minutes, while reading his phone. Car owners are washing their cars with generous amount of water. AirAsia plans the largest water balloon fight in Malaysia in November this year, right in the middle of Petaling Jaya, somehow trivializing the water assets negotiation in Selangor. AirAsia calls it Burst Asia and tickets are selling for RM48.

Yet, from the news we are learning water at various dams are below the critical levels previously seen earlier this year when rationing took place. The authority is pumping water from old mining ponds into our water supply as a solution. There are accusations that the ponds are contaminated with heavy metals. Whether it is true or not, it is clear this is a sign of desperation with the authority trying to augment the dam water in Selangor. If that does not signal desperation, then the sudden turn of events in the past months with respect to the Selangor water assets negotiation has to be one. After all, the basis for the Pahang-Selangor water tunnel and the controversial Langat 2 water plant revolves around future water shortage. There are those who claim the current shortage is a made-up crisis, especially among those in the current Selangor state government. They claim sabotage, saying somebody is trying to make the state government look bad. I do not know about those saboteurs but there is a water crisis, regardless of its sources.

Water prices meanwhile remain cheap. It has not changed for some time now. The Selangor state government refuses to raise it, supposedly for the benefit of the people, claiming the water companies are not doing enough to warrant a tariff hike. While these water companies are indeed slacking off, breaching their contracts and there is even a smell of corruption in the air, prices remain low and controlled too tightly to encourage judicious use of water. The free water policy by Selangor also does not seem to help. Sure, the free water policy says water is free of charge up to a certain level but the idea of free and saving do not go along well with each other. The policy encourages consumption, not saving.

So, there is a water crisis on the supply side but it does not seem to be so, looking at the consumption side.


It is because information does not flow from supply to the demand side. Prices do not correspond with water supply and so consumers, whether residential, commercial or industrial, act normal. Prices are prevented from functioning properly.

To correct the situation, we need to float the prices, or at least hike it up. Unfortunately, there is no political will for that. In fact, the current political establishment is hostile to any hike. Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim has guaranteed there will be no rationing. And lest people make him a scapegoat, that is a Pakatan Rakyat’s policy. Their credibility is dependent on a no hike outcome.

Given that political constraint, the next best thing is to resort to non-market solutions. That involves water rationing unfortunately.

There has to be a signal sent to the demand side, telling these consumers, “hey guys, there is a water crisis here. You might want to slow it down a notch.” Without that signal, consumers will act as if everything is alright. If it goes as things are going, there might be none to ration at all later. So, we need to send a stronger signal to the consumers. News reports alone are not working.

I know several people have written in support of rationing. Add me into that list.

I do believe water users in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur will tolerate rationing better than having no water at all.

Malaysians are angry at Russia. Over the social media, I see people cursing the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. That is not something you see every day. Malaysians typically do not care about Russia.

Russia is the largest country in the world, but it is so far away from Malaysia. Trade between the two countries is limited. Malaysia sends less than 0.5% of its total exports to Russia. Imports are slightly higher but Russia is not China or the United States to Malaysia.

There are Russians in Kuala Lumpur, and you can spot pretty models there from time to time but this is not Pattaya in Thailand. My colleague calls Pattaya a little Russian colony in Southeast Asia. He sent me an editorial comic from the Thai press some time back once, when Russia was annexing Crimea from Ukraine. It showed after Crimea, Russia would come after Pattaya next. Looking at arrival statistics, about 28,000 Russians landed in Malaysia from January to April this year, out of more than 9 million visitors in the same period. So, as far as the typical Malaysians were concerned, Russia could be the size of Monaco. It did not matter.

That has changed. Malaysia Airlines’ Flight 17 crashed close to the Ukrainian-Russian border. There is a strong suspicion that the pro-Russia rebels shot the plane down, killing nearly 300 people in it. The colorful Joe Biden said “it was blown out of the sky.” Whether or not Russia is directly linked to bringing the plane down, the circumstances for Russia do not look good. Fingers are already pointing to Russia. Malaysian fingers are pointing to Russia, whatever the Malaysian government actually thinks. Tony Abbott definitely did so in a typically frank Australian fashion.

Somebody on the ground has found the black box. But there is a problem. Given the suspected Russian involvement in the whole conflict, having the black box sent to Moscow for analysis is among the worst of all bad ideas. We want to know the truth. Russia, with conflict of interest aplenty, is standing in the way. If indeed Russia is involved, then it is in its best interest to temper with the black box.

I just do not trust Putin. I have never trusted him but previously, it was academic, a good point for coffee table conversation with not real effect on Malaysian national interest. That is no longer true. There is a Malaysian wreckage in Ukraine now, no thanks to Russian intervention in Ukrainian affairs.

There is already outrage. Having Russia scrutinizing the black box will increase that outrage. The best way to resolve this is to send the black box to a third party. Preferably, all the way back to Malaysia.

I doubt Russia would care though. Russia did not care about the world’s opinion when it annexed Crimea. It did not care when it invaded Georgia in 2008. Europe meanwhile is way too timid despite playing a role in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict. And who is Malaysia to Russia?

And so, Russia is becoming the most popular country in Malaysia right now. Popular in a bad way. Infamous. It was Israel before, but Russia just took the top stop. There are Malaysians protesting against Israel… in front of the US embassy today in Kuala Lumpur. But I think the most reliable friend we have now who can support us beyond words of sympathy is the US.

And Europe, if they plan to have a backbone soon.

The price of that thing you wanted to buy is RM8.95. You give out a RM10.00 bill. You get a RM1.00 bill in return. There is a 5 sen coin missing, but why fuss over it? It is only 5 sen.

Except, it happens way too often and the one getting the extra 5 sen are big corporations like McDonald’s and Aeon. I do not cite these two names as generic examples. I cite them because these two are among the most notorious brands that have failed to return to my 5 sen. That is extra profit from them.

The top excuse the cashier gives is that they ran out of 5 sen coins. Funny because when they run out of those little coins, they will take the 5 sen away from you. Never do they give out 10 sen to you, giving away their 5 sen instead. It is always you giving up your 5 sen, and the implicit reason, “don’t be cheap, it’s only 5 sen.” Never them. Always you.

But if it is only 5 sen, why don’t these firms give us their 5 sen instead?

The extra 5 sen is not recorded in their receipt. If it does not go into the receipt, then I would think it is not taken into their accounts when they do their taxes. That means they get to keep those 5 sen coins of pure profit for offering nothing.

Now , I do not know if the effect of these 5 sen is huge that it makes a difference in profits in a significant way. But if you visit one of those places every day, they earn RM1.5o from you. That is about the cost of a sundae and a half!

I think that is unfair to us consumers. I think it is unethical for big corporations like McDonald’s and Aeon to do so. I call that theft. I call it cheating.

I think it is the responsibility of these corporations to return the change and if they do not have the 5 sen change, then they should not take the 5 sen away from the consumers. They should give the consumers discount for that 5 sen instead, given that it is very rare for them to run out of 10 sen coins.

After all, it is just 5 sen, right dude?

I have not been following the Indonesian presidential election closely in the sense that I am unfamiliar with detailed policy proposals from both candidates, Jokowi and Prabowo. I remember from some time back that Jokowi specifically offered little detail, leading to the criticism that he has no idea what he is doing and betting on his clean, humble image to win. But I think I have heard or read some proposals along the way. But what I do know is that there is a difference between the two candidates and Prabowo comes out as nationalistic, protectionist candidate, which I think is bad for Malaysia and for Asean integration.

Malaysia and Indonesia are having it relatively good in the past year or so. There have not been too many ugly and petty spats around the accusation of cultural theft. Others are more serious, like the abuse of Indonesian workers in Malaysia and the haze. I should not mention the haze because looking outside right now in Kuala Lumpur, it is pretty bad. Normally I can spot the Petronas Twin Towers from here but right now, it is all white. Walking outside is unpleasant. It is hot, humid and acrid. It is impossible to tolerate the condition. In the past,  Malaysians (and Singaporeans) had been quick to blame their largest neighbor but I think both have to come suspect and possibly realize that the perpetrators of the opening burning in Sumatra and elsewhere (including in some parts of Malaysia) are Malaysian and Singaporean-held plantation companies. And besides, we consume the very products produced by the plantations there. I do not mean that Indonesia is blameless, but solving it requires regional cooperation to address it.

Still, apart from the unpleasant smell, we are not at each other’s throat and I think that is partly because of the reconciliatory tone, or rather, non-aggressive approach taken by the political leadership of both countries, Malaysia and Singapore. I suppose, it is also because the current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has no incentive to appease the more populist crowd who love a chance to slam Malaysia. He is approaching his term limit after all. But even earlier in his term, I think he preferred discussion rather than Sukarno-style rhetoric when dealing with Malaysia.

I do not believe the relatively good period of Malaysia-Indonesia relations will last very long if Prabowo becomes the new Indonesian President. Prabowo appears very nationalistic and I think he would be easy for him to ride on those anti-Malaysian sentiments, especially if things do not go according to his plan in Indonesia. It will always easy to shift the blame to foreigners than focus on the actual problems at hand.

Prabowo also appears to be a protectionist. Having a nationalistic and protectionist President is probably bad news for Malaysia and for Asean integration. It is bad news for Malaysia because there is a lot of Malaysian investment in Indonesia, from plantation to banking. Indonesia is already trying to limit exports of raw material, hoping to develop its own industries. Prabowo looks like the person who would go further for a more comprehensive protectionism across industries. Indonesia is also behind in Asean Open Skies initiative, while most others have agreed and even done opening up.

Also, having Prabowo campaigning with fascist theme is not all too hot for a libertarian like me. Having a fascist Indonesia will take pressure off Malaysia to liberal further. As in right now, I think Indonesia has some democratic and liberal credential to nudge Malaysia in the right way, in a small way. I suppose it is like the one of those Newton’s laws: bodies of mass attract each other and Indonesia is a very large body compared to Malaysia. Having a big, bad fascist right next door is like having a big, bad, black hole across the narrow sea.

Asean wants to integrate closer by 2015. It does not appear that all the goals set will be achieved within target but having its largest members dragging its feet or even regressing will make integration harder than it already is.

This is not to say Jokowi is all free-trade liberal. But I think Jokowi is more even-minded when it comes to Indonesia’s role in making the AEC a success.

I am a regionalist and I am so because I see global effect at closer integration is going nowhere. So, I would like to see the Asean initiative moves forward. Also, as a Malaysia, it is really tiring arguing about petty stuff. I think only Jokowi can do good on both fronts.

So, good luck Mr. Jokowi. I hope you will win the Indonesian election.

In general, quantum mechanics does not predict a single definite result for an observation. Instead, it predicts a number of different outcomes and tells us how likely each of these is. That is to say, if one made the same measurement on a large number of similar systems, each of which started off in the same way, one would find that the result of the measurement would be A in a certain number of cases, B in a different number, and so on. One could predict the approximate number of times that the result would be A or B, but one could not predict the specific result of an individual measurement. Quantum mechanics therefore introduces an unavoidable element of unpredictability or randomness into science. Einstein objected to this very strongly, despite the important role he had played in the development of these ideas. Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for his contribution to quantum theory. Nevertheless, Einstein never accepted that the universe was governed by chance; his feelings were summed up in his famous statement “God does not play dice.” Most other scientists, however, were willing to accept quantum mechanics because it agreed perfectly with experiment. Indeed, it has been an outstandingly successful theory and underlies nearly all of modern science and technology. It governs the behavior of transistors and integrated circuits, which are the essential component of electronic devices such as televisions and computers, and is also the basis of modern chemistry and biology. The only area of physical science into which quantum mechanics has not yet been properly incorporated are gravity and the large-scale structure of the universe. [Stephen Hawking. A Brief History of Time. 1988]

I am not a fan of Isma and their narrow worldview. I find them destructive to Malaysia but this time around, one of their views is useful. They want hudud to be applicable to all Malaysians regardless of beliefs. I think them pushing the idea is a great thing.

Please do not misunderstand me. I oppose hudud. What I am getting at is this: with the new slogan “Hudud for All,” opposing hudud is becoming politically easier than before. Allow me to explain.

Sometime not too long ago, there was an argument that hudud would apply to Muslims only. The Christians, the Buddhists, the Hindus, the agnostics-atheists and the others need not worry about the harsh punishments associated with hudud. They could live their life as if nothing happened. PAS members use the argument from time to time in front of their non-Muslim audience to emolliate non-Muslims’ fears of hudud.

I have always been sceptical about that argument. Even if hudud were to be limited to Muslims only, I believe other Malaysians would not truly be free from it. They might be free from the actual punishments but not from the social changes that would definitely come along with hudud.

The implementation of hudud would change the make-up of Malaysia regardless of the exemptions made for non-Muslims. It is naïve to think that a great change in the majority population would not affect the religious minorities. When the majority suddenly turns religiously conservative, voluntarily or by force, no high walls and barb wire can protect the minority from the pressure to be more… decent. How do you isolate yourself from social changes?

What effectively an Islamic state for the majority and a secular state for the minority would end with is only one outcome: the end of the secular state. Even with our current dual justice system – one for the Muslims and one for the others – conflicts are aplenty.

We fight for the guardianship of our children and we even fight for the burial rights of our dead. The implementation of hudud for Muslims will raise the level of conflict among us. If a Muslim is caught stealing from a non-Muslim, the thief would get his hand chopped off. If a non-Muslim is caught stealing from a Muslim, the thief would get away with his hand. How is that fair? What if a non-Muslim raped a Muslim and vice versa? Which standards of proof should be used? The looser one for the non-Muslims and the tighter one for the Muslims?

How would the unfairness affect relations between the communities?

I have written about this before and I am writing this again: the conflict would divide us further.

I would not want to live in that Malaysia.

And let us not kid ourselves. When there is a conflict between the two existing legal systems, the Muslim side has an advantage. Remember that case when the Muslim father took away his children from his Hindu wife? The Islamic court ruled in favour of the father and the civil court ruled in favour of the mother. The police did nothing.

Clearly, the current relatively mild setup already is affecting the non-Muslims. Why should hudud be any different? Why would a step towards Islamic state be any different?

But my scepticism is my own. It frustrates me to know some non-Muslims buy the argument that hudud will be applicable to Muslims only. They believe hudud is purely a Muslim matter, falsely believing they have no stake in the debate. And so, the non-Muslims would not discuss it critically and maybe, they would not demand a vote against any Islam-related matter in the Parliament.

Here is another way to look at it. Hudud promoters do not take non-Muslims’ democratic rights away. But they are encouraging non-Muslims to forfeit those rights. When the non-Muslims forfeit it, the proponents will find it easier to push hudud through.

After all, with the non-Muslims out of the way, when matters of Islam are pushed through, with the rhetoric of God’s rights soaring through the sky, which Muslim Members of Parliament would dare personally say no in the open? Dare they oppose the almighty God?

The Muslim MPs who oppose would be in the minority, sticking out like a sore thumb but no more than that.

Today, our Prime Minister Najib Razak’s position on the matter is as elusive as Anwar Ibrahim’s. Worse, Umno is working with PAS to study the hudud proposal. Things like this make me misses Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He has done a lot of damage to Malaysia, but he has also done a lot of good. And he is a staunch opponent of hudud. He stands his ground.

But now, well now hudud is for all. Maybe now those who think hudud is none of their business would wake up from their naïve dream.

Better yet, the respectable Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, an Islamic cleric and the former mufti of Perlis, has argued for the same. He is no Isma and he is no Ridhuan Tee. That suggests the idea of hudud for all is not exclusive to the realm of Muslim-Malay ring-wing groups. It can come from a typically reasonable Muslim too. That should scare the naïve you. The fact that Umno and PAS are working together should also scare you.

PAS is postponing its plan to table its hudud bills in the Parliament. That is good. But the debate is unlikely to go away anytime soon. That means you, whoever you are, can still use your democratic right to oppose hudud. The Muslims who oppose hudud need you to exercise your rights.

And after all, Malaysia is not a country belonging to the Muslims only. Malaysia belongs to all of us regardless of beliefs. Why should we surrender the future of Malaysia to the proponents of hudud? Why should you forfeit your rights to the proponents of hudud?

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved
First published in The Malay Mail on May 16 2014.

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