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?
First published in The Malay Mail on May 16 2014.