I am sympathetic to the Pakatan Rakyat. I helped one of their candidates during the last general elections and I hang around with people from Pakatan too often. That however does not mean that I need to agree with every little thing the component parties of the Pakatan hold. I for one categorically oppose implementation of hudud as it currently being proposed and indeed, the imposition of any religious ideal upon free individuals. For this reason, I am afraid that I have to write this, especially after Anwar Ibrahim states that PKR would not reject hudud outright and that it would only be application to Muslims. I would like both PAS and PKR to be punished for their position on hudud.

Before anything else, the importance of this election has been grossly overblown. It means nothing to both BN and Pakatan on the margin. Victory by any side does not change the balance of power in the Dewan Rakyat. BN will still hold the majority power at the end of the day.

A win by PAS will of course reduce the number of seats Pakatan requires to takeover the federal government via mass defection of BN members of Parliament to Pakatan. However, if there is anyone among us who still believes in that possibility, all I can say is that winter has passed and summer is nigh. Wake up and smell the roses.

Even within Pakatan, this election is meaningless on the margin. A win by PAS does nothing in rearranging the fact that PAS is the junior partner. PKR and DAP will remain the bigger component parties in Pakatan regardless of the outcome for the Kuala Terengganu by-election.

For BN, is this a referendum on the Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak since that he is the designated Prime Minister of Malaysia come this March?

I am always wary of a small by-election with an awfully limited and biased sample being used as a referendum of national proportions. Not only turning this little by-election into a national referendum is statistically flawed, the BN candidate has been labeled as the BN President’s man rather than Najib Razak’s.

And of course, this by-election is not a referendum on hudud either. Hudud, as journalists on the ground have it, is hardly an issue at all. Bread-and-butter matters dominate the list of concerns of the electorate.

The issue of hudud itself cropped out almost by accident. It seemed almost like a trap set by Khairy Jamaluddin on Husam Musa in a public forum in Kota Bahru back in December. The former asked the latter if PAS would implement hudud if the party became part of the federal government. If it was a trap in the first place, Husam Musa certainly took the bait by answering it in the positive. Immediately after that, BN, especially MCA, has been milking the issue ever since.

I would like to risk digression by stating that, with little backbone, MCA hardly has the moral authority to question DAP’s position on hudud. MCA should ask UMNO on items like the use of Chinese language, on Chinese school and on Ketuanan Melayu among other things. Or even hudud for that matter.

The courageousness of MCA notwithstanding, it is with great regret that the wedge is being driven in between Pakatan so deeply at the most inopportune time much to the benefit of BN. Hudud is exactly the same issue which brought Barisan Alternatif to its demise some years ago. Hudud has been the item that plagues the unity between DAP, PKR and PAS and it is because of this hudud needs to be erased from the agenda of Pakatan.

After some years since the collapse of Barisan Alternatif, Anwar Ibrahim brought everybody far and wide together sufficiently tightly to stand up against BN. What Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad identified as big tent politics worked beyond skeptics’ wildest dreams. What happened next was sheer delight: March 8 2008 radically changed the whole dynamic of suffocating local politics, thanks to the former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia. BN was downright humbled.

It has been more than 10 months now since the last general election and the scenario of January 2009 is very different from March 2008. The same impetus to support PAS as part of the Pakatan coalition is simply not there. Win or lose, January 17 in Kuala Terengganu simply does not share or even come near to the significance and the urgency of March 8. Therefore, those who disagree with PAS have the luxury to not come to the aid of PAS. Pakatan simply can afford to lose the by-election simply because the election is meaningless.

While Kuala Terengganu is not a referendum on hudud, it certainly could give some signal that could alter future actions. The right signal — a loss to PAS — could inform future election campaigns not to put hudud on the agenda. A loss in Kuala Terengganu for Pakatan could kill hudud off as an agenda of Pakatan for a very long time and hence, save the coalition from future disaster that befell upon Barisan Alternatif.

And the stage in Kuala Terengganu offers the opportunity for a kill since non-Muslims are seen as the kingmakers there.

This is where the idea that hudud only affects Muslims comes into play. The idea aims to reduce apprehension the non-Muslim community in voting PAS while the party advocates for the implementation of hudud, regardless of its afterthought qualifications. In order to kill off hudud as an agenda of Pakatan and save Pakatan from the fate of Barisan Alternatif, the repulsive idea that the non-Muslim community is decoupled from the Muslim community must be killed first.

The problem with the argument hudud only affects Muslims assumes that all Muslims are for the implementation of hudud. I definitely would not mind if hudud is implemented as long as individuals, and not at the community level, could choose between hudud — and truly, sharia — and secular civil laws. I would not mind if hudud is implemented as long as I could choose between hudud and secular civil law. Under the current proposal, I and many others do not get that choice.

I have also mentioned this before but just to stress it again, the argument that non-Muslims need not worry with the implementation of hudud also builds unnecessary walls among Malaysians, further dividing an already divided society. Furthermore, it is hard to imagine how the minority will be left unaffected if there is great development within the majority community.

If the non-Muslims are prepared to buy that argument set forth by PAS and PKR that hudud only concerns Muslims while ignoring the fact that under the proposal, Muslims who prefer secular environment instead would be forcefully subjected to religious laws, well, perhaps we all should put blind eyes to each other’s problems. If my problem is not yours, then the discrimination that the non-Malays suffer is not my problem either. Each time you suffer injustice, too bad because it shall not be mine. Those are non-Muslim problem and so, why should I care at all?

Is that the new arrangement you prefer? Shall we make that as the basis of our social contract, our new constitution?

If the answer is no, then PAS must lose in Kuala Terengganu. It is regrettable that implication is victory for BN especially when it is becoming clear that BN has learned nothing from March 8. Nevertheless, I am unwilling to sacrifice my ideal for too much political expediency. There is such thing as a limit and this whole issue on hudud, as especially the argument brought forward by PAS and supported by PKR, has gone over and beyond mine.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved

This article was first published in The Malaysian Insider on January 12 2009.

5 Responses to “[1875] Of time to kill it”

  1. on 16 Jan 2009 at 00:23 Tinta Sisyphus

    Aku suka sangat petikan diatas. Hikmah harus mendahului perlaksanaan.

  2. on 16 Jan 2009 at 00:24 Tinta Sisyphus

    “I definitely would not mind if hudud is implemented as long as individuals, and not communities, can choose between hudud – and truly, sharia – and secular civil law.”

    Aku suka sangat petikan diatas. Hikmah harus mendahului perlaksanaan.

  3. on 16 Jan 2009 at 00:41 daniel

    1. Hudud is a non-issue unless PAS can garner enough seats to govern on its own, which is next to impossible. 2. As you rightly put, victory by any party will not change the balance of power. At the same time, i also believe that if PR wins, it will further reaffirm the wind of change in our local politics approaching 2012 general elections. Small but significant.

  4. on 16 Jan 2009 at 21:52 Hafiz Noor Shams

    everybody is concentrating on the punch line but not the rationalization. Nobody actually addresses the concern and more interested instead in the politics rather than the wider implication. The proof is there. I wrote two articles with the same idea but one was written differently without direct political mention. This article (“kill it” article) received scorns but the previous article without political mention with more general idea (“divide, rule, steal” article) received praises from the same groups of people. So, I’m naturally suspicious of their consistency and sincerity.

    The significance of hudud is really expansion of the role of religion. In the long run, it creates a race toward greater religious expansion as it gives the signal that hudud as an issue does not hurt. This is the best chance to kill off or delay that expansion without hurting Pakatan so much.

    But of course, too many people in Pakatan and its supporters are only interested in winning and deal the implication later through “discussion” but never actually having the backbone of making a decision.

  5. on 17 Jan 2009 at 15:28 Tinta Sisyphus

    “The significance of hudud is really expansion of the role of religion. In the long run, it creates a race toward greater religious expansion as it gives the signal that hudud as an issue does not hurt.”

    “the implementation of hudud also builds unnecessary walls among Malaysians, further dividing an already divided society.”

    Saya amat setuju dengan dua petikan ini. Saya fikir agama seharusnya memainkan peranan sebagai pengikat sesama masyarakat.

    Sebaliknya perlaksanaan hudud berkebarangkalian besar memisahkan atau mencarik jalinan masyarakat itu sendiri.

    Demikian itu, ia lebih mengundang mudarat dari manfaat – bukankah itu akan negate relevancy agama itu sendiri?

    Sebelum politik kita beransur terjerumus dalam perbalahan berzaman ini (hudud), mungkin lebih tuntas sekiranya kita duduk lima minit, sembang sat, dan fikir mungkinkah kita dah tersasar dari permasalahan teras.

    Mungkin kita sudah lupa.

    Mungkin juga kita sudah lama tersasar dari nilai teras agama itu sendiri.

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