September 23, 2011
Note: I received the following article from Terence Netto via e-mail. The heavily edited version appears in Malaysiakini today.
In the interest of clarity and fairness, I have agreed to host his original version on this blog so that the philosophical underpinnings and the subtlety of his message are not lost. Furthermore I always respect the integrity of the writer, although I sometimes may not agree with Netto’s views on contemporary issues. But I strongly believe that he is entitled to his opinions.
I, therefore, have pleasure in sharing this Netto piece with you all, my readers and commenters. In return, I expect an intelligent and rational exchange of views on Hudud. Please suspend all preconceived ideas and prejudices about Hukum Hudud.
The Kelantan state government, in my view, should consult the Federal Government and the Council of Malay Rulers before going ahead with the introduction of Hukum Hudud.
Tok Guru Nik Aziz and his cohorts should know that Kelantan is not an island onto itself. It exists as part of Malaysia, and what they do in the state touches Malaysia as whole and influences the perception of the rest of world about who we are as a country and as 1People. It affects our political and economic climate, especially the inflow of foreign direct investment into our country.
I am pleased that Bishop Paul has taken a nuanced stance on Hudud. In my humble opinion, we should welcome if the Federal Government should to do the same for all Muslims in Malaysia.
After all, our constitution protects all Malaysians and different religions in this country. There is freedom of worship. Let us not politicise this matter.–Din Merican
Bishop Paul’s nuanced stance on Hudud
Catholic prelate, who subscribes to the long-wave theory of history, says it is unwise to forestall Muslims from Syariah if that is what they manifestly desire.
By Terence Netto
The reignited debate over the implementation of hudud law in Kelantan has drawn a nuanced response from what at first glance would be considered an unexpected quarter.
Catholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing (left), in his remarks made to Malaysiakini today, held forth on the subject and has come up with a stance he thinks is calibrated to meet the challenges the question of Islam poses to Malaysian society.
“One would think I should lack the presumption to weigh-in on the discussion, being non-Muslim and belonging to a religion that subscribes to the separation of the secular from the religious spheres,” being the titular head of Catholics in the Melaka-Johor diocese.
“But Islam is, above all, a political question and support for syariah, of which hudud is a part, is an obligation for the Muslim. Therefore a non-Muslim citizen such as me and a religious leader at that ought to have a say on this matter,” asserted the Jesuit-trained prelate.
“I say it’s time to allow Muslims in Kelantan, if they so desire, to implement syariah only for them and with that the hudud enactments provided non-Muslims are exempt from its implementation,” said the Bishop who is concurrently President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia.
“Between the contention that the Federal Constitution is a colonial imposition and the obligation of Muslims to support syariah, I say the wiser non-Muslim stance would be to hold that if syariah is what Kelantan Muslims want and if we are given a cast-iron guarantee that it will not be implemented on us, we would not object to Muslims wanting it,” he argued.
“Bear in mind, this is not a question that is going to go away but it is not a question that will continue to be framed in the same terms as it is today in Malaysia,” continued the Bishop. “What do I mean by this?” asked the cleric who obtained his doctorate from Ecole ’Etude Science Social’ whose degree is from Sorbonne, the ‘Harvard of Europe’ in medieval times.
“You take the Arab Spring that has roiled nations in that arc from Tunisia to Syria. Do you see it as an Islamic uprising or a democratic insurgence? I hesitate to claim that it’s a democratic rising of peoples. You cannot tell for sure, but it is not specifically Islamic in character. I take the long view and see it all as part and parcel of the enduring debate between the Mutazilities and the Asharites in Islam.
“The former holds that you need reason to explain the world; the latter that God does not need reason and that He is all power and will. I pray the Mutazilites win the debate. I don’t know if that extraordinary man, the Menteri Besar of Kelantan, is a Mutazilite or an Asharite. Sometimes he sounds like a Mutazilite, sometimes like an Asharite.
“But that ambiguity is a good thing. It shows he is not dogmatic. I say let him and all who hold with him have their way so long as non-Muslims have iron-clad guarantees of their exemption.”
Bishop Paul Tan concluded his soliloquy this way: “I take the long view of history which is that the key question, in our times and in all times, is as the philosopher Nietzsche, incidentally an anti-Christian thinker, framed it: What is the fundamental constitution of reality?
“I claim that if your theological assumptions of reality are incorrect, you are headed for trouble in this world and that if they are correct, you will have the peace that surpasses all understanding. I am in favor of Kelantan Muslims having hudud implemented for them only.”