August 13, 2012
When the Pied Pipers of Hudud Call
It’s democracy and social justice that the people want, not more punishment that will only victimise the marginalised of society.
OH dear, not again! It’s yet another round of debate on the hudud law. But this time, the active proponents have changed. It’s no longer PAS that’s mouthing demands for hudud!
How times have changed when the very party that has opposed the decades-long PAS effort to implement the hudud has now among its members advocates for the draconian law.
I wonder why these people have all the time in the world to manufacture controversy and consternation on something that they know cannot be implemented in this country. And the media then flames the debate by getting opinions of those who cannot but say yes to hudud.
It is nothing more than politics. In 1994, the then Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad wrote to the Kelantan Mentri Besar, Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, that the Federal Government would oppose any effort by the Kelantan state government to impose the hudud law.
In the letter, Dr Mahathir also charged that PAS efforts to introduce the hudud was merely political gamesmanship in trying to win votes from the Malays whose eyes had been clouded.
It is now 2012. Not even the Islamists who have won power in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco are talking about the hudud law or even the Islamic state. It’s democracy and social justice that the people want, not more punishment that will only victimise the marginalised of society. It is a civil democratic state that the new leaders are promising, not an Islamic state.
And here we are in Malaysia, supposedly the model Muslim country leading the so-called global movement of moderates, but we remain mired in a mistaken belief that the hallmark of an Islamic administration is the imposition of hudud law on all the citizens.
Are we to laugh or cry when the UMNO state assemblyman from Kemelah in Johor proudly proclaimed that the UMNO hudud would be superior to the PAS hudud?
It reminds me of the time when the Perlis State Assembly passed the Islamic Aqidah (Faith) Protection Enactment in 2000. The three PAS assemblymen denounced the Enactment, not because it violated fundamental rights, but because it was not Islamic enough! And what would make the Enactment Islamic? Death to apostates. The one-year detention without trial in a faith rehabilitation centre as prescribed by the law was child’s play, they deemed.
Why do politicians say the darnedest things? As it goes with anything to do with religion, there will be the inevitable pied pipers who must follow suit to prove their piety, or so they think.
I wish hudud supporters would do some basic research before they reinforce further fears and prejudices of Islam as an unjust and violent religion.Do they know or care that implementing the hudud is unconstitutional? Have they read all the contentious debates and diverse positions on the relevance of hudud in contemporary times? Have they read about the impact hudud has had on women and the poor in countries like Pakistan, Sudan, and Nigeria, while those who steal by the millions thrive, immune and protected?
And now Dr Hasan Ali (right), the ousted Selangor PAS leader, is stoking the debate by trying to portray the coming elections as a choice between those who want the hudud and the Islamic state and those against.
Since when has the imposition of hudud been the most important issue of concern for Malaysian voters?
Poll after poll has shown Malaysians are most concerned about crime and public safety, corruption, rising cost of living, political instability, and deteriorating race relations.
And yet we have key political players, whipped up by a segment of the media, manufacturing a debate on an issue that is bound to divide us even further. And dumbing down the Malays into thinking that we could not possibly be good Muslims without the hudud. I am sure the millions of good Muslims living in the West are offended by this.
These blinkered Islamists should start looking at Tunisia and the making of a democratic state in the Arab world. The Islamist Ennahda ruling party, against demands and demonstrations by the hard-line Salafists, categorically rejected attempts to make Shari’ah the basis of law in the new Tunisian Constitution.
Not only that, its chief ideologue, Rached Ghannouchi, announced that the party “will not use law to impose religion” nor “introduce ambiguous definitions into the Constitution that risk dividing the people”. While maintaining the Arab-Muslim identity of Tunisia, he is publicly committed to the state being secular and democratic, with respect for human rights and women’s rights.
This strong and unambiguous public position of an Islamist party in the face of vocal hard-line opposition is a source of hope to many Islamists who today fashion themselves as “Muslim democrats”, eschewing their past fixation on the ideological hudud and Islamic state.
While the world media remains focused on Syria and Egypt, it is developments in Tunisia that should be watched for what could be a genuine transition to democracy led by an Islamist party. If we choose to remain under the proverbial coconut shell, we might just be left behind by the genuine moderates of the Muslim world.
It’s really no use crying over Malay unity and national unity, when political leaders continuously sow seeds of discord, whipping up race and religion to score points with their own constituencies, instead of building consensus on contentious issues.
Let me state that the choice before us is not between Islam and secularism, not between hudud law and civil law, not between tradition and modernity. These are false dichotomies created to divide us. The choice before us is between democracy and despotism, between good governance and corruption, between equality and discrimination, between social justice and inequity.
Can the brave and principled political leaders that we so desperately need stand up and say something?