Gauging The Hudud Thing in Malaysia

March 14, 2017

Gauging The Hudud Thing in Malaysia–Political Islamism out of UMNO’s desperation

by Rashaad Ali

Image result for The Hudud Thing in UMNO's Malaysia

The Desperate Godfathers of Hududism in Malaysia–UMNO’s Najib Razak and PAS’Hadi Awang

The 18 February 2017 rallies both for and against the bill to amend the 1965 Criminal Jurisdiction Act, known as RUU 355, have opened yet another political and social schism in Malaysian society. RUU 355 began as a private member’s bill by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party’s (PAS) President Hadi Awang and seeks to raise the penalties for certain crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of sharia courts in Malaysia.

Public opinion appears divided on the issue, as the continued politicisation of religion takes precedence over authentic religious debate on the matter. Some see the bill as a facade for the eventual entry of hudud — Islamic — laws into the country. PAS held the rally in support of the bill, which drew a reported 20,000 people, while the counter rally was organised by the non-governmental organisation Bebas and drew a much more modest crowd of around 200.

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Hudud –The  Political Hypocrisy of  It All

Support for the bill is significant enough. Various surveys, including one conducted recently amongst university students, indicate Malay-Muslim support for the amendment and for the implementation of Islamic laws. The pro-RUU 355 rally emphasises this and the numbers indicate some level of moderate success for PAS — mobilising 20,000 odd people for a rally is no small feat.

But as the subject of this bill is central to the party’s aims, larger numbers could have been expected. This suggests a difficulty in appealing to urban folk and that mobilised supporters from other, more remote parts of the country account for the majority of the turnout.

Image result for zaid ibrahim dapThis Guy does not  know where he is coming or going in Malaysian Politics–UMNO to PKR to DAP and what next?

The counter rally, held at the same time but at a different location to the PAS gathering, better demonstrates the mood regarding the bill. While the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) was critical of the bill when it was first announced, it eventually distanced itself from the counter rally completely. The only DAP name who attended was Zaid Ibrahim, and that was in his individual capacity rather than as a party member.

The DAP’s absence is unsurprising as the issue puts it in a difficult position: the DAP may not support the bill, but attending the counter rally would cement the perception that they are an anti-Malay and anti-Muslim party. The discourse surrounding this issue has been very black and white; support for the bill is seen as a Muslim’s religious duty, while opposition to it is deemed vehemently anti-Islamic.

The general public’s low attendance at the counter rally suggests that the issue was not significant enough to take to the streets in numbers. For Malay-Muslims, the fear of reprisal for attending a rally seen as anti-Islamic is a significant factor in keeping people away. It appears easier for the pro-RU 355 rally to draw Malays, as the narrative is more populist, keeps with a conservative Islamic position and is supported by major Malay parties like the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and PAS.

As for non-Muslim participation, it appears this issue is neither relevant nor attractive enough to drag would-be participants out of bed in the morning. They can hardly be blamed as many voices from the pro-RU 355 camp constantly state that the amendment will not affect non-Muslims.

Although this amendment does not mean that non-Muslims are suddenly going to be tried under sharia law, having two legal systems for two different groups of people brings the notion of equality before the law into question. For a multicultural country that should seek to be inclusive instead of exclusive, these amendments are not helpful, especially when considering the knock-on effect it will have on the country as a whole.

Past cases of overlapping jurisdiction between sharia and civil courts, such as conversion cases or burial rights of non-Muslims indicate that the separation of the courts is not clearly defined. While the bill aims to raise the penalties for certain crimes under sharia law such as murder and theft, some constitutional experts argue that these crimes fall strictly under the purview of federal, not sharia, law. This bill exacerbates an already highly polarised society divided along racial and religious lines.

It is also another episode in the overall Islamisation trend happening in Malaysia that directly and indirectly affects all groups in society. Various incidents in the past few years point to how religious relations in the country can easily sour. A church was forced to take down its cross display in 2015, there have been recent issues with the usage and distribution of paint brushes containing pig bristles and there is now moral policing of dress code at government buildings.

The issue is complicated further because it is primarily for political rather than religious purposes. Putting aside PAS’ ambition to see this through, the bill is an obvious affirmation of the party’s own religious credentials. In the current climate, this helps to regain the trust of its core supporters, which also explains why the UMNO has jumped on the bill’s bandwagon. It helps the UMNO bolster its image at a time when the administration has suffered a dip in popularity. The timing of this issue is also convenient, as elections are due to be held by 2018.

As it stands, it would not be surprising if the bill passes next month when it comes to parliament. Opposition members who oppose the bill are likely to be absent from the vote for fear of being branded anti-Islamic. If the amendment passes, the biggest concern is whether it will worsen existing racial and religious polarisation in the country. Given the political dimension of the bill and the looming general election, a more inclusive Malaysia is not yet on the horizon.

Rashaad Ali is a research analyst with the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

This article was first published here on RSIS.



13 thoughts on “Gauging The Hudud Thing in Malaysia

  1. All the criticism of the bill and even he, no one ask the obvious question, why and is it right, Malay Muslim fear their religion? Is it right, even if they are against RUU 355, they dare not speak or show up. More importantly, is it right, a law that is based on such fear can ever be just?

  2. Sharia law first and foremost takes its source from Quran, Hadiths (saying and doing of Mohammad), and ijma (religious scholar’s interpretation when there is no prior sources). Sharia law is not just always family law as what some DAP people wants you to believe so that you have some fuzzy good feeling; implementing Sharia law, as is done in every single Muslim-majority nation including Malaysia, is accompanied by Sharia courts and Sharia police. Higher punishment means higher degree of compliance with Sharia law. Fully implementing Sharia law will create a theocracy, where the head of state is Allah. Iran is a theocracy, with a written constitution specifically sets the goal to conquer the world so that Allah’s religion is supreme in the world consistent with Sharia law as written in its Islamic law classic Reliance of Traveler. Theocracy is of course antithetical to Malaysia Constitution.

    People who support the amendment RUU 355 is anti-Constitution and therefore anti-Malaysia which is created and shaped by the Constitution.

    Still, you cannot rely on socialists and socialist sympathizers to defend the Constitution because they too are treating socialism, or its modern incarnation social democrat ideas, as higher principle as if the principle is the law of the land, as often uttered by Mr. Lim Kit Siang.

    • I am sure the Melayu are quite familiar with whatever they have in mind. It is a dream. For the rest, since there is Sharia for the majority, there is just going to minority law governing the minority.
      For the law to be applied for the minorities in Malaysia in the future, it can follow the laws of the kapitan, and it would hardly matter. Proverbially speaking, we, the pendatangs, always know the officials have two mouths. Law?

  3. Dato.Din, the side comment is unfair to Zaid. He spoke his mind and dare to stand out on this. I have shared my thoughts that this is really a decision that has to be made by the Melayu. Zaid stood up for what he believes in. I have shared my thoughts that I am not anti-Islamic, as a Christian. Conrad kutuk me. But, I still stand on the side that this is a fight Melayu has to take on themselves. It is right for Malay university students to stand firmly on what they believe also. Rashaad Ali’s effort to report this from Singapore is much appreciated. What saddens me is that there are probably a lot of Bebas Melayu who could not get organized to stand on what they believe in. Instead, they have allowed a charlatan 1PM hijacked their most sacred for his own comfort.

    I know Zaid quite well. As a man, he is intelligent, sharp witted and persuasive. But he is also an ambitious politician who is very self centered and shifty. Most of the bebas melayus are free riders.–Din Merican

  4. 1. The simple test of whether there is such a thing as Hudud (fixed) punishments in Islam is to examine whether it is mentioned in Prophet Muhammad’s Madinah Charter, the first written constitution in the world promulgated in 622 A,D. It is not. Therefore, it falls under the mistakes man makes.
    2. In an article entitled “The Mistakes Man Makes” published in this blog, I mentioned the so-called second syahadah (Quran, 63: 1-2), a major doctrinal mistake Muslims make.
    3. Islam spread with lightning speed after the death of Prophet.
    Muhammad to become the Number Power in the then world for eight centuries. Medieval Europe sat at the feet of Baghdad for three centuries before its Renaissance. This fact is not acknowledged by most European historians, but see Robert Briffautl’s book “The Making of Humanity” and G. Sarton’ “A History of Science”.
    4. In my studies of all monotheistic religions, after the first 300 years they changed to become polytheistic. Even Islam with a protected divine scripture has not been spared of this degeneration. Today most Muslims have degenerated to become sectarian Sunnis and Shi’as, against the will of the Prophet. And they do not realize it! — Kassim Ahmad.
    Thanks, Pak Kassim for your timely intervention. Our ulamas are charlatans; they do not know history; they are fake prophets. Expect me to respect Najib and Hadi, Harussani, and their followers? No way. –Din Merican

  5. To the supporters of Sharia / Hudud, I say not to worry.

    When the population of Malaysia is made up of 90 – 95% Muslims, (which should happen well before “TN50”, when Hadi, Najib, et al, should also all be dead, and the children of all those 20,000 who attended the Sharia rally should still be alive), you can have all the Sharia / Hudud you want.

    The World doesn’t really cares, unless of course the country also exports terrorism, then……………

    In any case, God has all of Eternity for His Will to play itself out. What’s the hurry?

    The above assumes WWIII is not upon us by then.

  6. Many commentators have asked “Where are the moderate Muslims in all of this?”
    I have no idea. But i’d like you to watch ‘The Genius of the Crowd’:

  7. Quote:- “If the Bebas Melayu doesn’t stand up today, it is indeed the end of the Melayu as we know it”

    Actually we cannot blame the Melayus for not standing up, or standing up visibly.

    Who do you stand up against?, fellow Melayu Muslims who are merely fighting and dying, (some doing it without political agenda), for theirs and your religion?

    If we narrow it down to standing up against “political Islam”, then we are also asking them to turn a blind eye to the sufferings of their fellow Muslims in war torn Middle East, the birthplace of Islam itself.

    The problem is Islam is now caught in an unenviable situation where it has to be political, and we all know that in politics, local or international, it is all about power, and power, since the days of the cavemen, is all about wielding it for monopolizing of limited resources.

    In this respect, it is curious that the most valuable resource, oil, found in the Middle East is found almost abundantly everywhere there except in Israel.

    If no oil is found in the Middle East, “King” Salman would at best be flying business class with at most 3 check-in bags.

    As the ancient Greeks used to say, the gods do amuse themselves at the expense of humans who actually bow and pray to their tormentors.

  8. Many people always believe the Malays know their religion very well unlike the Chinese. But to the contrary the Malays not really well verse with the religion they profess. In 1980, only 20% of my Malay school mates passed their agama Islam subject in SPM. For sure no one would like to be governed under fear or duress. They did not voice out against RUU solely out of fear and ignornce. 

  9. Well, katasayang, the Bebas Melayu are long gone. In their place are the Melayu Bungkus who are on a life-support machine waiting for the inevitable to happen. Once it happens they too will be gone, swallowed up by the Hudud Melayu.

  10. By TNB 2050 our next target the population of Malaysia will not be in the same racial percentages of today. With that in mind work out the logical Maths.

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