The Islam Reformers vs. the Muslim Zealots


March 30, 2015

The Islam Reformers vs. the Muslim Zealots

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

A Hirsi AliAyaan Hirsi Ali is a Fellow of the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a visiting fellow of the American Enterprise Institute and founder of the AHA Foundation. She is the author of the newly published book “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now.”

The ferment we see in the Muslim world today is not solely due to despotic political systems, and it is not solely due to failing economies and the poverty they breed. Rather, it is also due largely to Islam itself and the incompatibility of certain of that faith’s key tenets with modernity. That is why the most important conflict in the world today is between those who are hell-bent on preserving, and even increasing, these incompatibilities, and those who are bravely prepared to challenge them — not to overthrow Islam but to reform it.

Forget the crude distinction between “extreme” and “moderate” Muslims. Rather, we should distinguish among three groups of Muslims.

The first group is the most problematic. Those in this category envision a regime based on sharia, or Islamic religious law. They aim not just to obey the Prophet Muhammad’s teaching but also to emulate his warlike conduct after his move to Medina. Even if they do not themselves engage in violence, the people in this group do not hesitate to condone it.

The second group — which composes the clear majority throughout the Muslim world — is loyal to the core creed of Islam and worship devoutly but is not inclined to practice or preach violence. Like devout Christians or Jews who attend religious services every week and abide by religious rules in what they eat and wear, these “Mecca Muslims” focus on religious observance. Sometimes some members of this group are mistakenly termed “moderate.”

In the third group is the growing number of people who were born into Islam but who have sought to think critically about the faith in which we were raised. These are the Muslim dissidents. A few of us have been forced by experience to conclude that we could not continue as believers yet remain deeply engaged in the debate about Islam’s future. But the majority of dissidents are reformist believers who have come to realize that their religion must change if its followers are not to be condemned to an interminable cycle of violence.

The first group — the Islamist zealots — poses a threat to everyone. In the West, the existence of this group promises not only an increasing risk of terrorism but also a subtle erosion of the hard-won achievements of feminists and campaigners for minority rights: gender equality, religious tolerance and gay rights. And anyone who denies that this threat is growing — not only in Europe but in North America, too — just hasn’t looked at the data on immigration and on Muslim immigrants’ attitudes.

But the zealots’ vision of a violent return to the days of the prophet poses an even bigger threat to their fellow Muslims. They are undermining the position of the majority who simply want to lead a quiet life. Worse, they pose a constant lethal threat to the dissidents and reformers. We are the ones who face ostracism and rejection, who must brave all manner of insults, who must deal with the death threats — or face death itself.

Western policymakers today are so fearful of being accused of Islamophobia that they generally won’t touch Muslim reformers with a 10-foot pole. They would much rather make nice with the self-proclaimed representatives of “moderate Islam,” who on close inspection often turn out but to be anything but moderate. For this reason, our leaders are missing the boat on the Muslim Reformation.

“It is not your job,” Western governments are told, “to help bring about religious change.” So Western leaders stick to their decade-old script: “Islam is a religion of peace.”

But during the Cold War, no American president said: “Communism is an ideology of peace.” None said: “The Soviet Union is not truly communist.” Rather, the West celebrated and supported dissidents such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov and Václav Havel, who had the courage to challenge the Soviet system from within.

Today, there are many dissidents who challenge Islam. Yet the West either ignores them or dismisses them as “not representative.” This is a grave mistake. Reformers such as Asra Nomani, Irshad Manji, Tawfiq Hamid, Maajid Nawaz, Zuhdi Jasser, Saleem Ahmed, Yunis Qandil, Seyran Ates, Bassam Tibi and Abd al-Hamid al-Ansari must be supported and protected. These reformers should be as well known in the West as Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov and Havel were generations earlier.

The reformers’ task will not be easy. Nor was that of the Soviet dissidents. Nor, for that matter, was that of the Protestant reformers. But the Muslim Reformation is the world’s best shot at a solution to the problem President Obama calls “violent extremism.” The time for euphemism is over. The time for reform of Islam is, at long last, now.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-islam-reformers-vs-the-muslim-zealots/2015/03/27/acf6de6c-d3ed-11e4-ab77-9646eea6a4c7_story.

Malaysia after Hudud: A Nation Divided


March 29, 2015

Malaysia after Hudud: A Nation Divided

By Zurairi AR and Boo Su-Lyn

No Hudud in MalaysiaTHIS?

Hudud has for the past two decades largely been treated as a mere fringe topic among Malaysians, a political hot potato tossed back and forth between local parties as they canvassed for Muslim votes during elections.

But last week, when the Kelantan legislative assembly passed amendments to its Shariah Criminal Code II enactment — dubbed the hudud Bill — the controversial Islamic penal code quickly became a legitimate public concern.

Now, if PAS, the Islamist party that governs Kelantan, next succeeds at the federal level in getting more legislative amendments approved, hudud, an Islamic punishment system under Shariah law, will be implemented for the first time in a Malaysian state.

Although the law would only be confined to Kelantan, it must be noted that PAS’s manoeuvre in Kelantan has already roused the ambitions of other Islamist groups and scholars who wish to see hudud sweep the country. All eyes are also on Terengganu, which had also passed a similar but still ungazetted enactment with hudud elements in 2002.

The ball is now in Parliament’s court, but analysts and observers are already warning that should hudud get implemented in other states, the Malaysia we know today will head towards an irreparable divide.

A legal system divided

Malaysia has always practised a dual-track legal system, although for the Muslims, legal disputes on family matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance, and the precepts of Islam, are dealt with under the Shariah law.

The implementation of hudud, however, will see the Shariah courts encroaching on offences already covered in the civil justice system, specifically the Penal Code. These include crimes like sariqah (theft) and hirabah (robbery). Hudud’s companion qisas, meanwhile will legislate the offence of murder, which is also already covered by civil law.

According to amendments in Kelantan’s hudud Bill, however, once enforced, hudud will only apply to Muslims. For example, a Muslim guilty of theft in Kelantan can be punished by amputation of his limbs, under Section 7 of the state’s hudud law.

But in the Penal Code, the same crime committed by a non-Muslim prescribes a maximum seven-year jail term or fine or both, according to Section 379 of the legislation.

The prospect of subjecting criminals to two different punishments for the same crime by virtue of their religious backgrounds, however, could prove complicated in a diverse nation like Malaysia, analysts said.

Hudud2OR THIS?

“How do you enforce this in a plural society? Of course it would lead to injustice between Muslims and non-Muslims, especially if the crime involves perpetrators of different religions,” political analyst Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Hassan said in a recent phone interview.

“I think this contradicts the principles of Islam, where there exists variations and injustice in the punishment for the same crime.” At the crux of the argument is the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of the country that is the bedrock of Malaysia’s foundation.

If hudud is to be implemented, it would mean that the Federal Constitution will have to be amended to legislate against crimes already under the Penal Code, said Nizam Bashir, who is both a constitutional and Shariah lawyer.

“What seems to be missing from the conversation at this point of time is what the framers of the Constitution has envisaged as the appropriate balance of powers in a federal system of government like Malaysia. Simply put, we were always meant to have a strong central government,” Nizam told Malay Mail Online.

“Having said that, this does not mean that states have no power or the monarchs’ role are trivialised in some way in the Constitution. It is far from that.

“But it is very clear that the central government was always meant to take centre stage on matters like crime, and one can see why as it would promote public order,” the lawyer added.

The same sentiment was expressed by Malaysian Bar President Steven Thiru, who in a statement on March 20, said implementing hudud laws would fundamentally alter Malaysia’s secular Federal Constitution in ways never intended.

“If hudud were brought into the criminal justice system, it would result in the importation of Islamic penal law into a secular system. This would result in a rewriting of the Federal Constitution,” Steven warned.

Lawyers have also claimed that the implementation of hudud in Kelantan will lead to more constitutional challenges being filed in court against the Islamic penal code.Constitutional lawyer New Sin Yew pointed out that the civil courts were forced to intervene in previous cases of Shariah courts overstepping their jurisdiction, such as M. Indira Gandhi’s child custody dispute with her ex-husband who is a Muslim convert.

“Certain aspects of the state enactment like sariqah or hirabah will be challenged in the civil courts because only the civil courts have the power to decide on constitutional issues,” New told Malay Mail Online, referring to the hudud Bill.

“And certain punishments like the death penalty and amputation will be challenged for violating federal law,” he added, noting that the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 limits the punishments Islamic courts can impose to three years’ jail, RM5,000 fines or six strokes of whipping.

These challenges are bound to widen the chasm between the two legal systems, especially with minister in charge of religious affairs Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom alleging last year of a “new wave” of assault on Islam here, and accusing rights groups of colluding with enemies of Islam to put its religious institutions on trial in a secular court.

A society divided

The discrimination in punishment among Muslims and non-Muslims will also lead to bigger problems in society as Malaysians would be treated differently in the eyes of the law, Nik Abdul Aziz suggested.

Already, clear divisions have appeared between those in support of Kelantan’s hudud and those who do not, as demonstrated in the recent case of BFM presenter Aisyah Tajuddin.

The young Muslim journalist earned heavy criticism over a satirical video produced by the popular business radio station where she was seen criticising the PAS government’s bid to introduce the law in Kelantan.

“This phenomenon will bring about clashes, discontent, and other problems … When the public is not being managed fairly, it will bring towards a discriminatory pattern,” warned the analyst, who is also a retired former head of Dakwah Studies Department in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

“Islam emphasises fairness. Under the roof of fairness, only then can you guarantee economic and social stability.”

RATNA_OSMANRatna Osman and Zainah Anwar

Meanwhile, the dismissal of women’s role in hudud also has women rights group Sister in Islam (SIS) worried over the treatment of women in the future, especially Muslim women. SIS’s Executive Director Ratna Osman pointed to Section 41 of Kelantan’s hudud Bill, which specifies that only an adolescent and fair male Muslim can stand as a witness in the cases of zina (illicit sex) and liwat (sodomy).

“This disqualified non-Muslims overall and Muslim women, and this contradicts with equality that is promised under Article 8 of the Constitution, that guarantees equality for all regardless of race and gender,” Ratna told Malay Mail Online.

“The fact that women are disqualified as witnesses in the code, is against the practise of Islamic laws on evidence,” she added, citing several hadith—collections of Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and deeds—where women’s testimonies were accepted in criminal cases.

She also took issue with the provisions in Kelantan’s bill governing qazaf (false accusation of zina), which puts the burden of proof on women in cases of rape, and the li’an provision, which allows a husband to accuse his wife of adultery under a sacred oath.

“You will find because of this gender inequality, a lot of cases, in Iran particularly, where husbands are always using li’an as a means to put their wives in jail. It is an easy way out of marriage,” Ratna claimed.

She also pointed to how in other countries like Pakistan, it is always the women who are convicted of zina while their male partners escape prosecution.Apart from that, Ratna also noted the difficulty in criticising the implementation of hudud after Kelantan passed its hudud Bill.

The space of discourse, even among Muslims, is rapidly shrinking with the authorities now warning laymen against discussing hudud and religion in general, as the voice of discontent continues to grow unfettered online.

Against their critics, PAS has so far resorted to labels from “immorals” and “liars”, which Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yaakob uttered when tabling the bill, to “parrots” and “unforgivable ignorants” in PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s open letter a week after.

A country divided

In its video, BFM and Aisyah had asked how exactly hudud would fill the rice bowls of Kelantan folks, especially as the state remains one of the poorest in the country. The question has still remained unanswered, but critics told Malay Mail Online that the trickle down effect of hudud’s implementation in plural Malaysia will inevitably impact even bread and butter issues.

“Why must we rush in hudud, when the priority should be on social justice, eradicating poverty, access to health services, urban cleanliness? There are a lot of things in Islam we can implement,” Nik Abdul Aziz suggested.

“This hudud punishments will lead to bigger implications. If there is a huge case of theft, wouldn’t you have one race with fewer hands than the others? That is why we have to think this out thoroughly.”

There is already global fear that Malaysia risks losing its identity as a model of religious moderation and multiracialism if hudud goes ahead, as expressed by an influential group of retired Malay senior civil servants dubbed G25 on March 25.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak invariably touts Malaysia’s reputation to the international community and investors as a so-called moderate Muslim country, especially in his address to the United Nations as recent as September last year. But this image has continued to take a beating with recent actions taken by religious authorities, especially in the case of the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.

Having hudud nationwide might be the nail on the coffin for his campaign, according to some. “If hudud were ever to see the light of day in Malaysia we can be sure that there will be a massive outflow of investment, wealth and people from Malaysia,” tycoon and philanthropist Koon Yew Yin wrote in his blog on March 22.

“It is not only the locals who will leave. The international community—including foreign investors—has been more loud and vociferous in expressing concern about the growing Islamisation in the country.”

“Adoption by Parliament — even if a two-thirds majority is not obtained — will be the beginning of the end for moderate and inclusive Islam in the country. Is the Middle East model of fundamentalist Islam which has brought destruction and disaster the model that Malaysian Muslims want to follow? I do not think so,” he added.

On March 19, the Kelantan state assembly approved the Shariah Criminal Code (II) (1993) 2015 Enactment with 31 votes from PAS lawmakers supported by 12 from UMNO.

PAS now plans to put forward two private members’ bills in Parliament to enable Kelantan to enforce hudud ― one will seek approval for the state to legislate punishment for crimes under the Penal Code.

The other seeks to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal) Jurisdiction Act 1965 to enable Islamic courts to mete out punishments like the death penalty for apostasy and amputation of limbs for theft. PAS has said it only needs a simple majority in Parliament, or 112 MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal) Jurisdiction Act.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/snapshot-of-malaysia-after-hudud-a-nation-divided#sthash.dOTRpc39.UE8fsUth.dpuf

“Moderate” Malaysia with Hudud–Wrong signal to the World, says G25


March 25, 2015

“Moderate” Malaysia with Hudud–Wrong signal to the World, says G25

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Group of 25Malaysia will send a signal to the world that it has abandoned moderation should the PAS-led Kelantan government be allowed to enforce hudud in the state, said the G25, a group of retired high-ranking Malay civil servants who want a rational discourse on Islam.

The group said Malaysia would be seen as a country governed by religious laws that were subjected to the interpretation of clerics, and urged Putrajaya to protect the Federal Constitution as the country’s supreme law.

“Since Independence, this country has chosen the path of moderation. The Prime Minister has continued to steer the government along this path and has launched the Global Movement of Moderates to show to the world that the country is committed to the principle of moderation.

“The imposition of PAS’s hudud laws will signify to the world that Malaysia has abandoned the moderate path. We will be seen as a country governed by religious laws which are subjected to the vagaries of interpretation of the ulama who are also fallible human beings,” G25 said in a statement.

The group said that a multiracial country with an open economy like Malaysia could not afford to alter the secular character of its Constitution to allow for the implementation of PAS’s hudud enactment.

G25 added that it supported Dr Chandra Muzaffar’s view that the Federal Constitution was not un-Islamic, and said any attempt to amend the Constitution to allow hudud’s implementation would violate the Malaysia Agreement.

It also raised doubts as to whether Kelantan’s hudud law, as detailed in the Kelantan Shariah Criminal Code (11) Enactment, 1993 (Amendment 2015) would succeed in upholding justice, given the diversity of juristic interpretations of the law.

G25 added that the Kelantan government was pushing for hudud without even having met the conditions required for its implementation, as outlined by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Chairman of the World Union of Muslim Scholars.

Al-Qaradawi had said that a society must ensure the economic needs of the people were met, employment opportunities were provided for all, and poverty was eradicated before hudud could be enforced, said G25.

“In light of the above elucidation by Sheikh Qaradawi, can any state in Malaysia claim to have satisfied the pre-conditions in order to allow for the implementation of Hudud?” said G25.

The group also cited Islamic scholar Professor Hashim Kamali, who analysed PAS’s original 1993 enactment and found that it “failed to be reflective either of the balanced outlook of the Quran or of the social conditions and realities of contemporary Malaysian society”.

Hashim, who heads the Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS), also said, “the Hudud Bill exhibited no attempt to exercise Ijtihad (creative thought) over new issues such that would fulfil the ideals of justice and to encourage the development of a judicious social policy.”

G25 said that a perusal of the 2015 hudud enactment revealed it continued to emphasise punishment rather than repentance and rehabilitation as espoused in the Quran.

“Many other prominent Muslim scholars such as S.A.A. Maududi, Salim el-Awa, Muhamad al-Ghazali, Mustafa al-Zarqa and Cherif Bassiouni have opined that the application of hudud as an isolated case without providing the necessary context and environment is not only unrealistic, but is more likely to induce the opposite result and frustrate, rather than satisfy, the Islamic vision of justice and fair play.

“In addition, they emphasise that the Hadith, as recorded in Sahih Al-Bukhari, and which is also a legal maxim, provides that Hudud must be suspended in doubtful situations,” said G25.

Hadi3PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang is seeking to table a private member’s bill in Parliament during the current sitting ending April 9, which, if passed, would allow the Kelantan government to enforce hudud in the state.

The bill is to amend the Shariah Courts Act (Criminal Jurisdiction) 1965, which limits the power of the Shariah courts to a maximum penalty of RM5,000 in fine, three years’ jail and six strokes of the rotan.

An amendment is required in this law to enable Kelantan to carry out hudud law, after the state assembly on Thursday unanimously passed the Shariah Criminal Code II Enactment 1993 (Amendment 2015).

If tabled in Parliament, Hadi’s private member’s bill only needs the support of 112 MPs, or a simple majority, for it to be passed if the full house of 222 MPs are sitting.

Barisan Nasional (BN) has yet to issue an official statement in support of hudud, while BN Back Benchers Club Chief Tan Sri Shahrir Samad said the 87 Muslim UMNO MPs and 10 Muslim PBB MPs may vote based on their conscience.

However, UMNO MP Datuk Nur Jazlan has already stated he will not support the enforcement of hudud, while Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz became the first minister from the party to dismiss attempts to implement hudud in Malaysia, saying such talk was “stupid” as it could never legally happen.

De facto Law Minister Nancy Shukri yesterday, similarly dismissed the chance of hudud being implemented in Kelantan, saying the private member’s bill on the issue will not get a single vote from Sarawak lawmakers in Parliament. –
– See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/hudud-laws-will-signal-malaysia-has-abandoned-moderation-says-g25#sthash.4yJaYLbV.dpuf

Ask our Government to serve us


March 24, 2015

Ask our Government to serve us

by TK Chua@www.freemalaysia.com

I belong to a generation that is familiar with John F Kennedy’s call to his countrymen to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” More than half a century has passed since that call, but I think it still resonates with many of us.

But today I want to be “unreasonable” and “defiant”. I want to ask what Malaysia (read the government) can do for us, the ordinary Malaysians.

We ordinary Malaysians have done much for the country. We are hardworking, enterprising, law abiding (in fact, quite docile actually) and we pay our taxes. We live frugally, save up, educate our children, and bring in foreign exchange earnings. We open up new growth areas, build new factories and townships as well as generate income and wealth. We do charity whenever we can. We never hesitate to help when disasters or calamities strike. We support and participate in programmes initiated by the government to the extent that we can. We play by the rules.

Now it is the government’s turn to do its part. What can the government do for us?

Najib and RosmahFirst, I want the government to provide us leadership – yes, true leadership, not incompetent, “silent” and autocratic leadership. We want leaders with vision for public duties and services, not leaders whose preoccupation is to form GLCs and sign another procurement contract or MOU. We want leaders whom we can revere, not fear; love, not loathe; and cooperate, not act only when compelled. Have we had one such leader lately? Is there one leader in Putrajaya who is like Joseph, the Premier of Egypt during the Pharaoh’s era (since many of our politicians are so “pious and religious”, I thought this example is most appropriate)? We demand that leaders spend more time and effort administering, less on matters concerning the afterlife.

Second, I want this country to provide us security and protection from crimes and harm. Citizens of this country have no right to bear arms. We therefore demand that the police do their job. Control, investigate and prosecute all crimes committed quickly and professionally now. Malaysians do not deserve to live under constant fear of robberies, burglaries, snatch thefts, rapes and threats of rape as well as murder.

Third, we demand that the government manage and protect our livelihood. We want the government to protect our savings by managing inflation and the value of our ringgit responsibly. We demand that the value of our compulsory savings in EPF is preserved when we retire ten, twenty or thirty years down the road. Otherwise our EPF contributions would be just another form of tax on our income.

We demand that our quality of life is maintained through sustained preservation of the ringgit’s value. We demand that the government rip apart monopolies, dismantle crony capitalism and provide a level playing field for all. We demand that actions be taken now; we don’t want mere promises and words.

Fourth, we demand that the government contain our fractious race relations and deal with religious extremism sternly and quickly. There is no need for posturing and pretending. The authorities should know who the real culprits and instigators are. There should be no double standards and condoning of the culprits and instigators.

We demand that this country be administered fairly and justly and without fear or favour. We accept there are issues which are sensitive. But we demand that we are given the democratic space to discuss at least the implementation of these issues without harassment and interference. We must allow the contest of ideas. Otherwise, it is dogmatism and authoritarianism, which will eventually send this country into oblivion.

Fifth, we want the government to concentrate on the business of government. Please, it is not the business of the government to be involved in beef supply, property development, buying and operating hotels and restaurants all over the world, buying and selling energy assets or be a hedge fund manager putting money in offshore banks. All these, the private sector can do better.

We demand that the government give us good governance, provide us with competitive schools, efficiently run hospitals and public transport and ensure that our environment is clean and sustainable. We demand that the government manage our water resources and our habitat with care and utmost urgency.

Sixth, we demand persistent and consistent enforcement of laws, rules and regulations for the good of the majority. Good laws without firm and fair application will not make a good society. Just look at violations on our roads and highways, illegal and haphazard parking (now even along main roads), haphazard house renovations, uncollected rubbish, clogged drains, filthy eateries, pests and stray dogs and cats running around and illegal hawking and littering. Just look at the number of illegal immigrants in the country and their pervasive impact on our society. We have the most bloated civil service in the world and yet the usual excuse for lackadaisical enforcement is lack of manpower. No, it is not due to lack of manpower and resources. Enforcement agencies ought to know the real reasons why they are ineffective and not productive. We demand that they buck up and fix it now.

We can make more demands, but that should be enough for now.

T K Chua is an FMT reader.

With a firm belief in freedom of expression and without prejudice, FMT tries its best to share reliable content from third parties. Such articles are strictly the writer’s personal opinion. FMT does not necessarily endorse the views or opinions given by any third party content provider.

Afghan woman Farkhunda lynched in Kabul


March 24, 2015

This is hudud as practised in Afghanistan. We cannot have this type of barbaric law in our multiracial country which has a constitution to protect the fundamental rights of all its citizens. What is being played out in Kelantan cannot be allowed to spread to other states in Malaysia.

Malaysians must have the conviction to stand up against its implementation and tell PAS via their Members of Parliament that we reject any move to impose hudud, even though it is supposed to apply to only Muslims in Malaysia. When it comes to justice and freedom, we must speak with one voice.  Hadi Awang must stop playing a dangerous game.–Din Merican

Afghan woman Farkhunda lynched in Kabul

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-32014077

An Afghan woman who was lynched after being falsely accused of burning the Koran was killed for tackling superstitious practices, witnesses say.

Farkhunda, who was beaten to death by a Kabul mob last week, had been arguing with a mullah about his practice of selling charms to women at a shrine.In the course of the argument she was accused of burning the Koran and a crowd overheard and beat her to death.

farkhunda-screengrab2

Farkhunda, 28, was beaten, hit by bats, stamped on, driven over, and her body dragged by a car before being set on fire.

A Policeman who witnessed the incident on Thursday told AP news agency that Farkhunda was arguing with a local mullah. Her father said she had complained about women being encouraged to waste money on the amulets peddled by the mullahs at the shrine.

“Based on their lies, people decided Farkhunda was not a Muslim and beat her to death,” Mohammed Nadir told AP.

The Policeman who saw the incident, Sayed Habid Shah, said Farkhunda had denied setting the Koran on fire.

“She said I am a Muslim and Muslims do not burn the Koran,” he said. “As more people gathered, the Police were trying to push them away, but it got out of control,” he added. An official investigator has also said there was no evidence she had burned the Koran.

“Last night I went through all documents and evidence once again, but I couldn’t find any evidence to say Farkhunda burnt the Holy Koran,” General Mohammad Zahir told reporters at her funeral on Sunday. “Farkhunda was totally innocent.”

Police say they have detained 18 people over the incident, with more arrests expected. In addition, 13 policemen have been suspended for having failed to do enough to stop the attack.

Shukria, a woman visiting the shrine on Monday, told the BBC that the attack was “not just an attack on Farkhunda, but on all Afghan women. They have killed us all”. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has ordered an investigation into her death.

The attack, near the Shah-Du-Shamshaira mosque and shrine, is thought to have been the first of its kind in Afghanistan.

Breaking with tradition, women’s rights activists carried the coffin at her funeral, a role usually performed by men. Farkhunda’s family initially claimed she was mentally ill, but this has since been retracted by her father who said he was told to say so by police to reduce the chances of violent reprisals against them.

Hudud Law Again


March 23, 2015

Hudud Law Again

by Kassim Ahmad

Kassim AhmadSome Muslims pride themselves for upholding what is called the hudud punishments. Do they really know what they are talking about? They think it is God-ordained law. Are they right? They should remember the lessons of history.

Did the Jewish Prophet Moses bring the religion of what is now known as Judaism? The answer is: No. Did Prophet Jesus, also a Jew, bring the religion of what is now known as Christianity. Again the answer is: No. Did Prophet Muhammad, an Arab, bring the religion of Sunnism and Shi’ism? Again the answer is: No.

Human history is littered with errors that came to be accepted later as “facts”. We are not talking of small errors. We are taking of big ones. That explains the rise and fall of nations. One author has described this historical evolution as “recurring, multilinear, yet ascending.” That means on the whole we are progressing, but the line of progress is not ascending linear, but multilinear, sometimes ascending, sometimes descending.

Let me cite just one authority, Prof. Mohammad Hashim Kamali. This paragraph is taken from his book, Punishment in Islamic Law: An Inquiry into the Hudud Bill in Kelantan (Kuala Lumpur: 2000) is very telling: “When we compare the Quranic usage of hadd (in the sense of limit) with the use of this term in fiqh, we notice that a basic development has taken place, which is that the term hadd has been reserved to signify a fixed and unchallengeable punishment that is laid down in the Quran or Sunnah. The concept of the ‘separating or preventing limit’ of the Quran is thereby replaced by the idea of fixed punishment.” (p. 46)

There you have another example of a major error made by great scholars. That is precisely why the Quran warns us of idolizing leaders or scholars. We could be kind if we chose to pardon them by saying that it was their understanding, or their ijtihad, which must be reviewed by the next generation.

The term hududu’l-Lah (God’s boundaries) occurs in the Quran 14 times, none of which refer to fixed punishments, as understood by some Muslim jurists. One scholar opined that, “The unchangeability of the hadd punishement is supported by the interpretation of the Quranic verse: ‘These are the limits of Allah. Do not transgress them.’” (2: 229) The verse does not actually mean what he says it means.

Let us take some of the so-called hudud punishments. Cutting of the head for apostasy, when the Quran advocates complete freedom of belief, some 1400 years ahead of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; stoning for adultery, cutting of the hand for theft are three of the six or seven of the so-called fixed punishments propounded by Muslim jurists. Take note these run counter to the fundamental teachings of the Quran.

Take note also that the divine order to our courts is to judge among people with justice. (See Quran, 4: 58) Surely God Who decrees upon Himself mercy (Quran, 6: 12) cannot enact such archaic and barbarous laws.

It is to be remembered that Muslim jurists of the four schools differ much in their views. We need not go into them. We should take note that these punishments are taken from the Torah. They creep into the so-called sunnah/hadith, or Prophetic traditions, i.e. traditions ascribed to Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad’s name is so great among Muslims that anything said to originate from him is sacrosanct.

We should also note that the Quran has two dimensions, the historically bound, and the universal. The historically bound will be surpassed when the historical context no longer prevails. They will pass over into the universal. The two universal principles are: equal punishment, and merciful punishment. The first means punishment equaling the crime, and the second means lightening the punishment, up to and including pardon. We can see that the two universal principles have been imbibed into all modern civilized societies.

The final and unchallengeable proof that there is no such thing as the hudud fixed punishments is that they are nowhere mentioned in the Medina Charter promulgated by Prophet Muhammad himself when he migrated to Medina.

Take note that Brunei has already declared that it would practise hudud punishments. However, it did not reveal that Brunei royalty is exempt from them.

It is good to hold firmly to our religion, but do not dispense with our reason when doing so. Fanaticism is out of the question. God has forbidden belief to those who not use their reason. (See Quran, 10: 100) We should be able to confront the opponents’ arguments with better arguments. Otherwise, we should make adjustments to our religious beliefs. That is the only reasonable thing to do. Only then can we arrive at the truth. Truly the truth is God. Only then can we be at ease with our inner selves and enter into God’s kingdom. That is Paradise, the ultimate and supreme happiness.

KASSIM AHMAD is a freelance Malaysian writer.