August 2, 2015
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Malaysia: More on Najib Razak’s Cabinet–Hududism on the Way
A Cabinet reshuffle is not about dropping ministers who have underperformed or are unpopular with the public, at least not in Malaysia.
If that were true, then we would not still be seeing former Deputy Finance Minister Ahmad Maslan around after the massive kerfuffle with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.
Instead he is now the Deputy International Trade and industry minister, with perhaps a role in the handling of the hot potato that is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
And we would not still see Ismail Sabri Yaakob, not after his call to boycott Chinese traders in February. And then, you have Jamil Khir Baharom, whose tenure as a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Islamic affairs has been nothing but horrendous with regards to the rights and civil liberties of not only non-Muslims, but some in the Muslim community themselves.
The past few years have seen the divide between Muslims and others grow even wider as Islamic authorities gain the upper hand in determining the country’s policies and undermining the Federal Constitution.
Under Jamil, Islamic authorities — either federal or state — have only grown bolder in encroaching more into Malaysian lives with impunity and without rebuke.
State religious authorities have several times, in court and usually in judicial reviews, insisted that the Shariah court has jurisdiction over civil courts, and Shariah laws should not be subjected to the provisions in the Constitution.
Jamil himself has even alleged a “new wave” of assault on Islam here, accusing human rights activists of colluding with enemies of Islam to put its religious institutions on trial in a secular court.
Instead, Jamil now has a Deputy minister in the form of Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, the UMNO senator more popularly known as the head of Muslim missionary group Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (YADIM).
Judging from his track record, Asyraf is a perfect fit for Jamil, and we can expect more of the same from our Islamic authorities.
In 2013, Asyraf was among the speakers of the Symposium on Facing Foreign Agenda with the theme “Malay Leadership Crisis”, jointly organised by Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia and its student wing Pembina, where he urged Muslims to always prioritise their own rights over the non-Muslims.
More recently, his antics as a senator included suggesting in Dewan Negara that 24-hour eateries could be the cause of “social problems”, claiming no such outlets are available in developed countries.
But most of all, the Tumpat-born Asyraf is a vocal proponent of implementing the controversial Islamic penal code of hudud across the country, and he seems to have a clearer vision of it than Jamil.
Last year, YADIM organised a conference compiling working papers on implementing hudud from Muslim academics nationwide. The compilation was edited into a book by Asyraf and it was launched earlier this year.
Among those who submitted papers were former Chief Justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad, and Perlis mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin. But there were also PAS Ulama wing chief Dr Mahfodz Mohamed, Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali who was then the wing’s information chief, and Kelantan exco member Dr Mohamed Fadzli Hassan, also from PAS.
The conclusion from the papers had been that it is not impossible for hudud to be implemented in the country, but it takes a bipartisan effort that puts Islam above all other considerations.
When met after the book launch, Khairuddin had coyly said this consensus on hudud is not a collaboration between UMNO and PAS, but rather a government-to-government deal between Putrajaya and Kelantan.
It has since been a tug-of-war between the two political parties. Ever since Kelantan passed an amendment to its Shariah Criminal Enactment to pave way for hudud, PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang has been trying to table private members’ Bills to clear any legal obstacles.
Even though Jamil had said that Putrajaya and UMNO have no qualms implementing hudud, he has stopped short of suggesting anything concrete. Hadi’s Bills have so far been put on the backburner in two previous Parliament sittings.
It has been suggested that the failure of PAS to push for hudud has been its recent haste in doing so, ignoring the blueprint allegedly drawn by Putrajaya to implement hudud in the country.
The paper, said to be prepared by a Shariah-Civil Technical Committee under JAKIM, the federal Islamic authority under Jamil, had concluded that the Constitution does not bar the incorporation of hudud into the Penal Code and its subsequent application to all Malaysians, not just Muslims.
It also stated it was vital for all local laws to be harmonised with Islamic principles.
Of course, the blueprint went out of the window after it was leaked to the public, and PAS meanwhile went ahead with its hudud plan in Kelantan to advance its credibility with its supporters prior to its annual congress and internal polls.
The move had arguably forced DAP’s hand which led to Pakatan Rakyat’s death, and also PAS’ progressive leaders in Harapan Baru which are now finalising plans for a new Islamic party.
With DAP and its progressive leaders out of the picture, and PAS going it mostly alone, its hudud goals might get a new life.And now PAS, and its clergy faction which took over the party, has one more ally in a high place: the now Deputy Minister Asyraf.
With UMNO grasping for support amid its fractious power struggle, will we see this alliance lead to a rekindling of the PAS-UMNO “friendship”?
“What is the most important is to ensure the agenda involving hudud can be realised, God willing,” Asyraf said in a status update on his official Facebook page on Wednesday following his appointment. With his newfound power, Asyraf now has carte blanche to realise this hudud ambition.