In a multi-racial and multi-religious country like Malaysia, hudud will impact the non-Muslims as well, whatever the assurances given so far.
IF we were to listen to Umno leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri and various PAS leaders, they would want us to believe that the hudud laws in Kelantan, if implemented, would not affect non-Muslims in Malaysia. So we should not be worried.
Correction – judging from Ismail’s tone, it was more of a warning to non-Muslims not to “interfere” in the issue. And this is the same person, who also happens to be a Minister, who has achieved notoriety for his controversial rantings recently.
We should be aware that there are some non-Muslim hardcore supporters of Pakatan Rakyat, because of their fanatical anger against the Barisan Nasional, who would also agree with the claim that it does not affect non-Muslims.
Despite such persistent claims that hudud does not affect the non-Muslims, we have to acknowledge the reality that in a multi-racial and multi-religious country like ours, there is absolutely no way that we can separate the Muslims and non-Muslims. Our daily interactions will be mainly for the good, but when crime covered by hudud is committed, there will invariably be cases when both parties are involved.
Which is why the questions will persist over what happens in such situations. In a rape case, for example, it remains unclear how it would be resolved if the victim is a non-Muslim and the perpetrator(s) are Muslims.
How does one get the four reputable Muslim witnesses to prove that the offence has been committed? What if only non-Muslims were witnesses to this horrible crime? How can they testify in a religious court, and how much weight will their evidence be given? And what if there are absolutely no witnesses involved, when it is just the word of the victim against the perpetrator?
These are questions that need to be answered properly, even by people like Ismail. Or should we just shut up and not interfere?
Just take a look at Section 41 of Kelantan’s Syariah Criminal Code (II) Enactment 1993 which states that it only permits direct evidence by just adult male Muslims. A “just” male Muslim is defined as a person who does whatever is required of him by Islam, avoids committing great sins, does not continuously commit lesser sins and also has a sense of honour.
Section 40(1) clearly states that there must be two or more witnesses for every hudud offence listed in the Code, except for adultery and sodomy, where the number of witnesses shall not be less than two.
Again, not only do you need two witnesses, but they must be “just, adult male Muslims.” These particular sections have already been widely discussed by many legal commentators, and even law students.
It should also be noted that while the current issue is with regard amendments being made to the original Enactment, and PAS’ plan to ensure its implementation by moving the Private Member’s Bill in Parliament, the issues have remained unresolved since 1993.
Back in 1993, we all probably saw it as a state issue which will probably not get a federal mandate to allow for its implementation. But now with a stronger PAS at the national level, and the realisation that the Islamist party could also get the support of other Muslim MPs, it is a different scenario altogether.
The problem is that our politicians are so eager to rush through these laws for their own political agenda that they are not interested in explaining to us how hudud would be carried out.
While they claim to pursue this cause in the name of God and Islam, we can’t help but suspect that politics is at play here with powerful religious arguments used to shut down critics and of course, non-Muslims. This is what non-Muslims fear most – that we cannot comment nor criticise anything that affects us because we are not Muslims.
Non-Muslims, if we were to listen to PAS and the likes of Ismail, should just stop debating or even talk about hudud laws.
But from a political perspective, non-Muslims are also responsible for the situation we are in today. The reality is that the DAP campaigned strongly for PAS in the 2013 general election. A huge number of non-Muslims, especially among the Chinese, voted for PAS even if the Islamist party never wavered from its stand that it wanted to set up an Islamic state.
There was only one DAP leader who consistently objected to it – the late Karpal Singh. The other DAP leaders simply glossed over this fundamental issue and pretended that it would never come to pass. And they were successful in convincing the Chinese voters to throw their support behind the PAS candidates and put more of them into Parliament and the various state assemblies.
It also has to be mentioned that the voting trend of the last two general elections was also due to the fact that most Malaysians want a good government. With so many allegations of corruption and abuse of power, it was felt that voting for the opposition would facilitate the creation of a two-party system which would help to keep all the politicians in check.
The so-called liberal stand by some PAS leaders during the election season also helped, but what we see in PAS today is that the conservative ulama leaders, who are also politicians, are wrestling to gain control of the party. Hudud is used to show that they are the real leaders – and this has to be carried out before the party elections.
In Umno, there are some party leaders who have given up on non-Muslim (principally also non-Malay) voters after the last elections. They feel let down and angry that these voters would rather vote for PAS than Umno, despite knowing what PAS stood for.
Against this political backdrop, some Umno grassroots members are saying they would rather gain the support of the Muslims, particularly Malays, even if that means, rightly or wrongly, playing the racial and religious cards. Their argument is that if some Chinese voters can work with and support PAS, why can’t Umno members do the same on an issue that affects them as Muslims and Malays.
Unfortunately, this has given rise to the impression that Umno and PAS are thinking alike but let us not forget that the Barisan Nasional, of which Umno is the dominant partner, is still a multi-racial coalition. Malaysia isn’t just about the Malay heartland in the peninsula but also Sabah and Sarawak, with its huge base of non-Muslim voters. These are the voters who have been loyal to Barisan and are crucial for the ruling coalition to remain in power.
One can understand their concerns when religion, as perceived in the peninsula, becomes the focus. They are watching closely how Umno would handle this issue, bearing in mind how the centre handled the few contentious cases relating to religion in these two states.
And we have to salute the Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem for his open-mindedness, especially his stand that he will never compromise on issues that could disrupt the racial and religious harmony of the people.
On the hudud, it has been reported that he has conveyed the party’s stand direct to the Barisan chairman.
If we need more convincing relating to how hudud affects non-Muslims, just look at some clauses in the recently passed Bill, now officially known as the Syariah Criminal Code II 1993 (Amendment 2015).
The PAS Kelantan government has reportedly retained three clauses that could subject non-Muslims to the Islamic penal law despite its assurance otherwise.
The media has reported that the Bill retained Clause 56, 57 and 58 under the “General” supplementary that provides for hudud and ta’zir (discretionary) punishments for anyone who conspires, plots, abets or assists in the act of a crime.
Clause 58 also provides that those found to have assisted in a sariqah (theft) offence would also be subject to the hudud punishment of amputation, it said.
Clause 56 states that “if the act of crime is perpetrated by a result of or caused by abetment, assistance, plotting or malicious planning, everyone involved in the planning, plotting, assisting or partaking in the malicious plan to perpetuate an act of crime shall be punished by imprisonment under ta’zir of not more than 10 years.”
It was further reported that Clause 57 states that “shall an act of crime be perpetrated by a group of individuals in order to realise a malicious plan, then every one of those individuals involved shall be deemed as guilty as the main perpetrator and shall be punished with imprisonment under ta’zir of not more than 10 years.”
According to some reports, section 46(1) states that circumstantial evidence will not be accepted in hudud offences, except for zina (adultery) and syurb (intoxication), leaving only oral evidence to be admissible.
No doubt the lawyers mounting the challenge to this law will be perusing every detail of the Enactment but for the ordinary people, they have very simple questions that need to be answered.
Certainly we want to know who will actually be enforcing such a law – the religious police or our police. And we have already seen how, even without hudud, the religious authorities conduct themselves in situations when both Muslims and non-Muslims are involved, like in the Borders case.
How will the syariah courts carry out the hearings and what is the view of the Attorney-General? Being the principal legal adviser in this country, he has to be concerned for the rights of all Malaysians. We would certainly like to hear his views and what kind of advice he will give to the federal government should this process go one step further and land in Parliament.
Let’s get the picture right – the hudud laws do affect the non-Muslims, so let’s not kid ourselves into believing otherwise.
I believe and trust in God but I will surely not trust politicians masquerading as theologians and using God’s name.