Our present laws are good enough to protect and serve Malaysians of all races and religions; we just need to find a way to prevent people from abusing the system, says Syerleena Abdul Rashid.
Raising concerns or seeking intellectual debates surrounding hudud is a tricky business. In a country that seemingly boasts about its wonderful multiculturalism, it is only natural for non-Muslims and, to a certain extent, moderate Muslims of this country to reject the idea through and through.
The line that separates Malaysia as a secular state from an Islamic state has been blurred by mischievous, plotting politicians. The truth is enshrined in our Federal Constitution, and as Malaysians, we need to focus on that, above all.
We often joke about our politicians reigniting the hudud dread whenever elections are near. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that talk of hudud and other aspects of Islamisation is only done to gain Malay voters or rather, voters from the extreme hard right. The Barisan Nasional is aware that it only needs to entice these voters (who make up a very small percentage) to ensure that they will remain in federal power for the next several terms.
But there seems to be an obvious power struggle of sorts within the Malaysian Muslim communities through the politics of Umno and Pas. The power struggle comes in the form of portraying which political party can champion the rights of Muslims better. Now, this is of concern to Malaysians as the sincerity of implementing these laws in the first place has been lost over the years.
With the ever declining quality of education in Malaysia, stoking anger among these sects seems to be easy. Many of us often find ourselves wondering what has happened to our society. Most of us are too familiar with the concept of rote learning which does not encourage students to think critically or rely on foresight during important decision-making processes. We are told to follow authoritative figures blindly.
This is especially true where religious education is concerned. Religion has been used as a tool to silence any form of passive and active dissent with threats of burning for all eternity when one dares to question religion. The public’s fear is affirmed when local media highlight the inane remarks made from several of these extremist groups while the government diligently chooses to keep mum on matters of faith and religion.
Malaysian society was much freer 57 years ago than today.
As a Muslim, I am duty bound to accept Sharia laws. But in an ever increasingly globalised world, civic laws have been implemented to serve the average human being, and so far, they seem to be doing a pretty good job. Developed nations are developed due to many reasons; basic needs (e.g. education, health care, gender equality and religious freedom) are met; basic rights (human rights, women’s’ rights, etc) are upheld; and their societies embrace a deeper understanding of humankind and kinship.
It is easy to find a scapegoat for the problems any present day society is faced with. And for that reason, presenting hudud as a form of reform may be more easily embraced by several Muslim communities.
But it is our responsibility to thoroughly research the pros and cons of such laws, especially when our country desperately needs a stronger system that can weed out corrupt elements effectively. So far, those championing hudud have not yet pointed out to Malaysians a nation that has successfully implemented hudud with a positive human rights record.
Of course, they assure us that this will only affect the Muslim community and the non-Muslims need not worry. Recently, a Muslim father abducted his son in a custody battle gone amiss, even though the non-Muslim mother was granted full custody. The father proclaimed his right to do so in the name of religion and this left the enforcement more confused than ever. How can a country expect to be fair when we have two separate laws to govern different religions?
My Malaysian brothers and sisters, believe what you will, but hudud will affect everyone – directly and indirectly!
As a Muslim woman, I can’t stress enough how hudud laws are biased against women and how implementing these laws would be a massive slap in the face of women’s rights. According to hudud, if a woman (or man) is raped, she will need to produce four male witnesses or eight female witnesses.
One male witness is similar to two female witnesses and that is nothing more than old fashion sexism. For example, if a woman was abducted for this purpose and taken to an isolated place, coming up with witnesses would be an impossible task; so how can we guarantee that these laws will not be manipulated by those with vested interests? That itself is a mockery in modern society, and as a woman, I will not allow my Muslim sisters (or anyone) to be discriminated against this way.
As a Muslim, I am also aware of the backlash I will be subjected to by overzealous bigots that comprehend words too literally and lack the intellectual depth needed to understand just how complex modern society is.
My point is this: Malaysians are too well aware of how our system can be manipulated and misused to benefit the political elite, the well connected and the cronies. Average Malaysians like you and me are forced to accept whatever fate comes our way.
So why not focus on reviving the judiciary that has been systematically destroyed over the years by unscrupulous politicians? Why not clean up the system and get rid of corruption as that is the root of so much evil in our country? Why not teach our children the importance of respect, tolerance and other important human values instead of teaching them blind obedience, fear and hatred?
Our laws are good enough to protect and serve Malaysians of all races and religions; we just need to find a way to prevent people from abusing the system.