Muslim religious freedom

The excessive pre-emptive action in trying to stop the private members’ bills on hudud from going for its first reading in Parliament shows how intolerant some people are towards Islam, says Hishamuddin Yahaya.

Graphic: kelatekito.net

Graphic: kelatekito.net

The Star (30 April 2014) carried a caption which read: “We will oppose Islamic laws – no matter who or which party is pushing for it.” And again: “We are firmly against hudud. Plan goes against the grain of Federal Constitution.”

Plain rejection of the Islamic law is much more appreciated than a veiled rejection by the Muslims themselves. In the former, it is ignorance, which is forgivable, but in the latter it is ignorance coupled with stupidity – which is not forgivable.

A veiled rejection went something like this: “We are not rejecting hudud, but we have to study its technicalities and implementation first.” The same thing was said some 30 years ago.

Politically, accepting Islamic laws means losing a big chunk of the Chinese votes; suicidal for the next GE. For the MCA or others opposing: it is akin to the fear of ghosts; they may not have seen ghosts but they have heard of them,
and the ghosts remain in their minds forever, until they themselves become ghosts.

Now they have the audacity to quote Article II (i) of the Federal Constitution, which says: “Every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and subject to Clause 4 to propagate it.” An Article so clear and unambiguous; yet they fail to see the wood for the trees. This Article emphatically emphasises a person’s religious rights.

Islamic laws are religious laws and a Muslim has the right to practise them. Denying Islamic laws means denying a Muslim the right to practise his or her religion. It goes against the grain of the Federal Constitution. So far the Muslims have been able to contain their emotions.

There is no question of a dual legal system as the Syariah Courts are in existence
Implementation of hudud means just adding to the Court’s criminal jurisdiction the power to hear criminal cases involving Muslims.

What should be made clear to those who oppose is that Islamic law is not applicable to non-Muslims. There is no compulsion in religion. For example, if a Muslim and a non-Muslim are charged with adultery, the Muslim will be charged under the Sharia law and the non-Muslim partner cannot be charged under the Sharia law.

A certain moron articulated that it is no justice at all because one may be punished severely and the other goes scot-free.

Who is he in the first place to question God’s law? Is he measuring God knowledge with his own little brain that God has given him?

Divine law is not to be rationalised with human logic. A Muslim must respond to God’s command with “I hear and I obey” because God knows his creation best. The knowledge that we have, no matter how intelligent we are, compared to God knowledge is like a drop in a mighty ocean. No one should challenge God’s law like how the ancient Pharaoh of Egypt and Nimrod the King of Babylon tried to.

The other aspect of Islamic laws is the stringent burden of proof to prove a person guilty. It is not just “beyond reasonable doubt” as we know it, but its even more than that. The number and quality of witnesses are all important. An Islamic judge always observes the aphorism that it is better to make a mistake in not convicting a guilty person rather than to make mistake in convicting an innocent person. It is therefore very difficult to prove guilt and in most cases, guilt was proven by voluntary confession.

The essence of hudud is deterrence. Public flogging for instance will deter others from committing crimes. The shame and the humiliation itself is enough to stop a potential criminal from carrying out the intended crime. What more if the punishment is amputation of the hand or stoning to death.

It will be, to the observers and the people who hear them, a lesson for life and a deterrent for life. That is what hudud is intended for. It is enforced so that others can live in peace.

To those who oppose Islamic laws, its means one thing: you are preventing Muslims from practising their religion. This is contrary to Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution, which is so much quoted and talked about these days. If these people who talk about this Article fail to see the wood for the trees, then I say they have themselves to blame.

We have enough problem about using the word “Allah” and now another issue is brewing. Now where is the religious tolerance?. By the same token, will any non-Muslim tolerate anything done to curb their religious freedom? They have the answers.

We can agree that hudud is not central to Islam as articulated by some Islamice thinkers. But the question here is why exclude hudud as against other sharia laws. Are these people belonging to the group that accept some and reject some of the Qur’an? Isn’t Islam a religion that covers the entire gamut of life?

The excessive pre-emptive action in trying to stop the private members’ bills from going for its first reading (tabling of the bills in the Dewan Rakyat) goes to show how intolerant some people are towards Islam and the practise of the religion.

Unconsciously, they themselves are violating Article II (i) of the Federal Constitution – the very law they seek to protect and uphold. What’s even more puerile is, they are unnecessarily interfering with something which does not affect their lives. Don’t they deserve a counter protest by the Muslims?

Even if the private members’ bills are successful introduced and proceed to a second reading, any member of the Dewan Rakyat has the opportunity to debate it. The House can then take a division and decide whether to adopt or reject the bills. That is what parliamentary democracy is all about. So just give democracy a chance.

Hishamuddin Yahaya

Dato Hishamuddin bin Haji Yahaya, a practising lawyer and former MP for Maran, is a long-time contributor to Aliran.

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5 Responses

  1. Anak Kampung says:

    This argument would go down a lot better if all Muslims actually chose to be Muslims in the first place. That should be established first (freedom of choice in religion) before we talk about which laws should apply to whom. As things stand, hudud risks being applied to many people who never chose of their own free will to be Muslim, including some who were forced to convert (in order to marry a ‘Muslim’ for example), tricked into converting etc.

    Let’s start with the basics of freedom of religion: freedom of choice of religion. Then only can we discuss details like whether it is possible for hudud to apply only to Muslims, whether the State should be involved in its implementation, whether hudud is central to Islam, whose interpretation is binding on whom and so on.

  2. Who speaks for God? Hishamuddin?

  3. charleskiwi says:

    MCA in particular are very much against the hudud laws being introduced in Malaysia because the past and the present leaders are afraid of being stoned to death or going around without limbs. These leaders will no doubt, be the first to be affected, hence they will go all out to object to the introduction of hudud in Malaysia.

  4. Azmil Tayeb says:

    Same old tired discredited arguments from the same old tired discredited Islamist purporting to do God’s work on earth. The reason why the debate has never really moved on in thirty years (according to you) is because people like you who are still stuck in the holier-than-thou, patronizing box, too proud to meet the other side even part of the way. Calling people who oppose to your views morons doesn’t help your cause either. Please break out of your besieged mentality that Islam is constantly being victimized as it is clouding your judgment. If you want an example of where justice is upheld and the criminal law system serves as a deterrent, look to to countries where hudud is NOT practiced: prisons in Sweden – yes, a model Islamic country! – are in danger of being vacated because there are simply not enough prisoners! So don’t talk about justice when there are different standards for different people; when the poor bear the most brunt while the rich simply pay their out of it. It’s justice for all or justice for none.

  5. Ed G says:

    The objections raised by the non-muslims against the Hudud law are not about muslims religious freedom but more toward their concerns over the spill-over effects onto them, especially in cases with both Muslims and non-Muslims as interested parties. Scores of cases involving conversions of siblings and custodial of siblings (or bodies) provide sufficient evidence to justify the concerns. And of course, there are also the ‘kalimah Allah’ and the seizure of bibles that many believe to be an affront to the their constitutional right towards the freedom of religious practice. The reluctance of certain parties especially the top national leadership to deliberate on the cases in order to address the complications further aggravates these concerns. Against this ongoing mess, it will be very hard to convince the non-muslims that the Hudud law is just a matter of freedom of religion on the part of the muslims.

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