A Malaysian Scholar of Islam provides an alternative perspective to the scare-mongering in the mainstream media about Pas and hudud laws.
The title of this informal, personal reflection echoes what is being heard in questions by non-Muslims in the run-up to the imminent 13th general election in Malaysia. This piece is not an academic exercise, it simply provides perspectives.
The title ‘the fear of Pas and hudud’ also echoes the full-page advertisements by the Barisan Nasional (BN) which have the formula: a Vote for Pas = vote for Hadi Awang as Prime Minister = Malaysia as an Islamic state = hudud law for all Malaysians. A scenario that is scary indeed for non-Muslim Malaysians.
The issue of Islam in the GE13 has evolved into the choice before voters between the moderate stance of the BN/Umno versus extremist Pas’ Islamic state and implementing Hudud.
But instead of fixating on Pas alone, we should look at BOTH BN/Umno and Pas and their Islam, right? It is only fair to look at the facts before us.
Perhaps the following points may be helpful.
MALAYSIA IS ALREADY AN ISLAMIC STATE UNDER THE BN
- In late 2000, then (and won’t leave office still) Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed declared Malaysia as an Islamic state at a Gerakan assembly. There was wide publicity about this, and the booklet Malaysia Adalah Sebuah Negara Islam, was distributed widely to Malay areas by the Ministry of Information. Most Malaysians remained blithely unaware of it until 2001 when Malaysiakini ran two articles on it written by a scholar of Islam.
- BN component parties held close-door meetings to ‘explain’ their acceptance of Malaysia as an Islamic state. SO, BN non-Muslim parties happily went along with turning Malaysia into an Islamic state, while many members of civil society especially non-Muslim religious groups protested. Not Bersih-style though, because in 2001 we still THOUGHT we were bersih people and government…
- Among other information, the booklet Malaysia Adalah Sebuah Negara Islam, states that common law will be made “Shari’a compliant”. So let’s get real, Islamic law is already gaining supremacy by the back door via Umno.
- Already, we non-Muslims are subjected to Shari’a in significant ways: in custody battles between Muslim and non-Muslim couples, and dissolution of marriages, the High Courts interpret the Constitution’s Article 121 (A) as giving primacy to the Shari’a courts and tell nonMuslims to go and get redress at the Shari’a courts. Meanwhile, the Shari’a courts do not recognise nor do they have authority over non-Muslims. So there are numerous cases unresolved – or which are resolved ONLY by the Shari’a courts that favour entirely the Muslim party. So we are caught in the middle of the hypocrisy of a BN government trying to pretend it is Islamic as well as secular. Remember Subashini et al? They’ve had to flee the country.
- Converts to Islam are not allowed to revert to their original religion in our BN-controlled nation. If they try, they are subject to ‘rehabilitation detention’, punishment for ‘Insulting Islam’ under Shari’a enactments, and most appeals are rejected. Yet, scholars of Islam around the world agree that the Qur’an mandates only punishment in the hereafter for Apostasy. Remember Lina Joy or Azalina Jelani? She had to flee the country.
- Since 2000, the Persatuan Ulama and many state Muftis have been quietly pressuring Jakim, the department for the development of Islam and which is located in the PM’s department (and has a huge budget allocation), about Islamising the nation. The National Fatwa Committee has grown in power and influence. The growing influence and power of Islam over All our lives has grown exponentially.
- There are restrictions in government departments (although the government is for all, voted in by ALL of us) about wearing suitably modest clothes. There are do’a recited at just about every government function. National schools do not provide for any religious education except Islam. Many or not most national schools start the day with a do’a, and there have been verified reports of non-Muslim students punished for eating during Ramadan or the fasting month for Muslims; or for bringing food from home ‘that may not be halal’ for their own consumption.
- We keep being told non-Malays in Kelantan are suffering, when the mainstream media run stories about various Pas forays into upholding morality. Yes, it is a bit silly having two separate lines in supermarkets for men and for women. (Just how much immorality can we get away with at a supermarket checkout? Not even worth trying…) But in 15 years of research in Kelantan and Terengganu, most non-Malays tell me they are content. Not wildly happy (that would take mushrooms) but not as angry as their west-coast relatives and friends. They tell me: little to no corruption. Can build temples, huge Buddha. They eat pork, sell beer in their bars and coffee shops. The main complaint: that Kelantan is poor BECAUSE THE BN GOVERNMENT CHEATS THEM OF THEIR PETROLEUM ROYALTIES
- Our BN prime ministers from Mahathir to Badawi and now Najib go around the world boasting about moderation and tolerance in multi-religious Malaysia. Najib grandly announced abroad the setting up of a coalition of moderates in Islam. The reality as we all know is quite different.
- Let’s take just one issue: the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims. The bible in Bahasa Malaysia is used by indigenous peoples in Sabah, Sarawak and in peninsular Malaysia, by the Baba community in Malacca, among others. The bible was translated into Malay in 1731 with the word “Allah” for God. In the Middle East until now, Christians pray in Arabic and use the term “Allah”. There have been no problems about this until recently. Christians who pray in other languages do not use “Allah”, they use their own term for “God”. The issue is limited to those who use Bahasa Malaysia as the only language they know besides their native dialects.
- A judgement by the High Court in 2011 stated that non-Muslims could use the word “Allah” in the BM bibles. The BN GOVERNMENT, voted in by ALL Malaysians including non-Muslims, is appealing against this judgement.
- In this GE 13, BN and PM Najib have repeatedly stated they “will be unwavering in maintaining that the word ‘Allah’ is holy to Muslims and only for Muslims” (Prime Minister Najib in an interview with Al-Jazeera, as well as a Bernama report of 25 April quoted in theSun). The internet features huge billboards with the BN (Note, BN not Umno) symbol, pictures of Churches, and the words in Malay “Do you want your children to pray to Allah in a Church?” and the slogan that BN will defend race, religion and nation.
Pas and hudud
- (Let’s remember, we are already an Islamic state under BN. So only fair to wonder if I should write, “BN and hudud” soon). Hudud is only ONE element of an Islamic state and the Shari’a. Yes, it’s about cutting off hands, stoning people to death etc. But the onus of PROOF is so great, that most times a hudud punishment cannot be carried out. For example, to confirm adultery, there have to be four male Muslim adults who actually saw the act of penetration (usually there aren’t enough sickos around to do this). And the punishment for false accusation (qazf) is ALSO in Hudud and this punishment is severe too.
- But all it takes right now for a charge of khalwat and punishment is just a man and woman who are unrelated and not married in a room with a closed door! Happens on a daily basis, and to some really top people, as Utusan will tell us gleefully when it is not raving about pendatangs etc. And we’re worried about hypothetical chopped off hands and feet littering the streets!
- Throughout the history of Islamic states, there are clear examples where hudud was NOT implemented because it was not possible. Non-Muslims will certainly use that to fight Pas on hudud.
- MOST of all, Pas alone as a party needs a two thirds majority in PARLIAMENT to change the Constitution to enable Hudud. Even BN’s Umno can never achieve this. How on earth is Pas going to? Pas’ own leaders have quietly acknowledged this.
- Besides, Pas is part of Pakatan, (and there no hudud or Islamic state in the Manifesto, right? So why is hudud suddenly an issue? Because the BN is using it to scare non-Muslims! Because non-Muslims are phobic about Islam. Pas hasn’t spoken about hudud in a loooong time.
- I would argue that Pas introduced hudud not only to conform to their vision of an Islamic state and to please their voter base; they introduced it also as their version of the ANTIDOTE TO CORRUPTION AND CRIME. Isn’t corruption and crime under BN’s so-called secular-government-cum-Islamic state rampant and completely out of control???? Perhaps some of us may want to consider hudud … just kidding.
- It is completely untrue to say that ALL MUSLIMS will feel they have to comply and vote for hudud because they are Muslims. I hear this in every MCA ceramah (or is food fest the better word?). Doesn’t anyone remember the outcry by Sisters in Islam, Marina Mahathir, Haris Ibrahim of the Civil Liberties Movement, Malik Imtiaz of Hakam etc etc over Pas’ hudud when the idea was first mooted??? So who says all Muslims will feel they must have it in order to be good Muslims, and so non-Muslims had better not vote for a Muslim party?
- Don’t forget Ibrahim Ali, Zulkifli Nordin et al in Umno. Aren’t they extremists who might happily introduce hudud if they could? At least in the Pas version of Islam, burning Bahasa Malaysia bibles is not an agenda, and demolishing MANY Hindu temples throughout the nation is not a FACT…
- Pas has non-Muslim members. Some are standing for election! Do people know this? And this non-Muslim component of Pas is likely to grow and become a force to be reckoned with about implementing laws unfair to non-Muslims.
- As part of Pas/PR manifesto: the end of racial discrimination, because racial discrimination (assabiyyah) is abhorred in Islam. BN flagrantly discriminates against non-Malays, so how is Pas going to be worse? Be clear though: there will be affirmative action under PR/Pas for ALL those in need and surely that must include many Malays who remain very poor, while an elite segment of Malays are super-rich.
I am not a Malay or a Muslim. I am not endorsing hudud as a way of life for any Malaysian. But neither do i want to live under the Islamic state we already have via BN.
I just want a multi-racial, multi-religious government that is just, transparent and honest, and which gives me the fundamental freedoms my Malaysian Constitution already guarantees me.
If Pas is willing to agree to that, and if it cannot implement hudud… What’s the “Pas and hudud” problem, people?
Malaysian Scholar of Islam