Our society needs to prioritise issues and our main concern should be to create a society that is inclusive, balanced and just, says Syerleena Abdul Rashid.
Never has a single word created more discord and triggered bouts of fear among Malaysians. The mere mention of the word hudud is enough to generate debate, accusations and raise questions more than answers.
According to the Book Pertaining to Punishments Prescribed by Islam (Kitab Al-Hudud): “The penal laws of Islam are called Hudud in the Hadith and Fiqh. This word is the plural of Hadd… Punishments by way of Hadd are of the following forms: death by stoning, amputation of a limb or limbs, flogging by one hundred or eighty strokes. They are prescribed respectively for the following offences: adultery committed by married persons, theft, highway robbery, drunkenness and slander imputing ‘unchastity’ to women”.
There has been a lot of debate on how hudud is only intended for Muslims, and non-Muslims will not be susceptible or fall under the jurisdiction of Sharia.
I’ve spoken to a few people who half-jokingly refer to hudud as “that-hand-chopping-thingy”, but let’s face it, most of us are still very clueless. Malaysians do not really understand what hudud is and the level of misinformation that is allowed to perpetuate our society is unhealthy.
Most of us are still rather uninformed and unaware of the fine details that come with hudud; we want to know what it is about and how exactly those in power intend to implement such a law? What will the repercussions be for Malaysians when such laws are +regrettably extended to non-Muslims?
But how can we raise this issue without letting emotions run high? Malaysians have a unique way of deflecting issues that they feel will be too touchy or difficult to answer. When faced with such a situation, we tend to get very aggressive and defensive over our beliefs – cutting out any chance of discourse on the grounds that raising such issues in the first place is seen as grave insolence.
Usually, such reluctance, hesitation or digression are reserved solely for topics such as religion, race and these days, royalty.
Hudud isn’t just about religion nor is it just solely a Muslim-Malay issue as such debates encompass other issues such as justice, enforcement of the criminal law, corruption and gender equality – all of which are of equal concern to all Malaysians irrespective of race, religion or gender.
The fear that lingers in some of our minds isn’t unreasonable. Our society has witnessed a string of controversies concerning mixed marriages, child custody battles between parents of different religions and of course, the “Allah” controversy (which has now extended to the usage of Bahasa Malaysia in general).
These issues do very little to comfort Malaysians especially non-Muslims, who fear that their rights will be trampled upon.
Hudud is definitely not a new issue in this country. The enactment of the Shariah Criminal Code in 1993 saw many conservative factions jump at the chance to implement hudud – or at least they tried and some are still trying.
Implementing hudud will be a colossal feat as it will require amending the federal constitution and, as far as Pakatan Rakyat is concerned, all parties (DAP, PKR and Pas) will have to mutually agree on it before granting any sort of green light.
Our federal constitution has enshrined fundamental rights such as “life and personal liberty” in Article 5(1), the right to “equal protection of the law” under Article 8 (1) and the “right not to be discriminated” against because of religion or gender under Article 8(2).
Our laws are robust and solid enough to be embodied and practised by every Malaysian regardless of religion.
Creating another set of laws that only affect one section of Malaysian society will potentially weaken the constitutional conditions of our great nation. Separate laws and a separate system will only divide our nation: one for those affected by hudud and another for non-Muslims who will be subjected to the common law.
Malaysia is a unique nation. Of course, we have our squabbles and arguments but at the heart of it all, we live in a multi-ethnic, multireligious society and are okay with one another. Our focus shouldn’t be about whether such laws should be implemented – we have the federal constitution that already upholds what our country should believe in and practise.
Our country is riddled with other serious issues that need immediate attention – issues such as corruption, above all. Before we can talk about creating a parallel system, shouldn’t our priority be eradicating this rot that has seemingly tainted every institution in this country?
And what about education, the environment and health care – these are only some of the many important issues that will affect every single Malaysian (regardless of religion) out there.
My point is this: our society needs to prioritise issues and our main concern is to create a society that is inclusive, balanced and just. Of course, there will be some Malaysians out there who will be quick to judge my thoughts and question the level of my religious beliefs – but I am a Malaysian first, a Malaysian second and that’s all that matters.