So is Islam Hadari to be enforced by whipping now?

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Some participants at a seminar organised by an insitution created under the auspices of the Umno-led government want non-Muslims found committing khalwat (close proximity) with
Muslims to also be held liable. They also want
heftier
penalties for
Muslims caught for khalwat, prostitution, consuming alcohol
and involvement in gambling activities.

An angry Farish Noor says this is further proof that the so-called ‘moderate and progressive’
brand of Islam that was sold to us as ‘Islam Hadari’ was little
more than another Umno propaganda device; serving to placate the
concerns of the international community while in fact serving only to
extend the power and hegemony of the state at home. 

I
am having a tough time writing this particular article as I am
absolutely consumed by anger at the moment. In fact, I am livid as I
have never been for such a long time.

The
reason for this sudden rise in my blood pressure level is that after
a two-day seminar organised by the Institute for Islamic
Understanding (Ikim) and the Shariah Judiciary Department of
Malaysia, it was suggested by some of those who took part that
“non-Muslims found committing khalwat (close proximity) with
Muslims (will) also be held liable” and that they too will be under
threat of punishment (The Star, ‘Proposal to Persecute
Non-Muslims for Khalwat’, 3 April 2008) According to the
report, “Syariah Court of Appeal Judge Datuk Mohd Asri Abdullah
said the seminar had proposed that non-Muslims committing khalwat
with Muslims should also be sentenced accordingly, but in the civil
courts.”

 

Furthermore
the participants of the seminar also proposed “to impose heftier
penalties – of up to four times the current penalties – on
Muslims caught for khalwat, prostitution, consuming alcohol
and involvement in gambling activities”.

 

Furthermore
the participants of the seminar also proposed “to impose heftier
penalties – of up to four times the current penalties – on 
for Islamic
Understanding (Ikim) and the Shariah Judiciary Department of
Malaysia, it was suggested by some of those who took part that
“non-Muslims found committing khalwat (close proximity) with
Muslims (will) also be held liable” and that they too will be under
threat of punishment (The Star, ‘Proposal to Persecute
Non-Muslims for Khalwat’, 3 April 2008)
”.

And
what might these heftier penalties be? According to the same report,
“Ikim and the department were proposing that the Syariah Courts
(Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Amendment) 1984 be amended to
impose stiffer penalties of RM1,000 fine or five years’ jail or 12
strokes of the rotan for Syariah Lower Courts and RM20,000 fine or
10years’ jail or 24 strokes of rotan for Syariah High Courts.” It
then added that “there was also a proposal for Syariah judges to
enforce whipping for these offences” and that “another proposal
calls for the establishment of a rehabilitation centre for those
convicted of offences related to morals and faith such as
prostitution and effeminate men, and enforcement of Section 54 of the
Syariah Criminal Offences Act (Act 559) to set up such centres”.

So
this, apparently, is what the great minds of Ikim and the religious
departments have been cooking up and intending to serve to us, the
Malaysian public, all along. While Muslims are angry about the
portrayal of Islam and Muslims in the film ‘Fitna’ by the
right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders, one is left with the
question: As long as Muslim leaders and intellectuals remain stuck in
their morass of outdated conservative thinking, would it not remain
the case that Islam is seen as a religious of violence? How, pray
tell, can scholars like me defend the image of Islam and Muslims when
Muslim governments like ours allows such outlandish and dangerous
ideas to spread, and harbour such proponents of
conservative-fundamentalist Islam in the very same institutions that
were meant to open up the minds of Muslims and lead us – and
Malaysian society – to a more modern, progressive and liberated
understanding of Islam and religion in general?

The
fact that such proposals could have been made at all speaks volumes
about the state of Muslim thinking in Malaysia today. Worse still is
the total disconnect between reality and ideals, and the fact that
some of these Muslim thinkers fail to see just how unjust, inhuman
and dehumanising these proposed punishments are in the eyes of
millions of other Malaysians and foreigners alike. Whipping? In this
day and age? And what would happen to the image of Malaysia as the
so-called bastion of moderate Islam when the international media gets
a glimpse of this non-so-moderate Islam at work? Is Islam Hadari to
be enforced by the whip today?

The
results of the recent general elections have shown that the Malaysian
public has reached a level of political awareness and maturity that
is unprecedented in our history. It also points to an increasingly
urbanised, well-connected, better-informed and more
politically-conscious electorate that will not be satisfied with
empty slogans of a more ‘moderate’ Islam and theme parks with
crystal mosques. Why, even in the ranks of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic
Party (Pas), there are more and more progressive voices who are
calling for real economic and structural reform, and contemplating
the possibility of creating a new social contract based on a welfare
state model for all Malaysians.

But
it is in the ranks of Umno and the Umno-led institutions of the state
that we see the mental quagmire of the elite at its worst. Ikim and
the Shariah Judiciary Department are both institutions that were
created under the auspices of the Umno-led government. Yet the
so-called reforms we have been presented are not intended to open up
the minds of Muslims, but rather to add yet another layer of moral
policing on Muslim society today.

More
worrying is the fact that now the scope of Umno’s Islamisation
policy has extended to cover non-Muslims as well, and this can only
be read as yet another attempt to impose Islamic legal and political
hegemony on the non-Muslims of Malaysia . How and why should a
non-Muslim be taken to court for simply being in love with a Muslim?
And why, for that matter, should a Muslim be punished for simply
loving a non-Muslim? Furthermore the non-Muslim partner in such a
relationship may not even regard it as wrong to simply be in love
with another. Yet the advocates of this reform are suggesting that he
or she has committed a sin even if he or she has not done anything
wrong according to his or her belief system.

This
in turn points to the slow erosion of respect for diversity and
pluralism in Malaysia , where a group of Muslim communitarians do not
seem realise the fact that Islam is simply one of many belief-systems
in Malaysia and that the values of Islam may not be relevant to those
who are not part of that faith community. Yet by calling for these
legal reforms, these sectarian leaders seem to be implying that what
constitutes an offence for Muslims must also constitute an offence
for others too. How does this communitarian slant fit with the
universalist and pluralist claims of Islam Hadari then?

That
such a conference could have been held so close after Umno’s
disastrous showing at the recent elections would indicate that this
Umno-led government is totally bankrupt of ideas and can only shore
up what little support it has left by playing the Islamic card and
pandering to the gallery yet again. Moral policing of any kind is
just one further layer of policing on society, and this is
fundamentally part and parcel of the state’s attempt to remain in
power at all costs. The net result would be the further control of
Malaysian society as a whole and the costs will be borne by those
Malaysians who are Malaysian-minded enough to see beyond race and
religion, and to cross these cultural-religious frontiers by falling
in love with others. Instead it is those very Malaysian-minded
Malaysians who are under threat now, by laws and regulations that
make it virtually impossible for us to love one another and live with
one another.

Finally,
this is further proof that the so-called ‘moderate and progressive’
brand of Islam that was sold to us as ‘Islam Hadari’ was little
more than another Umno propaganda device; serving to placate the
concerns of the international community while in fact serving only to
extend the power and hegemony of the state at home. Should these
reform measures come to pass, it is our duty to remind ourselves, our
fellow Malaysians and the international community that what passes
under the label of Islam Hadari is really a conservative brand of
statist Islam that promotes imprisonment, detention, moral policing
and whipping. Let the cameras of the international media come to
Malaysia to film the spectacle of Malaysians being arrested, detained
in rehabilitation centres, whipped and injured for life by the
morality police and religious authorities. Let the whole world know
that ‘Islam Hadari’ has never opened up the minds of Muslims. Let
us expose this lie once and for all, and the liars behind the lie as
well.

Dr.
Farish A. Noor is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of
International Studies, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore;
and one of the founders of the www.othermalaysia.org research site.

READ MORE:  Now that Pas is in government, perhaps time to act governmental

 

 

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