Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Farouk
narrative on the relationship between Islam and freedom in the West will
undoubtedly focus on how draconian and inhumane Islamic laws are.
said to be incompatible with human rights and democracy, and the benchmark used
to make this assessment is almost always Eurocentric.
Malaysian and Indonesian context, for example, uneasy co-existence between Sharia
and the civil courts has solicited much criticisms not only from the West but
by human rights organisations as well.
A case in
point is the punishment meted out to Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a part-time
model, by the Sharia court in Pahang.
2009, Kartika was sentenced to six strokes of the rattan cane and fined RM5,000
for drinking in public.
protests from the public, the sentence was reduced to three months of community
service. In the Malaysian legal system, caning may be meted out as a punishment
for particular breaches of Sharia law, including adultery, the use of
intoxicants (such as alcohol) and apostasy.
three states — Pahang, Perlis and Kelantan — have implemented such punishments.
Arabic, Hadd, which may be defined as a limit or prohibition, is a punishment
fixed in the Quran or Hadith for crimes considered to be against the rights of
God) laws were first formulated in Kelantan (1993) and Terengganu (2002), where
the Islamic party, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia , formed the state governments.
pattern can be observed in Indonesia where local governments have created a
range of Sharia-inspired by-laws, most of which are directed at matters of
province of Aceh, where the right to implement Sharia law was part of a broader
autonomy package intended to put an end to a decades-long civil war, an Islamic
criminal code has been implemented since early 2000.
Western perspective, these developments can be interpreted as a sign of the
increasing strength and appeal of political Islam, in combination with the
influence of transnational organisations and networks, or explained as a result
of the growing anxiety about religious identities.
also indicate changing interpretations of the “proper” relation between state
and citizen. The implementation of Sharia-based laws in Malaysia and Indonesia
amounts to conceptualisation of the positions of the individual citizen
vis-à-vis the state and other citizens.
liberal secular perspective, they amount to a massive infringement of personal
freedom, an attack on women’s rights, an unwarranted foray of state
institutions into religious matters, and an intrusion of the state into the
forbidding women from going out after dark, punishing homosexuals and
penalizing extramarital sex to banning alcohol and prescribing modest dressing,
they do not just impose physical punishments for moral transgressions but also
aim to regulate several aspects of people’s private lives. As such, they
institute a form of differentiated citizenship, imposing different behavioural
standards on Muslims.
Islamisation in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei is seen by the West as
something retrogressive and as going against Western ideas on the rights and
duties of individuals’ vis-à-vis their communities.
discourse that gives a high priority to Western ideals will naturally always
privilege Christian and Western beauty, knowledge, traditions, spiritualties
and cosmologies while deeming as inferior and subaltern the non-Christian and
non-Western beauty, knowledge, traditions, spiritualties and cosmologies.
subjects rendered inferior and subaltern by these hegemonic discourses will
develop their own “identity politics” as a reaction to racism by the former.
dominant discourse at the global stage also paints the image that European
tradition is the only one that is naturally and inherently democratic, whereas
the non-European “others” are presumed to be naturally and inherently
authoritarian, denying democratic discourses and forms of institutional
democracy to the non-Western world (which is, of course, distinct from Western
liberal democracy), and as a result, supporting the political authoritarian
racism of the former.
process is necessary as part of a process of self-valorisation in a racist
world that renders “the other” inferior and disqualifies their humanity.
We will fall
into this vicious trap should we accept the Eurocentric fundamentalist false
premise that the only democratic tradition is the Western one.
reproduces an inverted form of Eurocentric essentialism.
As with Sharia
law, the Hudud in particular, the so-called “cruel and unusual” punishments
that are often tied to it should be seen in a broader context of a just and
credible legal system that places a stringent requirement on witnesses and the
another way, the continued inferiorisation of Sharia law is nothing but a case
of epistemic racism whereby the thinking and practices of the non-West are
considered unworthy of emulation.
racism allows the West to unilaterally decide what is best for Muslim people
today and obstruct any possibility of serious inter-cultural dialogue.
as a form of racism against Muslim people is not only manifested in the labour
market, education, public sphere, global war against terrorism, or the global
economy, but also in the epistemological battleground about the definition of
the priorities of the world today.
Source: New Straits Times