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Islam and Politics ( 20 May 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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An Open Letter on Hudud



By Dzulkefly Ahmad

May 20, 2014

When I penned “Forging a political contest beyond Hudud”, back in August, 2012 (The Edge), I knew it wasn’t going to be my last.

Sure enough, it is back and even more vociferously.

Everyone wanted the 13th general election to be about a contest of ideas, policies and performance.

With Hudud not on board PAS’s political agenda and Pakatan Rakyat’s election manifesto, it empowered PAS particularly, to focus its election machinery on an inclusive Islamic agenda affecting the rakyat.

The 52 per cent popular vote for Pakatan was an onerous feat notwithstanding the very-tilted-playing-field, a grossly unfair media and the “faulty” first-pass-the-post electoral system made worse with “gerrymandering”.

There is no denying the fact that PAS has certainly benefitted from the coalition politics of Pakatan Rakyat.

Suddenly, PAS seems to have dropped an “atomic bomb” of sorts. It has stolen the limelight from the unending search for the MH370 and the bitter debate on the GST.

The positive response from the Kelantan Menteri Besar, when challenged by the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department to table a private member’s bill on Hudud, is regarded by many as immensely negative and shocking.

Admittedly, the “Hudud Bill” has thrust the Malaysian populace and electorate to either being its proponents or detractors.

I am fully aware and respectful of the fact that both the proponents and detractors have equally compelling and persuasive argument.

This “open letter” addressed to all Malaysians, empathises with the anxiety and concern the Hudud Bill has caused, particularly but not confined to, the nascent support-base from “Middle Malaysia”, who surely feel let down by PAS.

This letter, however, is not an attempt at debating these issues exhaustively. It only serves to endear that an in-depth discourse or debate is in order.

Lest you have also come to believe that PAS has been trapped into Umno’s game plan to eventually break the fraternity-solidarity of Pakatan Rakyat, let this letter reaffirm you of our political acumen of Umno’s purported decoy and allay all your concern and anxieties about our naiveté.

The news bandied around of PAS uniting with Umno on the Hudud agenda is similarly meant to cause a split in Pakatan Rakyat, much as it is meant to incite distrust and contempt for PAS.

But again, the question raging in almost everyone’s mind is why must the new Kelantan Menteri Besar be adamant about tabling the Hudud Bill in the coming parliamentary session?

Has PAS become an Islamic political party that only champions Hudud and the Islamic penal code? Has PAS debunked the concept of “the benevolent state”?

Is this move ill-conceived? And with the Hudud Bill, has PAS now come full circle to again be propagating an Islamic state? Is PAS’s “reforms” for real after all? An almost endless list of disturbing questions.

Overnight the Hudud Bill has again demonised PAS. PAS has instantaneously become a punching bag and received unending blows from all quarters.

It is most baffling to witness the sudden change of attitude towards PAS, which a while ago was praised for all the correct things we stood for in defending the right of others to practice the religions and faiths of their choice.

This open letter makes it categorically clear that PAS is indeed committed to and will be unyieldingly consistent with the party’s political advocacy of the “Negara Berkebajikan” or “the benevolent state”.

PAS shall uphold and would not budge from the battle-cry of “justice for all” and “Islam for all”.

We will act firmly and persevere against the posturing of a rigid and seemingly intolerant Islam that is sure fodder for more intense religious bigotry and conflict. We will be unwavering in our partnership with the rakyat to go against any sacrilegious acts on places of worship, the like of cow head intimidation and the debilitating polemic of Kalimah Allah, that have all deepened the religious divide.

While PAS stands corrected in the framing of the Hudud Ordinance of 1993, PAS wishes to be viewed as making its best efforts in fulfilling one of its democratic and mandated obligations to the people of Kelantan, besides other aspects of improving their wellbeing.

I have no qualms in admitting that while the laws ordained by Allah and His Prophet are sacrosanct and inviolable, the codification of these laws represent human effort, which is surely not infallible and, therefore, susceptible to errors of judgments.

As a matter of fact, the drafting of any law is a very delicate undertaking and the Hudud Ordinance is no exception.

That said, I, however, note with much grief and sadness of the overwhelming  prejudices of some disparaging critique borne out of sheer hatred for anything religious, more  so of an Islamic penal code – namely Hudud.

Be that as it may, the widely held supposition that the Hudud Ordinance is in conflict with the Constitution, the Penal Code and the basic structure of the Federal Constitution deserves a good debate and discourse.

To be violently persistent that it is against the Constitution and not wanting to listen to the counter argument does not augur well for a thinking Malaysia.

The fact that the Constitution (FC) is without a “Grundnorm” as opposed to the Indian Constitution that has its “secular basic structure” categorically stated in its preamble, makes it all the more difficult for one to be presumptuously assuming that its genetic DNA to be out rightly “secular” or “Islamic”.

This writer takes great consolation in noting that some astute legal minds posit that the Constitution is neither secular nor Islamic.

Admittedly, a deeply complex issue like Hudud shall continue to take centre-stage in Malaysian politics for many months to come.

It may well be that the detractors of Hudud will neither allow nor be able to overcome the notion that Hudud can be allowed a place in modern, multi-religious and largely “secular” Malaysia.

It cannot be overemphasised that Hudud is an integral part of the Islamic legal system, albeit a small one. In other words, the Islamic legal system is not solely about Hudud.

Regrettably though, Hudud has always been portrayed as lacking the true spirit of compassion and justice that are so intrinsic in the Islamic legal provision and the comprehensive philosophy of punishment in Islam. Needless to mention that the ultimate and supreme purpose of Islamic Law is Justice.

It needs to be again unequivocally emphasised that the Hudud Bill is only applicable on Muslims and Muslims alone.

If that seems like injustice to some, together we shall address the issue in our forthcoming dialogues and discourses.

My colleagues and I in PAS value transparency, openness, constructive feedback and frank exchanges to resolve the many and major issues that beset our nation, Hudud just being one of them.

It is in this context of creating the democratic space, that I humbly urge my fellow Malaysians, whether Muslims, adherents of other faiths or atheists to engage Hudud and similar issues with mutual respect, decorum and sensitivity through discourses and dialogues.

The current engagements have, however, fallen short of the basic norms of civility and the spirit of compassion as expounded by the founders of our nation.

Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad is the executive director of the PAS Research Centre.