The hudud agenda may serve PAS and Umno politics in the short term, but spells disaster for the country in the long run.
PRESS STATEMENT The impact of Hadi’s Bill must not be underestimated. Not only would it grant nearly carte blanc powers to the syariah legal system, it would further divide society and suppress the personal liberty of Muslims.
Death would be the only limit if Hadi’s amendment Bill was passed.
The situation was made all the more dreadful as the application of hudud in other countries has revealed an obvious social bias against marginalized groups.
They include women, the poor and minorities. What guarantee was there that the system will judge them fairly?
Again, those found guilty of heresy and apostasy may even face a penalty as severe as a life sentence, or any other punishment apart from a capital one.
In Malaysia, where many Muslim minorities such as Shias are considered deviant, this prospect could have daunting consequences.
While the hudud agenda may serve PAS and Umno politics in the short term, it would spell disaster for the country in the long run.
We can revisit the shocking events that took place on the last day of the recent parliamentary sitting.
In an astounding “act of collusion” between PAS and Umno, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said moved a motion in Parliament to fast-track PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s controversial private member’s Bill that seeks to amend the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965.
If passed, the amendments would lift the existing “3-5-6” limits of punishments imposable by the syariah courts, namely three years jail, a fine of not more than RM5,000 and six lashes.
In its place, syariah courts would have the powers to dispense any form of punishment permitted by Islam, other than the death penalty.
Much confusion has arisen following attempts by Umno and PAS to downplay the Bill.
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, for example, suggested that the amendments are not meant to implement hudud laws, but merely to enhance the punitive powers of the syariah courts.
Similarly, Hadi asserts that the Bill was intended to “uplift” the status of syariah courts, and not to introduce hudud law in Kelantan.
These statements are “half-truths” at best and complete fallacies at worst.
In fact, PAS attempts to implement hudud via the passing of the Syariah Criminal Code (II) Enactment 1993 in Kelantan and the Syariah Criminal Law (Hudud and Qisas) Enactment 2003 in Terengganu have not met with any success. This was largely due to limitations in federal law as well as the Federal Constitution.
For hudud to be carried out, amendments to existing laws had to be made, and since the Federal Government had hitherto never showed any willingness to do so, it was not regarded as a real possibility until now.
With Hadi’s current Bill, the two main impediments have been resolved.
Firstly, crimes that fall under federal law, such as theft, robbery and sodomy, have been excluded.
This cleverly circumvents the issue of explicit constitutionality, as conflicting jurisdiction no longer arises.
Secondly, the removal of the previous 3-5-6 limitations in the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act instantly enables most of the punishments prescribed under hudud, specifically 100 lashes for fornication, 80 lashes for sexual slander, 40-80 lashes for intoxication and an unspecified jail term — with forfeiture of property — for those deemed to be heretics and apostates.
Therefore, while the exclusion of federal crimes does indeed mean that the hudud enactments in Kelantan and Terengganu cannot be applied in its entirety, the amendments to the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act would essentially allow the implementation of all other hudud punishments with the exception of capital punishment.
Thus, with a large part of the hudud enactments activated, it would be wrong to say that the Bill was not about hudud.
The impact of Hadi’s Bill does not end there. With the prevailing restrictions removed, it would also mean that all punishments under the two state hudud enactments could be easily augmented.
As death was the only limit, anything else, such as forfeiture of property, indefinite jail sentences, amputation and any number of public lashes, could be implemented so long as the corresponding state enactment was amended.
For example, because syariah courts would not be allowed to sentence a convicted adulterer to death by stoning, as currently prescribed in the hudud enactments, they may instead be punished by a number of alternatives, including jail time, public lashing or even castration.
Zairil Khir Johari
Bukit Bendera MP