On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Let sanity rule over politics

NOT many non-Muslims are going to be convinced by the explanation of PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang that his Private Member’s Bill is merely intended to uplift the status of the Syariah laws, and not to implement hudud.

The fiery hardliner explained, “It is just to give the Syariah courts enhanced punishment. From six strokes of caning to a few more, depending on the offences.”

Under Malaysia’s legal system, the Syariah courts are empowered to only mete out punishment not exceeding three years’ jail, a RM5,000 fine, or six strokes of the rotan for certain offences, what is commonly referred to as the 3-5-6 maximum punishments.

Let us be clear about how Hadi has consistently articulated the Islamist party’s agenda, which is to set up an Islamic state and to implement hudud.

And amid his attempts to explain what the Bill is all about on one side of the country, when he went back to the east coast to open the 62nd PAS Muktamar in Pengkalan Chepa, Kelantan on Thursday, the message remained the same.

Speaking to reporters after the opening, he said PAS insists that Malaysia must be governed according to Islam because the present system has failed.

“We intend to take a new approach to revive what was implemented by Islam 1,400 years ago,” he said.

He added that although present systems such as democracy, socialism and capitalism have borrowed some elements from Islam, they do not take “faith, sin and blessings” into consideration.

“This is what happens when you separate Islam from politics.

“People will choose to do whatever they want because there is no concept of sin and blessings,” he said.

We should not be surprised.

From gender segregation to banning Malay culture deemed to be unIslamic, such as wayang kulit, and making it compulsory for lights to be switched on in cinemas, this is not the kind of Middle Eastern lifestyle that many Malaysians, including Muslims, would want. Even unisex hair salons operated by non-Muslims have seen harassment when female stylists dealt with male clients.

Kelantan is the PAS model of what Malaysia would be like if it comes to power or is part of the ruling government.

Moderate Malaysians, in general, do not have faith in PAS. But thanks to the DAP and its blind political ambition, it helped PAS get the votes in the 2013 general election. The consequences have been disastrous.

Now, it appears to be a matter of political expediency again as Umno and PAS work on the Malay votes, seemingly having given up on Chinese voters.

In March last year, Kelantan PAS assemblyman Hasan Muhammad went on record to say the implementation of hudud is the party’s aim.

He said Kelantan is trying to emulate the success of Zampara, a province in Nigeria whose hudud laws inspired nine other provinces to follow.

“Kelantan wants to be like Zampara. Maybe hudud can start in Kelantan and later other states would follow,” he said while debating the amendments to the Syariah Criminal Code Enactment 1993 in the state legislative assembly.

In 2015, Hadi declared that he is adamant about implementing hudud in Kelantan, saying there was no compromise over implementing hudud.

He has consistently used the word “hudud” and a Google of his statements would verify that. He has never sought the press to correct the usage of the word “hudud” and so we will not buy the sugar-coated line that it is “to uplift the status of the Syariah law.”

It is clear that PAS is looking for the little window to pursue its ambition. Its continuous argument is that the Bill will not affect non-Muslims, and it is not hudud but merely to enhance Syariah punishment. It is alarming to non-Muslims because what PAS has been saying is now being repeated by Umno leaders.

It is simply logical that in a plural society there will be crimes involving Muslims and non-Muslims. How can anyone say, and for that matter actually believe, that it won’t affect non-Muslims? Instead of superficial replies, non-Muslims want to know if a criminal is Muslim and the victim is non-Muslim, can the aggressor opt for Syariah law, which could possibly put the non-Muslim victim or even the police or prosecution in a disadvantaged position?

PAS has also started to put down critics of the Bill by labelling them “anti-Islam” – it’s the easiest way of refusing to enter into a discourse, invoking God’s name under its interpretation and brand of Islam. This is the party that has declared the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as haram.

There cannot be two sets of criminal laws in Malaysia – the Syariah and civil laws – as it would give rise to Constitutional complications such as equality before the law but worst of all, it will lead to greater disunity and enmity between Muslims and non-Muslims, as senior lawyer Jaharberdeen Mohamed Yunoss rightly put.

It is disturbing that an opposition party – which is contesting against the Barisan Nasional, notably Umno, in two by-elections – seems to calling the shots in this issue.

Political consideration is too risky a matter to play with PAS, or some would say, seemingly to please PAS. The timing of the tabling of the motion, just before the party general assembly, has helped the Islamist party chief’s image a great deal.

Once the door is opened, there is no turning back. We will see Terengganu and Kedah, states where PAS is strong, following soon.

Let us remind ourselves that the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman; the second PM, Tun Razak; the third PM, Tun Hussein Onn, and even the fourth, Tun Dr Mahathir (for the first 20 years as PM) had publicly championed and defended the Merdeka compact of Malaysia as a secular democracy with Islam as the official religion.

We would also like to remind Hadi that there is no merit to any argument that says just because the majority of the population of a country is Muslim, the country must become an Islamic State.

There are plenty of countries in the world with Muslim majorities which are not Islamic States. Look at Indonesia, the country with the largest number of Muslims: It is not an Islamic State. In fact, Islamist parties do badly at its polls.

The Indonesians are not afraid to snub these politician-theologians, fending off the attempt by such politicians who use religion to strengthen themselves.

Aceh is the only province where Syariah laws are enforced and it is well documented how its moral guardian operates.

Don’t let Hadi have his way. No one should be afraid to reject the Bill. Don’t let politics get in the way. Sanity must prevail.