Published in Malay Mail Online
Let us all have a round of applause for Kelantan PAS. The Islamist party’s chapter surely put on a greatly entertaining show last week by tabling the amendment to its Shariah Criminal Code (II), also called the Hudud Bill.
The greatest trick Kelantan PAS ever pulled was to convince Muslims nationwide that its Hudud Bill was all about Islam. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The seed for this has been sowed long ago, since the original Bill was tabled in 1993, and repeated again and again until many finally accepted it as the gospel.
To strengthen this view, Kelantan Mentri Besar Ahmad Yaakob took the opportunity to label critics of hudud as “liars” and “immorals” the instant he took the floor to table the Bill.
What justification did he have for such accusations? Perhaps none. But to Ahmad and his supporters, that was all that is needed to end any arguments.
Unfortunately, this is the sort of attitude that has bred hostile response towards any critics of Kelantan and its hudud.
We see this knee-jerk response manifesting itself when BFM Radio journalist Aisyah Tajuddin was attacked by death and rape threats online for a video collaboration with Projek Dialog on Thursday, which criticised hudud in Kelantan.
This reaction has little to do with defending Islam. It was born of a desire to enact misogyny and tribal rage, masked by indignant righteousness.
Did those who threaten Aisyah really care about hudud? When the video asked outright “Can hudud fill our rice bowls?”, did anybody really have an answer to that?
It has become much easier for Muslims to tell non-Muslims to butt out from questioning hudud rather than allaying their fears. It is so much easier to accuse these “infidels” of trying to destroy the Malay-Muslim community, rather than understanding why hudud worries them so much.
Saying “it is the right of Muslims” is a lousy excuse when you are tearing down the fundamental nature of this pluralist country and perpetuating the divide between its citizens.
There will be claims that these criticisms are “insults against Islam” and a predictable form of Islamophobia. And these tactics are almost guaranteed to stifle any discourse and debate on Islamic policies.
After witnessing the many acts of violence committed by zealots in the name of Islam, who would wish to piss Muslims off?
Kelantan’s Hudud Bill is nowhere as perfect as some people believe. After all, it was drafted by men. It will ultimately be implemented, and enforced, by men.
There were mistranslations between its Malay and English versions. There were inconsistencies, requiring some corrections to be made during the tabling itself, such as the punishment for apostasy: changed from death to “by hudud.”
The offence of qazaf — false accusation of illicit sex — was already controversial for its treatment against rape victims. With the new amendment, one can even escape punishment for falsely accusing others, simply by swearing a sacred oath.
The offences of lesbian sex, necrophilia and bestiality, struck out from the original enactment, was all lumped together under sodomy. This is despite the section governing sodomy expressly defining it as “anal sex.” Baffled yet?
Kelantan would like you to believe that the harsh punishments — stoning to death, amputation, whipping — are never meant to be carried out. Allegedly, they are merely needed to deter the public from committing the six hudud offences: robbery, theft, illicit sex, false accusations of illicit sex, drinking alcohol and apostasy.
If Kelantan is really serious in deterring these so-called problems, it would have bothered with improving social justice and conditions in Kelantan to nip these in the bud.
Greater income equality and job opportunities can prevent robbery and theft. Easier access to the marriage institution and financial stability can discourage sex out of wedlock. Better marriage guidance can prevent adultery.
Relieving social stress and pressure can curb alcohol consumption. A more just judiciary system can eliminate the need for false accusation.
And not doing the exact thing Kelantan is currently doing will help a lot in keeping disenchanted Muslims from leaving the religion they perceive as persecutive, punitive and narrow-minded.
It was said by some scholars that the perfect time to implement hudud is when the society is almost fulfilled that there is little reason to commit a crime. Perhaps the wisdom here is that, when society has reached optimal levels, there is no need for hudud at all.
But almost always, PAS would choose the afterlife rather than the now.
It seems that the current leadership only wishes to wipe their hands of hudud as soon as they voted for it, and leave its implementation to somebody else.
Ahmad and his deputy Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah have been consistent: they were quoted previously saying that there is no need to delay and perfect the Hudud Bill. Getting it passed was their only priority. All the “small details” can come after.
Maybe that is why state assemblymen were reportedly so joyous and touched the moment they almost unanimously voted for the bill. Finally, they could now reap their political bounty from adoring voters and reserve their place in Heaven, with nary a thought on what will come next.
Critics can shout all we want, but ultimately the show will go on.
Kelantan needs the show to go on, so its Muslim citizens can enjoy the feeling of living in a so-called Islamic state and forget for a while how hard life can be there, that youths have to migrate elsewhere to seek a better living.
Kelantanese need their entertainment, to temporarily turn their eyes away from how months after the worst floods in recent times, the state has yet to heal itself.
Let the Muslims elsewhere celebrate how far Islam has come in Malaysia, conveniently forgetting how unIslamic the authorities are by oppressing and persecuting their fellow citizens.
Praise God, for hudud will soon come. And we will all have the best seats in the house.