By Zainah Anwar, The Star
ARE our politicians plain bad, crazy or stupid? In this divisive, corrosive, cynical political climate of ours, if I were the Opposition, I would jump and present my party as the party of first and obvious choice for the electorate.
I would have not only welcomed the Prime Minister’s bold announcements in repealing those repressive laws and states of emergency, I would also up the ante and begin a public debate on how we as citizens should exercise and enjoy our Constitutional guarantees of fundamental liberties.
I would be planning over the next few months on how to build public opinion to hold the Government accountable and ensure that whatever alternative national security or public order laws that might emerge will uphold my fundamental freedoms.
I would want to make it politically very costly for the Government if it falls short or back-pedal on the promises of democratic reform it has made.
Instead, what do we get? An offer of the hudud law and its grim serving of chopped-off Muslim hands and feet, and stoning to death! What kind of future is that?
And we have politicians, who supposedly hold the mantle of leadership, who simply and continually miss the point.
“It’s okay to implement the hudud law because it doesn’t affect non-Muslims.” So it’s okay for Muslims to be brutalised?
See what happens when the first Muslim hand gets chopped off for stealing a motorbike.
What if a medical team is on standby to gather the chopped-off hand and the victim and run to Terengganu or fly to KL for the hand to be stitched back?
What if the thief was with a Chinese or Indian accomplice who was sentenced only to a few months’ imprisonment under the Penal Code while the Malay thief is now disabled and unable to get a job, and be forever publicly stigmatised?
Or really, could this be a conspiracy to make the Malays permanently physically disabled in order to justify affirmative action in perpetuity? I wonder.
“Non-Muslims should shut up because it doesn’t affect them.” But they are Malaysian citizens who have every right to speak up on laws that allow for brutal and inhumane punishments against their fellow citizens, the majority population to boot.
Who wants to live in such a society when your neighbour, your friend, or your fellow citizen are subject to a cruel legal system?
How could I live with my conscience if I were a Chinese who has witnessed a rape, but my infidel evidence would not be accepted under the hudud law? No, I cannot keep quiet and accept such a law.
“Muslims who are not experts on Islam should shut up”. Then please take religion out of the public sphere and make it private between us and God. But not when I can be flogged 80 lashes for qazaf (slanderous accusation) if I report I have been raped and am unable to produce four pious and just Muslim males who witnessed the rape.
On top of that, my rape report could also be taken as confession of illicit sex and I could be charged for zina. And even if I could produce the four men, I would be torn apart wondering why four supposedly pious and just men watched me being raped.
And God forbid if I was single and became pregnant because of the rape. I would be charged for zina and lashed 100 times because my pregnancy is regarded as evidence of illicit sex.
The burden is on me, not the state, to prove I was indeed raped. The evidential requirements make this impossible. And the accused rapist will be free from any hudud punishment by simply denying the rape.
And we are all supposed to shut up? No wonder some of our political leaders are bent on their so-called “Islamic state” and “Islamic law” project because it is so easy to fly the flag of religion and silence dissenting voices.
Even of their political opponents – many of whom can only summon the courage to claim: “I am not against the Hudud law, but the time and conditions are not right to implement it.” There are hundreds of commands, exhortations, values and principles in the Quran that we ignore or violate on a daily basis.
The command for us to be kind and compassionate at all times, the duty of a man to provide and protect his wife and children, the obligation of a leader to be just and fair in his ruling are just a few of these.
And what does an Islamist party prioritise as the hallmark of its piousness? The Hudud law. Instead of having the political courage to say no to the Hudud law, once and for all on so many available grounds – Islamic, constitutional, human rights principles, lived realities – so many of their political opponents dither and hedge.
It is so tiresome that we the rakyat are subject to this again and again.
Sisters in Islam wrote letters to the editor, published a book and submitted a memorandum to the Government, all objecting to the PAS attempts to introduce the Hudud law in Kelantan and Terengganu in 1993 and 2002 respectively.
When PAS recently announced it was shifting from its push for an “Islamic state” to a “welfare state”, many thought the leadership finally realised that its future lies with social justice transformation, not with a punitive and joyless Islam of gloom and doom.
On some issues, it was even looking more progressive than Umno.
But its Hudud law pronouncements have jolted us back to reality. So many in the PAS leadership and its rank and file remain stuck in medieval times, unable to imagine what justice should mean to an Islamist party in the 21st century and unable to envision what it means to be Muslim in a modern, democratic, progressive multi-ethnic, multi-religious Malaysia today.