A fire raging out of control

Let me repeat that. Malaysia already practices the Islamic law of Hudud, but only for Muslims. And we do not call them Hudud laws although in reality they are.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

A RELIGIOUS court has sentenced a Muslim woman to six strokes of the cane for drinking alcohol, possibly for the first time in Malaysia.

The Syariah High Court in Pahang also handed the same sentence to a man on Monday, and is due to make a decision on another woman in May.

Mohamad Nasir Mohamad, 38, a father of four, and waitress Noorazah Baharuddin, 22, were found drinking beer separately in pubs in July last year in central Pahang state, said reports released yesterday.

Nasir admitted that he had drunk beer at a pub in Cherating on July 11, while Noorazah was caught drinking at the pub where she worked, in Jalan Gambut.

Both were also fined RM5,000 each by the Pahang court on Monday.

The third accused was part-time model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, 32. According to the New Straits Times, Kartika, a Singapore permanent resident, could not attend court as she is studying in Singapore.

Judge Abdul Rahman Yunus said that he had given the maximum fine and caning as a deterrent to other Muslims, but had spared them a jail sentence.

'The caning is to shame them and should be done at any of the prisons in the country,' he was quoted as saying by NST.

The case comes after two controversial fatwas, or edicts – one over tomboyish behaviour by women and the other concerning the practice of yoga – sparked intense public debate over decisions made by the country's top religious body.

Malaysia has a two-track legal system, with the civil courts operating alongside state-based syariah courts. Muslims are governed by syariah laws in family and personal matters, while ethnic Chinese, Indians and other races come under civil courts.

According to NST, this is the second time such a sentence has been handed down. In 2005, the same judge sentenced two Muslim brothers to six strokes of the cane after they were caught drinking.

However, the caning has yet to be carried out as the men are appealing against the decision.

Alcohol is widely available in Malaysia, and Muslims are rarely punished for consuming it.

'It's rare but it's within the law and Muslims are subject to such law in this country,' said lawyer Pawancheek Merican, a syariah law committee member of the Malaysian Bar Council.

MP Salahuddin Ayub, the youth chief of the opposition Islamic party PAS, said he 'agreed' with the court ruling.

'The ruling only concerns Muslims and it does not affect the non-Muslims. It is to remind the Muslims not to drink,' he said.



The strategy is simple. The Malays are split 50:50. So the Chinese votes are needed to ensure that Barisan Nasional retains the Kuala Terengganu parliament seat in the 17 January 2009 by-election. And, to meet this objective, the Chinese must be made to hate PAS. And for them to hate PAS, they must be made to hate Islamic laws — which PAS is alleged to be propagating.

Lighting fires is a dangerous game. Fires are known to rage out of control. And the ‘hate Islamic laws, therefore hate PAS’ fire is one such fire that can, and most probably will, rage out of control. Under normal situations this may not be so dicey. However, nowadays, there is nothing ‘normal’ about Islam. With the 911, Bali bombing, and more recently, the Mumbai massacre, and many more, Islam is beginning to become a four-letter word to non-Muslims.

And can we blame the non-Muslims? Islam appears to be behind most terrorist acts. Even the pirates in Somalia are pirating to finance their ‘Islamic Jihad’. Islam may be a mere victim of perception. It may be, as many argue, that the western media are embarking on a smear-Islam campaign. It could be true that there are many other terrorist acts perpetuated by non-Muslims, but which are not appearing on the radar screens of the western media. Nevertheless, Islam is currently the ‘bad boy’ of the western media. The jury is unanimous on this.

It is very easy, therefore, to demonise Islam. It does not take much to make people suspicious of anything that smacks of Islam. And Islamic laws, where numerous YouTube videos of ‘Islamic justice’ lend support to the argument about how brutal it can be, makes the job of those opposed to Islamic laws very easy indeed.

Barisan Nasional is one of those contributing to the demonising of Islam campaign. On the one hand, Umno, the head honcho of Barisan Nasional, claims to be the largest Islamic party in the world. To demonstrate how Islamic they are they launch the very confusing concept of Islam Hadhari, which many do not really know what it means yet. Then, on the other hand, they demonise Islamic laws in their fervour to demonise PAS.

But Barisan Nasional is not being candid about the matter. What they have failed to do is to explain that Hudud is just one of many Islamic laws. And Hudud is a law that deals with seven very specific crimes. But there are many other Islamic laws. And while Malaysia is yet to adopt the Hudud laws, since Independence, we have already adopted all the other Islamic laws and they are being implemented to the fullest.

Read today’s AFP news item above. The Syariah court convicted and sentenced Muslims for the crime of drinking liquor and this was done in accordance with Islamic laws. And this is not the first time Muslims have been arrested, put on trial, convicted and sentenced for drinking liquor. It has been happening since Independence.

Drinking liquor is not the only crime under Islam. Eating during the month of Ramadhan, close proximity, extra-marital sex, etc., are also crimes under Islam. But, under Islamic law, all these are considered crimes only for Muslims. Non-Muslims are not subjected to these laws.

Then there are other Syariah laws involving marriage, divorce, living together out of wedlock, conversion, inheritance, failure to attend Friday prayers, zakat, fitrah, apostasy, heresy, etc.  There are specific Islamic laws for all these as well and all are implemented in Malaysia. Hudud is just another of the many Syariah laws that Malaysia already practices.

So, as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said, Malaysia is already an Islamic State and already practices Islamic laws. Almost all the Islamic laws are applicable in Malaysia. There is only one Islamic law that is yet to be adopted. And this is the Islamic law of Hudud. And the reason the Islamic law of Hudud has not been adopted is because Malaysia already has common laws to cover these seven crimes under Hudud law. So, since we already have common laws to take care of these seven crimes, the Islamic law of Hudud is not required.

The argument is simple. Islamic laws apply only to Muslims. But the seven crimes under Hudud cannot apply only to Muslims because it is also a crime if perpetuated by non-Muslims. Therefore, the Islamic law of Hudud, which will only apply to Muslims, cannot be adopted. Non-Muslims also need to be punished for these seven crimes. That is why Malaysia needs to use common law and not Hudud law or else the non-Muslims will escape punishment.

Amongst these seven crimes under Hudud are: robbery, theft, false accusation of adultery, rebellion against the state, drinking alcohol, apostasy, and extra-marital sex.

Now, notice one thing here. Three of the seven are already being practiced. Under Syariah law, drinking alcohol, apostasy, and extra-marital sex are already crimes for Muslims. Muslims, since the time of Independence and up to today, are being punished under the Syariah law for the crimes of drinking alcohol, apostasy, and extra-marital sex. This means Malaysia already practices the Hudud law. So why is Barisan Nasional hiding this fact from Malaysians, in particular from the non-Muslims?

Let me repeat that. Malaysia already practices the Islamic law of Hudud, but only for Muslims. And we do not call them Hudud laws although in reality they are.

As for robbery, theft and rebellion against the state, these too are crimes in Malaysia. The only thing is Malaysia is applying common law and not the Islamic law of Hudud for these crimes. Nevertheless, you will still be put to death for rebellion against the state like what happened to the Al Maunah group — they were all hanged. And if you commit robbery with a gun, you will also be put to death. In fact, you will also be put to death for drug trafficking, whereas this is not a crime under Hudud.

In that sense, common law is actually more brutal than Hudud. Common law will impose the death sentence for armed robbery whereas Hudud will only impose the death sentence if you kill during that robbery. And if you are caught with a gun, even though you did not commit any crime with it, you will be put to death. Islam, however, guarantees citizens the right to bear arms, just like in the US. So, in this respect, Hudud is more humane. Under Hudud, you do not die if you are caught with a gun. Under common law you do.

My piece is not in defence of the Islamic law of Hudud, or otherwise. I am not even saying that I support the implementation of Hudud. What I am trying to demonstrate here is that the Islamic law of Hudud has not been properly explained and that the government is demonising Hudud just so that they can demonise PAS. The government has also not explained that three of the seven crimes under Hudud are already crimes for Muslims and that Muslims have been convicted for these crimes over the last 52 years since Independence.

Furthermore, Malaysia has made it a crime, punishable by death, for crimes that Hudud does not regard as crimes. On top of that, crimes that do not attract the death sentence under Hudud are punishable by death under Malaysia’s common law. As much as Hudud may be seen as brutal, the reality of the situation is that Malaysia’s common laws, in some situations, are more brutal.

And Hudud, for sure, does not allow for detention without trial, which under Malaysia’s common law is allowed. That, alone, places Hudud above common law. And rebellion against the state, which under common law attracts the death sentence, is not punishable by death under Hudud. The rebel will be given the option to lay down his arms and if he does he is forgiven and allowed back into society. Chin Peng must be wishing that Malaysia practices Hudud and not common law. Under the Islamic law of Hudud he would be allowed back into Malaysia. Instead, Chin Peng has been barred from returning to Malaysia and is currently engaged in a court battle with the Malaysian government to get them to lift the ban on him returning to his homeland.

The campaign to demonise Islamic laws in the hope that PAS will be demonised is not good for the image of Islam. Most non-Muslims already fear Islam. And we can’t blame them for that. What we need is a campaign to explain Islam so that non-Muslims would not have this misconception that Islam is dangerous.  But the government is doing the reverse. And then we wonder why Islam is a four-letter word to non-Muslims. Do we really need to wonder?

Anyway, as I said in another piece, the Hudud issue is a non-issue. So why is Barisan Nasional still playing up the issue? DAP, PKR and PAS have entered into an agreement that any policy decisions require a consensus of the three Pakatan Rakyat partners. It is all or nothing. And the Islamic State and the Islamic law of Hudud is a policy matter. So all three have to agree on this issue or else it will not be done.