Protest over Johor’s Shariah laws misplaced

Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar, Harakah

Wanita ISMA is concerned over the calls to repeal the Syariah Criminal Offences Law by Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) as a response to Johor Religious Department’s decision to whip offenders committing incest and having sex outside of wedlock.  22 out of 39 offenders were female.

Wanita ISMA feels that the calls are misplaced as the issue should be dealt comprehensively beyond the myopic angle of liberalism or feminism as it involves major offences as stated in Syariah Law, namely incest and fornication. Incest by definition is sexual intercourse between persons so closely related that they are forbidden by law to marry.

Facts that are overlooked by JAG were that in 2008, Johor and Selangor had the highest number of cases of incest, a total of 308 cases over a period of 8 years. According to the senior assistant director of enforcement of the Johor Islamic Affairs Department (JAIJ), Mohd Zambri Kambari, the usual punishment was a fine of RM5,000 or a jail term of three years. Obviously, both punishments, perhaps regarded as very lenient, had failed to deter people from committing the act. Incest breeds bigger problem in the society such as disrupting the lineage of a family especially if the illicit relationship bears offsprings. These children will definitely be subjected to psychological trauma.

Wanita ISMA fully supports the actions by Johor Religious Department to exercise the enactment of Syariah Law in the form of 6 strokes of whipping  as it is meted out in the manner that complies to the Syariah flogging. The Syariah flogging requires that the female offender is in sitting position as opposed to the opposite sex who needs to stand. This is a proof that Islam places great respect to female, without abandoning its principle that every crime must be punished, regardless of gender. Furthermore, the punishment will be postponed if the women is pregnant of in the period of nursing her child.

The offender  is fully clothed and the whipping will not be on her face, head and private parts or on body parts where vital organs are located, the abdomen and the chest. The flogging stick has been specified to meet certain length and thickness.  The executer cannot raise his hand more than his head in whipping and all these are very unlikely to cause physical harm to the offender.

Shariah is fundamental to a Muslim’s  belief. Muslims have faith that the Shariah is relevant at all times. JAG claimed that there is no solid evidence that whipping is an effective deterrent to violent or sexual crimes. The problem is that the Shariah solution has never been given a chance to prove its effectiveness in curbing these crimes.

Islam places sufficient legislation to protect people from falling into sin as it  is a complete code of living that is not based on punishment. Punishment is not enforced except in cases where there is certainty about the offence and its perpetrators. However, when certainty is established, and in this case Wanita ISMA believes that the matter has been dealt delicately by the relevant authorities of the Johor Religious Department, the mandatory punishment must be applied, with no compassion shown to the offenders.

In the word of the late Syed Qutb, author of Tafsir Fi Zilal al-Qur’an, such compassion is misplaced, because it is in fact cruel to the community and human morality. Allah is much more compassionate to His creatures and He has chosen what He knows to serve their interests best. When Allah decides on a particular case, no believer, whether man or woman, can counter that choice. Nor is it right that anyone should speak out against such punishment, describing it as hard or savage. It is indeed much more compassionate than what awaits a community that allows adultery (an incest) to spread.

It is rather alarming that a more liberal view of incest is now being propagated in some parts of the western countries. The United States codifies incest prohibition in its law, but it doesn’t stop one of the universities, the University of Missouri for offering a class on sibling incest for the spring 2013 semester in order to understand and accept the culture. Unmistakably and shockingly, there has been  a social pressure towards accepting sibling incests although parent-child incest is still considered offensive. The uncontrolled lust of human for forbidden sexual relationship has also boost the pornography industry that promotes incest porn as one of the genre.

Wanita ISMA is committed to work hand in hand with all parties in curbing social illness through all means, whether by education, public awareness, prevention and by law if necessary.

* The writer represents Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia, or ISMA.