Hudud Bill: New Malay dilemma

How will Muslim MPs vote on the private member’s bill on hudud if PAS goes ahead with it?

(Free Malaysia Today) – Hudud is back in the headlines, this time with a greater vengeance than in most of its previous appearances.

A private member’s bill to pave the way for its implementation in Kelantan is due to be tabled in Parliament this June, threatening the unity not only of the opposition bloc but also of the Barisan Nasional coalition.

Further, it will force the Muslim MPs on both sides of the political divide to show, once and for all, where they stand.

Traditionally, voting in Parliament is done along party lines. Anyone who votes against his party risks disciplinary action.

However, there remains the possibility for party whips to allow members to vote according to their conscience on certain issues. And the issue of hudud may well be one of these.

The bill will create a dilemma for Muslim MPs who are privately against hudud but fear being perceived as renegades from Islam and thereby losing the voting support of their Malay constituents. Many of them owe their parliament seats to these voters.

Although the PAS-led government in Kelantan has long expressed its intention to implement hudud in the state, this latest episode had its origin in Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom’s statement that the Federal Government— he probably meant Umno—would support a private member’s bill that would help realise the intention.

Many Pakatan Rakyat supporters see this as part of a game plan to split the opposition or, worse, to take race politics in the country to its extreme by uniting Umno and PAS against all other parties.