Hudud slowly getting a foot in

Wong Chun Wai

Many of us, particularly non-Muslim voters, never took seriously what PAS’ ultimate plan is. But now, we’re faced with the dreaded reality.

Wong Chun Wai, The Star

IF there’s one thing that PAS is consistent about, it has to be its ambition to set up an Islamic state and to implement hudud.

This is the basis of the Islamist party’s existence and struggle, and we have to give credit to its leaders for their continuous push for what they believe in.

But here’s the problem. Many of us, particularly non-Muslim voters, never took seriously what PAS’ ultimate plan is. Some of us don’t even believe it is a possibility.

For sure, many PAS candidates benefited from the non-Muslim votes, because they were contesting under the Pakatan Rakyat banner. The majority of these voters did not even have to subscribe to the party’s fundamental beliefs because their vote was not necessarily a vote for PAS but rather a vote against Barisan Nasional, in particular Umno. And they had legitimate grievances about the many policies which they felt discriminated against them.

It has been said that there are no permanent enemies in politics, and every election brings about partnerships that are always for short-term gains. Many non-Muslim voters, buoyed by the Pakatan’s success in the last two general elections, probably do not weigh the long-term political consequences of reducing the number of non-Muslim MPs in the ruling coalition.

They didn’t realise, or perhaps didn’t care, that by increasing the number of PAS MPs, they have emboldened the party to push for its ultimate goal. With their increased strength, even the Muslim MPs on the Barisan side will be put into a dilemma as to how they will vote. It is quite a different story if the Islamist party only has a few MPs in the House. No matter how vocal they are, they will not pursue the agenda because the numbers will not be in their favour.

There have been attempts to table the Private Member’s Bill to implement hudud in Kelantan previously but they were never pursued with the vigour that we see now. For both PKR and DAP, they can use semantics to argue about what their common stand is, but the reality is that they did not want to address this issue because their eyes were fixed on Putrajaya.

Many dismissed MCA’s campaign against an Islamic state during the general election as a bluff, and an over-exaggeration, and many were even hostile towards the party for raising it in the first place.

In the emotionally charged atmosphere of the 2013 general election, some non-Muslim voters even said the amputation of hands was “good” to fight crime! As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

These voters openly campaigned for PAS, claiming that it was actually more “liberal” than Umno. They were happy to welcome these Muslim politicians into their churches and temples. The reality is that the “liberal” approach of one or two PAS leaders is not necessarily the stand of the party as a whole.

Most of these PAS leaders have lost their positions in the party polls and the ulamak have strengthened themselves to ensure that the party’s hardline plan remains on track.

That’s the reality in PAS. Or in any other party, for that matter. Any party member who tries to be different, or who go against the grain of the party leadership, will be shown the exit.

In the case of PAS, surely any form of flirtation with anything remotely liberal would not be tolerated by the conservative ones, who prefer to be in flowing robes and turbans, and not the Western suits worn by these upstarts.

Sure, we can argue that if all the non-Muslim MPs in the House have the full support of the Umno MPs, the Private Member’s Bill will not pass. That’s the key point – non-Muslims rely on Umno MPs to stall the Bill. The Prime Minister has said that Malaysians aren’t “ready” for such implementation.

But in the fight for Malay votes in an increasingly religious Malaysia, it will be very difficult if non-Muslim voters continue to swing towards PAS.

The harsh reality is that both Umno and PAS are determined to win the crucial Malay heartland, where being Islamic counts.

So we had Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi, a fiery PAS leader who made a reputation for himself calling for a ban on Valentine’s Day celebrations and all concerts, being voted in as the new MP for Temerloh in the last general election.

Who did the voters kick out? Barisan’s Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who is known for his open and moderate views.

Saifuddin was already facing pressure within his own party for his consistently liberal views. And in a semi-rural parliamentary constituency, it didn’t help that the non-Malay voters opted for PAS as well.

We can be sure that Nasrudin will be at the forefront of the parliamentary debate to push for the hudud bill.

Let’s take another case. Pakatan Rakyat women MPs, particularly the non-Muslims, already have their hands full dealing with Rantau Panjang MP Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff.

She is known for insisting that the government should enact laws to prevent women from wearing “indecent” clothing. By her standards, half of the non-Muslim women would be in jail if she and her party had their way.

She created an uproar in Parliament with her statement that sexual crime would be reduced if women did not wear shorts and skimpy dresses. Of course, she didn’t explain how women in tudung (head cover) or children in rural areas got raped too.

And then there is Dr Shafee Abu Bakar, the state assemblyman for Bangi, who still managed to get himself re-elected in the 2013 elections despite his objections to any form of entertainment in his constituency, dismissing them as unwelcome in his place.

And what was he so deadly adamant to stop, presumably convinced that entertainment would lead to maksiat (immorality) or pergaulan bebas (mixing of the genders)? A mere cinema in Bangi.

If PAS has been consistent in pushing for Islamic laws, this writer has also been consistent in his objections against any religious-based parties. To put it simply, politicians should not be masquerading as religious figures. Leave politics to the politicians and ordinary people. It is the same for Christians, Buddhists or Hindus.

It becomes complicated when a pastor or a priest has the sole right to the pulpit and starts delivering a sermon with a political slant, with the rest of the worshippers trapped and forced to listen to the political monologue without any right of reply.

The Indonesians have finally got it right by starting to reject religious-based parties. But over here in Malaysia, the religious personalities seem to have become louder with their political utterances.

They should be focused on healing broken hearts and uplifting the spiritual needs of their flocks in their respective places of worship instead of dividing them further with their politics, assuming that everyone shares their love for certain political personalities.

Malaysia must remain secular and moderate. We need to keep away laws that would complicate Malaysia, which is already increasingly complicated.