What’s the rush with hudud?


Zurairi AR, Malay Mail Online

By insisting to seek Parliament’s approval to implement hudud in Kelantan this year, Islamist party PAS has certainly put all other political parties in terribly awkward positions.

Chinese-majority MCA, which had long opposed hudud and blatantly so before the 13th general election (GE13) last year, together with Gerakan both risk being seen as “anti-Islam” by publicly opposing it.

PAS’s rival, Umno, another major representative of the Malay-Muslim community, risks an even worse backlash from its own constituents if it rejects the implementation of the Islamic penal code.

Which was probably why it had employed filibustering tactics, especially during Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure, to avoid hudud being brought up in Parliament.

But none have been put in a more awkward position than PAS’s own allies in Pakatan Rakyat (PR).
As 16 of its 30 MPs are Muslims, the multi-ethnic PKR will need to come up with a stand to convince their supporters who currently are torn between accepting and rejecting hudud.

Meanwhile, DAP will probably be faced with their biggest challenge yet in keeping Malaysia secular and fending off creeping Islamisation. Even with the recent death of its stalwart Karpal Singh, DAP must stand its ground despite the risk of alienating the more conservative Muslim voters.

So, with analysts and observers noting that the two private members’ bills to pave way for hudud will fracture PR even more than ever before, what does PAS have to gain from all this?

Why has the hudud blitz returned?

It may well trace back to the last PAS annual conference, or muktamar, held in November last year.
This was set post-GE13, when DAP emerged the biggest beneficiary of the opposition pact, winning 38 parliamentary seats ahead of PKR’s 30; PAS won only 21 seats.

After losing two seats from its 2008 haul, delegates made it clear that they felt the pact had not only hindered them politically, but had also halted their progress in trying to establish an Islamic state.

This was especially so after PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang announced the “tahaluf siyasi” concept — roughly meaning political consensus, with PR partners — and “downgraded” their fight for Islamic state to just a “welfare state” instead, all in the previous muktamar in 2012.

Delegates stressed that they no longer wanted to be seen as just a “pillion rider” in PR. The divide between the two factions — those who wanted PAS to go it alone, and those who saw PR as the more resourceful vehicle to Putrajaya — has never been clearer.

The balance between the two factions was nearly unsettled in the party polls, and continues to teeter even now.

The Kelantan chapter of PAS, dominated by the ulama (religious clerics), probably saw proposing a hudud bill as a masterful gambit.

It would not only instil confidence in an ulama leadership among the delegates who had been clamouring for hudud to go on, but also strengthen the party’s position as the premier Islamic party.

This comes after its religious credentials were questioned by Islamist groups such as Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), and Umno itself, whose delegates had claimed to be “more Islamic” than PAS during its own general assembly in December last year.

At the same time, this will allow PAS to flex its muscles among its allies, showing voters that it is no longer just a “passenger”.

And flex its muscles PAS did; DAP MPs and even the Islamist party’s own non-Muslim supporters’ wing were told to refrain from criticising a move that they — as non-Muslims — have no right to question.

The wish by those who want to see PAS go it alone might even come true; maybe sooner than its proponents expect.