As hudud fever burns, Dr M slams use of faith for politics


(Malay Mail Online) – Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today lamented the use of faith for political gain, as the country is again embroiled in a controversy over the introduction of hudud.

Attending the trial of intellectual Kassim Ahmad at the Shariah High Court here today, Dr Mahathir also weighed in on the national committee on the Islamic penal code, insisting that it comprise politically neutral religious leaders.

He said this was to prevent the participation of those who may want to use the Islamic criminal law to “win votes”.

“The use of religion for political purposes is something to be regretted,” Dr Mahathir told reporters after the hearing here today.

“Religion should be for the purpose of administering religious laws among the Muslims, but when religion is used for winning votes, that is regrettable,” the former Umno president added.

The country’s longest-serving prime minister also said he did not believe that the hudud controversy would split Barisan Nasional (BN), even as the ruling coalition’s Chinese component MCA voiced its rejection for an Islamic criminal justice system in Kelantan.

“Umno believes in hudud as found in the Quran, but when it’s used by a political party, they’re bound to interpret it in a biased manner.

“And that political party’s interpretation of hudud is something I don’t think Umno or anybody else can accept,” the 88-year-old said.

In 1993, the PAS state government passed the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code Enactment II, allowing it to impose the strict Islamic penal code in the state. But the laws have not been implemented.

PAS is now looking for parliamentary approval to implement hudud through two private members’ bills in Parliament.

One seeks approval for punishments including whipping, stoning and amputation while the other seeks to empower Shariah courts to mete out the sentences.

According to the Shariah Courts (Criminal) Jurisdiction Act 1965, the Islamic court cannot sentence offenders to more than three years in jail or fine them more than RM5,000. It also cannot sentence offenders to be whipped more than six times.

Umno leaders have said they have no objections to hudud enforcement and have constantly challenged PAS to try to introduce the law.

The trial of Kassim here was attended by both Dr Mahathir and the former prime minister’s daughter, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.

Dr Mahathir has previously defended the 81-year-old Kassim, saying that the academic was labelled anti-hadith as critics have failed to debate with Kassim on religion.

Kassim was charged at the Shariah High Court last March with insulting Islam and defying religious authorities at a seminar in February that was officiated by Dr Mahathir.

At the seminar in Putrajaya, Kassim allegedly questioned the use of “hadith” (a collection of sayings and deeds attributed to Prophet Muhammad) to interpret the Quran, as well as the headscarf commonly worn by Muslim women, as he allegedly said hair was not part of the “aurat” that must be covered up.