Don’t exempt non-Muslims from hudud, Muslim scholars suggest

Dr Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin

(Malay Mail Online) – Non-Muslims should not be exempted from severe hudud punishments if the controversial Islamic penal law is implemented in Malaysia, religious scholars suggested in a forum discussing the issue today.

According to the panellists, exempting non-Muslims from punishments prescribed for Muslims would create an unjust system, which would disturb the peace, ultimately defeating the original purpose of hudud itself.

“Should Ah Chong get a lighter punishment than Ahmad, although they both committed the same crime? Where is the justice?” said prominent religious cleric Dr Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin.

“I differ from Kelantan’s enactment. I agree with Brunei … we have to prescribe the punishments to all.”

The tiny, oil-rich nation of Brunei passed hudud laws last year and will begin enforcement from this year.

“Even non-Muslims must also get hudud punishments like Muslims … Hudud is meant to keep the peace. How can you keep the peace if non-Muslims can choose their punishments?” said Dr Mushaddad Abdullah, from Putrajaya-backed Institut Wasatiyyah Malaysia.

Mushaddad claimed that if criminals were given a choice, even a Muslim criminal would profess to be a non-Muslim to escape hudud punishments.

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

The hudud punishments in Kelantan’s enactment are exclusive to Muslims, and the state’s deputy mentri besar Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah defended the disparity of punishments between Muslims and non-Muslims.

“That is fair … because a Muslim has chosen his faith. When he chose Islam, he chose the entirety of Islamic teaching, including its laws,” said Mohd Amar.

Although some Muslims in Malaysia chose to convert in, most of the adherents were born into the religion.

Converting out of Islam in the country is almost impossible, and implementing hudud in Kelantan will make apostasy a crime punishable by death.

In April, Mohd Amar explained that Kelantan plans to implement an “open” concept of the hudud law in the state, which offers non-Muslims there a choice to live by the controversial Islamic penal code or not.

In response, MCA deputy president Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong pointed out today that crimes under hudud are mostly already covered by the existing civil law, and furthermore it would be very unliikely for a non-Muslim to choose hudud.

PAS is now looking for parliamentary approval to implement hudud. It plans to put forward two private members’ bills in Parliament. One seeks approval for unconventional punishments, some of which are for offences already covered in the Penal Code.The the other seeks to empower Shariah courts to mete out the unconventional punishments.

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 RM 5,000. It also cannot sentence offenders to be whipped more than six times.