Is Hudud the Law of Amputation?

Rama Ramanathan

In the lift with me were several Malay women and a man wearing an MCA T-shirt proclaiming “Defend the Constitution.” One makcik remarked that MCA translates Hudud as “law of amputation.” We exited the lift in the MCA building, and went to our cars.

We had just listened to Hanipa Maidin, Member of Parliament (MP) for Sepang and Dr Zulkefly Ahmad, former MP for Kuala Selangor, both of the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), explain why they are pushing for mandatory extreme punishments (Hudud) in Malaysia.

They made it clear that for them Hudud is much more than punishment.

Hanipa and Dzul came across as men driven by the conviction that “Islam” means subjection to a system of penal laws. For them, these laws determine who may be judges; the rules of evidence; mandatory punishments. For them, these laws have been dictated to men by God, and established by the actions of the Prophet of Islam.

Hanipa and Dzul came across as sincere men who believe there are destructive elements in society, and that they have been called and equipped by God to disable these elements. For them, God is shouting in our ears the names of these destructive elements through the megaphone of diabolical punishments: lashes, amputation, stoning. Yet, they carefully avoided using those three words.

Hanipa and Dzul came across as carefully avoiding use of the words “lashing,” “amputation” and “stoning” because the images attached to those punishments will limit the number of people who will accept them as rational beings. For them, it is important to come across as respecters of “democracy” and “the Federal Constitution” – words which they used repeatedly.

Hanipa has been called a “human rights lawyer.” Dzul has earned a Ph.D. in toxicology from Imperial College, London. These men display the extent to which professional success and academic awards do not predict what men believe God desires.

Kudos to Hanipa and Dzul for being on a panel chaired by a woman (Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir) and including Dr Farouk Mousa of the Islamic Renaissance Front and Zainah Anwar of Sisters in Islam.

Dr Farouk and Ms Zainah have a far different understanding of how politicians should read the scriptures and set priorities. Yet they are as convicted as Hanipa and Dzul about the urgent need to act against social ills.

The similarities and differences between Hanipa and Dzul (Group A) on the one hand and Farouk (Group B1) and Zainah (Group B2) on the other hand were easy to discern.

Note: I did not see any evidence of collaboration between Farouk and Zainah. I am calling them “Group B” merely as a means of analysis.

The similarity between Groups A and B is that they are Muslims, work under the constraints set by the Federal Constitution and support active governance through a system of law and enforcement.

I’ll limit myself to six differences between Groups A and B.

Homogeneity of Islam

Group A portray Islam as capable of being homogenous, despite clear evidence to the contrary over the past 63 years in the Peninsula (PAS was founded in 1951) and over the past 14 centuries worldwide (Islam was ‘revealed’ from 570 – 632 AD). They say Islamic homogeneity will eventually be achieved in Malaysia.

Group B say Islamic homogeneity is an unrealistic goal. They say the reality is that Shiite and other Muslim groups are persecuted now in Malaysia, and that the Shafi’i school alone is accepted in Malaysia, despite other schools such as the Hanafi, also having an ancient lineage.

Men’s role in establishing the seriousness of crimes

Group A portray the Koran and the Hadith as crystal clear with respect to punishment – though they, at the same time, say the initial implementation will be imperfect.

Group B point out glaring difficulties. For instance, the Prophet ordered amputation of a hand of a thief who stole upwards of a quarter of a Dinar. They ask how PAS determined that equals RM 2,000 today and how disagreements amongst scholars were resolved.

The results of Hudud implementation in other lands

Group A say Malaysians should not discuss the success or failure of implementation in other lands.

Group B say we should exhaust every avenue of learning, and use that learning to read with fresh eyes what was handed down 1,400 years ago. They point to nations such as Pakistan and Tunisia where Hudud implementation ‘failed;’ they add that implementation of Hudud is not a priority in other Muslim-majority nations.

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