Why former IGP Rahim Noor is against hudud

Abdul Rahim Noor

Former IGP Tan Sri Rahim Noor speaks his mind about hudud, the law and police jurisdiction – and stands ready to face any brickbats.

 Shahanaz Habib, The Star

THE former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Rahim Noor has come out strongly against PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s Private Members’ Bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act.

He dismisses the notion that the Bill is merely to enhance the Syariah system. Instead he sees it as a “tactic” that PAS is using to push further for hudud (punishment under Islamic law).

In a plural society like Malaysia where non-Muslims make up about 40% of the population, Rahim fears such a move could fracture national integration and might even push Sabah and Sarawak to go their separate ways from peninsular Malaysia.

For him, all citizens should be dealt with equally under the law. “If the punishments in the (civil) criminal jurisprudence are not severe enough, what’s wrong with us enhancing the existing civil laws? There is no need for hudud,” he says.

The following is an interview with Rahim on May 31.

Why are you making a stand on hudud, and what is that stand?
As a Malay and a Muslim, there are more important considerations to look into, such as socioeconomic, education and development issues that would help put us on firmer ground.
And as a human being and ex-policeman who has been the IGP, the Federal Constitution has been the country’s foundation since we achieved independence in 1957.
There have been only a few amendments in conjunction with Sabah and Sarawak coming in to form Malaysia in 1963.
It is clear from our Constitution that our criminal jurisprudence is based on civil law and civil procedures. When I mention civil procedures, this includes all the work of the police.
So when any crime is committed, the police will investigate according to the law. If there is a case, it will go to court and if the person is found guilty, he will be punished.
We already have an existing system. So far no one has criticised our system as being archaic, lousy or one that doesn’t bring about justice. So why the need for another system?
Hudud has a lot to do with criminal jurisprudence, such as theft, sexual offences, crimes against women. All this involves police work, police investigation, and the court. I don’t see the need for hudud.
But wouldn’t the country be safer if we practise hudud because people would be more fearful to steal and commit adultery and other crimes?
Pakistan under General Zia Ul Haq implemented hudud in 1979 for crimes like theft, rape, adultery.
Before that, they were using the civil law. But what happened with the hudud was that with rape, the victim who is the complainant ends up in jail for making a false report and the rapist gets away because she couldn’t produce four witnesses.
Mind you, these witnesses must be male, truthful and non-sinners. And women and non-Muslims can’t be witnesses even though they might have witnessed the crime. And the witnesses have to had witnessed the penetration. How could they unless they are close?
Before hudud was implemented in Pakistan, about 100 women were imprisoned because of this, but I read that after hudud was implemented, the number of women imprisoned (for false report because they couldn’t produce witnesses) went up to 900.
Because of these bitter experiences with hudud, President Pervez Musharaff in 2006 drastically changed the law so rape cases now use the civil system they had before 1979. So in Pakistan while there is hudud, this has now been very much subdued.
Demi Allah, I am not trying to belittle what some say is “Gods law”. But surely the law from God cannot be only about hudud? What about the law on other things?
In law, what we want is justice. Judgements have to have a legal basis and cannot be based on whims or the emotional thinking of the judge.
In hudud, for sex related offences the punishment is stoning to death.
From what I read, this must be carried out in a public place like a football field, the market place or a square for all and sundry to see because this will act as a deterrent.
But how can you do in today’s day and age? This is like a syiok sendiri (cheap thrill) as if Parliament OKs laws to allow for the stoning to death. And should a lady be treated like this? My God, what is this?
In today’s day and age! We would be a laughing stock of the world! It is not a Malaysian tradition. Some might argue why am I so bold as to argue against God’s law. But I argue based on thinking.
Practically, how would it impact the police if hudud becomes the law?
Then there would be a need to look at whether this would involve the police.
If so, this would require the police to enlarge their scope of criminal investigation to fulfil procedures of evidence according to hudud.
But maybe those who want hudud would tell the police not to interfere because they would want to set up their own hudud police force under the state religious departments.
So it all depends on what the people and government wants.
If a Bill passes in Parliament that would allow Kelantan to implement hudud in the state, the police might say they don’t want to get involved.
Except if the Federal Government tells the police that they have to do the investigating, then the police will have to. I don’t want to speculate.

In 2002, after Terengganu passed its Hudud & Qisas enactment at the state assembly, the then IGP Tan Sri Norian Mai directed his officers not to implement that law.

How different would the responsibility of the police be if Hadi’s Private Members’ Bill now passes in Parliament?

At that time, the position was very clear with regards to the police.
Criminal investigations are a federal matter and not based on state authority. And criminal investigations must follow the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code.
Kelantan is ready to implement hudud. They just need it passed at Parliament for this to kick off.
(Kelantan’s PAS Government passed the Kelantan Criminal Enactment (II) in 1993 and the subsequent Kelantan Enactment in 2015 at the State Assembly detailing punishments such as stoning to death for adultery and amputation for theft.)
In 2002, they (Kelantan and Terengganu) couldn’t implement it (because it was blocked at Parliament level).
Hadi tried to table a Private Members’ Bill a few times in Parliament so that they can implement hudud in these states but he was unsuccessful and each time, the bill was rejected.
But this time he is allowed to (table it) and it is going to go through Parliament in October.
If it is passes, this means that the restriction at federal level won’t be there. So Kelantan can start with the hudud.
I don’t think Terengganu will follow suit because it is under a Barisan Nasional government.
Hadi and Umno leaders have said the Private Members’ Bill has nothing to do with hudud and is only to improve the status of the Syariah courts and mete out harsher punishments other than death sentences.
On May 26 when Minister in the Prime Minister’s department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said moved a motion to allow Hadi’s Bill to be brought forward in the Order Paper, Hadi, after reading out the motion, requested for it to be postponed to the next Parliament session which will be in October.
If Hadi’s Private Member’s Bill passes in Parliament, will the police have to follow if Kelantan wants to implement hudud?
I am not sure about that. The police investigates penal code types of cases. With hudud, the method of investigation is different.
It is not only that. What is the role of the Attorney-General going to be?
If the police are involved, is the AG involved too?
Is the AG and his officers going to supervise the police investigations under hudud?
And who is going to prosecute? Is it the AG’s chambers? In hudud how is the process going to be?
All this has to be sorted out. Right now, as I see it, all this has not been sorted out so we don’t know whose jurisdiction it is going to be. That is cari pasal (asking for trouble).
The Prime Minister said the Private Members’ Bill being tabled is to “enhance Syariah” and not hudud. Comment?
I will say this: PAS senior leaders, and not just Datuk Seri Hadi Awang, agree with the PM.
They deny that the Bill is to push for hudud. They say they only want to enhance the Syariah system, elevate the status of the Syariah Court and enhance the punishments under the Syariah.
For PAS leaders, it is just a tactic. Next, it will be hudud. They say, “It doesn’t matter.
We can’t get hudud straightaway so we have to do it slowly”. So the Bill might not state “hudud” and there is no death sentence. But what is the meaning of enhancement?
After this Bill has been passed, the next thing would be to push for the next step (hudud).
It’s a political game. But the thing is, there are those who actually believe that hudud is what God has ordained and is demanded by Islam. So they will keep pushing for this. This is not a good sign.
It will create fear and uneasiness among non-Muslims, including those in Sabah and Sarawak. And let’s not forget that many bumiputra in Sabah and Sarawak are non-Muslims.
If we agree to what they (PAS) ask (now), the pressure will keep moving. So I feel there should be a firm political stand on this. The government cannot main-main (play games) in this matter. They have to come out and say that hudud cannot be implemented in the country because it contravenes the Federal Constitution. They have to be firm.
So you are against hudud?
Definitely. If punishments in the (civil) criminal jurisprudence are not severe enough, what’s wrong with enhancing those existing civil laws?
In Indonesia, President Jokowi was outraged when a 14-year-old was gang-raped and killed. And he instructed their law to be amended so that rapists of minors get the death sentence.
There is no need for hudud. You can enhance existing criminal laws.
When we do this, it can be used for all and not just Muslims.
Indonesia doesn’t have an official religion. The country’s foundation is rooted in the Pancasila (the five basic principles for an Indonesian independent state).
We have our own the Rukunegara. It seeks to unite all the people. It states “Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan” (belief in God) as one of its principles, not Islam. Belief in God is something applicable to all people, all religions.
In Indonesia they actually apply Pancasila as their ideology. Some might call them secular or deem it liberalism.
But the good thing is that the Pancasila can be used by all and their people are not divided by religion.
For us here, if you are a Sabahan and a Muslim, some of your family members can be Christians, although they are Murut or Kadazans. For them, it is a nonissue.
Why can’t we do the same with our Rukunegara? Use it to unite the people.
Some would argue that the non-Muslims shouldn’t “make noise” about the Bill and hudud because it doesn’t concern them?
That is a narrow way of thinking in terms of our spirit of togetherness.
This is a big deal and a question of criminal justice. Every citizen is the same under the law.
You cannot amputate the hand of a Muslim for theft and not do the same to a non-Muslim for the same crime.
What if it is adultery or sex outside marriage and one of the partners is Muslim and the other is not? So the Muslim partners will get it under hudud while the non-Muslim is tried under the civil system and might get away scot free.
You can’t have two people being treated differently, and worse still, what if only the Muslim kena (get’s it) and the non-Muslim is let off because of the type of evidence needed. Based on principle, people are supposed to get equal treatment under the law.
The current IGP, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, said recently that the police would investigate those who make comments on sensitive religious matters if they are not experts on the subject matter. What is your view about this?
I don’t think views and opinions should only come from experts. And how much of an expert do they have to be before they are allowed to voice their opinion?
For me, according to the law, people have the freedom to speak or voice their opinion in whichever form they want, as long as it doesn’t cause chaos. So with regard to issues about religion, it is the duty of the police to monitor statements or comments that can cause racial or religious tension in our multiracial society. Such things should be avoided and we have many examples of those.
But if the issue doesn’t cause religious tension, then I don’t see the need for someone to be a religious expert before he can give his views.
If we go by what the IGP said, then you yourself shouldn’t be voicing your opinion because you are not an expert in religion?
(Laughs.) Yes, yes, if that is what he meant. But when I was young I did go for religious classes and I also follow some religious teachers who teach on a voluntary basis. And I khatam (did a complete reading of) the Quran twice, and I read a lot.
Some Muslims would criticise you as being secular. They will question if your being against hudud means you are against Islam. How prepared are you for brickbats? 
I know that is a possibility and it is a risk I have to take. But that is what I am. I speak my mind. And it’s not just on hudud. I was that way too when I was the SB (Special Branch) director handling national security. I always spoke my mind. If people want to criticise me, I’ll just face it.
I speak out of sincerity. It is up to the people whether they accept what I say or not.
What is the danger if we continue on this path of enhancing Syariah law?
As a democracy, we have to face the reality that Sabah and Sarawak have never been part of British Malaya and Singapore.
This is the historical reality. Of course, Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei were under the British but, territorially and administratively, they were never part of us.
Malaysia was formed in September 1963 on the basis of compromise and understanding, and we have been together for more than 50 years.
There was sincerity among the leaders of that time. People say that was then and things are different now, and we need a new calculation. But people in the peninsula forget there are other political considerations for Sabah and Sarawak.
There are many non-Muslim bumiputra there.
When Sabah and Sarawak came together to form Malaysia in 1963, they never wanted Islam to be stated as the religion of the country in the Federal Constitution.
But they compromised and agreed to it. But some Muslims (in the peninsula) now interpret this to mean that Islam is the official religion of the country. But that is not true.
The Constitution only states that Islam is the religion of the Federation not the official religion. There is a big difference there.
If it is the official religion, then it would have more depth and carry more weight, but it is not.
Now, when this hudud issue crops up, you have leaders from Sabah and Sarawak saying that they might go their separate ways (from Peninsular Malaysia). So leaders in KL, including those from PAS and Hadi too, have to be more sensitive. Muslims make up about 60% of the country’s population.
I fear such issues might jeopardise national integration. I am 73 already and it might not happen during my lifetime but I worry. If we love this country of ours, we should strive to make it stronger year by year decade by decade. And not tear it apart.