Hudud and Huckle


Malaysians seem to be emotional thinkers. One day we condemn harsh punishments and the next day we say we desire them.

Saleh Mohammed, Free Malaysia Today

The reactions of Malaysians to recent developments in the news seem to show that we tend to be emotional thinkers. One day we condemn the idea of hudud as inhuman, and the next day we call for hudud-like penalties to be imposed on child molester Richard Huckle.

“Hudud” is Arabic for “limits”. In Islamic jurisprudence, it refers to punishments specified in the Quran and Hadith for certain crimes. One could argue that the idea is to prevent tyranny, for a tyrant might be tempted to impose forms of punishment that exceed these limits. One could also argue that enforcement authorities could, if they wanted to, exercise leniency and decide not to go to the full limits of the prescribed punishments. But we’ll leave this issue to qualified scholars to discuss.

It’s typical of the Quran, when it speaks of punishment, to conclude the passage with a reminder of God’s grace and mercy. For example, here’s a translation of Verses 33 and 34 of the fifth surah, Surah al-Ma’idah:

“The punishment for those who fight God and His Messenger, and strive to spread corruption on earth, is that they be killed, or crucified, or have their hands and feet cut off on opposite sides, or be banished from the land. That is to disgrace them in this life; and in the Hereafter they will have a terrible punishment.

“Except for those who repent before you apprehend them. So know that God is Forgiving and Merciful.”

In some other passages, punishments are mentioned in the context of the right of the aggrieved to have justice. These passages often end with sobering declarations, such as, “But it is better to forgive.”

The purpose of this article is not to discuss hudud, but to stimulate discussions on how Malaysians think. Do we base our thinking on knowledge or on how we feel? We do not need divergent thinkers. What we probably need are lateral and inspirational thinkers.

We have this hue and cry about hudud being ancient and cruel. Many have said that it does not have any place in our modern, moderate, multiracial and multi-religious society.

And then we have the issue surrounding Richard Huckle. A London court sentenced him to 23 life terms after he pleaded guilty to 71 child abuse charges. A woman in the public gallery shouted: “1,000 deaths is too good for you.”

Malaysians also reacted. Some said he deserved 100 lashes. Others called for his castration. There were even calls for him to be burned alive.

Reacting to the London court’s decision, the Chair of Malaysia’s Voice of the Children asked a question and answered it herself: “Is this justice? No.”

Suddenly, we are told about the absence of a national sex offenders’ registry and the need to make child pornography and child sexual abuse severe crimes with heavy penalties.

Are these calls not ancient, cruel and outdated? Do they have any place in our modern, moderate, multiracial and multi-religious society?

So how do we Malaysians think? One day, we dislike harsh punishments and the next day we desire them.

Read more here