“Why do many non-Muslims have a ‘phobia’ about the private member’s bill tabled by Marang MP cum PAS President Datuk Seri Hadi Awang to amend the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965? [Act 355]”
“Is it because harsher punishments will deter Muslims from patronising certain ‘industries’ and hurt the interests of the non-Muslim operators?”
Recently, I encountered these two questions which characterise objections against the Hadi Bill as either irrational or selfish.
While I don’t expect supporters of the Hadi Bill to agree with objections against it, they should respect the fact it is perfectly possible to understand what the bill is about and disagree with it.
Calling disagreement as “phobia” is patronising and coming out with a conspiracy theory of commercial motive is outright offensive.
Before we go on into the grounds of objections, let us be clear what the Hadi Bill is all about.
Currently, Syariah Courts’ criminal jurisdiction is restricted constitutionally and legally.
Constitutionally, it is limited by “State List” in the Ninth Schedule to offences “against precepts of [Islam]” committed by Muslims, excluding offences provided by federal law.
Legally, it is limited by Act 355 to meting out punishments up to 3 years in imprisonment, RM 5000 in fine and six strokes in whipping, the so-called 3-5-6 limit.
The Hadi Bill aims to remove the 3-5-6 limit and allow for any punishments other than death penalty.
This means five Hudud punishments for four offences under Kelantan’s Syariah Criminal Code II and Terengganu’s Syariah Criminal Offences (Hudud and Qisas) Enactment will be enabled if the Bill is passed.
These are: (a) 100 strokes of whipping for unmarried offenders of fornication; (b) 80 strokes of whipping for those who make accusation of fornication or sodomy without four just male adult Muslim witnesses; (c) 40-80 strokes for drinking; (d) confiscation of all properties and indefinite imprisonment (until repentance) for heresy (irtidad and riddah).
Yes, it is about enabling some Hudud punishments, just not stoning, amputation, execution or crucifixion. It is not just about technically updating the punishments like raising the maximum fine from RM 5000 to, say, RM 10,000, because of inflation.
Do people object to these punishments purely out of ignorance or out of motivation to commit these offences?
Prof Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Islamic thinker has led a call for moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty in the Islamic world, for amongst others, “political systems and the state of the majority Muslim societies do not guarantee a just and equal treatment of individuals before the law”.
Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, president of the World Federation of Muslim Scholars, said in an interview, “…sometimes some individuals steal millions and billions and hudud are not applied to them as they are politically empowered and rich. In the same time, hudud are applied to the weak and the poor. Here, imbalance takes place.”
People may well disagree with them, but should their objection or reservation be called phobia? If not, why should one assumes non-Muslims who object to Hudud punishments have not come across their reasoning and shared their views?
In any case, does this affect the non-Muslims?
The current Hadi Bill will not place non-Muslims under Syariah Court but will Hadi stop his attempt with this Bill?
After tabling this Bill, Hadi had argued that Hudud punishments were solution to crimes, suggesting his clear intention was eventually to amend the Federal Constitution to allow Hudud punishments for theft and robbery.
Would that affect non-Muslims then? Of course, if a non-Muslim fell prey to Muslim thieves or robbers, his case will go to Syariah court and as a non-Muslim, the victim cannot even testify in his own case. What harsher punishments to deter crimes? Where is justice?
The Kelantan and (previous) Terengganu state governments have never been upfront about how non-Muslims will be affected negatively as crime victims by their laws that contained Hudud (fixed) and Qisas (retaliatory) punishments.
Why should non-Muslims believe that the Hadi Bill would not open the floodgate to eventually lead to Hudud and Qisas punishments for theft, robbery, homicide and bodily harm, where the non-Muslim victims cannot bear witness of their own suffering?
A supporter for Hadi’s bill needs not agree with the objection against it. But to dismiss these legitimate objections as driven by phobia, selfishness or hostility against Islam is dishonest to say the least.
Wong Chin Huat