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PAS’ hudud dreams

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On Saturday, journalist Mr. Baradan Kuppusamy wrote in the Star an ‘analysis‘ that:

A vote for Barisan Nasional in the upcoming Kuala Terengganu by-election is a vote for a secular and multi-ethnic Malaysia ruled by the Federal Constitution.

His article is in line with the mainstream media’s blitzkrieg of scaring non-Malays and non-Muslims on the issue of hudud laws. First it was magnifying the disagreements between Pakatan Rakyat on the issue. Closer to the crucial Kuala Terengganu by election, ‘commentators’ like Mr. Baradan are openly claiming that ‘a vote for PAS is a vote for hudud’. A call eerily similar to MCA campaigners in the Chinese majority areas of Kuala Terengganu.

Indeed, even the more respectable Mr. Hafiz Noor wrote in the Malaysian Insider:

I would like both Pas and PKR to be punished for their position on hudud.

If the answer is no, then Pas must lose in Kuala Terengganu. It is regrettable that the implication is victory for BN, especially when it is becoming clear that BN has learned nothing from March 8.

Nevertheless, I am unwilling to sacrifice my ideals for too much political expediency. There is such a thing as a limit and this whole issue on hudud, and especially the argument brought forward by Pas and supported by PKR, has gone over and beyond mine.

Mr. Hafiz seems to be caught up with Barisan’s propaganda on the issue of hudud, both the hair of Samson and the heel of Achilles to PAS at the same time.  Hudud has once again entered the realm of public opinion in our fair country.

The problem with the public discourse on hudud is that people know very little of what it actually entails. When people talk of hudud, the first thing that comes to mind is the punitive aspects, such as amputation and stoning. This may be due to Barisan’s age-old strategy to counter PAS, especially against non-Muslims: the fear of hudud and the so-called Islamic state.

But what exactly is hudud?

How do we establish an Islamic state?

Is one the pre-requisite of another, as Mr. Karpal Singh claims?

Let’s look at hudud. Let’s say, hypothetically, that there are enough  MPs in Parliament to pass a bill on hudud. How would such a bill be passed? Is it merely a matter of replacing the current criminal justice system? Or do we actually need a constitutional amendment, which would of course require two thirds majority. And will hudud, if implemented, apply to non-Muslims as well? PAS and Mr. Anwar says it will only apply to Muslims. Will we then have a parallel criminal justice system for Muslims and non-Muslims, as in family maters?

The truth is, no one really knows. It has never been tested before. No one, not even from PAS, has ever attempted to table a hudud bill in Parliament.

Let’s accept one thing. PAS has always had a dream to establish an Islamic state in Malaysia and to implement hudud. Regardless of how the political climate in Malaysia has changed, I believe that party will still have this as its ‘ultimate principle’. It is this underlying notion of unshaken belief in Islamic principles that gives PAS its unique strength.

But PAS is also realistic. It knows that to actually achieve this ‘dream’, it cannot do so whilst in partnership with PKR and DAP. We have of course heard many times of DAP’s objection to hudud and Islamic state, and whilst Mr. Anwar has said that PKR will not object hudud outright, I doubt that his multi-racial party will ever accept an Islamic state/hudud. Thus for PAS to achieve its dream, it can only do so by forming the Federal government on its own. Yet on its own, PAS can never form the Federal government.

Therefore, the discourse on hudud is a hypothetical one. A rhetoric.

PAS is now a member of Pakatan Rakyat, a coalition trying to present itself as a viable alternative to Barisan Nasional. As in any coalition of differing ideologies and interests, there must of course be consensus and compromise. PAS cannot and I believe will force hudud upon its partners, even if Pakatan forms the Federal government. Mr. Khalid Samad said in his blog:

More importantly, the public has also to be referred to. We cannot implement the Hudud laws or any other law which was not specified and agreed to by the people who elected us into power. That would be a breach of trust of our part. It is obvious that the PR did not win in the 5 states on the basis of the implementation of the Islamic legal system and to implement the Islamic legal system in such a circumstance would be improper. Obviously, our partners in the coalition would also not allow it.

This however does not mean that PAS therefore has no purpose or reason to be with the PR government. After all, good governance is as equally an important element of the Islamic agenda as any other aspect of the Islamic system, Hudud laws included.

(Emphasis is mine)

Thus, even if PAS cannot achieve its dream, it does not mean that it has no purpose to remain in Pakatan Rakyat. As Mr. Dzulkefly Ahmad said:

I could go into great detail in arguing and debating from a Syariah point of view — with regards to the wisdom of the Islamic Jurisprudence (Maqasid Syariah) — that being in a Political Coalition, or Tahaluf Siyasi in Arabic, with our Pakatan Rakyat partners is not only permissible but almost enjoined by the Syariah. I have no qualms in admitting this. There is an authentic prophetic tradition on this and the ‘Siyasah Syariah’ or Syariah-Driven Politics enjoins this approach. We are truly a plural politic in a plural society. There is no other way towards achieving government save through Power-Sharing (Tahaluf Siyasi) and understanding the demands of Plurality (not meaning Pluralism).

Bearing in mind the supreme purpose of Syariah is Justice (Al-‘Adaalah), and that Justice is the largest common denominator of the three parties in Pakatan Rakyat, PAS must remain focused on this noble goal. PAS must also place the principles of achieving Good Governance (Al-Istikhlaf) and Wellbeing for All (Al-Isti’mar) as critical cornerstones of a new nationhood. All these are Quranic concepts are both universal and inclusive. These principles are in consonant with the aspirations of PKR and DAP.

The above is an excerpt from an interview with Mr. Dzulkefly. It’s a good read.

Of course, from time to time, PAS will voice its opinions on the Islamic state and hudud. And almost on cue, DAP will record its strongest objections. And PKR will say ‘its up to the component party to discuss’. Does it mean that these parties cannot work together, that they’re wrecked apart by ideological differences? Of coure not. Pakatan, thus far is unlike Barisan, where ‘big brother’ UMNO dictates and the others follow. Pakatan is an experiment of political consensus-finding and compromise. In Pakatan, no party is major or minor, even if PKR has the most seats in Parliament.

At the end of the day, we have one party whose members trample upon the sensitivities of others, whose racist tendencies are becoming more prominent and widespread, who practice corruption and double standards, who supports detention without trial, who claims the supremacy of one race over the other and who uses government institutions for its own political needs.

At the other side, we have a party who doesn’t practice all the above, but has a dream, impossible as it may seem, to implement hudud on Muslims.

If both are viewed as ‘evils’ to a secular Malaysia, which one is the greater ‘evil’ that deserves to be punished?

If a vote for PAS is a vote for PAS’ hudud dreams, then what is a vote for UMNO?

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