This June, leading Islamic opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) will seek parliamentary support for hudud to be passed in Malaysia. Yet, many Malaysian Muslims do not want the Islamic penal code to define their identity. Women fear that hudud’s harsh laws, which include stoning, will be manipulated against their interests. Even Islamic scholars in Malaysia have expressed fears that the disadvantaged and vulnerable may suffer from the interpretation of hudud adopted by officials.
Dr Ahmad Fauzi bin Abdul Hamid from the University Sains Malaysia says, “There is a deep misunderstanding of hudud laws, by those who promote it in Malaysia and those who protest it. Religion in its essence is about love and forgiveness. Religious officials in Malaysia are unfortunately only trained in the legal side of religion, where the emphasis is on punishment and hence their perspective may be skewed.”
“For instance, in the case of rape. How are we to distinguish if an unmarried woman who became pregnant committed adultery, or was a victim of rape?” Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong, MCA deputy president, said at a forum titled ‘Hudud: Are We Ready?’. “She must then bring forth four male Muslim witnesses to prove that she was raped, otherwise it is assumed she committed adultery and must be flogged.”
According to The Malaysian Insider, former Perlis Mufti Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin cautions that Malaysia’s corrupt environment would allow society’s elite to escape hudud if it were enforced and this defeated the entire purpose of the law.
Religious conservatism that appeals to semi-urban and rural Malaysia has worked to gain more seats for UMNO in the recent General Elections. However, PAS attempts to push Malaysia to readopt hudud has provoked a strong response from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Meanwhile, the Sultan of Brunei has faced accusations of hypocrisy over his recent decision to reinstate the practice of hudud in his country. In the face of widespread media criticism backed by celebrity boycotts, Brunei has postponed the implementation of hudud.
Sources say that the Sultan of Brunei’s decision to reintroduce the Islamic penal code was influenced by East Malaysia’s Nik Aziz, the spiritual leader of PAS.
When PAS revealed its plans to table a private members’ bill in parliament in June to allow hudud to be enforced in Kelantan, it stirred strong resistance within the nation.
In Malaysia’s case, the uproar against the reintroduction of hudud comes from within and is led by Islamic scholars who are gaining support from all segments of society, including Muslims. Hudud has no spiritual legitimacy in Malaysia, as it alienates even the most devout of Muslims – the Islamic scholars.