Categorised | Letters to the Editor

Hudud and democracy

SOME claim PAS faces an internal dilemma with the “outdated” hudud issue. I, of course, disagree with this assessment, as I believe PAS is and has always been clear on this issue. I believe it is democracy that faces a dilemma when confronted with the hudud issue. I have always wondered how a democracy would react if, in a particular state, the vast majority agrees to the implementation of the Islamic legal system, including hudud.

This was my very question to an officer of the American embassy a few years ago. As any officer of the American embassy in any part of the world would do, he scoffed at the idea. In fact, he even went so far as to question why the US should allow any Islamist government to exist, as these Islamists use democracy to destroy democracy. Islamists, according to him, would participate in the democratic process and stand for election, and when they win the election, replace the democratic system with a “tyrannical Islamic state”.

He was being presumptuous and biased when he made those statements. It is quite clear that he has no idea what an Islamic state is, and what he thinks it is is more reminiscent of a Communist dictatorship. How ironic that the very antithesis of the Islamic state — the Communist state with its disbelief in God and its total subservience to “matter and those laws governing its existence” — is seen as being its equivalent.

It seemed more like an excuse for him to side-step the question at hand, which went unanswered that evening. I believe he saw it as being exactly the dilemma faced by the US in its foreign policy towards Iran and Hamas in Palestine. These are popularly elected governments, which the US does not wish to recognise.

I had a similar experience with a non-Muslim friend who referred to Terengganu residents during PAS’s administration who would pay taxi drivers, plying their trade into Pahang, to buy Magnum four-digit numbers for them while in Barisan Nasional-controlled Pahang.

When I asked how many people he thought these taxi drivers serviced each day, he agreed it would be far short of a thousand. When I asked how many citizens there were in Terengganu, he replied, “Lots more than that.” So when I finally asked if he felt the majority of Terengganu residents should be allowed to have their kampungs and towns free of gambling if that was what they wished, he had no choice but to acquiesce.

Therefore, questions of democracy, individual freedom and the right of the majority are stacked one against the other in scenarios such as these. I personally feel that should the majority of people within a particular state willingly and freely wish to have the Islamic legal system implemented, they should be given the right. The other states can then watch and appraise, and can then decide if they want a similar system for themselves. That is what democracy is all about.

Wallahu a’lam (Allah knows best).

Khalid Samad
PAS MP for Shah Alam

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15 Responses to “Hudud and democracy”

  1. Vikraman says:

    Two things to point out,

    A) Democracy is not about majoritarianism. It is about doing what is best for the majority while not infringing on the rights of the minority which is normally protected by the constitution.

    B) Okay, the majority of the people want an “Islamic legal system” to be implemented for them. We’ll take this at face value. (Although I suppose you should conduct a nationwide referendum just to check before going on such an endeavour). What about all the individuals who don’t want their arms chopped off? Don’t they have rights? Or are their rights non-existent because the majority deems it so?

    The fact remains that government should play no part in policing morality or religion. Both are personal matters between you and your preferred God. (Whether or not this God exists is a matter for another day.) How would one police hudud law then? If a Muslim and a non-Muslim robbed a store together what then? One trial for the Muslim and one for the non-Muslim? One would spend three years in jail and one would lose a hand? Whatever happened to EQUALITY before the law? Is it really your job to enforce your God’s word? Have you appointed yourself the defender of your God’s law?

    One of the cornerstones of the democratic system is that every human being is equal. Each person is born equal and throughout his or her life is to be treated as an equal. Is it not religious apartheid to punish one individual more severely than another for committing the same crime?

    Food for thought Mr Khalid, until 1989 a white man arrested for petty theft could spend up to 10 years in jail and/or a fine of 100,000 Rand in South Africa. A black man arrested for the same crime could anticipate a MANDATORY 15-year sentence and/or fine up to 500,000 Rand.

    Sounds like this is what you are advocating.

  2. Singam says:

    Khalid Samad wrote “I have always wondered how a democracy would react if, in a particular state, the vast majority agrees to the implementation of the Islamic legal system, including hudud.”

    If the implementation is as agreed to by the vast majority, isn’t that democracy in action? The real question is, how did one arrive at the “majority agreement” conclusion? Like the Home Minister’s claim that a majority of Malaysians support the ISA?

    Majority support notwithstanding, Vikraman asks a valid question – what about the rights of minorities, whether Muslim or non-Muslim? Doesn’t a democracy (including darul Islam) protect the minorities?

    But for me the biggest question is, what has happened to Islam? Isn’t it supposed to be a religion of peace? Then why are so many people fearful? What has gone wrong? It is important that Islamic leaders examine and address this very pertinent matter. Otherwise any attempt at Islamisation will do more harm than good.

    Muslims describe God as ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim. Do any of His 99 names describe Allah as a punisher? God is love. Isn’t Islam supposed to be more about love and less about punishment? So why so much focus on hudud?

    If hudud is being pursued for political mileage, that is a serious disservice to Islam.

  3. Farah Wadina says:

    What also irks me as a Muslim woman is that PAS always tries to allay fears by claiming hudud will not affect non-Muslims. It is only for Muslims. And I am even more irked by the non-Muslims who seem to find comfort in this claim. This is just terrifying to me as a Muslim woman.

    I want to wear the tudung only as a matter of personal choice. I don’t want it imposed on me in the name of “divine law”. I have not come across any verse in the Quran that says the state has to impose a dress code upon women. It just says dressing modestly is a prerogative for both believing men and women. PAS’s version of hudud, of course, is very different – I am not convinced they would not penalise me for not covering my hair.

    I want my homosexual friends to feel safe and secure, and not feel that they could be stoned or hanged just because of whom they are romantically attracted to. PAS has not convinced me it will not harm homosexuals.

    True, Muslim women like me are a real minority in this country. Homosexual Muslims are also a tiny minority. Mr Khalid – if the “majority” of Muslims and non-Muslims decided that Muslim women like me and homosexuals should be executed (as in Iran, the example that you quote) would that be “democratic”?

    And to my non-Muslim friends – don’t be sure that hudud will not affect you. Look at the Bahais and Zoroastrians in Iran. They are marginalised and persecuted by their so-called “Islamic” government.

    I am not anti-Islam. I am merely saying that the hudud espoused by PAS through “democratic” means is far from just and fair.

    And I am not saying we should stick with the BN. We have suffered enough under Umno’s corrupt and racist rule. But let’s not kid ourselves that we’d be better off supporting PAS. It’s like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Perhaps the real democrats in Pakatan Rakyat should give PAS an ultimatum – drop the hudud agenda or get booted out of the coalition. Perhaps the truly democratic members of PKR and DAP should drop this fantasy of a “progressive PAS”. Once this fantasy is dispelled, Malaysians will truly have a viable alternative to the BN.

  4. anastasia says:

    I’m a transsexual and also a Muslim, a tiny minority as well. Any TS person who gets caught will be verbally abused, sometimes beaten up, fined and humiliated in front of the officers and the moral police who are Muslims themselves. What are the chances of living normally, safely and securely after hudud is enforced?

  5. ranj says:

    Dear Mr. Khalid Samad,

    I hear you are the MP who went out of his way to address a Catholic church after March 2008. If so, allow me first of all to say you have my respect for that act.

    However, I would like to ask you a pertinent question – one that has already been asked by Raja Petra.

    What proof do you have, what evidence do you bring, to convince us Malaysians that hudud law will not be abused as so many other laws have been in the past? The ISA originally wasn’t intended for its current nefarious purpose. Similarly, other laws and acts intended for “good” have been abused, including the NEP (as admitted by Dr Mahathir himself, one of its key architects), the privatisation of government utilities (also admitted by Dr M), appointment of judges (the case of Lingam), etc.

    What makes it worse is that because hudud is supposedly “given by God” (at least in PAS’s opinion) it could be twisted by sinister individuals to ensure that criticism of such laws could be punishable. At least with issues like ISA or NEP, it is no crime to speak up against abuses. But hudud? Well, I and my fellow Malaysians have seen the extent to which this law has been abused by the likes of Iran and the Taliban. We have no wish to see it here.

    Are we supposed to believe that PAS people are innately more “good” then the current ruling bunch and would never even comprehend such a thing? Even if you can personally guarantee it for our lifetime, what about our children and their children?

    Well I have news for you. Umno was once a party people could respect as well. Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Dr Ismail especially were men of honour and integrity. And look how this present bunch has turned out.

    So no thanks, Khalid Samad. You can keep your hudud. It may be “God’s law” but I certainly do not trust human beings to implement God’s law on earth.

  6. Sadly to note that while the “majority” voice here condemns him, he has a point. If put to a vote – a populist, physical, pen and paper vote, would the people agree or disagree with the hudud?

    Because like it or not, that’s democracy. The majority makes the decision valid.

  7. hamzah says:

    Dear Farah & Anastasia – stay strong and true to your conviction – NO to Hudud!
    To Ketuanan Rakyat!

  8. Daniel C says:

    Wallahu a’lam (Allah knows best), not the majority.

  9. Cow says:

    First of all Mr Khalid, these are great points made.

    I really like your friend’s account of the taxi driver. People who need to gamble find ways to get around state laws, while the majority of the residents there still maintain their gamble-free environment (at least on the surface). It’s the same in the US, where people drive to different states to get married (because they have less stringent marriage laws), etc.

    As you have rightly put, just because a minority is opposed to certain laws, it doesn’t mean that democracy has failed. Most certainly, Pahang has decided that it doesn’t want to lose the revenue that these gambling centres provide, while at the same time alleviating to some extent the problems of illegal gambling.

    However in the case of hudud law, what a democracy would react negatively to, isn’t so much the fact that a state has through democratic means established laws within their own boundaries. Instead, I think we as a country would find a problem dealing with a dual-criminal law system, which is what hudud law implementation would bring about. It goes far beyond a matter of choice, because it breaches certain fundamental principles that should rightfully have more importance than democracy itself. The Rule of Law in this case.

    As several other readers have pointed out, it would be unfeasible for two completely different systems of criminal law to exist in a single country without being a huge obstacle to fair justice to all.

    And this is precisely why these matters are left to the federal level, where at least nationwide uniformity will be applied. You must admit, there is a vast difference between allowing folk to buy numbers and deciding how to punish a murderer.

    But that aside, democracy isn’t about majority rule. There absolutely must be a proper avenue and system in place to voice out dissent. And this is much more vital to the concept of a healthy democracy, as opposed to having just an electoral system where whoever has the most votes rule the day.

    Thanks!

  10. Sabic says:

    I think it is not democracy that is in a dilemma, but civilised people in Malaysia feel that hudud has no place in the country. As a Muslim, I believe hudud law has got nothing to do with God. After reading the Quran for many years I share the view of the following blog:-

    http://mentalbondageinthenameofgod.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/arab-religious-laws/

    Read it, including its Table of Contents page.

  11. Eric says:

    Sabic, I have been looking for such a website for so long. At last, another view on Islam. Thanks for the tip!

  12. C says:

    Politics should not be allowed to be mixed with religion. Matters of religion should not be integrated into politics. Hence the unique label: Islamic Nations.

  13. ayus says:

    I think only thieves and rapists will be fearful of hudud.

    Thanks to Umno, they get their job done to make people so scared of something that can never happen to them. Of course, with help from certain ulama n friends. Why? Because PAS needs to have 148 MPs to impose hudud. Is that even realistic?

    Anyway, some people are blaming the leaders that they are incapable of decreasing the crime rate in Malaysia. But at the same time, they oppose chopping the hands of those who rob, mug, and rape because of equality or human rights.

    Maybe one day, if you are the victim, when there is parang being held to your neck, you’ll start wishing these criminals’ hands could be chopped off.

    Do you think jail for two to three years for mugging is enough to educate the criminal? That 10-15 years for raping is enough to prevent people from raping?

    We need something preventive. Not just corrective.

  14. chinhuat says:

    To ayus,

    “We need something preventive. Not just corrective.”

    What about keeping the ISA and using it on big time criminals?

  15. Kamal says:

    I read the articles and the following comments and wonder if PAS would be doing a better service to Islam if it focuses on delivering honest public service. We have a system, both administrative and legal, that we inherited in parts and adopted, from our colonial past that has served us well. I believe, no matter what faith we may be, we bring the good values instilled in us, to our jobs. It doesn’t have to be “Islamic” for it to practice the spirit of Islam. And from what I’ve been hearing and reading, what this means for a society is that there is justice and fair representation.

    If PAS wants to introduce hudud, and to strenghten the Islamic courts, they will have to ensure the system is just. Currently, with poor or biased representation in court, can we say the Malaysian Islamic court system upholds justice? Are we trying to send the message that Islam is above all else authoritarian, and selective? I hope not. The way I was taught is that Islam defines one’s relation to God; that is a personal jihad. People should advise, but they are not necessarily meant to punish transgressors; what more to lay injury or insult. And Islam, as I came to understand, is about social justice – very much like what both the legal system professes today and the civil rights movement.

    There is much room to raise the the compassionate face of Islam, why does PAS feel it needs first to introduce hudud when our civil law is doing a good job in representing justice? Should PAS not seek justice for those disenfranchised, marginalised and poor, regardless of race, religion or creed? I feel a better way to engage Islam in a time of peace, and we are at a time of peace, is not to seek discomfort among our fellow citizens, but to find ways we can help one another. Let the courts we have today work to represent justice for us. Let religion at a personal level be our beacon in dark times, and in the public arena, let religion be the guiding light for compassion and dignity.

    Can PAS go out across the country and learn first to empathise with the qualitative lives of all Malaysians? Will PAS go and live with marginalised Orang Asli villagers, to understand why land security is so important to them, not just for their livelihood, but as a source for cultural identity (which is intricately link to their religion)? Can PAS show it shares this compassion and start by recognizing the claims of these groups made poor by policies and the actions of the powerful? Is PAS willing to lead the way for social equality among all? If so start by giving Orang Asli land in Kelantan and recognising their claims to customary laws. After all doesn’t Islamic law recognize tribal laws as active as well?

    Empower the people on the ground that are not Muslims and have been marginalised. Show the country that you are above the rhetoric. I have great respect for the party, but if it wants to play a larger role, it needs to start leading by example. I am confident that PAS leadership can do this.


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