MUCH has been said about hudud law. I take my hat off to Muslims who have come out openly to oppose its implementation. It must take a lot of courage to stand against conventional wisdom and religious teachings, and these people must be applauded.
However, that does not make me anti-hudud. On the contrary, I support the implementation of hudud law, subject to an important caveat.
In support of hudud
I support hudud law for two simple reasons.
One, for a number of Muslims, hudud is part and parcel of their faith, and implementing it is an exercise of religious freedom. When not implemented, these Muslims feel that their faith lacks a critical element. There is a sense of dissatisfaction that they cannot fully submit to God’s superior ways.
Secondly, and in Kelantan specifically, hudud is introduced by a government that has been upfront about its intentions, and yet consistently voted into office. It is part of an election promise, so to speak. And I am quite certain there was no electoral fraud in Kelantan favouring this particular government. Hudud in Kelantan, therefore, becomes an exercise of democratic right.
The one caveat that we need to impose on hudud, however, is that of religious freedom. Let’s face facts. Countless Muslims are born Muslims, with absolutely no say in the matter, and with no desire to be Muslims in truth. Yet many others became Muslims for reasons other than genuine conviction. A lot of them simply fell in love with a partner who similarly did not choose to be Muslim, but was born and designated as such.
Yet others have developed convictions that are contrary to Islam, and would prefer to leave the faith. Sure, they are most definitely doomed to eternal damnation, but surely we need not send them summarily to their eternal torment? Who knows, perhaps in their older and wiser years, they may even consider repentance.
Implement hudud by all means, but only if religion is permitted as an individual preference and not designated by law, and only if there is no need for people to declare their faith unless they desire to do so.
My caveat on religious freedom in hudud law, then, should apply to both Muslims and non-Muslims. What kind of reasoning is it when some non-Muslims say that hudud is fine as long as it is for Muslims only, and as long as non-Muslims have iron-clad guarantees it would not be implemented against them? Really, what kind of an attitude is that? If something is indeed so fine, why would you not want it for yourself? And if hudud is so terrible that you need iron-clad guarantees for yourself, why would you wish it on others?
After all, not all Muslims would like to be swept by the same broad brush. I am sure they, too, would like some iron-clad guarantees if they could. Are these Muslims to be sacrificed on the altar of hudud so that non-Muslims can be “safe”? That is a downright selfish position to adopt.
In the end, the biggest problem with implementing hudud is not the claim that it is God’s law, but His ardent supporters.
God is, after all, omniscient, and He knows who the thieves, adulterers and hopeless apostates are. God conveniently happens to be omnipotent as well. He therefore is more than able to effect any amputation or even impose the death penalty through both natural and unnatural means.
God’s ardent supporters, however, are a totally different breed. Despite their religious fervour, language and gear, they have quite a reputation for being imperfect. If you don’t believe me, go ask a Christian. He or she would be the first to admit and insist on telling you how inherently and hopelessly sinful you are.
Considering the imperfections of God’s people, any attempt to implement divine laws would clearly be tainted by human error. We don’t have a perfect process of investigation. Otherwise, we would not need to install grilles on windows to prevent accidental falls. We don’t have a perfect process to gather evidence. Hence, we need to steal DNA samples from face towels. And we most definitely don’t have a perfect judicial process.
But if a divine but humanly tainted law is what some people want, then let them have it. As long as my caveat on the individual’s freedom and privacy of religion is respected, I have no problems. Let those who have opted for hudud be subject to it. After all, to each their own.
Chan Kheng Hoe is a lawyer by profession.