Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad is a member of the PAS central working committee. He is an articulate and pleasant man whom PAS uses regularly to show that it is a moderate party.
He wrote an open letter a few days ago addressed to all Malaysians. This letter, which was carried on a local news portal addressed the topic of why PAS has not fundamentally changed despite developments related to its Hudud Plan.
PAS conceived the Hudud Plan to overcome restrictions to the implementation of the Kelantan Shariah Criminal Code (II) Enactment 1993 by removing limitations imposed by Federal law – namely, the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 – which limit sentences that Shariah courts can legally impose on offences within its jurisdiction.
The idea is that, with the removal of the limitations, PAS will be free to implement hudud, even including the amputation of limbs.
Dr Dzulkefly has taken pains to reassure Malaysians that PAS has not changed from what he described as a political party full of ideals. He says that the party is still committed to the Islamic ideal of a “Benevolent State” and that PAS is a party for all Malaysians and is committed to justice for all, despite its attempt to implement the Hudud Plan.
The reason he has had to pen such a letter is because he realises that PAS has suffered a great deal in pushing for the Hudud Plan, and by withdrawing the plan he thinks Malaysians will forgive his party.
Dr Dzulkefly is someone I know reasonably well because we use to be in forums together in the days when I was active in politics. I remember him telling an audience in Melbourne that he was convinced PAS was a reformist party and that he – not some extremist group within the party – presented the face of the “real” PAS.
Of course I knew that this was untrue. He was not the face of the real PAS and I did not contradict him then, but I will do so now.
The real PAS wants an Islamic theocracy. It wants to implement Islamic laws and hudud. Indeed, the real PAS has not changed that aspiration since its inception. Dr Dzulkefly and others like him are the veneer of a “moderate” PAS but they are the minority in the party. They do not represent the real PAS.
Dr Dzulkefly and others like him are useful to the party when it comes to attracting urban voters with Islamic aspirations, but when PAS passed a unanimous resolution to implement hudud at its most recent congress, where was Dr Dzulkefly and the other moderates?
Dr Dzulkefly clutches at straws to defend the introduction of the Hudud Bill. He makes reference to the party’s obligation to fulfil its “mandate” to the people of Kelantan. But there was no such mandate given to PAS. PAS did not explicitly make the introduction of hudud a principal platform in its manifesto for the last general election.
So far, PAS has used hudud only as a way to differentiate its position from Umno, to revitalise the party from time to time, and as an outlet for conservative elements to assert themselves. Please do not drag the people of Kelantan into this political game.
Dr Dzulkefly confesses that, because the full force of Islamic punishment like hudud cannot be imposed by the Shariah Court due to Federal legal limitations, he feels deprived. He suggests that Muslims are prevented from practising their faith simply because some aspects of hudud punishment can’t be carried out.
But if what he says is true, then hundreds of millions of Muslims all over the world must all feel similarly deprived because they too are practising their faith without hudud.
I’d have thought that a universal PAS man like Dr Dzulkefly would be gutted to impose Islamic laws in the country when there were also many others (Muslims and non-Muslims) in the country who were satisfied with the man-made laws promulgated during Merdeka and the formation of Malaysia.
Shouldn’t the universal man in him feel he should honour the Merdeka pact with other Malaysians, instead of just worrying about how his faith is somehow impaired without hudud?
Instead, Dr Dzulkefly says that hudud is a legitimate aspiration of PAS and its followers as part of the larger commitment to the Shariah. I have no issue with anyone having aspirations of any kind. However, the one thing that we must have in promoting our aspirations to the people is honesty in the idea itself.
If PAS is sincere in all aspects of implementing Islamic law and hudud, it should have had its technical committee formed 20 years ago when it first passed hudud into law. Despite its zeal, it should have thought about the effects and ramifications of hudud on the people before passing the law, instead of worrying about it now.
Does it make sense to the people of this country that PAS wanted to implement hudud in 1993 and passed a law to that effect – but then decided to form a technical committee with Umno to study its implementation only in 2014?
If PAS is sincere, it will tell Malaysians that the implementation of Islamic law will require fundamental constitutional changes and a complete tearing down of our existing basic law – democracy, our freedoms and way of life as guaranteed by the constitution will no longer be part of the system.
Dr Dzulkefly must tell us what the implications are for non-Muslims living in this Islamic state, and for Muslims too. PAS has to tell us the number of “moral enforcers” (the new police force) that will patrol and monitor our lives in every corner, waiting to arrest us for any possible offence (which will be many, since it will be a society free of all sin).
PAS will have to tell the people of this country that there will be a new legal system and that the civil courts (if they still exist) will be subservient to Islamic law. It must tell Malaysians that the Penal Code will be replaced with a new Islamic Code. It must tell Malaysians that even the judges, and the way we appoint them, will be different.
All judges must be Muslim. In other words, Malaysia will go back in time; from the 21st century to the 7th. We must tell the people the whole truth. It’s not being truthful if we hide the vision of this new country from the people by only using pretty phrases and slogans of justice.
I expect honesty from our leaders in whatever ideas they have. They must not hide their true plans for gaining power just by using sweet slogans. If Malaysians need a new system to replace the current one, whether legal or economic, they must be told in detail what the new system will be.
Do not couch things in vague concepts to sell political products. What is the Islamic concept of the Benevolent State in practical terms? If Islam is for all, as is always trumpeted, then why is hudud to be implemented only in Kelantan and only for Kelantanese Muslims?
Why is there a need for political calculations? Suddenly we have experts saying that even the Rulers are subject to hudud but the 1993 law did not say so. The people must know the details; and if, for whatever reason that I might not comprehend, they want to change and follow PAS in all these reforms, by all means go ahead.
Malay leaders are seldom forthright and candid in their views when dealing with the people. Umno uses race and religion to put fear in the Malays, and in doing so it divides and polarises the country. PAS is no different, except it uses religion.
PAS sells concepts like the Islamic State, “Islam for All” and so forth, under the banner of Islamic justice and yet it conveniently excludes non-Muslims when it discusses the impact of such measures. The party touts ideas like the Benevolent State without even telling us in detail what it means in terms of governance.
Can PAS show how “Islamic governance” or “Islamic economics” (or Islamic law for that matter) in Kelantan is materially different from what was practised in the BN states for the past 23 years? How is the “Islamic version” a source of inspiration? I doubt if PAS has anything to show for this other than slogans and dress codes.
I take this opportunity to appeal to all Malaysians with this open letter. We live peacefully today because of the present system. Our economic development has been unimpeded because we have had the same system since 1957.
Our democracy, although flawed, and the principle of separation between religion and the affairs of state (a principle now under severe attack) forms the constitutional and legal basis of our country. This must be protected at all costs.
The alternative, no matter how sweet the sound and how noble the principle, seems to be a stone’s throw from despotism and authoritarian rule.
The issue is not just a question of implementing a new criminal law. It involves the much wider question of whether we want to replace the current system, under which Muslims and non-Muslims agree by consensus to the laws that govern us all, with a new system where only Muslims decide the laws of this country.
That’s the real issue.
* This piece was originally run in Zaid Ibrahim’s blog Zaidgeist. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own