G25 commends the opinions expressed by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in his interview with The Star Online on Sunday, June 10, under the headline “The law is for everyone”. (Watch the video online at tinyurl.com-star anwar vid.)
In the interview, he emphasises that non-Muslims have every right to debate any new Bill, and he singles out (PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s private member’s Bill) RUU355 on hudud as an example.
G25 not only supports this statement, but also welcomes the other opinions expressed by Anwar in the report.
We would like to highlight three such opinions; firstly, that while Abdul Hadi and PAS need to be given the right to present the Bill in Parliament to enable Kelantan to enforce hudud, it is also the right of the members of Parliament and the public to debate and reject the proposal; secondly, that since Pakatan Harapan assumed power in ruling the country after the 14th General Election on May 9, there is now more freedom of speech and more space for dialogue and expression of views; and thirdly, that while Muslims in Malaysia are determined to adhere to Islamic tenets in the conduct of our daily lives and in the governance of society, we do not wish to practise the outmoded ultra-conservative Islam that compels others (Muslims as well as non-Muslims) to accept a particular interpretation of the religion.
Since the inception of G25, and the ensuing letter to then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak signed by 25 concerned citizens who had served the government in various senior positions, expressing their dismay over unresolved disputes in the application of Islamic law in the country, the group has tirelessly pursued the quest for Malaysia to be a model of a moderate multi-ethnic and multi-religious Muslim-majority country, one to be respected, admired and emulated by others.
In this balanced view espoused by Anwar, G25 finds fresh optimism and renewed hope for this aspiration to be realised.
We have organised several public forums, seminars, etc, in collaboration with other like-minded non-governmental organisations to facilitate the public to engage in healthy, balanced and inclusive discourses on several issues, including those that pertain to the administration of Islam.
In this context, we are very pleased that Anwar has emphasised that any law, rule and policy on Islam will affect both Muslims and non-Muslims, and it is wrong for Abdul Hadi and his followers to claim that non-Muslims need not worry about the implementation of hudud.
This claim is a grave error because any law that goes against the Federal Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, affects every Malaysian, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
As to the implementation of hudud itself, much has been written, spoken and debated. G25 is convinced that, besides being unconstitutional, there is a robust body of evidence that makes hudud inappropriate in Malaysia. Several Islamic scholars, including Prof Hashim Kamali, have written extensively on this issue.
In one of his treatises, Prof Hashim points out that while the Quran looks at crime and punishment from a comprehensive, balanced and harmonised manner (which we need to apply in the realities of today’s world), the hudud looks only at punishment, which is harsh and quantified in a manner not appropriate for today’s realities.
The Quran and several hadiths emphasise the importance of care and compassion, discretion and proportionality, and reformation and repentance in the application of penalties for crimes, and especially for personal sins.
G25 had earlier issued statements relating to RUU 355 and hudud. In June 2016, G25, besides putting forth arguments and evidence that hudud is not applicable to Malaysia, had also drawn attention to, among others, Article 8 of the Federal Constitution that provides for equality for every Malaysian under the law. In May 2017, G25 released a statement, which among others, refuted the claim by Abdul Hadi and the then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak that RUU355 had nothing to do with hudud, which is a vacuous statement to any right-thinking person; and pointed out the very severe punishments being proposed to replace the existing punishments.
G25 recognises and has studied the several arguments for not applying hudud in this country, which in itself is an extensive exercise. Suffice it to say here that one of the main arguments is as expressed by Anwar – that in a multi-religious society, it is unthinkable that there are two sets of laws for the six crimes under hudud, one for Muslims and one for non-Muslims.
There are several untenable situations that can arise; for example what if the crime – let us take theft and highway robbery as examples – is committed by two or more persons, who are Muslims and non-Muslims? In adultery (zina), it is possible that the sinning couple is a Muslim and non-Muslim. There are grave difficulties and very serious implications in this.
And we have to remember that this is only one of the multitude of arguments that make hudud not suitable for Malaysia.