By Wan Hamidi Hamid, Editor In Chief of The Rocket
So what is hudud? For many Muslims, it is a religious law, that every Muslim must accept it whether they understand it or not. Perhaps it’s a case of affirming one’s identity rather than understanding the facts.
For most non-Muslims, hudud is seen as a Muslim religious law that provides capital and corporal punishments i.e. offenders can be stoned to death or limbs amputated or flogged with one hundred strokes, which is against the Federal Constitution.
Basically, hudud is the Islamic criminal code. However, hudud or the existing penal code, is something that most people don’t really bother about. What we care about is justice and fairness.
Justice must be seen to be done. Therefore it is not about whether a certain law looks ideally good, but about how justice is dispensed in our everyday life.
For example, many of us were sad and shocked when we heard about a husband who kidnapped his child from the mother in the name of religion, about a Christian woman being charged in an Islamic Shariah court, about copies of the Bahasa Malaysia bible being confiscated by the Islamic religious authority and so on.
It also involves the fear of religious intimidation such as when someone in power began to question the length of a woman’s skirt or to determine the kind of concerts young people can or cannot watch. What most Malaysians want is to practise one’s faith without intimidation or fear; it is guaranteed in the Federal Constitution.
In the case of hudud, once the word is mentioned, whether in a coffee shop or the Parliament, there will be a fierce argument without much facts. Some of these so-called debates usually escalate into a football debate – “my team is better than your team” – with debaters and supporters getting more confused than ever or at least red faced.
We need a series of dialogue
Why no one initiates a discussion or dialogue, possibly behind a closed door first and perhaps a series of serious interactive communications, to find out what hudud is all about, is still a mystery.
If such a dialogue is convened, interested parties such as politicians, religious scholars, judges, lawyers and other legal experts as well as members of the civil society can discuss hudud together with other type of laws and legal systems.
Behind closed doors, without the intervention of the usually sensationalist and sometime ignorant mass media, experts and concerned citizens have the opportunity to discuss, argue and debate hudud and other legal systems including the existing Penal Code, Police Act and other criminal laws.
Hudud is an Islamic criminal law. It is not a way of life; it’s just a religious penal code. Therefore any discussion about hudud must include the current criminal laws. Perhaps there can also be a serious discussion to abolish death penalty, as encouraged by the United Nations.
With a series of dialogues that could go on for months or even years, it will open the minds of many as well as inform the confused and enlighten the muddled brains.
Common sense dictates that the hudud issue can be discussed rationally and thoroughly. There are Malaysians who don’t want hudud to be forced on them. Even if some Islamic religious experts claim that hudud is only for Muslims, there are Muslim scholars who believe hudud must be imposed on all people. And there are also Muslims who believe that at present hudud shouldn’t be implemented in Malaysia, even if it is for Muslims only.
For now let us start the closed-door dialogues. Every Malaysian has the right to speak up about hudud. Maybe after a long series of such debates it can be discussed openly and publicly. Now the most important thing is to start the dialogue. That’s the most common sense thing to do right now.
Sadly, as most of us know, common sense is not necessarily common practice. -The Rocket