The DAP Malay and Islam by Mohd Ariff Sabri

I said these things:

I agree to Islamic laws as long as they do not contradict our present constitution. 2) I agree to the bigger agenda of Islamic law of establishing a state founded on the principle of the rule of law. 3. I will not object if the laws do not tyrannize others not of Muslim faith.

How are these objectionable? These are the things I said in response to questions asked by a reporter.

To Muslim conservatives, if these views cannot be pigeonholed into specific categories, it is because of my own shortcomings. To secular politicians if they appear alarmingly Islamist, the fright is unnecessary.

Let me offer a more sophisticated explanation.

There seem to be misplaced furore and confusion over statements attributed to me on the implementation of Islamic laws. As I see statements going around especially from people remote from what actually transpired and the absurd and the manic responses arising thereafter, I am now convinced that in general, there is a morbid and irrational fear about anything said in relation to Islam and Islamic laws. Perhaps this morbidity and irrationality and regrettably manic disposition stem from years of self-induced personal bigotry. But perhaps also because Muslims have themselves to blame for so much negativity about them. But that is another subject matter.

Nasararudin Tantawi the MP for Termerloh, as I understood it, said in Parliament that the government should try Islamic laws in relation to punishment given to hard-core prisoners. He was saying because the current laws of the country are inadequate in dealing with criminals because criminals don’t repent, then Islamic laws should be given a chance to be applied.

I can’t remember anyone rising in that parliamentary session in response to what he said and I took the silence to mean, everyone accepted what Tantawi said to be a matter of his own opinion.  Whether they agree with what he said, how do I know what is in their hearts? We msut understand that Tantawi will take every opportunity available to advance his cause.

A reporter asked my thoughts about Islamic laws in general not necessarily confined to what Tantawi said. I do not read Chinese newspapers but was told that some MCA apparatchiks went berserk and attacked statements that were attributed to me. No problem-that is what attack dogs are trained in.

I am not a DEP CEC member and was also told that a member of the CEC went out criticising me and asking for disciplinary action to be taken against me. I was alerted by a colleague to response to what was written in a news portal because it has been construed as adopting a position different from DAP. I replied I need not because to do so would dignify what was misunderstood. I can’t apologize for the level comprehension of others can I?

I told my colleague that when I answered the questions from the reporter, the response I gave was circumspect and guarded. Meaning to say, to my DAP colleagues, I am aware of the DAP stand on Islamic laws. So there is no need for my colleagues who were far too remote and didn’t know what were said, other than reading what were written by others to blow their heads off. Let me remind whoever with that kind of kneejerk response that I am not at all fearful at such morbidity.

What was said then? As a Muslim in whatever party, it’s natural for me to say I support Islamic laws. How can I a Muslim say otherwise? In relation to what Tantawi said, I responded by saying that as long as Islamic laws here in Malaysia don’t subvert our constitution I am all for it. I wasn’t referring to a specific aspect of Islamic law. Secondly, I support Islamic laws because they lead to an agenda shareable by other temporal views which are- that our overall objective is to establish a government founded on the principle of the rule of law. DAP does not oppose this objective do they? And I did say in the actual implementation of Islamic laws here in Malaysia, as long as they don’t tyrannize others, I support them.

Now, because of all that has transpired, let me extend further my own thoughts on Islamic laws here in Malaysia. Personally I think Islamic laws in Malaysia are not implementable because we don’t have an Islamic constitution. End of story.

Unless we live in a country with an Islamic constitution then we can implement Islamic laws to our hearts content. I will certainly not stop PAS politicians to speak of Islamic laws or display resolute zeal to implement them, because I know fully well that in order to apply the Islamic laws, we first need an overriding Islamic constitution.  Whether the PAS people agree or not to my opinion, is another matter.

I don’t see that happening in Malaysia because even UMNO will not dare adopt an Islamic constitution. Everyone even Dr Mahathir can say Malaysia is an Islamic state but to me as long as you don’t have an Islamic constitution, you can claim whatever you want. Our constitution is secular and the laws universally applicable in our country are the civil laws. So why quarrel till you are blue in the face with our friends who wholly hold on to a beliefs system which is  an article of faith for them but which we are fully aware cannot be implemented?

As a Muslim here in Malaysia, Islamic laws function as personal moral injunctions only. Now that may be a cruel observation, but it’s the reality.

Just study at what has happened- the punishments that were meted out to people who drink intoxicating drinks but later pardoned and excused by the custodians of Islam, on those who participate in beauty pageants and numerous other infringements of Islamic laws- these punishments are meted out as long as they are allowed to by our overriding secular constitution. On bigger wrongs, do we see Islamic laws being implemented? Do we see hands being chopped off and heads severed?

So as a Muslim, even before joining DAP, I wasn’t at all disturbed with Karpal Singh’s stand on Islamic law when he said they can’t be implemented. I agree with the stand simply because we don’t have an Islamic constitution. How do you implement laws that are not in the constitution? That’s something for Islamists to ponder on too.

* The views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the columnist

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