Thursday, June 2, 2016

Abdul Hadi Awang Seeks to Enhance 356 Punishments

On May 26, 2016, a private member’s bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 – popularly labelled the hudud bill – was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat by Marang MP (and also PAS president) Abdul Hadi Awang (left).
 
[Note: The Bill, however, will be debated only in October – as Thursday was the last day of the current Parliamentary meeting].
 
Before we shoot it down, it is noteworthy to mention that constitutionally, any Act can be amended or even repealed by Parliament in accordance with the law and the Constitution.
 
To be fair, it is not the hudud Islamic penal code. Amending the said law only serves to enhance the syariah court’s power to enforce punishment other than the death penalty.
 
Presently, syariah courts’ criminal jurisdiction is subject to limits imposed by federal law of a maximum sentence of 3 years’ imprisonment, maximum fine of RM5,000 and whipping up to 6 strokes – often referred to as the ‘356 punishments’.
 
Hadi is committed to do this because he wants to implement Kelantan’s Syariah Criminal Enactment Code 1993 – through which he hopes to impose hudud punishments.
 
I get this ominous impression that Hadi’s “noble aim of serving Islam” is about subjecting Muslims to greater punishments, beyond what is provided for under the civil law system.
 
Why should I, a non-Muslim care? PM Najib Razak had already said this had "nothing to do with non-Muslims".
 
Maybe so – but disturbing developments in the country have cultivated anxiety, apprehension and alarm among Malaysians, more so the non-Muslims. And if I may add, this is not without basis.
 
The ‘Kalimah Allah’ issue which in fact restricts the way that other religions practice their religion in the privacy of their places of worship; unilateral conversions e.g. Indira Gandhi’s long drawn case; and the syariah court’s handling of divorce and custodial matters of couples married in the civil system, after one of the spouses had converted to Islam – are some of these cases that have unhinged us.
 
And why the singular focus on punishment? Shouldn’t PAS promote the compassionate and merciful nature of Islam (mawaddah wa rahmah) – by allowing leeway for repentance? The notion that these punishments absolve the alleged perpetrators of sins cannot be supported because punishments do not necessarily lead to restorative justice, not for the perpetrators, nor the victims. Clearly, this provision of forgiveness is absent in PAS’s version of hudud.
 
Anyway, I am not opposed to hudud per se. If hudud can punish the ruling elite for corruption and other evils – why not?
 
It is good to remember that Islam is not just about hudud. I am sure there are more important stuff that takes precedence. Hadi is only doing this because of politics. It's as simple as that.

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