— Nadira Ilana
The Malay Mail Online
April 23, 2014
APRIL 23 — I’m just not sure what’s a ‘nice’ way to have a conversation about a set of laws that legitimises amputations, slavery and public stoning in God’s name. There are many reasons why I think that hudud has no place in the modern world.
Hudud neglects what we know today about economics and social science. We know that robbers don’t all rob because they’re bad, it’s because they’re often poor, sick or desperate. We know that sociopathy and psychopathy are personality disorders and that people are a product of their environment therefore evil acts are not Satanic manifestations in men. In that respect, not all women and men can be judged the same.
We know that just because four men didn’t witness a rape, it doesn’t mean that a woman has committed adultery. A woman is not the proverbial tree fallen in the forest so a rape kit will do just nicely to prevent her from getting stoned. Consider that if accusations of adultery are punishable too then Mahathir should get a huge walloping for what he’s dragged Anwar through.
Another inconsistency with hudud is that in Islam you can’t amputate livestock if you want to consume their flesh because it’s inhumane but then if a man steals you can amputate his hands. I don’t see the justice here. Taking away the hands of a man who steals because he is hungry is a low blow.
We know that people are capable of reform and that humanity is largely good before it is bad. We know that people can change when they are treated with kindness and given an education or opportunities, not stoned by various sizes of rock. People can’t be ‘scared away’ from crime. Dead men don’t learn. Deterrents are what you tell children to make them finish their dinner. The human conscience should be guided by reason, not fear if you want meaningful change hence the importance of education and independent thought.
Another thing about hudud is that it deals with petty misdemeanours excessively. Theft and adultery are the things of tabloids. There are worse crimes out there with extremely lenient sentences like wildlife trafficking and animal abuse. The monstrosity of it all is that child marriage is legal in Malaysia under Islamic law. Politicians and developers get away with building dams and deforestation, capitalism and corruption. How does hudud address these bigger issues? Hudud has no place in a society whose priorities have changed. It’s perfectly medieval.
If we thought that ISA abuse was bad, hudud will be far worse because our religious authorities are government funded. Ultimately the people whose lives will be endangered the most will be Muslims themselves yet – none of us live in a bubble. We all have Muslim family members and friends. Because of certain Islamic laws in place, the number of Muslims in the country is growing artificially. No one will be unaffected by hudud. Not even non-Muslims. Hudud is not going to frighten people from committing crime. It’s just going to make people afraid of Islam. Religious freedom in Malaysia is on its death bed as it is. Should we be entertaining a debate on something that is only going to make things worse?
Even Mahathir has pointed out that the poor are the most likely to commit crime and that the majority of Malaysians living in poverty themselves are Malays, the very people whom ISMA, PAS and Perkasa are trying to defend in the first place – when they’re not fighting to implement hudud.
So no, this isn’t a discussion that needs to take place between Muslims and non-Muslims but between the proponents and opponents of hudud. For this discussion to go further, Malaysian Muslims and non-Muslims, need to be assured that opposing hudud does not mean opposing Islam.
It also helps for contemporary Muslim scholars who oppose hudud to chime in so there can be fair discussion. I understand why people might suggest that we tone down emotional language by not using words like “barbaric” or “inhumane” in discussions on hudud but I don’t think it helps to dumb a conversation down for the mere sake of diplomacy. Call a fork a fork because most of our politicians won’t and that’s why they’re wasting their breath on hudud and not education, the environment or the economy.
You know, stuff that politicians should really be talking about.
Most politicians (save for the dearly departed Karpal Singh) continue to play it safe by avoiding the topic because hardly any of them have the guts to oppose religious authorities outright for fear of seeming anti-Islam, that is, if their Islam stood for violence and vengeance.
Ask the proponents of hudud why they are not as passionate about championing education and compassion first since Islam is a religion of peace and reason, as they say. Ancient Muslims were great philosophers, scientists and thinkers. Why should modern Muslims have to go back to where others left off thousands of years ago instead of evolving themselves? Especially in an age where people are learning faster than ever.
Muslims should submit to Allah, not to self-appointed ‘religious authorities’ who want to play Qada and Qadar by speaking and acting upon others on Allah’s behalf, which is worse than any Dutch cartoon or Aronofsky movie.
People should be entitled to have an unadulterated say on the big decisions to do with religion because it affects our private lives from the birth of our children to our funerals. Especially since we live in a country that refuses to acknowledge the part of our constitution that stipulates that Malaysia is a secular state. We should definitely be included on discussions on whether Jakim officers should be given guns. I can’t believe I even have to say this out loud.
If Islam stood for good things then it should be a prerogative for Muslims to do the right thing even if that means acting contrarily to what others tell them their religion demands of them. Promote Ijtihad and reasoning. Stop dumbing people down with half truths because it’s only turning us into really polite hypocrites.
Hudud is messed up. Just say it. Why should we get caught up by people who want to fight to be the Muslimest-Muslim they can possibly be but can’t even wrap their heads around what it means to be a Muslim or even just decent people in the first place? Kindness, compassion, respect for others should be the forefront of every God fearing man. Not suspicion and moral policing. While we are on this earth, people should be entitled to learn from their own mistakes.
Ultimately we all know the answer to this debate. Instil the fear of God in people through religious authority and people won’t be able to tell the difference between the fear of God or the fear of men. At the end of the day, hudud is not a conversation about Allah’s will but the supremacy of a few men trying to play Allah because we refuse to separate religion from state. So what’s unIslamic about opposing hudud then?
*Nadira Ilana is a filmmaker and aspiring aspirer currently based in Kuala Lumpur. She makes fiction films and documentaries and wants to shoot her first feature in her home state of Sabah. You can watch her Freedom Film Fest documentary ‘The Silent Riot’ here on Youtube.