The politics of hudud

WHAT is the end game in the controversy surrounding the implementation of hudud? No one seems to know as both PAS, which is pushing for the Islamic system of justice, and Umno, which has reacted in a manner some deem to be positive to the Islamic party's stance, have run into a brick wall with their political friends.

PAS is all for hudud while its Pakatan Rakyat (PR) ally DAP is fiercely opposed to its implementation. PKR has assumed an ambivalent stance.

Umno says it is not against hudud but wants to work out the matter, while MCA is on the other end of the spectrum, not quite unlike DAP in its opposition to hudud being implemented as a national policy.

Gerakan is equally opposed to implementation of hudud although its unequivocal stand will amount to little if not nothing given its sole MP in the Dewan Rakyat and three assemblymen – two in Sabah and one in Johor.

The script for the controversy surrounding the implementation of hudud could have been written, as it were, before PR assumed form given their inimical nature.

As for the BN, there had been little by way of precedence in matters like this although the controversy has touched a raw nerve in the weakened Chinese party that cannot be seen by its very much smaller voting base to be subservient to Umno, its elder brother in the BN.

So what we have is a stalemate in both PR and BN with some component parties for and others vociferously against the implementation of hudud.

For PAS, hudud seems to be its trump card in its efforts to win the Malay vote (at least in Kelantan where it lost five more seats to Umno in the last general election) while for Umno it is a case of not coming in second in an issue deemed core to the religion.

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad touched on this when he said that hudud for PAS "was all about politics" although the party has always maintained that its very raison d'etre was the furtherance of Islam politically and otherwise.

He questions the prudence of having two different justice systems, one for Muslims and another for non-Muslims with different punishments for the same offence.

As Shakespeare spoke of "making strange bedfellows" in The Tempest, the voting public is seeing whether the parties that comprise PR and BN have the innate strength despite their core differences to see them through this crisis.

As for PR, you have junior partner PAS with 21 MPs, which for all intents and purposes is a party that wants to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state, never mind the nearly 40% non-Muslim character of the nation and the Christian majority in Sarawak.

How it intends to do this is anyone's guess at this point.

On the other hand, you have senior partner DAP with 38 MPs, which is avowedly against the implementation of hudud, with the famous statement by the late party veteran Karpal Singh "Islamic state over my dead body" still ringing in our ears.

The Chinese majority party cannot, and will not, be seen playing footsie and openly cavorting with a party pushing an Islamic agenda diametrically opposed to its own political stance which is the maintenance of a Malaysian Malaysia and nothing else.

For PKR, hudud is an issue it does not particularly want on its plate at this point as it battles perception from within and without as to whether it is a Malay party with a non-Malay minority or a party for people of all creeds.

And for the record, the third partner on the national arena (29 MPs) and third and last in seniority in Selangor, has its candidate in the mentri besar's seat in the state by default as the DAP could not fill the seat due to a constitutional requirement pertaining to Islam.

A PAS candidate could not assume the post as it would only have been possible over a "dead" DAP.

PKR appears to be in an unenviable spot as open acceptance of hudud will render it unamenable to its non-Muslim members' wishes besides that of its non-Muslim elected representatives.

Again, the jury is still out on whether it is a Malay party (given that its de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is seen by some as being the alternate Malay leader to Prime Minister and Umno chief Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak), an issue it also is battling within itself.

While the primary debate continues unabated, there is a secondary one on whether surgeons should help in amputations when done as punishment. Some Muslim doctors feel they are called upon by their faith to do so while some others feel otherwise.

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has unequivocally voiced its opposition to surgeons getting involved in the matter, saying that it went against the Hippocratic Oath that all doctors subscribe to.

So where does this leave the two main political coalitions (PR is an unregistered one) on hudud?

The end game is distinctly unclear at this moment with both PR and BN caught in a conundrum of their own making. Can the Islamic partners (cognizant, of course, of Umno's Christian members in Sabah) in both coalitions push their relative weight on the issue deemed crucial to their growth or otherwise in future?

We should rest assured that the controversy will continue. As to where it will lead to, no one can say at this juncture.

Balan Moses, theSun's executive editor, says the politics of divisiveness seems to be gaining ground as some politicians chose the road less travelled (and for good reason avoided by right-minded folk, apologies to Robert Frost) on issues that can rend our society asunder. We collectively pray that we do not do to others what we do not want them to do to us. Feedback: bmoses@thesundaily.com