Despite the MCA and Gerakan rushing to condemn PAS for restating its long-standing aspiration to introduce hudud law in Kelantan, Christians leaders say there was nothing with such a plan. In fact, all followers of any religion should be encouraged to strive to strengthen their faith, so long as they did not impinge on the rights of others.
"That is the most important thing, to ensure that the rights of other faiths are fully protected. Then what is wrong with hudud in Kelantan or any other state for that matter?" Ramon Navaratnam, past president of Transparency International and a lay Christian leader, told Malaysia Chronicle.
"We should not politicize everything especially religion. It is perfectly natural for a Muslim and a Christian or a Buddhist and a Hindu to strive to strengthen their faith as much as they can and this should be encouraged. It is only wrong when they lose sight of others and start to become extremists in their conduct and practice. So long as the non-Muslims in Malaysia are completely protected, Christians and all other Malaysians should not be narrow-minded and fear for no proper reason."
Ramon's statement is supported by the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing.
“I say it's time to allow Muslims in Kelantan, if they so desire, to implement shariah only for them and with that the hudud enactments provided non-Muslims are exempt from its implementation,” said Paul, who is also the titular head of Catholics in the Melaka-Johor diocese.
MCA and Gerakan say NO!
The remarks of the Christian leaders contrast sharply with those from MCA president Chua Soi Lek and Gerakan's Koh Tsu Koon, both of whom raised heated objections, although their reasons for doing so were not clear.
“MCA’s stand is very clear. We will object strongly to hudud. If Umno wants to implement hudud, we will pull MCA out of Barisan Nasional - simple as that. Our stand is very clear. Umno wants to implement hudud, MCA is no party to it, we’ll get out of it," Soi Lek told reporters on Friday.
"We're a country with a Muslim majority but with a significant non-Muslim minority. The basic structure of our constitution preserves this diversity, and that's why our punitive laws are secular and applies to everyone. We can't have different sets of laws for each section of society," Gerakan deputy president Chang Ko Youn said in a statement.
What about Muslim rights then?
However, as Muslims have pointed out, both the Chinese-based politicians may be doing exactly what they are accusing PAS of - impinging on the rights of others.
"Have MCA and Gerakan thought about the feelings of the Muslims. Hudud is for Muslims only. Many of us want to be tried under hudud because we want to be good followers. Why should MCA and Gerakan stop us? Look at Syariah law, it is already in practice in the country and it has not affected non-Muslims, so why the abnormal fear of hudud," PAS MP for Shah Alam Khalid Samad told Malaysia Chronicle.
Khalid also blasted Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin for saying that Umno supported hudud but the country was not ready to implement it.
"We are not ready as a nation for hudud, that is true. But that is also due to Umno collaborating with MCA and Gerakan and their other component parties to smear hudud, to make the non-Muslims and even some Muslims frightened of it. If Umno and BN had not politicised hudud, it would be much easier to educate the general public about it. If your look at the religious leaders, they have no problems because they understand religion. It is the politicians who are creating havoc," said Khalid.
Hudud is arm of the Muslim law that pertains to 6 criminal prosecutions, and is feared because it prescribes punishment that includes stoning to death, the amputation of limbs and whipping. The 6 hudud crimes are theft, highway robbery, illegal sexual intercourse, false accusations of zina or adultlery, drinking alcohol and apostasy.
Within Pakatan, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim who is also PKR de-facto chief, is supportive of hudud and sees no reason why Kelantan should not implement it as long as the rights of the non-Muslims are fully protected. DAP is however against the idea.
This situation in Pakatan is nothing new and the three partners have said it many times. If PAS wants to introduce hudud law or an Islamic state, it must have sufficient majority either in the state or federal government to do so. Neither PKR nor DAP will be bound to support it on such a motion. In Kelantan, which has less than 10 per cent non-Malays in its population, PAS has sufficient majority.
However, Mentri Besar Nik Aziz Nik Mat is unable to do because the federal government under ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad had previously issued a letter barring it from putting through the hudud plan. Nik Aziz has challenged current prime minister, Najib Razak, to rescind the letter, but so far, there has been no response.
- Malaysia Chronicle