Protecting the Minority in Malaysia
By Boo Su-Lyn
March 21, 2015
I think that Hudud has no place in a modern and secular democracy like Malaysia.
Yes, I’m a Chinese atheist, but I have just as much right to talk about Hudud as Malay-Muslims because I’m a Malaysian. I’m a voter and I’m among the 10 per cent paying taxes that support the economy.
Yet, it seems that non-Muslims are not the only ones who are told not to criticise Hudud; Muslims themselves are bashed for questioning the Islamic penal code.
BFM journalist Aisyah Tajuddin received death and rape threats when a video of her questioning Kelantan’s drive to implement Hudud went viral on social media.
The condemnation was swift and vicious. People with Malay-sounding names threatened to rape her, burn her alive or shoot her in the head. They called the young woman a bitch and a whore. They prayed for her to be struck down by lightning and said she would burn in hell.
How can these people, who are all for a religious law, say such terrible, un-Islamic things? The attacks against her are extremely sexist and misogynistic.
BFM disappointingly took down the video Hudud Isi Periuk Nasi shortly after.
The radio station’s decision may be motivated out of concern for Aisyah’s safety, but it also gave these trolls what they wanted ― to suppress all discussion about a law that can affect the lives of all Malaysians, both Muslims and non-Muslims.
Proponents of Hudud claim that the Islamic criminal law applies only to Muslims, so non-Muslims should shut up as it has nothing to do with them.
But not every single Muslim in Malaysia necessarily supports Hudud, although the majority probably do.
A democracy is not about the majority exerting its will; it’s about the protection of minority rights precisely because it’s so easy for the majority to steamroll everyone else.
The minority in this country is not always the Chinese or the Indians, or the Christians. In this case, the minority is also the group of Muslims who want a separation of religion and state. The key word here is choice.
Or they’re simply just against Hudud because of the archaic nature of its punishments like death by stoning or amputation of limbs.
It’s also misleading to claim that Hudud will not affect non-Muslims.
Even in the current dual legal system, we have already seen several cases where non-Muslims are trapped in the limbo between the Shariah and civil courts, such as interfaith child custody tussles and body snatching by the religious authorities.
It’s disturbing to see the ambit of religious authorities slowly encroaching on our civil liberties and personal freedoms.
If we approve of the implementation of Hudud now, who’s to say that the law won’t be amended later on to cover even non-Muslims on the basis that Malaysia is an Islamic country?
Even Hudud in its current form can violate the rights of non-Muslims in certain cases. What if a Muslim man rapes a non-Muslim woman in Kelantan?
Should Hudud be enforced, her rapist will be subject to the Islamic penal code that requires four Muslim male witnesses for the crime, whereas there’s no such ridiculous requirement in civil law.
The institutionalisation of religion will only bring Malaysia backwards, when we’re trying to press forwards to become a developed nation in just five years’ time by 2020.
The vilification of Aisyah for merely asking if Hudud will fill our rice bowls during a faltering economy already shows the poisonous effects of the institutionalisation of religious affairs over the decades.
We should gradually reduce the institutionalisation of religion and let people think for themselves about how they should act without the threat of state action, instead of expanding it to cover crimes under civil jurisdiction.
All of us have a say in Malaysia.
Let us not be cowed into silence by those who threaten violence to quell dissent.