Religion and the state

MARCH 30 — We are a secular nation, with Islam as the official religion.

That is a fact, outlined in our Constitution. 

One of the basis of secularism lies with the separation of religion and state. It ensures that religious groups don’t interfere in affairs of state, and the state doesn’t interfere in religious affairs.

Unlike what you may think, secularism is not about curtailing religious freedoms but to ensure and protect freedom of religious belief and practice for all citizens. 

Secularism is not atheism. While its obvious why atheists support secularism, secularism does not challenge the concept and practice of any particular religion or belief, neither does it seek to impose atheism on anyone.

Secularism is a framework that ensures equality throughout society – in education, politics, law regardless of religion.

Our forefathers decided that we should be secular given our multiracial and multicultural background.

So where and how can a religious form of punishment be implemented, or even declared Constitutional, in this country?

Can we therefore implement hudud in Malaysia?

A good show

Not the way PAS is doing it.

First, the Shariah courts derive its jurisdiction from a federal law, the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, Act 355. 

It was amended in 1984, after which the Shariah courts are only allowed to impose a jail term up to a maximum of three years, fine of a maximum of RM 5,000, caning to a maximum of six strokes, or a combination of them. 

Not stoning, amputation and issuing the death sentence.

Secondly, the Federal Constitution only allows the state to legislate matters on the State List, while Parliament makes laws on the Federal List.

The civil and criminal law falls under the Federal List, under the purview of the Federal Government and therefore Parliament. The crimes which were tabled as hudud fall under civil and criminal law and therefore do not belong with the state.

Thirdly, Article 8(1) of the Federal Constitution guarantees equality under the law. Unless they change that, how can the punishment be equal for Muslims and non-Muslims who commit the same crime? 

And lastly, will PAS get more than two thirds of the votes in Parliament to change the Constitution? The answer is a simple no. Even with Umno’s support, they just don’t have the numbers.

Death and rape threats

Be that as it may, I am perplexed at how sensitive Muslims are regarding hudud. Why are we as a society still unable to look at things objectively? 

Instead of shutting people up, and telling them it’s none of their business, why can’t Muslims and their scholars talk about hudud in an open, educated, rational and logical manner if it really is good for the nation?

Tell us how, why, and what it can do to make the nation better? Why is it so difficult to convey your conviction on hudud to people who you call “ignorant”?

Sure, the video that Aisyah Tajuddin was in, was done in bad taste, but how can you justify the rape and death threats on her? What kind of religion are the you practising, and who are you emulating? 

Certainly not the Quran. Those who claim Islam advocates rape and murder have a lot of learning to do.

Which teacher, lecturer, ustaz is imparting them with all these values? Who are we employing to mould our young? Are we turning them into productive members of Malaysian society, or are we trying to engineer a societal change that mirrors other’s?

Just so we are clear, this is Malaysia. Not some Middle Eastern country, Brunei or Aceh for that matter.

If the threats made to Aisyah Tajuddin reflect the kind of people we have supporting hudud, it is a cause for grave concern.

Because even IF she is a deviant, they could have argued intelligently, rationally and followed the Quran which repeatedly advocates tolerant dialogue.

Quran 7:198-189, “When you invite them to the guidance, they do not hear. And you see them looking at you, but they do not see. You shall resort to pardon, advocate tolerance, and disregard the ignorant.”

Quran 10:99-100 says, “Had your Lord willed, all the people on earth would have believed. So can you [O Prophet] compel people to believe? And it is not for a soul to believe except by permission of Allah, and He will place defilement upon those who will not use reason.

And in 73:10, “And be patient over what they say and avoid them with gracious avoidance.”

So which part of the death and rape threats are intelligent, tolerant and gracious? 

Contrary to what many think, Islam allows, and asks us to debate, and if that fails then agree to disagree. Threatening Aisyah for her opinions go against the Quran and therefore Islam that so many swore to protect.

People who resort to force, intimidation and threats when things don’t go their way are not practising Islam. 

Medical Dilemma

Now, lets talk about it from a medical point of view.

Who will be employed to carry out the amputations? Doctors?

The oath that doctors take subjects us to uphold “Primum non nocere”, or do no harm. Amputating someone for a crime committed is against our code of ethics and I doubt the Malaysian Medical Council will allow their doctors to partake in such practice.

Assuming they’ve passed that hurdle, what happens after that? Who will treat the wound, dressings and possible complications that ensue? 

What about rehabilitation? Will we allow them to undergo occupational and physiotherapies to ensure amputees lead an independent life? Will the government then encourage the private sector to hire them through tax breaks, to ensure that they do not return to a life of crime?

What about limb prosthesis? Do we allow that? 

What happens if the amputee dies from surgical complications? Infection, bleeding and what not? Who will be held responsible then? 

Who pays for all this? Tax payers? Does it include the non-Muslims?

Upholding the Constitution.

While I subscribe that we have rights as individuals, our ideas certainly do not enjoy the same priviledge. It is open to criticism and discussion from everyone regardless of their beliefs. This is the essence of a democratic society.

Secularism is the best chance we have to create a country in which people of all religions or none can live together fairly and peacefully.

It is my hope that the prime minister will follow the footsteps of his predecessors, including his late father, to ensure that we can salvage whatever that is left of the Malaysia we know. 

All he needs to do is remind himself that he is the prime minister of all Malaysians.

Whether he received their votes or not.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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