OCT 4 — The recent statements related to the upcoming tabling of amendments to the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355) from Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia’s (Isma) Aminuddin Yahaya and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang are like warning beacons in the night which we must take heed of.
We should take note of Aminuddin's simplistic and naïve mindset in prescribing harsher punishment or increasing the availability of punitive measurements to somehow solve the problem of children born out of wedlock.
We must not forget the angkuh and sombong attitude of Abdul Hadi who was quoted as saying “Islam has to be the leader and ruler, those who are not of Islam must be followers (pak turut)”.
These public statements and positions give us a valuable insight into the attitude and worldview of those who support the proposed amendments championed by Abdul Hadi Awang and hudud in general.
They give us an understanding of how these individuals view those who oppose them and those who are non-Muslims.
Most importantly, they provide us with yet more reasons to oppose this current attempt to change the way of life of those who live in this country.
Members of Isma, such as Aminuddin, make it their life mission to take advantage of any issue or concern and twist it to forward an agenda towards increasing Islamisation and ensuring that their brand and interpretation of religion prevails in this country. They have never been subtle or covert about their motives.
This is what they do.
But make no mistake. They are not interested in making sure that justice is done or helping those affected by issues such as being born out of wedlock.
They only seek to impose their version of what Islam should be onto our communities and country.
If Aminuddin was truly interested in dealing with the challenge of teenage pregnancies and children born out of wedlock, perhaps he could champion the following.
What has been proven to work is ensuring that comprehensive sexual reproductive health education is actually properly taught in schools. This education helps young people.
Knowledge helps them make informed decisions which prevent unwanted pregnancies. This is something which even Aminuddin’s own colleague, Isma women’s wing chief Dr Norsaleha Mohd Salleh, supports.
The reality is that more religious and moral education is just not going to work. With the torrent of religious education which Malay Muslim kids are subjected to from an early age till adulthood, one would almost expect them to not only be celibate but terrified of their bodies and sexuality (quite a few actually are).
Instead, we get sexually repressed individuals who say sex is a sin yet are often the ones most obsessed with the subject and linking it to anything and everything.
They are also often the most ignorant about family planning. Some are even involved in the most horrifying acts of sexual abuse and exploitation.
Another issue of concern is our national birth registration system which is currently screwed up when it comes to the issue of so-called “illegitimate” or tidak sah taraf children.
An internal National Registration Department (NRD) circular dated 6 July 2007, dictated a policy to “look out” for “illegitimate” Malay children and who would then be labelled “bin Abdullah” or “binti Abdullah” accordingly.
If your first child is born less than six months from the date of your marriage and without an acceptable medical explanation, the birth registration clerk will very likely not be putting the father’s name on the birth certificate.
The phrase “information not available” could be inserted into the document. The clerk has counted on his or her fingers and concluded that you had sex and impregnated your wife before you got married.
It’s crazy, but this is a bureaucratic dictat which has resulted in many newborns classified as “illegitimate” or tidak sah taraf.
Section 13 of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act 1957 (Act 299) states that the name of the father for an illegitimate child cannot be written in the birth certificate except upon the joint request of the mother and the person claiming to be the father. Both are required to sign a joint registration.
Yet, this is often not adhered to when it comes to Muslim couples if the infant is born less than six months from the marriage date.
Why? Moral policing. The NRD is a non-Syariah secular government agency under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Its job is to register people, births and deaths. It is not to deliver judgement on whether you had premarital sex.
The law does not state any role of the Fatwa Council or the religious department in the registration of infants.
Yet, it is acting as an extension of that system seeking to inflict punitive action.
Isma’s solution? Inflict more punishment.
Aminuddin himself stated that the maximum punishments were currently too low. He spoke of 100 lashes and 20 years’ jail. Is that really justice? The assertion that heavier punishments under the Shariah system would deter people from vice and decrease the number of children born out of wedlock, has no basis in proven studies, data or even evidenced on reality.
What I do know will happen if supporters of the Act 355 amendment and hudud have their way, is that more women and girls will be vulnerable to oppression, injustice and religious tyranny.
Those who find themselves pregnant out of wedlock will be deprived of care and support as their very condition could be criminalised and punishable with harsh sentences.
The number of unwanted pregnancies, and women suffering from complications or dying from unsafe abortions will actually increase.
Look at the evidence from all the countries which have adopted the hudud approach that is being fought for by Isma and Awang Hadi. It is clear that women and girls are the ones who are and will be bearing the brunt of men’s need to feel and be seen to be pious.
To feel holier today than yesterday.
For many supporters of hudud, it appears that justice, compassion and the intent to help and not punish, are concepts which are either alien or rare in their vocabulary. They dedicate and spend more time and energy towards moral policing, judging and condemning others.
There is an unhealthy obsession with punishment. That is their worldview.
Abdul Hadi Awang’s arrogant statement is typical of people who see no place or space for those who are not of the Islamic faith in Muslim majority Malaysia. Their often repeated statements that these measures and hudud in general will not affect non-Muslims, is meant to reassure but it also implies that it is alright to tyrannise and oppress his fellow Muslims.
Those who make the self-righteous claim to the mantle of champions and protectors of Islam seem to not hesitate to peddle away our freedoms and liberties at the altar of politics.
There will be those who will ask, why should you be afraid if you have nothing to fear? We have much to fear when the state becomes engrossed in persecuting its own people, looking for sin, finding fault, jumping at shadows and imagined threats.
We have seen enough evidence of it.
Anyway, why should being a Muslim make it alright to be tyrannised and inflicted with injustice?
Do Muslims not have the right as non-Muslims to equal protection and treatment under the law? Are we as Muslims to be deprived of rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Federal Constitution simply because of our religion?
Why should we allow ourselves to be subject to bigotry, discrimination and religious tyranny?
Well, I am glad that my non-Muslim brothers and sisters are able to stand shoulder to shoulder with Muslims in fighting against actions which lack common sense, better judgement, dignity, and respect for all.
I welcome their voice and support by my side any day.
Many of those who support hudud seem to actually believe that it is the magic potion to solve all social ills which we are reluctant or lazy to address or face.
Adopt Islamic laws such as hudud, and like a rainbow after a thunderstorm, crime will go down, there will be less unwanted pregnancies and anak tidak sah taraf, and there will be less to worry about.
Support for such simplistic thinking is naïve and dangerous.
Far from strengthening the dignity of Islam as argued by the champions of hudud, measures such as this proposed Act 355 amendment weaken the impression and perception of others regarding the religion.
That we must consistently rely on the use of punishment, compulsion and fear to ensure that people adhere to the teachings of Islam.
That we don’t seem to believe in our own Quranic principle that “let there be no compulsion in religion” (Surat Al-Baqarah - verse 256).
What does that say about us?
What does that say about Muslims in Malaysia?
* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.