Hudud and the crisis of representation
by azly rahman
Let me seek clarification on the question of hudud rigorously proposed to be implemented in the state of Kelantan first, and next in Malaysia in due time.
Sharia law is fundamentally cultural and the hudud is a cultural image of dehumanisation and one associated with failed ‘Islamic states’ that aspire to be models of a ‘good Islamic state’ of which none has ever existed.
The challenge is to convince even the Muslims that this cultural practice of social control is not only suitable as a ‘universalising force for social cohesion’ but also acceptable to others of differing faith. This is an impossible challenge - a cultural and particularistic aspect of living is forced to be made universalising.
To say that it is ‘God’s law’ because the scripture says so is an inadequate ground of argument for such enforcement because the relationship between law, culture, religion, and scriptural interpretation is so complex that even as time goes by, human consciousness advances and pragmatic considerations set in, even the Muslims question the motive of the demands as they are made by the clerics and what is commonly known as the ‘priest class’.
In Malaysia, if even the idea of wishing a person who has passed away “Rest in Peace” is a subject of heated debate and a reason to produce a fatwa, what else should Malaysians, and even Muslims, expect if Sharia law and hudud is implemented?
Man, it seems, is filled with contradictions that these will question Man’s ability to carry out ‘God’s law’ (assuming that God’s law is not an interpretation of Man’s law vis-a-vis the invention of religion)...
It seems to me there is a major crisis of representation that points to the superiority of law emanating from the Malaysian constitution.
Image of the hudud advocates
The image of those calling for the implementation of the hudud in Malaysia is one of intolerance to varying viewpoints, condescendingness, enforcing others to follow this or that fatwa even if these injunctions are merely opinions, subjugating the mind of the gullible especially in schools populated by Malay-Muslims, inability to sustain arguments on matters requiring rationalistic and humanistic perspectives, and above all, the inability to look at the bigger picture of corruption, abuse of power, and race politics as crimes against humanity themselves requiring more that just amputation, public flogging, and stoning to death as antidote - and these horrible crimes are carried out by those projecting piousness in public themselves.
the process of ‘Islamisation’ that began in the 1980s as a political response to the inability of the Malay-Muslim mind to come to terms with the “pains and pitfalls of modernisation and next, hyper-modernity” has created the need for fundamentalist Muslims to retreat to a safer zone of religious comfort by finding the renewed power to call for the imposition of such cultural laws as Sharia and its instrument of control i.e. hudud.
We are yet to discuss the origin and genealogy of the thinking of the groups urgng an ‘Islamic state’ in terms of their education and the influence gathered and harnessed into political parties that ultimately will only operate within the paradigm of the setting up of a theocratic state; one that will limit freedom of expression, of assembly, to petition, of press, and to revolt against an unjust State, even if the State has by then evolved into a Talibanistic one shooting helpless little schoolgirls in the face and legalising marriage for nine year-olds.
Isn’t the constitution supreme enough?
As a citizen, I’d like to live in a country in which its law will encourage my freedom to think, speak, and write and even to create artwork and other forms of expressions without having to be censored or prosecuted for the ‘Islamic-ness or un-Islamicness’ of it - because my conscience will answer to a truth higher than that, i.e. myself.
This may be a far-fetched statement but I do not see any society advocating for an “Islamic state, imposing Sharia law, and invoking the hudud” that will meet my needs as a citizen and a human being born free and will continue to be free.
At this time, secular law based on the constitution as the supreme law of the land is good enough, safe enough, and appealing enough.
The punishment is perhaps suitable during the early days of Islam when society was still not complex and had not evolved to a level of civil society partly due to the contribution of secular laws...
Besides, women are the ones usually the victims of the mis-administration of the Hudud Ordinance as in Pakistan, especially in rape cases.
If the hudud is such a questionable form of punishment and its implementation vis-a-vis the number if witnesses required to convict, increasing from two to four, why is there a need to urge its implementation when, even different schools of thought have not resolved the issues surrounding the history of its evolution, as well as the subjectivity of the sources by which the law is derived from.
In Malaysia, it is as if the word ‘hudud’ is used as a political bogeyman to scare off non-Muslim as well as Muslim voters. Is there sincerity in implementing the “no-longer-suitable ordinances for this age and time”?
Ultimately, too, who amongst the ‘ummah’ who hath not sinned shall cast the first stone?
Thoughts on this matter please?