CAIRO – Hudud has come to the forefront in Malaysia once again after a member of the ruling coalition has criticized plans by the country’s main Islamic party to apply Islamic penalties in the Muslim-majority nation.
“Hudud will not only apply to Muslims, but to non-Muslims as well,” Lim Choon, member of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), told the New Straits Times on Monday, October 22.
Hudud application dominated the party’s 59th annual general assembly, where delegated rejected plans by PAS Islamic party to apply the penalties.
“Our president had mentioned in the past that if you start stoning criminals or chopping off their hands, such acts would deal a severe blow to our country’s economy and damage our country’s social norms,” delegate Khoo Ai Laa said.
PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang said in May that he would seek to amend the constitution to apply hudud if the party won the election.
But his proposal has met strong opposition from his coalition partners, including the secular Democratic Action Party (DAP).
The debate comes amid a changing political landscape in the Muslim-majority country as polls have shown that Malaysians were willing to apply Islamic Shari`ah.
A recent survey of Malaysian Muslim youth showed that nearly three-quarters back the idea for the Qur’an to replace the Federal Constitution as the country’s highest law.
The poll by independent pollster Merdeka Center showed that about 72 percent of Muslims aged 15 to 25 support the Muslim holy book as the highest law while 25 percent disagree.
MCA members accused the Islamic party of using hudud as a political weapon to win over voters.
“As the general election looms closer, PAS starts talking about hudud, but they do not address the law’s practicality nor confidently assure non-Muslims that it would not affect them,” said Khoo, who is a representative from MCA Bandar Tun Razak division.
“PAS’ push for hudud is political in nature.”
Richard Yong Sin Onn, a delegate from MCA Pandan division, opines that PAS’ allies in the opposition People’s Alliance (Pakatan Rakyat) should include hudud in its election manifesto.
“This is so that the public will know that there is a possibility that hudud will be implemented if they vote for Pakatan,” he said.
“I believe that voters would abhor such a move (implementing hudud) as they do not want to be governed by religion.”
With an estimated 800,000 members, PAS is the main rival of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s United Malays National Organization.
Hudud are part of PAS’ political agenda and has been one of the pillars of its policies.
A few years ago, PAS enacted the hudud laws in its stronghold in Kelantan to be imposed only on Muslims, who represent about 90 percent of the state’s 1.5 million population.
The laws introduced hudud for theft, robbery, adultery, liquor consumption and apostasy.
Malaysia’s parliamentary elections are due in 2013, but expectations are high that the polls could be called much earlier.
Muslim Malays form about 60 percent of Malaysia’s 26-million population, while Christians make up around 9.1 percent.
Buddhists constitute 19.2 percent, Hindu 6.3 while other traditional Chinese religions make up the rest of the population.