The English idiom to describe the DAP predicament with regard to the hudud crisis is 'caught between a rock and a hard place'.
Gerakan, the predominantly Chinese party, followed suit, saying: “Gerakan’s political cooperation with Umno will be untenable and will likely end if the latter wishes to implement hudud…”
Umno responded with its assurance that the government would not enforce hudud.
Hmm, the jostling seems sorted on the establishment side. At least for the moment.
Now let us take a peep at the opposition players who would be fielded for the Pakatan Rakyat big match on Wednesday.
Anwar Ibrahim, the de facto electoral pact leader, and “God’s Gift” to PKR, has been flip-flopping but then that is the mercurial man for you.
PAS Youth chief Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi declared that hudud has been and always would be part of the party’s Islamic state agenda. This guy is remarkably consistent.
The mursyidul am or spiritual leader of PAS Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat is adamant that DAP is free to leave Pakatan if the party disagreed with Kelantan’s intent to push ahead with hudud.
You really don’t have to ask about the rest in the PAS ulama camp such as Nasharuddin Mat Isa, Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, Harun Din and Hassan Ali.
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang will, of course, stay the course.
PAS Islamic state blueprint
In 2003, Hadi issued his party’s Islamic state document which avowed: “The publication of this document is sufficient evidence to squash allegations made by its enemies that PAS will not establish an Islamic state… Verily the responsibility of establishing an Islamic state is as important as performing the daily obligatory rituals of Islam.”
The 2003 Islamic state blueprint also promised: “Should PAS be mandated to govern Malaysia, God willing, an Islamic state as outlined in this document will be implemented to the best of our ability. Towards Victory. Allahu Akbar!”
On the matter of hudud, the PAS document stated that Muslims are naturally subject to syariah – hudud, qisas and ta’zir – while non-Muslims are given the option of either syariah or “the current penal code of the land”.
Even the PAS progressives, dubbed the “Erdogan” faction’, support hudud. Party vice-president Husam Musa was challenged by Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin in their one-on-one debate in December 2008 to state his stand.
Responding to Khairy’s challenge, Husam replied that “Yes”, hudud would be implemented if Anwar’s planned takeover of the government on Sept 16 had materialised.
The PAS Islamic state document covers the area of supremacy of God’s law, the khilafah (custodians who administer the state according to Islam’s teachings), taqwa (god-fearing), shura (consultation), and al-’Adaalah wal Musaawah (justice and equality), among others.
Among the main characteristics of an Islamic state, according to PAS, are obedience to religion, obedience to the state and adherence to the exhortation to enjoin good and forbid evil.
‘Amar ma’aruf nahi mungkar’
Aaah, “enjoining good and forbidding evil”. The phrase that DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng made famous throughout the country with his constant use of it and even putting up its Arabic version “amar ma’aruf nahi mungkar” on big billboards all over Penang.
Lim, having trumpeted to the length and breadth of the land that his administration was modelled after the Islamic governance of the celebrated Caliph Umar Abdul Aziz, would (one hopes) carry himself as someone respectful of Islamic norms, forms and aspirations.
The old guard of the DAP such as “over my dead body” Karpal Singh and “compulsory tudung is unacceptable” Lim Kit Siang would not have hudud as they are sticking to the idea that Malaysia is secular.
But DAP 2.0 itself treats Karpal and Kit Siang as if the duo are twin dinosaurs fossilised in outmoded pre-March 2008 thinking.
DAP 2.0 has, on the contrary, rebranded and packaged “inclusiveness” to appeal to Malay voters.
Yet very few Malays and Muslims would agree that ours is a truly secular country (but we’ll leave that quarrel for another day).
In the meantime, let’s just see how the Muslim politicians and opinion leaders have tackled the hudud bombshell. Note that they are very careful in choosing their words.
Muslim views on hudud
Former Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said Malaysia is not ready for hudud but “it can be implemented if all the conditions are met and the situation, conducive”. Nonetheless, he added that it is important now to create the required situation by making the people understand hudud and undertaking other preparations to lay the groundwork.
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is again as forthright as he was previously in acknowledging the importance of the Malay identity to him. Muhyiddin acknowledges: “As a Muslim, I cannot reject hudud law. This is a fact from the Islamic law aspect but its implementation has become a subject of debate today.”
Fair enough, and honest of him to speak plainly.
Muhyiddin said he does not question the need to implement hudud but Umno’s stand is that in Malaysia we cannot implement it in the present situation.
Observe that Muslim politicians on the BN side do not question hudud but skirt around its suitability given the circumstances of a sizeable non-Muslim population.
Which is also essentially the contention employed by Umno vice-president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who opined that Malaysia’s multi-cultural setting makes it unsuitable for hudud law to be implemented here.
Kita president Zaid Ibrahim once challenged the 1993 Kelantan hudud bill in court but he was similarly careful to observe only that it is at variance with the Federal Constitution.
Zaid’s legal argument goes that federal legislation alone allows certain corporal and capital punishments, such as hudud’s amputation and death penalties. The states cannot enact their own separate penal code with such heavy punishments.
Muslim leaders are most meticulous to appear not to directly criticise hudud.
Who’s the Chinese ‘chauvinist’?
Chinese and Indians in Malaysia generally fear hudud, and the firm stance taken by MCA and Gerakan reflect this sentiment.
But it is most instructive to examine the reaction of Lim Guan Eng who has styled himself after Islam’s Caliph Umar of yore.
Lim was reported as issuing the ultimatum: “If there is any mention that we (Pakatan) want to implement hudud law in our common policy framework and the Buku Jingga, the (DAP)’s entire central committee will resign.”
Responding to the crisis in an identical tone as MCA and Gerakan?! Lim has been pandering profusely to the potential Malay vote bank but it would still be political suicide if he failed to oppose hudud. MCA is just waiting to pull the trigger.
So now comes the crunch.
Why, dear sir – the Malays should ask “Umar” Lim – your seeming recoil from hudud? After all, you’ve appeared so embracing of Islam before.
Politics as usual
Indeed such a strong statement that the entire DAP top brass threatened a walkout from Pakatan just as MCA and Gerakan might from BN.
The non-negotiable stand taken by MCA and Gerakan is only to be expected as they are accused by the “Malaysian First” crowd as being “Chinese chauvinists” and “racists”. Chauvinists and racists have reason to be afraid of hudud.
DAP, on the other hand, has been assiduously portraying itself as being above the pettiness of racial identification and religious affiliation. “Your Allah is my Allah. We are all children of Adam”, they chant.
How surprising then to see DAP react in exactly the same way as MCA and Gerakan. At the end of the day, it is about the all-important votes, isn’t it?
So now, whither the DAP tudung-wearing? The DAP Quran-quoting? The DAP hadith speechifying? Would DAP now discard its recently adopted slogan “amar ma’aruf nahi mungkar”?
Lim needs to consult his Muslim advisers whether hudud is an integral part of the Islamic conception of “forbidding evil”. It is surely. Just ask the Wednesday meeting.
Such is the fate of pious poseurs.
The English idiom to describe the DAP predicament is “caught between a rock and a hard place”, that is, choosing between alienating the Chinese electorate which is the party’s power base or continuing to keep up their Hasnah Yeop imposture.
But I much prefer the Malay idiom, “dikunyah patah gigi, ditelan sembelit.”
Helen Ang is a political commentator who has contributed essays to the various publications. She blogs at www.helenang.wordpress.com.