I had noted that the ideology of Malay supremacy is the single most critical issue affecting Malaysia. The Malay supremacy ideology was always morphed with Islamic supremacy. In recent years, with the split in the Malay community becoming a significant permanent feature, the debate has shifted away from the Malay race to the Islamic religion.

While the polemics about who is more Malay or more Islamic is a permanent feature among UMNO, PAS and (now) PKR politicians, there are even bigger questions that we should ask: Should Malaysia even consider having (more) Islamic laws? Are Islamic laws compatible with a progressive and modern nation state even if it is meant for segments of society? In the context of Hudud laws, are these laws even civilised?

Emeritus Professor Clive Kessler notes the following on Hudud laws:

“…Whether they are actually implemented and enforced or simply stand as symbolic signposts and “ambit claims” on the statute books, the formal authoritative assertion of the hudud laws – including such punishments as amputation and stoning and even death for apostasy – fundamentally changes the relation of the individual to the state and its legal order.

It substantially alters the balance between the state and the individual in the state’s favour. It thereby transforms the entire character of the state, arguably coarsening its laws and their impact upon public culture and social life.

When the state or any of its instrumentalities is suddenly empowered to hold, and potentially exercise, that awesome force – which it previously could not exert – over any of its citizens, or any section of them, the nature of citizenship itself is diminished and its meaning is reduced, not just for those directly “targeted” but for all citizens.

A state that declares itself ready to use such fearful measures, or even prepares to arm itself with them, is a state that announces its own capacity, both institutional and moral or psychological, for savage enforcement and retribution. It is not a state that any ethically enlightened, socially emancipated or truly thoughtful citizen who had lived in a state without such fear-inspiring powers would freely choose to call home. A free citizen would refuse to exchange what they had previously enjoyed for this debased and degraded citizenship under this kind of regressive and repressive regime.

Once the syariah law and its hudud punishments are authoritatively instituted, this degrading of the character of free citizenship is a general effect. It is one whose immediate human implications must soon affect all citizens, regardless of religion and social background, even if it is technically mandated only upon one section of the citizenry – in the Malaysian case the numerically preponderant and politically dominant section of the population.

This basic underlying change in the nature of the state, and in the character and extent of its power over its citizens, will inevitably transform the tenor of social life in general. So it will affect all the state’s citizens, not only those who are Muslims. Because it must affect the entire citizenry, all the state’s citizens without exception are entitled to have, and express, a view on the subject of hudud law implementation.

Every citizen of a modern state is entitled to voice a view whether or not that state should have the right to inflict dire physical punishment on any of its citizens, or even to enact hypothetically on a provisional basis laws of that kind whose effects are, to put the matter without euphemism, brutalising – either in fact, by their positive enforcement, or prospectively, by virtue of their intimidating inscription within formally codified law….”

And what do leaders in Malaysia think about Hudud?

Dzulkefly Ahmad, PAS (The Islamic Party of Malaysia):

PAS Central Committee member Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said even after winning the election, the Islamic party will seek the mandate of the people before implementing the Islamic criminal laws which stipulate deterrent punishment on serious crimes.

Barisan Nasional (National Front):

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak too had yesterday pledged his administration would block any attempt to implement the Islamic penal law, in a bid to curtail further debate on the fractious subject.

Najib is the second PM to take a strong stand against hudud, after fourth prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who had blocked Kelantan’s attempts to implement the Islamic laws in the state.

Najib’s Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, however, recently expressed support for hudud earlier this week, upsetting UMNO’s Chinese partner MCA.

MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek has threatened to pull his party out of the ruling coalition if senior ally, UMNO, goes ahead with enforcing hudud. Gerakan has expressed the same threat.

Anwar Ibrahim, PKR (Peoples Justice Party) and de facto leader of the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat (Peoples Coalition):

Anwar said Pakatan believes that each and every component party of the coalition should be given its legitimate right to explain its position on significant issues to its members.

He added that in relation to the PAS state government’s intention to implement hudud in Kelantan, his view was that “we should respect that decision, but certainly it would depend on several things.”

He said the implementation of hudud in Kelantan must, in all circumstances be subject, to the maqasid al Shari’a (the higher objectives of the syariah), in which it was “most paramount” to ensure justice for all, regardless of race, status or religion.

“This warrants the existence of syariah judges who are capable of dispensing justice without fear or favour and a syariah judicial system which is independent of political pressure or other kinds of influence that would impair its functions in the administration of justice,” he said.

Lim Guan Eng, DAP (Democratic Action Party):

“If there is any mention that we (Pakatan Rakyat – the opposition coalition) want to implement hudud law in our common policy framework and Buku Jingga, the party’s entire central committee will resign…”

Bishop Paul Tan – a Catholic prelate:

“I say it’s time to allow Muslims in Kelantan, if they so desire, to implement shariah only for them and with that the hudud enactments provided non-Muslims are exempt from its implementation,” online news portal Malaysiakini quoted Dr Paul, also the titular head of Catholics in the Melaka-Johor diocese, as saying.