Non-Muslim lawmakers see Hadi’s bill as a nightmarish legislation that would create two sets of different laws for one country, but they fail to say that the law already exist.
Baradan Kupusamy, NST
Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang is flying high after his “Hudud bill” inch forward, step by step, into becoming law. His proposed amendment bill is to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 or Act 355 to enhance the bills punishment. Currently, the Syariah bill is mockingly known among Islamists as the “3-5-6” bill – meaning punishment to a maximum of three years in jail, a fine of RM5,000 or six lashes of the whip.
Hadi and other Islamists have long sort to enhance this punishment and to give Islamic law more weight so that such laws could take their true place in society. Not only that, the political dimensions of the amendments, is taking a life of its own and ensnaring all political actors in a quagmire.
The next general election is around the corner and one of its main highlight is the nascent political cooperation between traditional rivals, Pas and Umno. How that cooperation works out will depends a lot on what treatment Hadi’s bill gets from Umno and how the bill passage in Parliament. “It does not matter whether it gets through before the next general election or after it but what is most important to Islamists is that it gets through and also in what shape it is,” said a political analyst.
“Pas is here for the long haul and they don’t mind the time frame as long as it gets through,” said the analyst who is UM lecturer. By championing his bill, Hadi is seeking to advance the course of Islam, put his name on the law, as well as gain a lot of political mileage.
“Hadi has succeeded in moving his Private Member’s Bill to the political centre stage,” said a Pas leader. “This achievement is great for a Pas leader, to be at the centre of political events.”
“The mammoth rally of Muslims early next year that Hadi has promised will also showcase his achievements as Pas president and his long fight for Islam, as well as his explanation of the bill to his audience and his detractors,” he said. Non-Muslim lawmakers see Hadi’s bill as a nightmarish legislation that would create two sets of different laws for one country, but they fail to say that the law already exist.
Muslim lawmakers on the other hand see it as merely an enhancement of existing Islamic penalties since colonial times, and already amended once before in 1984. On Thursday, Hadi tabled his amended version of his bill in Parliament but asked that all debate be deferred to the March session next year.
Hadi is already amending his bill recommending that “not more than 30 years prison or fine of RM100,000 or 100 lashes as administered in line with the Syariah laws.” But non-Muslim lawmakers see this as already a heavy punishment for moral offences and they reject it.
Earlier, his bill had proposed the maximum penalties, short of the death penalty. But the fact that he has come up with a reduction in the penalties also shows his flexibility and desire to get all lawmakers cooperation to get the Syariah law passed. What all this means is that Hadi’s bill has taken centre-stage as all political parties are forced to take positions – whether to oppose or to support it, with an eye to how the voters would perceive it.
For some opposition parties like the Malay-based PKR or the Islamic based Parti Amanah Negara (PAN), Hadi’s bill poses a serious headache. If they actively oppose it, they would lose Muslim support and if they actively support it, they would lose their non-Muslim support. The DAP too is skewered like a fish out of the water.
The DAP was forced to kick out Pas after the party refused to give up on hudud. The disowned Pas was forced into an embrace with Umno to keep itself relevant. But PAN is neither here nor there and stands to lose the most if Hadi succeeds in his bill. Although BN component parties also vehemently opposed the bill but if it becomes a government bill, then there are chances too that they might change their view.
For now however Hadi’s bill would take a break because Parliament is in recess but rest assured that a big political battle is in the making in March next year.