Let us begin by saying the infrequently mentioned- asking for expanded powers and the freedom to impose harsher laws has always been the favourite tool of the lazy and the indolent. It is the short cut method. It is also the favoured methods of dictators and leaders of totalitarian states and police states. Social evils are containable, it is suggested, if more powers are given to the authorities because the authorities are controlled by good men like Najib and Haji Hadi.
The move towards totalitarian tendencies both on the secular and temporal as well as on the spiritual fronts are gaining momentum. In some countries in the middle east- it is called the return of the caliphate system. The agenda is pushed by Muslim extremist groups- the objective is the establishment of totalitarian regimes. They are doing it in the most unimaginable violent ways.
The weaknesses and the problems in our society, it is said are solvable only by more government interference. The move towards centralised government is on the rise even as the social and public intellectuals in our society speak about freedom and democracy.
Hence expanded programs by the Najib government means businesses must be run by nominated GLCs and crony companies, political threats are met with SOSMA, POCA, POTA , Sedition Act and the latest and most draconian of all the National Security Council Act.
Not to be outdone, the Islamic fascists led by Haji Hadi wants an amendment to the shariah act to give MORE powers to the shariah courts and HARSHER laws.
Why so? Because it is tempting to believe that social evils arise from the activities of evil people, and if only good people like Haji Hadi and like thinking persons are in charge of power, all would be well.
Unfortunately this view is easy to come by because it requires only self-praise and emotion. It is an immediate emotional argument, while the argument for supporting freedom from coercion is an indirect rational argument. People prefer the direct emotional argument which explains the almost unquestionable support for Haji Hadi’s efforts to concentrate more powers in the people controlling the shariah courts.
The use of draconian laws by people like Najib and the call for enhanced powers of the shariah courts is a threat to our freedom as individuals. What we mean here is individual freedom – it is not freedom pervertedly defined by the right wingers and religious fascists as the freedom to do as one pleases such as free to do harm to society, to advance the cause of debauchery and immorality. It is none of those which our opponents want to accuse us of.
By personal freedom we mean that man is not subject to the coercion of arbitrary rule of someone else. That someone else can be the state such as the police state now created by Najib or the fascist state in the making, proposed by people like Hadi Awang. We shall all be subject to the coercion of someone else- either in the form of the state or some constituted judicial superstructure.
The task of any policy on freedom must be directed at reducing the coercion by others on the rest of us. In this case, Haji Hadi is impinging on our personal freedom by making us believe that we become a truer Muslim if we subject ourselves to harsher and strict laws. His means of achieving this is not through converting us into believers but by subjecting us to a set of punishments not properly explained and defined. Or even through convincing us of the necessity to expand the powers of the shariah courts and the practicality of imposing harsher laws. He has not done any of that.
Our contention is, we are not convinced that by giving more powers to the shariah courts and imposing harsher sentences will prevent the range of mischief the shariah laws intend to curb.
On the other hand, we hold the opposite view. If we are good Muslims, we only need the minimal of regulations and laws. If we are a good Muslim, we don’t steal, we don’t rape other women, we exercise freedom by imposing self regulation and discipline. We do not require the coercion from the state nor a legal superstructure.
If the Mulsims are bad, that can only suggest that the basic social unit, the family unit has broken down. Then the failure lies with the religious industry-how can self regulatory injunctions fail us when we have the daily and incessant doses of preaching and pontificating on televisions and on various social media? We are up to our necks with religious sermonising on a daily basis, such that, if these failed to cultivate good Muslims who ought to require the minimal of deterrent sanctions only, then the answer lies not in giving more power to an incompetent judicial system and a very inefficient one at that. The answer lies in cultivating the necessary values for upholding the Islamic way of life. The Islamic way of life dreamed of by Haji hadi and people of his ilk, can only be supported by Islamic values.
Where are the Islamic values and the means to cultivate them? The lazy and the indolent do not want to tell us. They are only interested to apply the big stick.
Without reducing our deference to religious teachers, we must state that such reverence does not make us shy away from criticising them. Such is the case of Haji Hadi in his capacity as a politician. As a politician he has displayed such naiveté not seen for a long time, allowing himself to be manipulated and tricked by UMNO. We can almost conclude that in terms of politics, haji Hadi is either as stupid as us or as knowledgeable as us.
The attempt to amend the 355 act, is an issue of managing a set of laws. You want to change the severity of punishments- from 3 years to 30, from a fine of RM5000 to RM100,000 and whipping of 6 lashes to 100. That is a managing issue.
By the way, I am not at all convinced that a shar’ie whipping isn’t painful- the proponents of this kind of punishment have already experienced whipping? Have we not seen whipping in Pakistan, Afghanistan and so forth – seeing flesh being torn from the body and the punished screaming in extreme pain? If 100 lashes of shariah compliant whipping is equivalent to 1 civil whipping, why not impose 1 whipping from the start? A civil whipping is very painful. It is said you can’t sit down for weeks.
It is not a question of faith- although Hj Hadi and his followers are not averse to do that because; a religious issue can be turned into a control tool. Muslims can be blackmailed into believing that opposition to the Hadi bill will amount to becoming apostates, heretics and lesser Muslims. No right thinking and self respecting Muslim wants his or her Islamism questioned.
It is my contention that the problems faced by Muslims cannot be solved by expanded powers of the shariah courts and the imposition of harsher and more severe laws.
It is clear to me that the shariah courts have failed to clear thousand of cases involving divorces and women who are left penniless and destitute; the cases of unilateral conversions have not been settled, the issues about body snatching have not been settled. The officials are undertrained; the investigation officers are not trained properly. It is an issue of managing resources. These are not overcome by having more powers and imposition of harsher laws.
Many years ago, the thinker and scholar- Bernard Lewis wrote a book called what went wrong. The central thesis of the book, is the almost predictable response by society to blame others for their misfortunes. The Arabs were and are weak because the Jews make them so. During Friday sermons here, Muslims are told that every misfortune experienced by them is caused by the world Jewish movement. Malays are divided because of Jewish designs. Everything bad is caused by Jews.
The kindred spirits of the Jews in Malaysia are of course the DAP and the Chinese. Malays are poor because their wealth is taken away by Chinese. Malay politics and unity are halted because DAP stirs up the cause of racism. One day, Najib cant piss properly and that is caused by DAP politics.
It’s the tendency for backward society to blame others. Haji Hadi blames the lack of power of the shariah courts and the absence of harsher laws. The answer it seems is more centralisation of power and the implementation of harsher laws. So it’s more and more being the answer.
The real issue as I see it, is the incompetence and general unproductive work ethics of the shariah jurisdiction. It is disguised as the lack of power and putting blame on lenient laws.
Why has the shariah courts not succeeded in solving the many cases that came before them? The immediate answer is because they are incapable of doing so. They lacked manpower, trained resources, have bad work ethics and are generally incompetent and inefficient. This has caused the delivery of justice to be substandard.
Now, to me, they have come before us, asking for expanded powers even while they are incompetent. How can we accede to their request for more powers and harsher sentences?
The concentration of power and the appetite to impose harsher laws are tools of totalitarian governments. And it is easy for religious authorities to hide their incompetence and inefficiency- challenge the religiosity of anyone challenging them. If they do not support our cause, they are irreligious, anti Islam, heretics, apostates or just enemies of Islam, who can be eliminated.
We shall not give what they asked before they qualify themselves to earn what they asked. In the hands of the extremists, Islamic laws can be tools of oppression, of settling scores with those who hold divergent views. Islamic laws are abused and used as tools to carry out oppressive laws against the poor, weak, women.