I believe that millions of Malaysians will agree, when I say that we should all salute the Group of 25 (G25) prominent Malay/Muslim former top senior civil servants, for rejecting the ‘Hadi Bill’ that could lead to hudud.
The Hadi Bill refers to the Private Member's Bill tabled by Abdul Hadi Awang, to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act and the Kelantan Shariah Criminal Code 11(1993) Bill 2015, in order to enhance punishments and probably impose harder hudud penalties.
There is indeed much genuine fear among many Muslims as well as non-Muslims, that all these proposed legal changes could lead to punishments related to the hudud laws such as the chopping of hands and legs and even stoning.
We therefore sincerely ask whether these ancient, cruel and outdated laws and punishments, have any place in our modern, moderate, multiracial and multi religious Malaysian society. Will hudud not take us back to the dark ages and undermine all the progress that we have achieved as a cohesive country? Hudud could make us go backwards and not move forwards?
Malaysians of all races and religions are smart enough to realise that any crime can be committed by criminal gangs made up of many races and religions. But when these criminals are convicted they could face different punishments, under two very different legal systems. Some can just be sent to jail and others could lose their hands and legs and can even be stoned. Is that fair and just?
So how can we then be told that hudud will not affect non-Muslims? How are we to have different standards of judgement and degrees of punishment for the same crimes committed by different Malaysians? Will this hudud prospect hurt or hinder stronger social cohesion and national unity?
The G25 is the only group of prominent public intellectuals who have shown the courage of their conviction in speaking up and standing up against Hudud. Prof Chandra Muzaffar has also argued convincingly that “fundamental rethinking is urgently needed in the Muslim world”. The former learned Chief Justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad has also bravely expressed critical views on this, but how many others have openly commented ?
But why have most others chosen to observe a deafening silence on this important issue of hudud and its serious implications on our society and country? Are they so subdued and stifled by the laws of the land? However, we do have a bounden duty like the G25, to be constructively critical to strengthen our country’s future and to safeguard our posterity.
Hence, as a moderate Malaysian and Christian, like millions of other right-thinking brothers and sisters, we would hope that “urgent rethinking is urgently needed” in Malaysia - to reject hudud and to return our country to the path of a secular state. We will then have far better prospects for the peace and harmony that all our religions purport to preach and promote.
The G25 and all the millions of Malaysians who reject hudud and yearn for a really secular state, would invite all Moderate Malaysians, to follow the strong lead taken by the G25 to reject the Hadi Bill, for national progress and indeed our wel-being.
We salute the G25 and hope more and more Malaysians will follow them as a Moderate Malaysian Movement, for Peace, Stability and real Progress in the future for our beloved Malaysia.
God Bless Malaysia.
RAMON NAVARATNAM is chairperson of Asli/Centre of Public Policy Studies.