COMMENT In two months from now, Parliament will be sitting again. What is at stake for the nation is nothing less than our way of life and our Malaysian dream.
This is because a Private Member's Bill to amend the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 will be tabled and debated at that sitting.
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang has been going around to claim that this bill is only to upgrade the Syariah Courts and that it has nothing to do with non-Muslims.
PAS-oriented analysts and ulama leaders have also commented that it is not really a “Hudud Bill” and that it's passage is only intended to pave the way for PAS to enforce its version of the Islamic penal code in Kelantan. Hence they argue that its effect will be limited.
However, Hadi and his supporters are only trying to fool the public.
Here are my reasons for why all Malaysians - Muslims and non-Muslims - should oppose the bill, which unexpectedly was allowed by Umno to “potong jalan” or jump the queue during the last parliamentary sitting.
Negative impact of Hudud Bill Enactment
Here is a summary of its negative impact
Firstly, the passage of the bill is against the Federal Constitution, the country’s supreme law, which calls for equality before the law.
The proposed bill will destroy this key provision by allowing more criminal offences seen to be against the “precepts of Islam” to be dealt by the syariah court and result in two sets of criminal laws for Muslims - the syariah and the civil law system; as well as two sets of laws for Muslims and non-Muslims.
Secondly, the passing of this bill could pave the way towards further constitutional amendments that could result in the syariah court superseding the civil court and for the full imposition of hudud, which includes limb amputation for thieves and flogging in public for adulterers, according to Kelantan Deputy Mentri Besar Mohd Amar Abdullah.
Thirdly, if non-Muslims think they will not be affected by the proposed bill, they are sadly mistaken.
Already some prominent ulama, such as Perlis mufti Asri Zainal Abidin, have gone on public record to say that non-Muslims should not be exempted from hudud. We have seen unilateral conversions of children from divorces and body snatching by Islamic religious departments.
As pointed out by the columnist, Farouk Peru, in his article, 'Hudud: Non-Muslims Beware': “What would happen when a Muslim is convicted for stealing and his non-Muslim partner is caught alongside him? Will he stand by and lose his limb while his partner, with great relief, goes to jail? Highly unlikely.”
To me, this is more than just the camel in the tent scenario. There is good reason to believe that the passing of this bill will embolden the radical Muslim lobby to push for more. It will not stop with the present bill.
If passed, it will take us down a dangerous road and ultimately push us over a precipice. Even liberal Muslims, such as Farouk Peru and others, are saying this. Hudud belongs to the Middle Ages, not to modern society.
The bill is clearly an attempt by PAS at playing Islamic politics. Taking advantage of the Islamic religious resurgence in Malaysia, it is aimed at reinforcing the position of PAS in Kelantan and Terengganu, as well as pushing Umno, which is at present in a crisis due to the 1MDB and personal donation to the prime minister twin scandalsm to support hudud so as to retain Malay Muslim support.
But what will happen immediately next, when the bill is passed, is what we should be worried about.
Expect economic dsaster if Hudud Bill is passed
The most important reason for Malaysians to oppose the bill is the severe impact on our economic development, and on our economy and society.
It is a factor that has been given relatively little prominence by local analysts and the media.
However, in my opinion, this factor should be deliberated upon and emphasised in the coming parliamentary debate.
Why I say this is because I have recently been approached by a columnist from a prominent foreign based newspaper for my views on the coming bill.
It is clear from this approach made to me that the international community, especially the business community, although we may not be aware of it, is closely watching what will happen after the bill is enacted
Potential ‘Taliban’ nation
If the bill passes through, I predict that the first impact will be in the economic sector and the business community. Both local and foreign investors will reassess their commitment to Malaysia. We can expect many investors to pull out and relocate to the other Asean countries or elsewhere.
Once we are internationally branded or labelled as a potential “Taliban” nation, the ringgit will drop further; foreign investment will dry up; foreign tourist arrivals will be sharply reduced; the stock market will take a big hit and that will be the end of our ambition to join the ranks of developed nations.
Let me warn PAS and Umno parliamentarians
Don't try to fool the nation that this is simply a minor change in the country's legal system for Muslims.
The ripple effects and consequences on our economy - which is already not doing well - will be incalculable.
KOON YEW YIN, a retired chartered engineer, is a philanthropist.