PAS and its Pakatan Rakyat partners have been rather quiet this last week over the hudud issue. According to news reports the reason is the Bukit Gelugor and Teluk Intan parliamentary by-elections on May 25 and 31 respectively. The reports say that PAS had put the hudud issue on hold until for later in order not to weaken the chances of its Pakatan partner, the DAP, whose candidates are standing for elections in both constituencies. If that is true, it further confirms what everyone knows: that PAS is fully aware that there is considerable opposition to hudud, but would nevertheless go ahead with it.
If at some time in the future PAS succeeds in enforcing its version of hudud in Kelantan, let me paint a picture of what might happen. Already there are gender-based queues at the cashier’s, followed by gender-based hair salons. Under hudud, in a worst-case scenario, the guilty might suffer the loss of limbs and stoning as punishment. If non-Muslims find it unbearable to cope with such medieval cultural concepts of punishment, they might leave the state. Their businesses will close and they would look for greener pastures outside the state. Investments won’t head towards Kelantan, and Kelantan would propably look the same way it does now, caught in a time warp it can’t escape. Don’t expect much progress there.
Something else — in fact two things — may happen that may backfire on PAS. Hudud may not be able to curb corruption at the ground level. Corporate corruption may be negligible if non-existent. But, on the ground, people who have no choice and fearful of harsh penalties for minor crimes may resort to small-time corruption — bribing enforcers to escape the punishments. Typical of Malaysian culture at the bottom of the heap, there will be a little passing of money between hands, which many enforcers won’t mind — they think of it as “helping” their fellowmen who can’t pay much and “showing compassion” to the unfortunate and powerless by sparing them the punishments. This “helping people” is entrenched in Malaysian grassroots culture and I doubt hudud would eliminate it.
The second thing that may happen is that Muslims themselves may flee the state or go abroad seeking refuge. This is not an unlikely possibility. I teach English to refugees, the majority of whom are Myanmarese. But, there are also a sizeable number of Iraqis, Iranians and Afghans and some Pakistanis, Sudanese and now Syrians — refugees running away from their own countries under Islamic regimes or warring Islamic militias imposing their respective brand of Islam over the will of their own peoples.
Many of the refugees from these Muslim countries are persecuted Christians and modern or open-minded Muslims who want a freer society. Contrary to popular belief, however, among them are a good number of conservative Muslims who want a better life. All are fleeing to formerly Christian nations like the United States, Australia and Europe, which are no longer “Christian nations” but which have a majority or sizeable Christian community. These nations are the developed Western world where life is better. Here they can be who they are — any type of Muslim they want to be, or not!
These conservative refugees are good, decent people who keep their Muslim traditions and practices. I recall one Iraqi student, in particular, a lovely girl, in her tudung and conservative clothes and so eager to learn. She was a well-behaved girl and it was obvious she was well-brought up. Her father was a professor in Iraq who couldn’t stomach the oppression there, and fled here to Kuala Lumpur with his family and earns a living now as a taxi driver who also does other part-time work. There are a number like them who are good Muslims who are going elsewhere for a better life.
Kelantan is no Iraq or Iran or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Sudan. But, if hudud becomes unbearable to Muslims, even good Muslims will leave the state. And of the Muslims who leave, some may convert to other religions, which is what PAS doesn’t want but which will happen — as it happens to all religions. If hudud goes nationwide, the same consequences can be expected but on a larger scale!
Malaysians are not stupid. Thanks to development we have access to information through education, mass media and especially the Internet. We know what is happening in the world. The bottom line is that we — even the traditionalists — want a better life with modern amenities. With hudud possibly driving out business and human capital, how can that happen?
If Malaysians really love this nation and want to move forward and progress and not regress, we will say a definite “No” to hudud.