Sunday, March 2, 2014

TMI: No way Malaysia can imitate Brunei’s move to introduce hudud, says academic

The Shariah capital punishment on serious crimes, or Hudud, was a product of Muslim scholars over the years based on their understanding of the Quran and Hadith, therefore it would be "presumptuous" to claim that one is divinely guided in implementing such laws, said a law professor.

Speaking on the subject on private radio station BFM, Dr Azmi Sharom, associate professor of law at Universiti Malaya, questioned the claim by the Sultan of Brunei that he received guidance from God in announcing the introduction of hudud in the state, reports THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER (2 March 2014).

"Well, I think it's guidance from certain Islamic scholars in the past, but to claim that it's an actual guidance from God is a bit presumptuous.

"It's largely man-made and it's inspired by certain principles which they think has to reflected in this way, but it's open to debate," the report quoted Azmi in the interview on March 1.


He also said it was no longer a legal system that belonged to this day and age. "It is contextual and probably suitable for those days, but not now anymore."

Last year, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who is the absolute monarch of the tiny oil-rich kingdom, said that with the coming into effect of the legislation, "our duty to Allah is therefore being fulfilled".

Starting next month, Brunei will gradually institute punishments such as flogging, severing of limbs and death by stoning, following the consent for the Shariah Penal Code Order.

Brunei's largely Muslim population have traditionally not questioned royal decrees, although voices of dissent have surfaced on social media criticising the move, prompting a strong warning by the Sultan.

"They cannot be allowed to continue committing these insults, but if there are elements which allow them to be brought to court, then the first phase of implementing the Shariah Penal Code Order in April will be very relevant to them," the 67-year-old ruler said, according to a copy of his speech published by state media.

But the move has earned praise from conservative Islamist politicians in Malaysia, including those from PAS.

Barely two months after the Sultan's announcement, Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob led a high-powered state delegation to Bandar Seri Begawan in December 2013, to congratulate the sultan on the decision.

They were briefed by the various Islamic authorities in Brunei on the implementation of hudud, a subject which has sparked two decades of debate since the PAS-led state government came out with a state enactment on the legal system.
Azmi, however, said Brunei was an absolute monarchy, and in a democracy such as Malaysia, such moves should be debated.

"The fact that it's absolute monarchy means that the whims of one person can be forced through much easier," he added, while hitting out at a section of Muslim ulama in Malaysia for their claim to have a monopoly on debates involving Islam in the country.

Azmi disagreed with calls for the implementation of hudud, saying that the system was also open to abuse like any other system, only this time it is done in the name of religion.

"Hypocrisy in any sort of legal system is a bad thing. But when you have a legal system supposedly with religious foundations, then the hypocrisy becomes abhorrent.

"Let's be frank, those who are powerful and rich, they are not going to be subject to these things. It's going to be the ordinary persons," said Azmi.

Azmi said approaching the current problem of crime with hudud is regressive, but said everyone has a right to talk about it, including non-Muslims.

"Brunei is a not a democracy, and we still, theoretically, a democracy. So any talk about any change in the legal system has got to be done in the public sphere. It has to be done freely and it has to be done by anybody who wants to talk about it.

"If you really want to have hudud law, if that's what really floats your boat, fine, talk about it, campaign for it, that's your right. But for goodness sake, anyone who disagrees, regardless whether they are Muslims or not Muslims, also has a right to give their point of view. Let's discuss it as openly as possible."


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