Friday, 23 September 2011

Hudud? Let It be provided ... (Well said Your Grace)

“Between the contention that the Federal Constitution is a colonial imposition and the obligation of Muslims to support syariah, 
I say the wiser non-Muslim stance would be to hold that if syariah 
is what Kelantan Muslims want 
and if we are given a cast-iron guarantee 
that it will not be implemented on us, 
we would not object to Muslims wanting it,”
Bishop takes nuanced stance on hudud
Terence Netto
Sep 23, 11
The reignited debate over the implementation of hudud law in Kelantan has drawn a nuanced response from what at first glance would be considered an unexpected quarter.

bishop paul tan chee ingCatholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing, in remarks made to Malaysiakini today, held forth on the subject and has come up with a stance he thinks is calibrated to meet the challenges the question of Islam poses to Malaysian society.

“One would think I should lack the presumption to weigh in on the discussion, being non-Muslim and belonging to a religion that subscribes to the separation of the secular from the religious spheres,” said the titular head of Catholics in the Melaka-Johor diocese.

“But Islam is, above all, a political question, and support for syariah, of which hudud is a part, is an obligation for the Muslim. Therefore a non-Muslim citizen such as me, and a religious leader at that, ought to have a say on this matter,” asserted the Jesuit-trained prelate.

“I say it's time to allow Muslims in Kelantan, if they so desire, to implement syariah only for them and with that the hudud enactments provided non-Muslims are exempt from its implementation,” said the bishop who is concurrently president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia.

“Between the contention that the Federal Constitution is a colonial imposition and the obligation of Muslims to support syariah, I say the wiser non-Muslim stance would be to hold that if syariah is what Kelantan Muslims want and if we are given a cast-iron guarantee that it will not be implemented on us, we would not object to Muslims wanting it,” he argued.

“Bear in mind, this is not a question that is going to go away but it is not a question that will continue to be framed in the same terms as it is today in Malaysia,” continued the bishop.

“What do I mean by this?” asked the cleric who obtained his doctorate from Ecole Etude Science Sociales whose degree is from Sorbonne, the 'Harvard of Europe' in medieval times.

“You take the Arab Spring that has roiled nations in that arc from Tunisia to Syria. Do you see it as an Islamic uprising or a democratic insurgence?

“I hesitate to claim that it's a democratic rising of peoples. You cannot tell for sure, but it is not specifically Islamic in character.

Enduring debate

“I take the long view and see it all as part and parcel of the enduring debate between the Mutazilities and the Asharites in Islam.

NONE“The former holds that you need reason to explain the world; the latter that God does not need reason and that He is all power and will.

“I pray the Mutazilites win the debate. I don't know if that extraordinary man, the Kelantan menteri besar (Nik Aziz Nik Mat), is a Mutazilite or an Asharite. Sometimes he sounds like a Mutazilite, sometimes like an Asharite.

“But that ambiguity is a good thing. It shows he is not dogmatic. I say let him and all who hold with him have their way so long as non-Muslims have iron-clad guarantees of their exemption.

“I am in favour of Kelantan Muslims having hudud implemented for them only.”


  1. Cruzo, as I commented in Malaysia Chronicle, Please read (if you haven't already) Clive Kessler's article on Why Hudud Law is EVERYBODY's Business Especially in Malaysia; first published in 'Off The Edge' on January 15 2009 and reposted on Malaysia Unplug (sic). The implication for ALL MALAYSIANS is grave and disastrous. It's the initial inroad into "instituting a creeping, historically regressive and anti-democratic clericalism" which will eventually affect us all regardless of creed. The Bishop is at best naive if he thinks that it will only apply to Muslims.

  2. Hi shafeek,
    First of all- let's see this debate/rhetoric for what it truly is ...

    This is a conflict which Mahathir's nurturing to play the "politics of fear" (much like the old "May13" rhetoric) on the electorate & split the vote bank to UMNO's benefit.

    It is also a potent diversion from all that ails the Najib administration.
    Sadly- the PAS Ulamas in their usual defensive political naivete/ stupidity, has fallen for it (and yes- OMG .. yet again!!)- hook, line & sinker!!
    It really reveals the lack of political sophistication in PAS, thus revealing their weakness- and not "strength", as these PAS stalwarts believe- in their chest-thumping bravado!!
    One wonders at times if they're that stupid ... while they seek to champion Islam.
    They really need to brush up ...

    The Bishop isn't as naive as you might think- he's well aware of the repercussions. He's responding to the rhetoric in the best possible way to "douse the embers", lest they flare up.

    Paul Tan- He is a Jesuit- they who are far from the "simpleton clerics" we see quite often most organized religions. Academic credentials are a prerequisite to being a Jesuit. They're the intellectuals of the catholic church ...
    So he's also a highly qualified academic (a sociologist, I think). Even if he were ignorant of Islamist politics- he surely has the resources to indulge the battalions of Jesuits schooled in Islamic studies, for information.

    If you noticed, he also mentions of the two schools of thought among Islamic thinkers - and makes quite clear his hopes in “I pray the Mutazilites win the debate....", and prays that TGNA sees the facts.

    Y'see, the "no-objection" he mentioned, came with a caveat - "iron-clad assurances"- and that is the most important part, which many would tend to overlook.
    Take note that, he's just diffused the potential of conflict with Christians and has taken the church out of the equation in the current debate- and have frustrated Mahathir's plan on one front.
    He has just thrown the ball back to the Muslims to decide for themselves- and not for the non-muslims.

    In other words- he says that he doesn't agree with it, and hopes that the Muslim intelligentsia knows what's best for them!

    As for me- I agree with you, in that Hudud ain't gonna do us any good. Yup- the implications are "grave & disastrous".

    I think these guys who talk about wanting Hudud, have lost the big picture, and are mind-bogglingly naive to actually want it for themselves.


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