Driving the hudud wedge: The real story behind the Kelantan hudud move

To drive a wedge is to cause hostility or disagreement between two parties. In Malaysia, the implementation of the Islamic criminal law or hudud is one such wedge that is designed to break Pakatan Rakyat, and to bolster the position of the pro-UMNO elements in PAS vis-à-vis the pro-Pakatan Rakyat leaders.

I may be a DAP leader but I write this piece as a former academic who has devoted four years of my younger life to understand the internal dynamics of PAS a decade and half ago, with several academic publications on the subject.

Text and context

I see myself as a long-time friend of the PAS that strives to defeat UMNO at the ballot boxes together with all Malaysians. For me, the PAS faction that is working secretly with UMNO on the basis of asabiyyah (racial allegiance) should be regarded as a common enemy by all those who wish to see a Malaysia with a new clean, trustworthy, democratic and fair government.

The hudud debate did not figure much in the national discourse, even among the circle of top leaders in PAS, since 1950s. Phrases such as “Negara Islam” and “hudud” only became popular from the 1980s onward, especially after Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim joined UMNO just before the April 1982 general election which gave the then new Mahathir government an “Islamic” credential, and during the young ulama’ revolt against Datuk Asri Muda’s leadership of PAS which was seen as more Malay nationalist in orientation at the party’s muktamar (general assembly) in October 1982.

That era of Islamisation – the battle between PAS and UMNO to outIslam each other – has more or less ended with the jailing of Anwar in September 1998 when the grounds for competition between the ruling UMNO and the opposition shifted to more painfully realistic issues such as economic downturn, justice, good governance, and wellbeing of the people.

Globally, even Islamists discuss real problems of every life in a holistic manner rather than putting the focus on specific legal agenda. Most mainstream Islamists, from Maududi to al-Qaradawi and many others, stress on maqasid – the overriding objectives of syariah (Islamic jurisprudence) – rather than just hudud as a form.

Deception and backdoor

The recent hudud debate was given a new lease of life in March 2014 when Minister in Prime Minister Department Jamil Khir dangled the private member’s bill option at the PAS-led Kelantan government.

The discussion between Deputy Menteri Besar Nik Amar Nik Abdullah and the Federal Government took the form of a “government-to-government” arrangement, thus avoiding the scrutiny of PAS national leadership and the Pakatan Rakyat leaders’ council.

Without having any intention to brief the party’s central committee as well as the Pakatan Rakyat top leaders, the Kelantan PAS leaders was adamant to table the hudud enactment on 29th December 2014. Alas, it was stalled by the great flood of Kelantan which swamped even the state government offices in Kota Bharu.

Nik Amar was later instructed by the PAS central leadership to attend the Pakatan Rakyat Leadership Council on 8th February 2015 chaired by Anwar Ibrahim, two days before the de facto PKR chief was jailed.

Nik Amar explained that the exercise was a minor amendment to the 1993 enactment, and Pakatan leaders were assured that they would be allowed to have a look at the draft.

On 12th March 2015, two junior State Excos of Kelantan were sent to attend the Pakatan Rakyat Leadership Council with “no mandate” to change anything, and allegedly “too late” to do anything.

The purpose was clear. It was meant to present a fait accompli by deception.

It is sad that some people would do such a thing despite the Quranic warning that one should never resort to unfair and dishonest means.

The reasons why

The rush to present the hudud bill in the Kelantan assembly without much consultation within PAS and with its allies in Pakatan Rakyat indicates certain ulterior motives.

While I believe PAS leaders and members support hudud in principle, I do not believe all of them agree with the way the issue is being handled at present. I believe Nik Amar has his own motives.

First, he is positioning himself vis-à-vis PAS leader Husam Musa in Kelantan politics.

Second, from the impression I got from his briefings at Pakatan meetings, he believes that the hudud enactment would save PAS Kelantan from electoral defeat; this means he has no confidence that PAS could win the next general election.

Third, he is preparing for a rematch with PAS Deputy President Mohamad Sabu in a tussle for the party’s number 2 position in the coming party elections. He lost Mat Sabu two years ago.

Fourth, he is of the view that hudud could improve PAS’ vote share nationally, despite the fact that many PAS’s seats outside of the Malay heartlands were won with non-Muslim votes.

Why the rush?

Pushing the hudud enactment by deception as well as using the back door without wider consultation can only serve UMNO’s interest. The timing is so perfect for UMNO that is facing numerous scandals and crises, and on the verge of losing power in the coming general election.

Therefore, the collapse of Pakatan Rakyat would mean UMNO win by default when there is no more alternative coalition contesting against it.

Perhaps the enthusiastic rush for the Kelantan hudud enactment is not really about expanding justice. If it is, why the rush? Why can’t more deliberations and consultations be held?

It is all about political positioning.

Sadly, it’s the people of Malaysia, including Muslims, who will suffer yet again if or when Pakatan Rakyat breaks up over this badly-managed issue. And UMNO will return with a vengeance.

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