Shrieks of women being stoned to death pierce through the air as you walk down Lorong Haji Taib. Once a red light district, tourists now flock here to get the chance to hurl rocks at the very same transgendered prostitutes who lured them into badly lit alleys five years ago.
You’d like to keep your eyes firmly on the ground, but you’ve just had your lunch and the sight of freshly dismembered hands still writhing on the road is just a bit too much.
This is the year 2015, three years after Pakatan Rakyat won the general election and began implementing hudud – the Islamic criminal law – with delirious zeal.
Cinemas have been shut down, Muslim and non-Muslim women alike stay at home for fear of being raped, and Genting Highlands has been transformed into a Taliban stronghold.
Or so MCA would like you to think.
If you were to swallow what they have been touting for the few months (years?), hudud means the end of Malaysia as we know it.
Prevention is better than cure
But let’s make this clear: contrary to belief made popular by MCA and other uninformed members of the public, hudud is not a law meant to brutalise Muslims, it is not a tool meant to perpetuate social injustice, and it is definitely not an archaic relic from a barbaric civilization of the past.
In Islam, hudud is a specific set of fixed penalties laid down by Allah for specified transgressions or crimes, such as adultery, fornication, stealing, or consuming alcohol. Its purpose, simply put, is to maintain justice and to protect society.
“But why is it so brutal?” you cry as you gingerly stroke your wrist and flex your beloved fingers. Oh to part with such digits!
The answer is simple: because hudud works by preventing people from committing crime in the first place – through sheer fear of such brutal retaliation.
Take theft as an example. After all, who wouldn’t think twice about committing a theft if they risk, not a mere slap on the wrist, but a slice of it?
But take heart: even if a person was found guilty of thievery under hudud, it’s not a simple matter of hacking the wrongdoer’s hand off and calling it a day. Instead, there are a multitude of factors that must be taken into consideration before any punishment can be meted out.
In the case of theft, the court must take into account the amount of money stolen, the thief’s financial situation as well as his or her mental stability before even considering the ultimate punishment of amputation.
Rape = adultery?
Another controversial, so-called unjust part of hudud is the fact that a rape victim must supposedly produce four male – adult, pious, credible Muslims – to testify they had witnessed her rape.
If she fails to do so, she will then be charged as having committed zina (fornication or adultery); a crime against the state punishable by stoning to death.
But according to a paper written by Dr Mohammad Omar Farooq, an associate professor at the Royal University for Women, Bahrain, classical Islamic jurisprudence clearly treated rape as a special case of assault, never zina.
In fact, he wrote, Prophet Muhammad himself differentiated between consensual and non-consensual actions and punished individuals accordingly.
An equally important note he made was that, in the case of zina, the burden of providing the four credible and pious eyewitnesses is not on the person accused of committing zina, but the accuser.
Hence, because the requirement is so strict, cases of zina that emerged during the time of the Prophet were generally a result of voluntary confessions by the wrongdoers themselves, rather than gangs of vigilant peeping toms.
Are we ready for hudud?
Taking all the (mis)information into consideration, and the situation of our society now, are Malaysians, particularly Muslim Malaysians, even ready for hudud?
According to former mufti of Perak Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, before Prophet Muhammad implemented hudud, he made sure that the society was in a condition where there would be no excuse for any member to commit the crimes stipulated under hudud.
In other words, all people were equal before the law, there was no discrimination, people’s rights were preserved, everybody was helping each other… the picture perfect society.
And that should be our end goal – to create a conducive society where there is no reason for people to have to resort to committing crimes to survive. Hudud should only come in the picture later – as a safeguard to ensure society’s members are further protected from social deviants.
Otherwise, if we introduce hudud at a time when society isn’t prepared for it – when politicians are still dithering over the final details, when the elite can openly flout the law without repercussions, when poverty is widespread – then the law would destroy the very fabric of society, much like what we see in Pakistan.
And the scenario written in the opening paragraphs? It might just become a reality.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of MuslimVillage.com.