Friday 23 September 2011

Bishop takes nuanced stance on hudud

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.”

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