Tuesday 27 September 2011

Commenting on the row over hudud, Bishop Paul Tan says 'let the Kelantanese have it'. But he wants a guarantee that non-Muslims will not be affected.

PETALING JAYA: The opposition bloc of diameterically opposed ideologies is grappling with the controversy surrounding the proposal to implement hudud in Kelantan – an issue, which political observers warned, could sever Pakatan Rakyat’s support, especially among non-Muslims.

Admist the raging debate, a Catholic leader argued that it would be hypocritical to oppose the Islamic-based PAS on this issue but demanded an iron-cast assurance from Pakatan supremo Anwar Ibrahim.

Should hudud be implemented in the PAS-governed state, Bishop Paul Tan said the opposition leader must obtain a guarantee that non-Muslims residing in Kelantan would not be subjected to it.

The 72-year-old head of the Malacca and Johor diocese would also prefer if the other parties in Pakatan, namely DAP,  work towards securing a similar guarantee as well.

The secularist DAP, which relies on the support of the Chinese electorate, had always been opposed to PAS’ vision of turning Malaysia into an Islamic state.

Tan said while his core stance would be to dissuade the Kelantan state government from implementing hudud, this however was not a realistic position, given that Muslims were obliged to support syariah law which encompassed hudud.

“I stand by my Catholic teaching that every individual must be free to choose his/her religious beliefs. Since we, Catholics, demand this right for ourselves, it would be hypocritical not to give the same human rights to others, here specifically to Muslims,” the bishop told FMT.

“Once you come to terms with the unrealism of the rejectionist stance, you switch to its opposite, which is to give support to the view that Kelantanese Muslims ought to be allowed to see for themselves what living under syariah would be like.

“The rest of Malaysia can stand by and observe. So long as we don’t cede our right to vote, we can use the ballot box, whenever general elections are held, to render our verdict as the evidence unfolds on the success or otherwise of this experience. PAS abides by democratic rules. It would have to submit to the ultimate verdict of the people,” he added.

‘A Kelantanese thing’

Tan pointed out that the issue was a “Kelantanese thing” since the menteri besar of Selangor, another Pakatan-controlled state, clarified that Islamic law would not be implemented there.

He said it was not for nothing that the Kelantanese considered their state – with a predominantly Muslim population – of being “Serambi Mekah” (Corridor to Mecca).

“Since they so dearly want syariah, I say let them have it. The rest of Malaysia can watch and see and decide which systems they prefer as and when elections come around.

“I think the unrealistic position is to tell a fervent Muslim that he cannot acquit himself of his obligation to support syariah,” he added.

Asked if as a Christian leader he considered PAS’ theocratic goals as a threat, Tan responded by citing the situation in other countries.

“Do you see Christians in Pakistan happy with the state of things there since the time General Zia Ul-Haq introduced syariah law in Pakistan in the 1980s?

“Did you see Christians in south Sudan (now independent) happy with the state of things from the time Hassan Turabi convinced Jaafar al-Numieri to introduce Islamic law in the country?

“Do you see Indonesian Christians happy with the state of things since the time militant Muslims, although a minority in that country, began to thrust themselves onto the national stage from the later part of Suharto’s tenure till now?” he asked.

Tan said that he could go on citing examples, but noted that it would not be helpful in the Malaysian context.
“Here, on the one hand, you have imposters using religion to garner support and, on the other, you have earnest Muslims in Kelantan thinking that they can replicate the ‘best of all communities designed for man’, which is what the Quranic scriptures say about the communities in Mecca and Medina during the time when Islam’s Prophet ruled,” he added.

‘Not interested in Umno”

Referring to PAS spritual leader and Kelantan Menteri Besar Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, Tan also asked if he was expected to say “No” (oppose the implementation of hudud) to a menteri besar who next month finished 21 years at the helm “with not a speck of corruption hanging to his name”.

“I say it’s better for us to say ‘Go ahead, just give us cast-iron guarantees that it won’t be imposed on non-Muslims’. And then, we sit back and see what happens,” he said.

On whether Umno might be tempted to follow suit in an attempt to win over the support of Malay-Muslim voters, the bishop did not mince his words.

“Actually, I have ceased to care what Umno is up to,” he said.

“They are the ones that are chiefly responsible for this huge deficit in Malaysian – particularly Kelantanese – Muslim belief that good secular governance can be obtained in this country.

“I am more concerned to see what their opponents are up to and determined to keep those opponents true to their professions,” he added.

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