The 2P ap­proach not the so­lu­tion

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP - By

de­fer­ment of the de­bate on the pri­vate mem­ber’s bill tabled by PAS pres­i­dent, Datuk Seri Ab­dul Hadi Awang, to amend the Syariah Courts (Crim­i­nal Ju­ris­dic­tion) Act 1965 gives Malaysians some time to re­flect on some of the im­pli­ca­tions of this move. Though some dis­cus­sion has al­ready taken place in the me­dia on how the pro­posed amend­ment would im­pact upon the Malaysian Con­sti­tu­tion, the le­gal sys­tem, modes of crim­i­nal pun­ish­ment and non-Mus­lims, some sig­nif­i­cant di­men­sions of it have yet to be ad­dressed by the pub­lic.

The amend­ment, pre­sented as an at­tempt to en­hance the sta­tus of Is­lam, in fact re­in­forces a cer­tain in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the syariah which dis­torts the real mes­sage of jus­tice, com­pas­sion and mercy em­bod­ied in the re­li­gion. It lends cre­dence to the 2P (pun­ish and pro­hibit) ap­proach to Is­lam. It is an ap­proach that has been pur­sued by a num­ber of Mus­lim ma­jor­ity states from Saudi Ara­bia and Su­dan to Iran and Pak­istan and has failed to re­solve the ills of so­ci­ety or to give sub­stance to the Is­lamic mis­sion it­self.

In­creased pun­ish­ments un­der syariah, which is what Hadi’s bill seeks to do, have not been able to curb drug abuse in Pak­istan. Nei­ther have they been able to elim­i­nate cor­rup­tion and abuse of power in Su­dan. In­deed, the 2P ap­proach to Is­lam di­verts at­ten­tion from the fun­da­men­tal chal­lenges fac­ing many Mus­lim coun­tries – chal­lenges re­lated to the ba­sic needs of the peo­ple; their rights and their dig­nity as cit­i­zens. It has failed mis­er­ably to en­sure the hon­esty and in­tegrity of Mus­lim rulers, or to pro­tect the in­de­pen­dence and sovereignty of the state.

The 2P ap­proach to Is­lam is sim­ply blind al­le­giance to dogma. It is dogma de­fined and de­ter­mined by re­li­gious elites, past and present. It is dogma that boosts the power of the elites them­selves. Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers some­times yield to this dogma be­cause it serves their nar­row in­ter­ests and en­hances their pop­u­lar­ity in the short run.

It would be a shame if out of some mis­con­ceived no­tion of fidelity to Is­lam, or be­cause of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency, Mus­lim lead­ers in Malaysia align them­selves to the 2P ap­proach. They will not only be­tray the essence of Is­lam. They would be trudg­ing on a slip­pery slope that will lead the na­tion sooner than later into a dun­geon of dis­as­ter.

They should re­alise that for more than 250 years the 2P ap­proach has been crit­i­cised in one form or another by lead­ing Is­lamic schol­ars. From Shah Wal­i­ul­lah Dehlawi in the 18th cen­tury to Seyyed Ja­malud­din Asad­abadi (al-Afghani) and Muham­mad Ab­duh in the 19th cen­tury, to Muham­mad Iqbal, Fa­zlur Rah­man, Malek Bennabi, Nur­cho­lis Ma­jid and Syed Hus­sein Alatas in the 20th-21st cen­turies – they saw the weak­nesses in an un­der­stand­ing of the re­li­gion that glo­ri­fied rule over prin­ci­ple and form over sub­stance. In the con­tem­po­rary Mus­lim world, an ex­pand­ing list of schol­ars, in­clud­ing Tariq Ra­madan in Bri­tain and Hashim Ka­mali in Malaysia, con­tinue to es­pouse an Is­lam guided by rea­son and re­flec­tion rather than one ob­sessed with pun­ish­ments and pro­hi­bi­tions.

Our politi­cians on both sides of the di­vide should ab­sorb their thoughts and ideas. There are some who are al­ready aware of the en­light­ened ap­proach to Is­lam. They should set aside party al­le­giances and come to­gether to put a stop to the 2P ap­proach to the re­li­gion. Dis­suad­ing Hadi and his sup­port­ers from pro­ceed­ing with his amend­ment to the Syariah Act would be a good start.

Dr Chan­dra Muzaf­far is the chair­man of the Board of Trustees of the Yayasan 1Malaysia. Com­ments: let­ters@the­sundaily.com

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