PETALING JAYA (Jan 9): Hudud, the Islamic system of criminal law, is destined to remain entangled in a series of legal, political and administrative processes that will prevent its application for a long time to come, says PAS Secretary-General Datuk Mustafa Ali.
At the mention of the complexities that surround Hudud - ranging from the implementation issues that it entails, the differing stances on the subject taken by Pakatan Rakyat coalition members and its incessant appearance in the headlines since 2008 - Mustafa chuckles.
"But you have never seen Hudud being implemented," he responds, drawing attention to the contrast between all the talk over the matter on the one hand, and the lack of any legal or practical steps taken to implement such laws.
Speaking to fz.com in an interview recently, the Islamic party strongman says that he would not be surprised if the issue makes another comeback just as the general election approaches.
He says that although the Pakatan parties - PAS, DAP and PKR - have "agreed to disagree" over the issue, it will not just go away as it is close to the heart of any Muslim and it was a matter of principle for followers of Islam to uphold.
"No Muslim, whether in PAS or Umno, can say that Hudud is not in Islam or that it is against the teaching of Islam. But if you speak to an Umno person, although they would agree with this, there are so many "buts" and "buts" (to justify its lack of implementation)," he says.
Hudud, says Mustafa, must be discussed in a broader perspective, as it is a "very small" portion of the Islamic justice system.
"It is more of a deterrent than a form of punishment... more to instill fear in the people. It is just a small part of all the different systems of life in Islam such as economics, education and social well-being. Hudud is a very small part of criminal law," he said.
In what (for now) appears to be the last word on the issue, Pakatan decided in September 2011 that DAP will stick to its opposition to the issue and PAS cannot be forced to abandoned its principle to implement the law.
Flanked by 20-odd top Pakatan leaders, the coalition's head Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said then: "Pakatan respects the PAS initiatives and aspirations (to implement the Hudud in Kelantan), but we have to reach a consensus… DAP is opposed to that and PKR and PAS respect that decision".
He also said that the matter was a non-issue as the existence of the Second Syariah Kelantan Criminal Enactments 1993 and the Terengganu Syariah Criminal Enactments 2003 required amendments to the Federal Constitution.
Referring to these state laws, Mustafa reiterates, as he has done many times before, that the passage of any laws containing elements of Hudud must follow the democratic process.
"Even in Kedah (where PAS holds 16 out of 36 state seats), we don't have the numbers to implement Hudud (or pass any related legislation)," he says, noting that the state laws passed in Kelantan and Terengganu were voted for by a two-thirds majority in their respective state assemblies.
"So at the moment it is a state matter.If at all it is (to be done on a national level), it must adhere to the democratic process, meaning even the passage of bill must be done with the two-thirds majority," he adds.
The PAS veteran says that the law is difficult to implement effectively as it requires cooperation from the national-level bureaucracy.
"You need the cooperation of the Prisons Department, the Police and others. Without this, it cannot be implemented," he says, referring to the intricate cross-agency cooperation needed.
As sensitive an issue this may be to the Muslim psyche and despite the many obstacles that stand in the way of achieving a united mindset on its implementation in the bureaucracy, Mustafa says the issue was also manipulated by Barisan Nasional coalition party, MCA to win political currency over its rival in the opposition, the DAP.
"The rhetoric is just to instill fear in the Chinese voter that a vote for DAP is a vote for Hudud. But that is wrong for MCA to say especially when DAP doesn't agree with the adoption of Hudud," says Mustafa.
"Eventually, people can see that it is just (MCA's) political ploy," he says.