KUALA LUMPUR: An article which appeared in Pas news portal Harakah Daily on September 23rd has some Christians questioning statements made by Catholic Bishop Paul Tan, who expressed his support for the implementation of hudud in Kelantan.
The article, which referred to an earlier Malaysiakini article, quoted the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia as saying that Pas leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat is an “extraordinary man” and that “it's time to allow Muslims in Kelantan, if they so desire, to implement shariah only for them and with that the hudud enactments provided non-Muslims are exempt from its implementation.”
Christian blogger Freddie Kevin took issue with Bishop Tan’s remarks, writing in his blog on September 28th that they strengthen his belief that opposition supporters have “infiltrated” the Church, leading to “a confrontational stand by the Church.”
Freddie pointed out that Bishop Tan’s statement in Harakah “mirrors Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, shocking his Christian and liberal supporters in PKR, and reported the very next day by the opposition portal.”
“Whether it is his personal view or officially of the Church is a question that comes to mind,” added the blogger, “but it certainly shows a neglect of the Federal Constitution on the part of the holy father, intentionally or otherwise.”
Tony Yew, another Christian blogger, also disagreed with Bishop Tan’s expression of support for hudud.
In a post today, Yew wrote, “In a country with democratically elected government, how is the church involvement in politics any good for believers by propagating anti-government messages?”
Yew, who echoed Freddie Kevin in saying the Church had been “compromised,” added, “There is the Federal Constitution, and there are laws to keep peace and security in the country. Try to understand that first, and if there are some who think that they are still persecuted religiously, try to see it from a Muslim perspective too. What next Bishop? Line up and throw stones at the adulterer when you are invited by 'them'?”
“If indeed the church has to stand up for injustice,” he said, “how is cutting anyone's hands or stoning justified from the church perspective?”
Bishop Tan could not be reached for comment, but he did elaborate on his hudud remarks in an article which appeared in Free Malaysia Today on September 27th.
Unlike the Harakah article, which had simply stated Bishop Tan’s support for hudud in Kelantan (with the condition that non-Muslims are excluded), the FMT article contained further quotes which suggested he is in fact personally opposed to hudud.
The article said that Tan’s “core stance would be to dissuade the Kelantan state government from implementing hudud”.
When asked if he considered the theocratic goals of Pas as a threat in his capacity as a Christian leader, he cited the examples of Christian minorities in countries where hudud had been implemented, such as Pakistan and the Sudan, further suggesting his opposition to hudud.
However, he also stated that while he support's an individual's right to his or her own religious beliefs, it would be "hypocritical" to deny Kelantanese Muslims that same right, which to him means giving them an opportunity to live under hudud.
“Once you come to terms with the unrealism of the rejectionist stance," he said, "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."
Yew suggests, however, that the bishop is indeed being hypocritical in that he supports something that goes against his principles.
"In today's day and age, there is no room for anything as barbaric (though citing religion as reason), and I would say the same too if this was a capital punishment under Canon Law. I would object the same," he wrote.
"But here is the clincher," he added. "Is the Church part of the wayang kulit desgined to hoodwink Malaysians yet again?"