Sign up | Log in



Home  >>  Daily News  >>  ASEAN ANALYSIS


Asean Affairs   June 20, 2014

The Risks of Hudud to UMNO and Malaysia

By Nigel Cory

The revived proposal to introduce hudud, or Islamic penal code, in Malaysia’s northeastern state of Kelantan by opposition party, Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), has touched off another round of heated debate about the role of religion in the country’s politics. This is but the latest bout of political brinkmanship between the party of Prime Minister Najib Razak, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), and PAS in an effort to win over Malay voters. However, Najib should be aware of the risks that hudud laws would pose for his efforts to advance economic reforms and manage the diverse ethnic and religious forces in Malaysian society .

Hudud refers to the class of punishments that are imposed for certain crimes under Sharia laws, including theft, extra- and pre-marital sex, consumption of alcohol and drugs, and apostasy. Malaysia has since its independence run a mostly successful dual Sharia and civil law system, but while Sharia laws only apply to Muslims, hudud could in some cases be applied to non-Muslims, who make up about a third of Malaysia’s population.

PAS passed state-based legislation introducing hudud punishments while in control of the governments of conservative states Kelantan and Terrengganu in 1993 and 2004, respectively. However, federal legislation, the Sharia Court Act, has prevented implementation of these laws. This legislation does not allow the Sharia Court to issue harsh sentences such as the death penalty and amputations, which PAS hopes to enforce under its strict hudud laws. The federal government has in the past opposed calls to amend the legislation to allow the court greater leeway in punishing what some Muslims consider as serious crimes.

Yet, senior members of UMNO, including Deputy Prime Minister and UMNO Deputy President Muhyiddin Yassin, have this time voiced support for working with PAS on implementing hudud. Muhyiddin has proposed a national technical committee to examine the issue and its potential implementation. UMNO’s support has prompted PAS to shelve plans to introduce legislations in parliament that aim to seek approval for the Kelantan government’s hudud laws and amend the Sharia Court Act.

UMNO’s response to the PAS proposal represents an escalation in its efforts to brandish its religious credentials with rural Malay voters, many of whom form an increasingly vital constituency for the party, especially given its fickle relationships with non-Malay voters.

UMNO’s change in its approach toward hudud is likely part of a calculated risk to sow further division within the three-party opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition. Its six years of coalition has been characterized by bouts of internal fighting over religious issues between PAS and the Democratic Action Party, which is predominantly Chinese and Christian. However, by supporting PAS, UMNO risks opening up major schisms between it and other predominantly Christian and Hindu parties that make up the ruling Barisan National coalition.

The implementation of hudud may have international implications for Malaysia. Its neighbor Brunei’s plans to implement strict Sharia laws have attracted unprecedented media attention, and Brunei could be facing potential trade consequences from the United States. A number of U.S. lawmakers have urged President Barack Obama and the U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to use the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to press for human rights changes in Brunei or have it expelled from the talks. The U.S. Congress would likely seek to impose conditions on Malaysia’s participation in the trade agreement should the prospect for rolling out hudud gain more traction in the country.

If that happens, neither Prime Minister Najib’s push to advance the TPP in the domestic arena nor broader U.S.-Malaysia economic relations will stand to benefit. In the past, issues of mutual interest – whether security, trade, or people-to-people ties – have been overshadowed by sensitivities surrounding Malaysia’s rights record, as was the case during the sodomy trials of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

While UMNO may find it tactically convenient to support the Kelantan government, it should also realize that the introduction of such laws would undermine past and ongoing economic and legal reform efforts to maintain Malaysia’s image as an aspiring, modern, and moderate Muslim country.

Courtesy: This post originally appeared on the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington D.C. cogitASIA blog

Reach Southeast Asia!
10- Nations, 560- Million Consumers
And $1 -Trillion Market
We are the Voice of Southeast Asia Media Kit
The only Media Dedicated to Southeast Asia Advertising Rates for Magazine
Online Ad Rates

Comment on this Article. Send them to

Letters that do not contain full contact information cannot be published.
Letters become the property of AseanAffairs and may be republished in any format.
They typically run 150 words or less and may be edited
submit your comment in the box below




1.  Verifier

1. Verifier

For security purposes, we ask that you enter the security code that is shown in the graphic. Please enter the code exactly as it is shown in the graphic.
Your Code
Enter Code

Today's  Stories                            June 20, 2014 Subsribe Now !
• BoT keeps interest rate unchanged at 2.00 per cent Subcribe: Asean Affairs Global Magazine
• Global warming affect most of Indonesian area: Forestry minister
• Creative economy share of GDP expected to reach 7.5%
Research Reports
on Thailand 2007-2008

• Textiles and Garments Industry
• Coffee industry
• Leather and footwear industry
• Shrimp industry

• Moody's affirms Singapore top-level Aaa rating
• VN leaders say yes to strong ties, no to China incursion
Asean Analysis                    June 20, 2014

• Asean Analysis June 20, 2014
The Risks of Hudud to UMNO and Malaysia
Advertise Your Brand

Asean Stock Watch    June 19, 2014
• Asean Stock Watch-June 19, 2014
The Biweekly Update
• The Biweekly Update  June 13, 2014

ASEAN NEWS UPDATES      Updated: 04 January 2011

 • Women Shariah scholars see gender gap closing
• Bank Indonesia may hold key rate as inflation hits 7 percent
• Bursa Malaysia to revamp business rules
• Private property prices hit new high in Singapore • Bangkok moves on mass transport
• Thai retailers are upbeat
• Rice exports likely to decline • Vietnamese PM projects 10-year socioeconomic plan


This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


Home | About Us | Contact Us | Special Feature | Features | News | Magazine | Events | TV | Press Release | Advertise With us

Our Products | Work with us | Terms of Use | Site Map | Privacy Policy | Refund Policy | Shipping/Delivery Policy | DISCLAIMER |

Version 5.0
Copyright © 2007-2015 TIME INTERNATIONAL MANAGEMENT ENTERPRISES CO., LTD. All rights reserved.
Bangkok, Thailand