Hudud: What about the Malays, the followers of Islam the king makers?


Hudud: What about the Malays, the followers of Islam  the king makers?

So what Datuk Chai if indeed PAS could convince His Pakatan partners to implement Hudud in Malaysia for Muslim only ??? And I’m wondering, judging from the result of last election, that most Chinese did not buy your HUDUD scare tactic but you morons on MCA still believe it will work this time

Do we want fear or hope in these eyes! PAS will implement hudud if it is the biggest party in a ruling coalition and will even change partners to do so, according to its Ulama Council chief Datuk Harun Taib READMORE . Hudud or Islamic criminal law is a contentious issue within the … Read more

Let me tell you what most of my Chinese friend perceived of you playing with this issue of HUDUD even though you know it does not work on the Chinese any more !? You are actually playing this issue up on behalf of UMNO and all their Malay/Islam NGOs, who does not have the liberty to oppose HUDUD !!! They are “outsourcing” this issue to you in MCA and other non-Malay/non-Muslim party, so as to portray that they in UMNO are not anti-Islam !!!

But sorry to tell you this fact Datuk Chai, many of my Malay friends are of the opinion that the one who oppose the implementation of HUDUD is actually UMNO members who have been robbing the Rakyat and the country in broad daylight for the last 50 years

But some researchers have blamed the Umno-led counter-procession that began at the residence of then Selangor mentri besar Datuk Harun Idris for the violence.A conspiracy theory explains an event as being the result of an alleged plot by a covert group or organization or, more broadly, the idea that important political, social or economic events … Read more … Read more

The vindictive agenda being pursued by the Gujarat government is once again reflected in the arrest of whistleblower police officer Sanjiv Bhatt. The 1988 batch IPS officer has accused Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of complicity in the 2002 communal riots.
Bhatt was arrested following a complaint filed by KD Pant, who worked as a subordinate with Bhatt in the state Intelligence Bureau. According to Pant’s complaint, Bhatt had forced him to file an affidavit in which Modi had been named as accused.
The specific reasons cited against Bhatt were unauthorized absence of duty, non-appearance before a departmental panel and alleged misuse of official vehicle.
The Narendra Modi government had ordered the suspension of Bhatt on August 8, 2011 on the grounds that his conduct was unbecoming of an IPS officer.
This was because Bhatt had handed over, about 600 pages of documents to the Central Bureau of Investigation which could incriminate several politicians, police officers and bureaucrats for their active connivance in engineering the riots of 2002, whose countless victims are still struggling for justice.
On September 27, 2011, Bhatt filed an affidavit in the Gujarat High Court, alleging that Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the former Minister of State for Home, Amit Shah had repeatedly sought to pressurize him to withdraw his report and destroy the evidence he had placed on record regarding the murder of former minister Haren Pandya.
Mr. Bhatt in the affidavit said; I was removed from the post of Superintendent of Police in-charge of the Sabarmati central jail and was kept without a posting for over two-and-a-half months for not withdrawing my report the very important documentary evidences regarding the role of certain highly placed State functionaries/politicians and senior police officers in the killing of Haren Pandya.
Earlier, a youth from Hyderabad was arrested on murder charges with allegations that some riot victims had hired him to murder Pandya, who is believed to have played an active role in the communal program against the Muslims. The trial court had acquitted the youth for lack of evidences.
As the Haren Pandya murder case remains unsolved, Mr. Bhatt’s claim of possessing documentary evidence that would point to his killers is crucial piece of evidence to solve this murder mystery.
Bhatt had earlier courted the Modi administration’s disapproval by disclosing his presence at the meeting where Chief Minister Narendra Modi directed law enforcement officers to “allow the Hindus to vent their ire on the Muslims.”
Although Modi’s complicity in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom has been documented by several independent human rights groups, this was the first time a state functionary had come forward with direct evidence of Modi’s involvement in the pogroms of 2002 that resulted in the massacre of 3000 Muslims.
Bhatt’s affidavit in the Supreme Court has alleged that the 2002 riots took place with Modi’s tacit approval. He had also accused Modi of asking cops to ignore calls for help from Muslims during the riots. He alleged that SIT probe details on riots cases were leaked to a top law officer of the state government.
Against this backdrop, Sanjiv Bhatt’s arrest by the Gujarat government and the harassment of his family by repeated raids on his home, amounts to a witch-hunt that raises dubious questions about the government’s motives.
Even social crusader Anna Hazare has come out in support of Sanjiv Bhatt. Hazare castigating the move to arrest Bhatt has said; ‘What was the need for the state government to interfere and arrest Bhatt when the Supreme Court was fully aware of the matter. What Narendra Modi has done is wrong; It is not good for democracy in the country.’
The Gujarat government’s alacrity in arresting Bhatt stands in stark contrast to its criminal inaction against police officers who have been charged with complicity in the riots. It is equally remarkable that barely any arrests or convictions have happened in over 2000 cases filed by the victims of the 2002 massacres.
The irony that some like Babu Bajrangi, Haresh Bhatt and Ramesh Dave who have confessed killing hundreds of people in sting operations, that was telecast to the entire nation, are still at large. Whereas, whistleblower officers like Sanjiv Bhatt, Rahul Sharma and R. B. Sreekumar and human rights activists Teesta Setalvad and Shakeel Tirmizi have been subject to arrests and intimidation on dubious charges.
This is not all, former Minister of State for Home Amit Shah, who was arrested on charges of running extortion and a fake encounter killing racket is currently out on bail. The fact that Amit Shah was the Minister of State for a portfolio held by Modi himself, and the Gujarat government’s repeated but failed attempts to protect him are clear evidences of the government’s dubious role towards law and order.
Added to it is the case of the former head of Gujarat ATS (Anti-Terrorist Squad) D G Vanzara who is serving his time in jail on charges of fake encounters. Vanzara’s closeness to Modi once made him the most powerful police official in the state.
Still more, Maya Kodnani, a former minister in the Modi government was forced to resign after her arrest on charges of inciting and arming a communal mob that slaughtered and burnt alive 98 Muslims during the 2002 riots.
The fact is that Maya’s mentor was Narendra Modi who kept her in his cabinet until the findings of the Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court made her a political liability.
It may be prudent that the CBI should conduct a full-scale investigation into the allegations made by Mr. Sanjiv Bhatt against Narendra Modi and other state functionaries. The probe should be without any regard to the status and position of the people he has implicated.
One hopes that despite the active subversion of justice and intimidation of activists and whistleblowers by the state government, the long arm of the law will catch up with the perpetrators of the pogroms of 2002.
It is the Gujarat government’s dismal record in upholding the rule of law that should serve as a context in which Bhatt’s arrest.
It is clearly part of a pattern of vendetta against whistleblowers and human rights activists. The Gujarat government’s sinister pattern of complicity and deceit are apparent in the arrest of Sanjiv Bhatt.
It’s high time that the Gujarat government should eschew the sectarian agenda that have marked Mr. Modi’s 10 years as Chief Minister. The Prime Minister-in-making has lots of wounds to heal.
Nobody should be mistaken about the cultural importance of the topic. The link between the mind and the brain is not merely a medical story. Its implications reach into almost all aspects of religion and spirituality including the belief in God, ghosts, angels, devils, and life after death.
To understand the issue of hudud we first need to examine what Islam teaches us about the value of human life.
Islam views human life as a sacred gift from God. The Qur’an over and over again stresses the sanctity of life. The life of every single individual regardless of gender, age, nationality or religion is worthy of respect. In verses referring to the sanctity of life, the term used in Arabic is nafs(soul, life); and there is no distinction made in that soul being young or old, male or female, Muslim or non-Muslim.
“Do not take any human being’s life, (the life) which God has declared to be sacred – otherwise than in (the pursuit of) justice: this has He enjoined upon you so that you might use your reason.” Qur’an Sûrah al An’am 6.151
The poetic phrase Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim (In the name of God, most Gracious, most Compassionate) offers both profound insight and radiant inspiration. It constitutes the true spirit of the entire Qur’an, Islam itself as well as the true themes of all religions. When God can be compassionate and merciful, human beings have a duty to emulate these attributes in their everyday life. Unfortunately there are some  who profess the religion of Islam but do not adhere to the message of this basic phrase – a major pillar of Islam – that appears at the beginning of all but one Chapter of the Qur’an.
 The Pakatan opposition will not implement hudud laws as called for by PAS because it is not in line with the common policies of the coalition, the Federal Consitution and their Orang Book agenda, said Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
He said the Pakatan leadership respected PAS stand on the issue but at the same time accepted the views of the DAP, which opposed hudud laws.
“We cannot deny the right of any party to voice out what it wants, but we are bound by a common framework and the Federal consititution,” he told a press conference after chairing a meeting of Pakatan’s leadership council at PAS’ headquarters here Wednesday night.
Also present were DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang, DAP chairman Karpal Singh, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president, Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
The meeting was called following PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat’s controversial remarks that the party would implement hudud laws if it came into power.
Toying around with hudud
This message in Islam is evident that the element of reason and compassion are part and parcel of Islam and before syariah laws are meted out many scholars of Islamic jurisprudence would always highlight this quintessence. Unfortunately, some Muslims who are quite obsessive in matters of faith are ignorant of this fact, and we thus see all the high-handed ways punishments are meted out in the name of hudud in some Muslim countries. This has indubitably tarnished the image of Islam.
Islam in the contemporary world is exploited by so many aspiring politicians just to grab or stay in power. The poor and ignorant people are being subjugated and their minds closed to queries and reasons. Because of politics and self-centred reasons,  it is now quite hard to find the line of distinction among the various interpretations of hudud that exist, and the difference between what happened during the Prophet’s time, Islam 200 years after that and Islam in the contemporary world. But one thing for certain is that those who administer hudud laws without compassion and legitimate reasons in some Islamic countries are actually less informed about the considerate and thoughtful elements promulgated by Islam.
In our set-up,  it appears like  the Islamic credentials of any party – PAS or UMNO – somehow hinges on their willingness to apply or to toy around with hudud laws. Evoking the hudud by some UMNO leaders is a convenient way to scare off the non-Muslims from PAS. It appears that UMNO is fixed in the scaffoldings of antiquated politics.
PAS reaches out to the non-Muslims
The political tussles between UMNO and PAS do not seem to end. Each is giving priority to some “trivial” issues to seek as much support as possible from the Malay voters – by manifesting the impression that one side is more Islamic than the other. When PAS by virtue of being an Islamic-based political entity is sincere about the whole issue on hudud, UMNO adopts to a fixture of incessantly provoking them. When UMNO is a communal party, PAS reaches out to the non-Muslims and the non-Malays. When  UMNO is racially exclusive, PAS manifests that non-Muslims are welcome into their folds and honestly backs that non-Muslims could live peacefully with the Muslims under an Islamic state. That is the stark difference between the two major Malay parties in the country. When UMNO is becoming less popular among the Malays, PAS is gaining popularity not only among the Malays but also the non-Malays. This is the perception of the people today. The hudud issue thus is not going to lessen non-Malay support for PAS.
One common view of hudud laws is that they are legitimate and can be validated by the Qur’an and Sunnah, but it cannot be implemented in policy until that a society is in an ideal state to accept those laws. Thus, priority of an Islamic state must be given to overcome social issues first, that is to eradicate poverty and just opportunities are given to all the people in terms of economy, education and employment. Racial and religious oppression, poor management of the state, a blemished economic system, widespread corruption, nepotism are some of the social issues that an Islamic state would remedy first before syariah laws could be meted out. Thus, at best, hudud is to be seen as a preventive mechanism if ever it is implemented in most societies. The purpose of hudud in principle is so that it could evoke the alertness of the severity of the crimes that would deserve the penalties. Even then punishment in Islam is always tempered with clemency and compassion.
Variants of thoughts in the Islamic world
Have we not seen severe punishments meted out to those convicted of criminal offences in secular and communist societies today? Drug traffickers in many Asian countries when convicted are  sentenced to death. The firing squad awaits the corrupted and the rapists in China. Death by firing squad is also practised in Indonesia for offences ranging from rape to drug trafficking. In France and Germany the fiery guillotines awaited criminals at one time. The Japanese used samurai swords to clamp down on criminals during their occupation of Malaya and serious crimes were not heard of during the time because of the fear factor. Ironically, not many people seem to say that these laws are or were harsher than hudud. In fact many would generally concur that these laws are needed as they realise that when educational and preventive measures do not work anymore in a society then the offenders would have to face the severe legal consequences.
Of course in the Western world more modern ways are presently used to send a convict to heaven or hell, such as the use of gas chambers or by using lethal chemical injection. These modern and much more humane ways never existed in the olden days in all civilisations.
There are variants of thoughts in the Islamic world as well as with other religions. There could be disagreements in many issues relating to religion, what more with the interpretation of hudud laws. The sort of Islam that we see in this country fortunately is generally specked with moderation. Only a few hot-headed religious zealots are exercising their brand of extreme Islam that is smeared with political motives. This is not going to rock the boat of peaceful Malaysia.
Nik Aziz commands huge support
The Menteri Besar of Kelantan, Nik Abdul Aziz bin Nik Mat (b.1931) is the spiritual leader of Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). His credentials in Islamic religion goes beyond the pondok education he had in Kelantan and Terengganu during his youthful days. He acquired the Urdu language while studying in Darul Uloom Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, India. He brushed up his Arabic language while studying at Al-Azhar University in Egypt. He later completed his Masters of Arts in Islamic Jurisprudence from the same University before returning home. Today he speaks not only Malay, Urdu and Arabic but also English and Tamil.
Nik Aziz has been known to command huge support from non-Muslims in Malaysia and has played a leading role for PAS’ increase in popularity among non-Muslims.  This scares UMNO not a bit. Nik Aziz has drawn occasional criticism from UMNO for his “hard-line” Islamic views. PAS and his advocacy of Islamic syariah law for all Malay Muslims has drawn criticism from UMNO, in particular from a former senior UMNO politician. This has been vividly but quite prejudicially expressed in Chapter 17 of his 843-page Memoirs (2011) that was released early this year. When UMNO promotes a racially-exclusive political party, using a few non-Malay-based parties to support their stance, Nik Aziz – despite his advocacy for the syariah laws – openly rejects communal politics. He believes that the non-Muslims have their rightful place in an Islamic state. PAS’ approach to politics is in effect non-communal but inclusive of other races and religions.
Islam has always been the most influential religion in Kelantan and yet we have not heard of a single case where a criminal in the state has his hand cut off, a wayward woman being stoned for adultery or a beer-thirsty youth been caned in the public. This is the “brand” of Islam practised in Kelantan and most Malays in the country, supposedly, are in this category of Islam. They are religious and at the same time they are compassionate people. They may sometimes be seen too vocal or verbally aggressive but deep in the pure Malay psyche they are actually a mild, tolerant and compassionate people. Frank Swetternham (1850 – 1946) aptly described the pure Malay minds in his books ‘Malay sketches’ (London: John Lane. 1895)  and ‘The Real Malay’. (London: John Lane. 1899). The fact is that today most Malays in the country are no more the pure breed.
Welfare of the people would be the foremost goal
The moderate Muslims in this country are not going to see the people stoned to death for adultery, murdered for apostasy or having their hands chopped off for stealing. Thus the non-Muslims have nothing to fear about Hudud under PAS. Even this form of punishment is not practised in Pakistan after an initial period of euphoria about hudud and later the barrage of objections and criticisms by many learned Muslims in the country.  Muslim scholars insist that these are all preventive laws that must be tempered with mercy and compassion if implemented.
PAS indeed has taken a step forward in their comprehensive proposals for a welfare state – whereby the welfare of the people would be their foremost political goal.
Kelantan is a predominantly Malay-Muslim state. 95 percent of Kelantan’s population are ethnic Malay, and under the Malaysian Constitution, all Malays are Muslims. therefore, Islam is the most influential religion in the state. The socio-political contexts in Kelantan have always drawn interests among many socio-religio anthropologists.
The minority ethnic Thai inhabitants of Kelantan are mostly Buddhists. There are over two hundred Buddhist temples in Kelantan – mainly concentrated in Tumpat. The Buddhists here are descendants of the people of Siam that has a long history of more than four centuries. Buddhism is evidently a visible religion in this state. Hundreds of Thai Wats can be found throughout the land.  One of the biggest and the longest sleeping Buddha in the world is found in Wat Phothivihan, in Tumpat Kelantan. This temple draws pilgrims and devotees from all over the world. Religious celebration are held at the Wat such as Tok’katinna, Loy Krathong, Saibat and Songkran. Thousands of worshippers and visitors would attend or visit this function.
There are in fact many other famed Buddhist shrines well placed in Kelantan such as the the Shrine of the Sitting Buddha and the Shrine of the Standing Buddha. No Muslims thus far have desecrated any of these statues and temples or harassed the Buddhist worshippers despite the former being the majority race and they being Muslims.
Freedom of religious practice
The Chinese living in this state could preserve their identity as Chinese. Much of Chinese culture still continues until today such as lion and dragon dancing, temple celebrations, eating bak chang, moon cake, pulut kuningtelur merah and including praying to Datuk gong. Famous Chinese villages in Kelantan have not been erased from the state map and this  includes Kampung Tok’kong (which is a 300- year-old temple), Batu Jong, Kampung Jelatok, Kampung Joh, Kampung Temangan, Kampung Mata Ayer, Kampung Tawang and Kampung Balai.
The Seng Choon Keong temple, 25 km from Kota Bharu, is approximately 300 years old. It is annually commemorated with concerts, lion dance and carrying god-ride Kheng kiu.  Chinese and Mazu followers visit the temple to pay homage to Mazu and to offer prayers for health and wealth, as well as for personal safety and security. Annually, the Seng Choon Keong lion dance association would tour the state during the Chinese New Year to conduct traditional cultural rituals aimed at driving away evil spirits and bad luck. The PAS spiritual leader would visit to observe  many of these cultural events. No Muslims have stopped, harassed or destroyed any of these Chinese celebrations and historical relics. These religious symbols even proudly appear in the state tourism brochures.
The Hindu temple in Tumpat (Sri Maha Muthu Mariamman Temple) still remains despite being located in a majority Malay Muslim population despite there being only two Hindu families left  living in Tumpat. It has become a historical heritage of Kelantan until today. Right in Kota Baharu town the Hindus congregate in another temple (Sivasubramaniyam Temple). The Hindus perform their religious rites without being harassed by the majority Malay Muslim population.
The Presbyterian and the Roman Catholic Churches are among the few churches found in Kota Baharu for a minority Christian community in the state. These were built  during the British time. The Temiar Orang Asli, who have lived in the forests of Kelantan for thousands of years maintain traditional beliefs in their natural surroundings and other forms of animist elements.  They are allowed to practise their ways of life. Kelantan in effect shows an example of a Malaysian state in which people of all races and religions could live in peace and harmony.
Kelantan as a harmonious society
When the 13th May (1969) incident saw bloodshed in Kuala Lumpur and some minor skirmishes in other parts of the country, there was not even a single ugly  incident of the same in Kelantan. Not a single Chinese or Indian was killed in Kelantan during this time. Not a single Chinese or Indian house was razed. Not a single place of non-Muslim worship was desecrated. Kelantan saw no stomping of cow head in protest of a temple to be built in a vicinity. No churches were splashed with paint, desecrated or set on fire. No dead animals were thrown into a mosque compound or placed in a mosque.  The people in Kelantan have since lived harmoniously in the state for decades and some for  many centuries without harping on trivial religious issues.
The people of this country are absolutely convinced that the spiritual leader of PAS would not rock the boat of a harmonious multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia. To gain votes, regrettably, some mischievous politicians  have underrated PAS on the issue of hudud just to scare the non-Malays from voting for PAS. Unfortunately, by doing so these politicians have insulted the intelligence of mature  Malaysians of all races and religions in the country.
Level-headed Malaysians would not fall into this hudud trap designed by those who “throw stones and hide their hands”. Critics of PAS should be aware that Islam under PAS has more than hudud to offer  to the people. Social and economic justice, the safeguarding of every individual’s integrity – Muslims or non-Muslims, respect for  human dignity and equal opportunities to all Malaysians are in actuality more deserving of Islam. The issue that is important in Islam is to secure the rights of the individuals and the society in general, and not to merely execute punishments that are in realness to be implemented only on stringent and narrow conditions.
Exploiting religion for political gains
Syariah laws are meant to be preventive in nature just like other draconian laws many countries have in their systems. Harsh punishments for  incest, adultery, rape, murder, robbery, drug trafficking and corruption are practised in many countries – East and West. The BN government too has harsh laws on armed robbery, kidnapping  and drug trafficking. Take China and Indonesia for instance. They too have strict laws on serious offences like corruption, rape, robbery and drug trafficking. Death is the ultimate penalty on those convicted of crimes.  Anyway laws are always by nature preventive measures to ensure a peaceful society. There must be reasons as to why such laws are needed in a society. There, therefore, should not be this unnecessary prejudice against Islam.  This unwarranted sensation is unfortunately created by some Muslims themselves for some political agenda. Regrettably, they are ever willing  to exploit religion for political gains.
UMNO is more interested in provoking PAS on this matter to cause a feeling of apprehension among the non-Muslims. If UMNO has been sincere about syariah laws they should not have shoved the matter to PAS, as PAS does not command absolute power at the federal level. UMNO could have proposed the implementation of hudud at the national level as they claim to have more Malay members than PAS. Secondly, UMNO and BN had many times in past elections commanded the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution with the support of BN coalition parties the likes of MCA and Gerakan. The fact that UMNO did not venture into this syariah domain is evident enough that they are not interested in pursuing the matter.
Keep the question of hudud laws away from any exploitation
It is therefore time for all politicians to keep the question of hudud laws away from any exploitation of public perception and sentiments. Muslims should reject the manipulation of their Islamic faith by selfish politicians and focus instead on the inner message of Islam that calls for raison d’être, spirituality, compassion and justice for all people – Muslims and non-Muslims. That is to say, a compassionate approach to issues, having an enlightened spirit on matters of faith, the respect for human dignity, the rights and freedom of each human being as well as fairness to all people have always been the most important foundation of Islamic teachings.
When most of us think about the key conflicts between science and religion, we tend to think about Darwin’s theory of evolution published in 1859, or Galileo’s persecution by the Catholic Church in the 17th century. These famous clashes between science and religion are resolvable. Every sensible modern religion accepts the fact that the Earth orbits the Sun. Liberal religions are gradually accepting the scientific fact of biological evolution.
One disconnect between religion and science, however, is much older, much more profound, and may be much harder to bridge. It dates back at least to Hippocrates in the fifth century BC. At that time there was no formal science as it is recognized today. Hippocrates was nonetheless an acute medical observer and noticed that people with brain damage tended to lose some of their mental abilities. A passage attributed to him summarizes his view elegantly:

“Men ought to know that from the brain, and from the brain only, arise our pleasures, joys, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrows, pains, griefs and tears. Through it, in particular, we think, see, hear, and distinguish the ugly from the beautiful, the bad from the good, the pleasant from the unpleasant…”

Hippocrates evidently understood the central conflict between observation and most spiritual beliefs. The belief in a spirit world, a world of consciousness that exists independently of physical substance, that survives the death of the body, that comprises ghosts and angels and deities, is incompatible with the observation that damage to the physical brain systematically takes away chunks of the mind. The medical facts suggest that mind, though it definitely exists, is something created by the brain and that it dies piece-by-piece as the brain dies.

About a century later Aristotle famously disagreed with Hippocrates, placing the mind in the human heart. Aristotle listed his reasons, many of which sound vaguely plausible given the analogical and somewhat mystical thinking of the time. How did Aristotle go so wrong in his medical analysis? He was a theoretician. Hippocrates, who worked in a hospital, saw the effects of brain damage every day and grounded his theory in observation. Nobody who spends appreciable time with brain-damaged patients can avoid the obvious conclusion. The brain is the source of the mind.
Another famous view of the brain/mind problem was outlined by Descartes two thousand years later, in the 17th century. In Descartes’ view the mind was an ethereal substance, a fluid, that was stored in a receptacle in the brain. When he dissected the human brain he noticed that almost every structure came in pairs, one on each side. The human soul was obviously a single entity and therefore it could not be stored in a double structure. In the end he found a small single object at the center of the brain, the pineal body, and deduced that it was the house of the soul. The pineal body is now known to be a gland that produces melatonin and has nothing whatever to do with a soul.
Descartes’ idea, aside from being wrong in the particulars, has a deeper problem. There is no part of the brain that, when damaged, takes away the Cartesian soul. Instead damage to different structures takes away different chunks of the mind. The ability to formulate a sentence? Lost in damage to Broca’s area. The ability to understand language? Lost in damage to Wernicke’s area. The ability to see, imagine, or comprehend color? Lost in damage to specific regions of the visual system. The ability to think about the space around the body? Lost in damage to another set of brain areas. The ability to intuit the feelings and intentions of others? Impaired after a stroke to a specific network of brain regions. And so on. The mind is a collective and bits of it die when parts of the machinery are mucked up. Even awareness itself, as I wrote about last time, can be splintered apart and compromised by brain damage.
The effect of brain damage is certainly not the only pertinent evidence. Some of the more interesting evidence comes from the direct electrical stimulation of the brain. A little more than a century ago scientists tried applying minute sparks of electricity to surface of the brain, stimulating the circuitry. The technique was improved and elaborated and is now one of the main methods for probing the brain’s circuitry. For example, before removing a tumor from a person’s brain, a surgeon will expose the brain while the person is awake and under local anesthetic. The surgeon will then study the effect of electrical stimulation, mapping out the function of this and that brain area, to avoid surgically removing any area necessary for language. Some of the most colorful and memorable experiments of this type were done by Penfield in the early 20th century. He found, as have many others since, that electrically tickling a specific spot in the circuitry has a specific and predictable effect on the mind. Whether seeing, hearing, feeling hunger, feeling rage, remembering a scene from childhood, making a coordinated gesture, even feeling as though you’ve intentionally chosen to make the gesture, these many bits and components of mind can be turned on and off by altering the activity of neurons.
The evidence is now overwhelming that every aspect of the mind is produced by the brain.
The realization that the brain produces the mind is similar in some ways to the theory of evolution before Charles Darwin got to it. Prior to Darwin, the theory of evolution was much discussed and the fossil record certainly supported it, but nobody could point to a plausible mechanism. How exactly did one species evolve over time into many new species? Darwin proposed a mechanism that fit the evidence: natural selection. Survival of the fittest. With the discovery of this simple mechanism, the science of biology was revolutionized.
The idea that the mind depends on the action of the brain is amply supported by the scientific evidence. But nobody knows how a brain produces the inner experience — the feeling of consciousness. What is the mechanism? That is the question of our time. Many theories have been proposed, including one of my own, and only time and data will tell who is right.
I draw two personal lessons from the neuroscience of mind.
First, far from dismissing mind, or spirit, or soul as nonsense, I see these quantities as far more precious precisely because they are vulnerable and finite. In a sense I’ve become more spiritual as my scientific understanding deepens and I realize that spirit is a passing conjunction of information.
Second, the neuroscience of the mind gives me a wonderful opportunity to work on a scientific problem that is truly meaningful. About 25 years ago Francis Crick, famous for his role in understanding DNA, posed a question. Is it possible for brain science to address consciousness, a topic traditionally studied by philosophers and theologians? The answer is a definite yes. Many neuroscientists including myself have joined that effort.
Although fear about hudud, the controversial Islamic law, is beginning to fade, social interest and debate about its ramifications and implications are beginning to intensify.
This reflects the growing intellectual curiosity of Malaysians especially amongst the younger set, who already form a large bulk of the electorate and are poised to play the bigger and more vocal role in society.
Unlike their parents, young and well-educated Malaysians won’t be keeping quiet and are already changing the rules based on their own social mores and norms, rather than accept the hand-me-downs of past generations.
These are indeed developments that the current players in the hudud issue – the politicians and the religious leaders – should take note of or fall on their own sword, and become irrelevant and unable to serve the people.
Politicians and religious officials have said enough
Just a day ago, Kelantan religious officials challenged Prime Minister Najib Razak to listen to the advice of Perak Mufti Harussani Zakaria to allow the PAS-led Kelantan implement hudud laws.
“The federal government should consider the views of the religious scholars especially a mufti because they are more well informed in issues regarding religion. And if it succeeds, the same opportunity should be given to other states to implement it,” said Mohd Amar Abdullah, the chairman of Jawatankuasa Pembangunan Islam, Pendidikan dan Dakwah Negeri.
He had been asked to comment on Harussani’s statement that the Najib administration should allow PAS-led Kelantan, which is 95% populated by Malays and Muslims to include hudud in its crimninal laws. Kelantan had in 1993 approved the hudud Bill, but cannot implement it as criminal law falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
Harussan’s support of hudud is indeed a political slap in the face for Najib as it reeks of a rejection by the conservative Muslims in the country. As Harusaani pointed out, hudud is a requirement in Islam and must be implemented by the Ruler. Malaysia had implement Syariah or Islamic law that applies only to Muslims. However, the Syariah system introduced by Najib’s Umno did not include hudud, which pertains to 6 criminal prosecutions and includes outrageous punishment such as whipping, amputation of limbs and stoning to death.
What about the people, the followers of the faiths
Indeed, even as Mohd Amar called for Kelantan to be used as a test-bed and model for implementation of full-fledged Islamic laws, with the system restricted only to Muslims, debate continues to rage over the issue. Not only are Muslims and Malays carrying on an active debate in the social media networks, the non-Muslims and non-Malays are also having their own parallel pros-and-cons argument.
While the non-Malays no longer fear hudud or PAS, which previously had the image of a backward, extremist party, they believe that hudud belongs to the past, such as abortion and homosexuality.
“Christians too have their own taboos. The Catholic Church too bans abortions and homosexuality. The Vatican is also accused of being in denial mode but has it reversed its stand. So you see, religion is a very odd thing and this is why the Christian leaders in this country have not objected and Bishop Paul Tan even called for Kelantan to be allowed to practise hudud, as long as non-Muslims are not involved,” Anthony Chong, a Christian lay leader from the SFX, told Malaysia chronicle.
But despite the seemingly liberal stance of the Christian leaders here, other non-Muslims and many Muslims themselves, including the Sisters-in-Islam NGO, have condemned hudud. To them, it is not good enough to have the assurances of the Muslim clerics that only when really necessary would the archaic punishments be carried out.
“Why have it in the first place then? Doesn’t make sense if they have no intention to really follow and abide by the code, or are they saying it is only for show?” said a Malay lady, an accountant in a large bank, who did wish to be named.
The new reality and the need to go back to the people
While many Malays are devout in their Islamic beliefs, they are also unable to accept the harshness of hudud. It is similar amongst many Christians, especially the Catholics, who feel compassion for single mothers and the misery inflicted on homosexuals, especially on the gay teens. But while some brave souls have spoken up and called for ‘modernisation’, many still cannot bring themselves to publicly go against the teachings in the Bible or the Quran.
In the Malaysian political arena, the issues have perhaps been over-simplified into a contest for popularity. The MCA has accused DAP of being sympathetic hudud, while DAP insists that it will oppose hudud all the way to Parliament regardless of whether it remained a bit-player in the opposition or made a big-splash into the federal government.
Civil society members have a different approach. They believe the issue should be taken out the politicians’ hands as the polemics over hudud, or abortion or homosexuality, made it very tough to resolve the inherent problems. They are of the view that even the Mufti, the Church and the priests, should accept that the time may have come to allow the people to decide for themselves.
And the people’s wishes should be respected even if it is contrary to the edicts laid out by the religion.
“This is a very different world from the Dark Ages, from the days of Saladin or Joan of Arc. Even then the Crusades and the fighting in Jerusalem and the Middle-East were due to politicking and emotionalising, rather than religion or religious pressures per se. Here in Malaysia, we are lucky in that we don’t have bombs falling on our homes now and then. We can think more cooly, so, I would say, why not hold a referendum on such issues and it should be by secret ballot so no one fears to tell what they really feel,” said Peter a staunch Catholic activist and missionary, who asked Malaysia Chronicle not to reveal his full name.
“Everyone including the religious leaders but especially the politicians should refrain from adopting a holier-than-thou attitude. For the politicians, everybody knows their game, they are ruthless and self-serving. For the religious leaders, they should realize that having the best religion in the world is no use if there are no followers.”

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