Current and former Cabinet ministers have weighed in on the divisive hudud saga, as Malaysia waits for Prime Minister Najib Razak to make clear his ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition's stand on the issue, possibly today.
He faces pressure to sign on to a joint statement by all 13 BN component parties opposed to the implementation of hudud, or Islamic criminal law, which prescribes punishments such as amputation.
But as Datuk Seri Najib is also head of the Umno party, he is caught in a dilemma because several Umno ministers support hudud, including International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed, Communication and Multimedia Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek and Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
BN secretary-general and Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor yesterday dismissed the Islamic criminal law passed in Kelantan, which is controlled by opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS). It must still be passed in the federal Parliament before it can become law in Kelantan.
"PAS' hudud is political hudud," said Tengku Adnan when asked whether the law goes against the Constitution.
Former law minister Zaid Ibrahim threatened to go to court to stop PAS from implementing hudud punishments in Kelantan, his home state.
He also said he would consider becoming part of a joint legal bid.
In rejecting the argument that hudud law would not affect non- Muslims, he said: "Our Constitution is our identity.
"So when you do something which violates its spirit, then everybody must have a say because hudud is not a personal law, but a criminal law that will affect everyone."
The hudud debate has heated up since PAS pushed through amendments to the Islamic penal code in Kelantan last week.
The amendments support the enforcement of hudud, a system of laws that includes amputations and whipping as punishments for Muslims.
BN's component parties Gerakan and the Malaysian Chinese Association have already announced plans to put up a legal challenge.
Former deputy prime minister Musa Hitam called on Mr Najib and Umno to make a stand before PAS tables the hudud Bill in the federal Parliament.
Tun Musa stressed that the implementation of Islamic law is not suitable for a multi-religious and multicultural country such as Malaysia. He added that Umno has historically not accepted hudud.
In remarks critical of Umno's slow response, he said: "I have been worried about this for some time… Umno must take a firm stance.
"This national issue has a very long implication for the country, both domestically and internationally."
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang is pressing ahead with tabling a private member's Bill during the current parliamentary sitting from March 9 to April 9.
But Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri said over the weekend that it may not be tabled because the government has several Bills to table in the current session.
PAS is a member of the tripartite Pakatan Rakyat alliance, together with jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP).
The hudud issue has divided the three parties.
PKR deputy president Azmin Ali has said that his party is not against hudud but only disagrees with the way PAS is pushing through the Bill, which violates the alliance's principles.
Veteran politician Lim Kit Siang of the DAP, which opposes hudud, said the party would not have formed a pact with PAS if it had known that Mr Hadi's "vision of afterlife takes a higher priority than all other visions".
This article was first published on March 23, 2015.
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