Mahathir hits out at opposition PAS over hudud, warns Umno against supporting it

KUALA LUMPUR - Former Malaysian prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has warned ruling party Umno against supporting hudud in Kelantan state, saying that the Islamic penal code was being introduced for political purposes.

In a blog post Wednesday, Dr Mahathir said he was "shocked" to learn that Umno in Kelantan was supportive of Parti Islam SeMalaysia's (PAS) plan to introduce hudud in the state. "I hope they understand what they are doing," Dr Mahathir wrote, according to The Malaysian Insider.

The Kelantan state legislature, including Umno assemblymen, voted unanimously last month to implement hudud, which prescribes amputations, stoning and whipping as punishments for Muslims.

The push was aimed at winning back Malay support, which has declined since the party had 23 MPs and controlled three state governments in 2008, PAS chief Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang admitted.

Federal law bars Islamic judges from trying matters already heard at criminal courts, which means for hudud to be implemented, a Bill has to be tabled in Malaysian Parliament to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, to allow Islamic judges to mete out such punishments.

After PAS tabled the Bill in parliament, Umno MPs - whose support is crucial to passing the Bill - seem to have been split over whether to back it after initially supporting the move. PAS's allies in the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat said they would not support the Bill.

Debate on the Bill has been deferred to the next session of the Malaysian parliament.

"PAS and also Kelantan Umno's intentions for introducing PAS's version of hudud are for political purposes. This makes PAS's laws and Umno's support towards it un-Islamic," Dr Mahathir wrote.

He said it was unfair, since only Muslims would face the harsh punishments under hudud, while non-Muslims would face lighter sentences under civil laws. Dr Mahathir said it was unjust that people should be punished unequally in the same society.

"Doing something .. that smears the image of Islam is something that goes against the teachings of the religion," he wrote.