A majority of Malaysians are not ready for Islamic penal code, or hudud, to be implemented in the country, a survey by Merdeka Center for Opinion Research has found.
The survey, carried out among Peninsula Malaysia voters, saw 58% of Malays, 59% Chinese and 61% Indians agreeing that Malaysia was not yet prepared for the law.
“The survey found that only 25% of the total respondents and 30% of Malay respondents believe that the country is ready for hudud laws implementation at this time,” Merdeka Center said in its release today.
The survey was conducted between April 12 and April 21, 2014, involving 1,009 registered voters comprising 60% Malay, 31% Chinese and 9% Indian respondents interviewed by telephone.
They were selected on the basis of random stratified sampling along ethnicity, gender and state of residence.
The interviews were carried out in the preferred language of the respondents.
However, the survey found that there was high support for hudud (53%) and only 3% were not in favour of the Islamic law.
The support was especially high among Malay voters. A whopping 71% of Malays were all for hudud law as opposed to only 20 who were against it.
Conversely, 65% and 69% of Chinese and Indians respectively were against the implementation of hudud law. Only 26% from both ethnic groups supported it.
“Among Malay respondents, the survey found high support for hudud and yet at the same time a low level of readiness to see it implemented,” Merdeka Center said.
“In our opinion, this possibly reflects their desire to conform to established norms about the primacy of the shariah laws at a personal level but at the same time indicates hesitation to see it fully implemented publicly.”
It also noted that Malay voters under the age of 30 years registered the highest level of support at 83% compared to other older age groups – a result consistent with the think tank’s earlier findings in a 2011 study of Muslim youth sentiments on hudud.
The Merdeka Center survey also found that only 56% understood what hudud is about as opposed to 43% who did not.
It showed that those with a higher household income had a better understanding of hudud (62% of those who earned RM5,000 and above understand versus 39% who did not).
Also, just half of those polled (51%) believe that hudud law would not be fairly implemented while only 32% believe otherwise.
The hudud debate came about after Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob revealed that the state intended to table a private member’s bill to allow the implementation of hudud.
The bill would enable the Kelantan Shariah Penal Code II, which was passed in 1993 by the state assembly, to be enforced.
Ahmad’s announcement closely followed the statement by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom that Putrajaya would back the state’s move to implement hudud.
This caused a rift between PAS and its Pakatan Rakyat allies, in particular DAP. DAP national organising secretary Anthony Loke had even suggested that PAS leave the PR coalition if it was intent on implementing hudud in Kelantan.
Deputy Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Mohamad Amar Nik Abdullah added fuel to the fire after he said that the state government did not need the blessings of PKR and DAP to implement hudud.
However in May, following protests and severe criticism, PAS decided it would postpone the tabling of the bill to allow sufficient time for a joint Putrajaya and Kelantan government technical committee to study the implementation of the Kelantan Shariah Penal Code II. – July 16, 2014.