Side Views

Ministerial moral insight: A brief comment — Clive Kessler

October 25, 2012

OCT 25 — The infliction of the hudud punishments will not affect, or have any impact upon, non-Muslims, the minister has sought to assure everybody (“Hudud will not impact non-Muslims, minister says”, The Malaysian Insider, October 24).

Just consider for a moment.

The state will inflict the hudud punishments on some of its citizens. On their bodies, and brutally.

Since it will be acting as the state, and not as some instrument of private punishment or vengeful enforcement, it will be doing so in the name of all of its citizens. That is what, by definition, modern states are.

So all of the state’s citizens, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, will be complicit in, and will share moral responsibility for, the infliction of those punishments.

And, as a result, their nature as “moral agents” will be transformed by that complicity, by their dragooned participation in and shared authorship of those mandatory stonings, amputations and the like.

Yet the minister says that these non-Muslim citizens will be in no way affected, or “impacted.”

It is an assurance that is entirely unconvincing. One that is patently inadequate, ill-founded and wrong.

People are entitled to expect more — and better, both in intellectual credibility and moral sensibility — from a leading minister of the government of the day.

If he and his government seriously want to proceed in that dire direction, they will have to devise some better, and far more serious, arguments than that weak claim.

The pathetic inadequacy of this reasoning will be readily apparent to any intelligent high school student or undergraduate.

So how can it convince a minister and prove acceptable to the entire Cabinet of which he is a member?

In political life there is no end to bizarre mysteries.

One is sometimes tempted to think that the more outrageously daft ministerial statements are simply practical jokes by a wickedly playful cosmic comedian.

* Clive Kessler is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of New South Wales, Sydney.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.