Thursday, May 1, 2014

Irreversible Punishments

My first reaction, when reading the news article in the Daily Express entitled "Muslim Doctors At Odds Over Amputation", was that of enormous awe. It is somewhat difficult to fathom the minds of some of these learned people who're supposed to heal the sick and weak. Some of them are willing to amputate perfectly healthy limbs as the punishment for crimes. And even more disturbing is that some of them are even advocating doing it without administering anesthetic to inflict pain on criminals.

A friend opined, "Parking humanity aside, maybe Hudud is something that our country needs. So many lives needlessly lost to snatch thieves and the cops do not yet have any concrete solution."

I can appreciate my friend's sentiment; it is so tempting to agree with him. But no so fast. I have posted something about crimes and punishments a couple of years ago. If you are keen, check it out here. Actually, even if the Hudud law comes into effect in Malaysia, I doubt that anybody will be getting his limbs amputated anytime soon. Besides, the majority of the population shouldn't worry too much about that law, because all we need to do to prevent the loss of our limbs is to refrain from committing crimes. And if indeed that law is only to be applicable to the Muslims, then the non-Muslims are totally immune from it. If that's what the majority of Muslims in Malaysia want, then so be it, who am I to say what's best for them!

Now I don't claim to be a law expert. But my idea of crimes and punishments should be for the protection of the innocent majority. If a criminal is a threat to the society, then he must be locked away until such time when he's no longer a threat, much the same way we would confine a dangerous animal in a cage. 

Unlike animals, however, criminals are humans, and as hard as it may be to accept the fact, at least some of them have hope for rehabilitation. In fact, I see punishments for crimes—may it be mere imprisonment, or hard labour, or (in Malaysia) caning—with the goal of rehabilitation in mind. I'm not sure about punishing the criminals mainly for the purpose of inflicting pain on them because "they had it coming their way". Somehow that doesn't sound very civilized to me. I realise, however, that it's human nature to adopt the "an-eye-for-an-eye" approach, but I don't know if that's what it's all about.

What if a person steals out of desperation, gets caught in the process and then punished with the amputation of his hands. He experiences excruciating pain and then feels remorse for his crime. But his hands are gone forever and there is nothing he can do about it. 

The thing about amputation is that once done, it is irreversible, even if the criminal truly repents. That formula for dealing with crimes doesn't sound to be very appetizing to me. I'm a firm believer that everybody deserves a second chance in life, because we're only human after all—like it or not, we are bound to make mistakes that we're sorry for. 

I'm for the kind of punishment, as severe as can be, that is aimed at rehabilitation, and not to inflict pain for the sake of inflicting pain and totally erasing the possibility of a second chance for the criminal. I'm saying this from the general point of view about the legal system; not necessarily addressing the Hudud law. As I said, if the majority of Muslims in Malaysia are for the amputation of the limbs of criminals, then by all means, so be it! I just hope that they don't do it for the wrong reason.

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