The amendment to Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355) will affect the fundamentals of the Federal Constitution which were agreed to by the partners (Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah) that founded Malaysia in the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing said no matter how PAS president and Marang MP Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang tried to ‘dress’, ‘dilute’ or ‘tone down’ the amendment to the ‘Hudud law’, the substance is the same, that is changing the Federal Constitution.
“Hadi is the same man of July, 2002 when he tabled the Hudud Bill in Terengganu. He is the same man tabling the Hudud amendment Bill in 2016. Whatever he says will not make any difference. It is the same wine but in different bottle,” Masing, who is Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president said when contacted yesterday.
On Thursday, Hadi tabled an amended version of his ‘Hudud Bill’ in Parliament but asked that all debates be deferred to the session in March next year.
“Hadi is already amending his Bill recommending ‘not more than 30 years prison or fine of RM100,000 or 100 lashes in line with the Syariah laws’.
“Earlier, his Bill has proposed the maximum penalties, short of the death penalty.”
On Hadi’s statement that the amendment would not apply to non-Muslims, Masing said this was what he said when he tabled the Hudud Bill in Terengganu in July 9, 2002.
“For now, it will apply to only Muslims but when the time comes, the Hudud and Qisas laws will be extended to non-Muslims.”
Meanwhile, Sisters in Islam (SIS) said they unequivocally opposed the proposal to amend Act 355.
“The Act 355 amendment Bill is a bill that will potentially result in more injustices in the long run and paint a bad image of Islam as a punitive religion.
“The public deserves an explanation on the rationale behind the leap in expansion of punishment from the present limit to the proposed limit.
“Furthermore, how will the Syariah court decide on the proportionality of punishment to be given out under the existing Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment (SCOE) of each state?
“Will the punishment of the crimes be the same or would they differ from state to state?” SIS said in a press statement.
SIS pointed out that under the existing Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997 (SCOA) there were over 40 offences ranging from possession of religious publication contrary to Islamic Law to moral crimes such as ‘khalwat’ (close proximity), both of which carry the maximum sentence of two years’ jail or RM3,000 fine or both.
SIS said with punishment as severe as 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 lashes as proposed in Act 355 amendment Bill, how would the Syariah Courts be guided to determine that the punishment will not be disproportionate to the crime?
“As it stands, the existing Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment (SCOE) of each state has been implemented in a discriminatory fashion, often targeting minority groups of society and lower income groups.
“For example, ‘khalwat’ (close proximity) hotel raids have been largely concentrated in budget hotels and the process of these raids completely disregard one’s right to privacy and dignity.
“Muslim trans-women have been constantly targeted by religious authorities and inhumanely treated by being placed in male prisons, where they are then subject to sexual violence. How will Act 355 amendment Bill ensure that further discrimination will not happen, once the bill is passed?”
SIS cautioned that bulldozing a law through Parliament would not solve the present inconsistencies and conflict of jurisdiction between Civil and Syariah courts.
“While proponents of Act 355 amendment Bill insist that the bill will not affect non-Muslims, reality shows that existing Syariah laws are already impacting non-Muslims in Malaysia.
“The unilateral conversion cases of Indira Gandhi and Deepa Subramaniam are just two examples the far-reaching impact of the dual legal system in Malaysia.
“Indira’s case has been ongoing for seven years, yet only now discussions on reforming laws pertaining to unilateral conversion of minors have risen.”
SIS believed that it was irresponsible of politicians to dismiss the fears and concerns of non-Muslims in Malaysia, as they too were equal stakeholders in Act 355 amendment Bill.
“Systemic weakness of syariah courts must be addressed, instead of focusing on increasing punishments. The status of syariah courts can be elevated by improving the implementation of the Islamic Family Law, which Muslim women have often complained as unjust to them.
“The 2015 statistics compiled by SIS’ Telenisa service recorded that the second highest number of cases involved unpaid child maintenance, while the highest was child custody cases.
“These cases often continue for years, the main reason being that the ex-husband does not show up in court. Despite this, the Syariah courts rarely issue arrest warrant for the men who fail to show up in court, leaving Muslim women bearing the brunt of the injustice.”
Given these examples, SIS asked why then were the nation’s lawmakers more focused on implementing harsher punishments, without providing space for forgiveness and repentance as promoted in Islam?
“As citizens, we deserve a proper explanation and justification from law-makers on the effectiveness of retributive justice in reducing ‘syariah crimes’ rather than a blanket explanation that existing punishments are not effective in deterring crimes.
“What is abundantly clear is that this proposed legislation has become extremely politicised. The impact of all these political maneuverings have raised fears and created a divide between Malaysians.”
Therefore, SIS called upon all Malaysians, Muslims and non-Muslims alike to make their voices heard.
“Speak to your families, community, your leaders and express to them your concerns and reservations that this Bill proposes. This is a matter of national interest. All of us have a stake in this. It is time for the voices of the people to come together and reject a future that undermines our unity and threatens our way of life.”
Source : Jonathan Chia@The Borneo Post Online