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KUALA LUMPUR – Christian leaders of all denominations slammed a bill that would increase punishments for hudud crimes by the Islamic courts in accordance to Sharia (Islamic law).
The Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM), which includes Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans and Protestants, appealed to lawmakers in an open letter released on 15 Oct 2016 to reject the draft proposal.
Hudud crimes cover include robbery, apostasy, sexual crimes, drinking alcohol, and gambling. The bill before parliament would change the Sharia Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act (Act 335) of 1965, which regulates the jurisdiction of Islamic courts.
At present, these courts – which have jurisdiction only over Muslims, especially in family matters and inheritance – can impose prison terms of up to three years, corporal punishment (up to six lashes), and fines of up to 5,000 ringgits (US$ 1,200).
Under the proposed changes, all restrictions would be lifted in the case of hudud crimes, with the exception of those involving capital punishment. In addition, lawmakers would be able to decide new punishable crimes under Sharia.
In its letter, the CCM warns that “MPs should view with great concern, even alarm the proposed private member’s bill by Parti Islam Malaysia (PAS) president Abdul Hadi Awang [who wants] to enhance the criminal jurisdiction of Sharia courts. The MPs should not take the proposal lightly.”
Rev Hermen Shashtri says that the bill would “rewrite the Constitution in a radical way.” He noted that lawmakers “were elected by the people to ensure the integrity of the Federal Constitution, which protects fundamental rights and freedoms”.
The Constitution, according to the Christian leader, is clear. It lays out the principle that religion concerns mainly personal and family issues, and that criminal law must be under federal legislation.
The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) also raised concerns over Act 355.
“There appears to be no historical document to contradict the fact that Malaysia was intended to be a secular state,” the MCCBCHST said in a letter published Oct 17. The latter too wants lawmakers to vote against the law bill as unconstitutional.- Asia News