Malaysian state passes Sharia bill despite opposition

Kelantan state assembly passes amendments to penal code amid disagreement within opposition coalition

Malaysian state passes Sharia bill despite opposition

By P Prem Kumar


Malaysia’s Kelantan state legislature unanimously passed amendments to its penal code Thursday that could see Muslims flogged or executed under Sharia law.

The amendments to Shariah Criminal Code II 1993 were approved by all 44 attending members of the assembly, 32 of whom hail from the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). However, the federal government could block the amendments.

Ahmad Yakob, Kelantan chief minister, said that the bill had received no objections in a post-debate session, and that it would be implemented in stages, starting with the education of Kelantan residents on Islamic law.

Under the ‘hudud’ proposals, punishments such as caning and amputations could be implemented for crimes such as apostasy, consuming alcohol and illegal sexual practices.

The move has caused division within the national opposition coalition of which PAS is a member, with the proposal condemned by the Democratic Action Party and People's Justice Party (PKR), who form the Pakatan Rakyat opposition with PAS.

In an immediate response Thursday, the PKR -- led by the imprisoned Anwar Ibrahim -- condemned the bill’s passage as contrary to the spirit of the commitments made by other parties in Pakatan Rakyat.

In a statement, the party's leadership said the PAS should have considered and consulted with its partners before pushing its own agenda on the implementation of an Islamic penal code.

"While PKR respects the right and stance of the Kelantan state government to table this enactment, we would have preferred if the state government had also respected the consensus made earlier with Pakatan Rakyat," it said.

A parliamentarian from ruling party UMNO -- which holds 12 seats in Kelantan’s assembly -- told The Anadolu Agency that the state government should work on the constructive implementation of laws rather than looking into ways of punishing people.

"There are so [many] things that we should be focused on according to Islamic teachings like developing a country, doing good to other human beings and giving women equal rights," Nur Jazlan Mohamed said.

"In Kelantan, an unmarried couple cannot even go to cinema together. So, they should be focusing on the other side of Islam," he added.

The Malaysian opposition was rocked last month by the imprisonment of leading figure Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy.

Kelantan is a 95 percent Muslim state in the northeast of the Malay peninsula. The proportion of Muslims across the wider Malaysian population stands at around 60 percent.

The tabling of the hudud amendments, which will not be applicable to non-Muslims, had been postponed from December, when the state was hit by massive floods.

Under Sharia law, hudud offenses can incur punishments including whipping, stoning, amputation or execution. Few Muslim states, bar Saudi Arabia and Iran, impose such sentences.

In Malaysia, caning is imposed by both Sharia and secular courts, usually alongside imprisonment for serious offenses by the latter.

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