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Malaysian religious leaders are alarmed with the efforts to increase the powers of Shariah Courts.

The religious leaders felt that “any Act such as RUU 355 enabling such offences to be tried by the Shariah Court would be void as there is already a Federal Law criminalising them.”
"Malaysia" by m'sieur rico is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) is alarmed by the statement of the YAB Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Bin Yaakob that the government is intensifying efforts to draft the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) (Amendment) Act 1965, commonly known as RUU 355 to increase the Criminal Jurisdiction powers of the Shariah Courts. 

On September 23, MCCBCHST issued a press statement stating that RUU 355 enabling Hudud offences is not a constitutional reality. “The Hudud offences of theft, robbery, adultery rape, sodomy, etc. are already offences included in the Penal Code.”

The religious leaders felt that “any Act such as RUU 355 enabling such offences to be tried by the Shariah Court would be void as there is already a Federal Law criminalising them.”

The statement stated that “the Federal Constitution does not allow a parallel Shariah Criminal System to operate side by side with the General Criminal Law System.”

The statement is jointly endorsed by Sardar Jagir Singh Arjan Singh, Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC) President MCCBCHST, Dao Zhang Tan Hoe Chieow, Federation of Taoist Associations Malaysian (FTAM) Deputy President MCCBCHST, Datuk R.S. Mohan Shan, Malaysia Hindu Sangam (MHS), Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim, Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) and Venerable Seet Lee Terk, Malaysian Buddhist Association (MBA).

The Malaysian religious leaders appealed to the YAB Prime Minister not to go ahead with the proposed amendments to Act RUU 355. 

“These were rejected earlier, and it should not be reintroduced for possible political expediency. The Constitution does not allow for a Theocratic Islamic State, including Hudud. Let us all abide by the Constitution and the consensus contained in the Reid Commission Report and the Cobbold Commission Report,” the press statement noted.

The MCCBCHHST categorically rejected “any unconstitutional effort to introduce any Hudud offences in Malaysia which will also definitely affect the non-Muslims although claims are made to the contrary. We should educate the public and inform them the true position of the law and that RUU 355 enabling Hudud offences is not a Constitutional reality.”

According to the MCCBCHHST press statement, “Section 2 of the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355) imposes limit on the punishments that can be meted out by the Syariah Courts, that is imprisonment of up to three (3) years, fine up to RM 5000.00 and whipping up to six lashes.”

“Any proposal to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 to provide for higher punishments will enable the Shariah Courts to impose punishments for Hudud offences. Thus, the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 is being promoted to enhance the Criminal Jurisdiction powers of the Shariah Courts is in effect aimed at introducing Hudud Laws,” the religious leaders expressed their concern. 

A similar Bill was introduced by Pas President Abdul Hadi Awang in 2017 in Parliament as Private Member’s Bill. In earlier years, it was referred to as Hudud Bill, but over the years, it was rebranded and promoted as enhancing the Shariah Courts sentencing powers and upgrading the Shariah Courts. 

The statement notes that there was tremendous opposition to the Bill including from Sabah and Sarawak State Governments and MPs; from MCA, MIC, Gerakan & SUPP who openly rejected it at a press conference and opposition parties like DAP, Multiple NGOs, 284 Malay NGOs under the Malay Consultative Council, G25 Group - all of these openly rejected the RUU 355 Bill. 

The Malaysian religious leaders are alarmed “why is this divisive RUU 355 Bill being introduced again.”

Recently a poll published in MalayasiaKini on September 19 showed that only 10.4% of Muslims in Malaysia supported the Bill.  - RVA News

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