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PAS' hudud bill: What is it and why is there concern over it?

KUALA LUMPUR — The president of the opposition Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), Mr Abdul Hadi Awang, is expected to explain during the month-long Parliament meeting starting on Tuesday (Mar 7) his Bill for harsher Shariah punishments.

PAS' hudud bill: What is it and why is there concern over it?

Parti Islam Se-Malaysia president Abdul Hadi Awang has tabled a Bill on the implementation of Islamic penal code in Kelantan in Parliament. Photo: Malay Mail Online.

KUALA LUMPUR — The president of the opposition Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), Mr Abdul Hadi Awang, is expected to explain during the month-long Parliament meeting starting on Tuesday (Mar 7) his Bill for harsher Shariah punishments.

Although the Islamist party president’s private member’s Bill was tentatively listed on the Parliament’s Order Paper for Tuesday, it remains to be seen if it will actually be listed.

If it does appear in the Order Paper, this will be the fifth Parliament meeting where it makes its appearance, showing just how long PAS (and the government, to a certain extent) have been playing a “will they, won’t they” game with citizens on the controversial Bill.

WHAT IS HADI’S BILL?

Known as “Hadi’s Bill” after its chief proponent, it is also nicknamed “RUU355”, as it is aimed at amending the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, or Act 355.

Act 355 currently limits the Shariah courts’ sentencing powers to a maximum of three years’ jail, RM5,000 fine (S$1,590), and six lashes.

Hadi’s Bill in its latest form seeks to increase the Shariah courts’ maximum sentencing limits to 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine, and 100 strokes of the cane.

This was after Hadi’s Bill appeared in the Order Paper in four parliamentary meetings without going through the first reading or being debated, either due to lack of time or Mr Hadi’s own requests twice for deferment.

WHAT HAPPENS IF HADI’S BILL GETS THROUGH

Since the Bill is tucked under a parliamentary motion, it will arguably not become law automatically even if he manages to secure the required simple-majority vote from Members of Parliament.

But the contents of Hadi’s Bill will likely be pursued by Putrajaya, as Prime Minister Najib Razak said at the Umno annual general assembly last year that the federal government will eventually take over the Bill.

This should hardly come as a surprise as leaders from Umno have always been involved right from the very start and had even held a special briefing for all Muslim MPs just two days before Mr Hadi presented his latest version of the Bill.

WHAT IF YOU'RE A MUSLIM IN KELANTAN?

Despite PAS’ and Umno’s insistence that Hadi’s Bill is not about the harsh hudud punishments, PAS information chief Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali confirmed last November that it would allow the enforcement of three Shariah offences listed in state laws. These offences are premarital sex (100 lashes), “qazaf” or false accusation of adultery or sodomy (80 lashes), and drinking intoxicating drinks (40 to 80 lashes).

These three offences can be found under the hudud section of Kelantan’s Syariah Criminal Code, which covers all Muslims who are of sound mind and aged at least 18 and have committed an offence in the state.

As PAS has yet to seek amendments to the Federal Constitution, Shariah courts will still be unable to enforce hudud punishments for three other Shariah offences under the same Kelantan Islamic penal code including theft (amputation of right hand and left leg for first and second offences respectively, maximum 15 years’ jail for subsequent offences).

The two other Kelantan offences in the hudud category beyond the Shariah courts’ sentencing powers, even with Hadi’s latest Bill, are robbery (maximum five years’ jail or amputation of right hand and left leg or death penalty depending on severity of offence) and apostasy (death penalty and property seizure if no repentance).

Muslim folks in Terengganu may want to be on the lookout as well, as the state also has a Shariah law for hudud punishments.

SO WHY ARE NON-MUSLIMS AND SOME MUSLIMS WORRIED?

PAS, Umno, and other backers of Hadi’s Bill have repeatedly told non-Muslims to keep their nose out of the proposed legal changes which they assert will only affect Muslims, but the at-times conservative stance and increasingly expansionary bid for an Islamic veneer over virtually all aspects of Malaysians’ lives have made non-Muslims anxious.

Some non-Muslims are embroiled in inter-faith child custody disputes or caught by policies meant to protect the Muslim community such as halal certification and labelling, as seen in cases like the birthday cake rule adopted by a popular fast-food chain, as well as seizures of unlabelled brushes made from pig bristles.

Non-Muslim critics of Hadi’s Bill have therefore voiced lingering concern over the wider implications of such legal changes amid an alleged push for Islamisation of the country.

Sharing the same concerns, some Muslims have spoken up against Hadi’s Bill — which they feel is a political tool that has nothing to do with religion or justice. These Muslim critics have also asserted that non-Muslims should have a say in the laws of a country. MALAY MAIL ONLINE

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