G25 calls for parliamentary review of laws that empower Shariah courts

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
G25 asked for the federal government and the Council of Malay Rulers to take the progressive stand and agree that it is wrong for state governments to criminalise the moral sins of Muslims. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 9 — G25 has called on the government to table a parliamentary review of the precise scope and definition of laws that empower the Shariah courts following the controversial caning of two lesbians in Terengganu on Monday.

The pro-moderation group also asked for the federal government and the Council of Malay Rulers to take the progressive stand and agree that it is wrong for state governments to criminalise the moral sins of Muslims.

The group argued that the wording in Item 1 of the State List (List II of the Ninth Schedule) of the Federal Constitution does not precisely draw the line of jurisdiction for Shariah courts.

“Considering that there is mention only of the sentences, but not the offences applicable to the sentences, there is a need for parliament to review the existing legislation so as to make clear its intent and scope.

The statement was referring to the section of the Constitution concerning Shariah courts that states “but shall not have jurisdiction in respect of offences except in so far as conferred by federal law”.

“In reviewing the legislation, Parliament should take the opportunity to delete the provision empowering the Shariah courts to impose the sentence of whipping,” the group comprising retired Malay senior civil servants said in a statement today.

It added that criminalising moral behaviour against the “precepts of Islam” would complicate the legal system.

Last Monday, two Muslim women were given six strokes of the rotan at the Terengganu Shariah court after they pleaded guilty for attempting to have lesbian sex.

The whipping has since garnered worldwide criticism and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad too has denounced the punishment as tarnishing Islam as an intolerant religion.

The group also pointed out that morality laws passed by state governments are not divine, and are manmade laws created by religious officials who happen to be public servants.

The group also warned of the potential negative economic implications should state governments continue criminalising the moral behaviour and private life of Muslims.

“The tourist industry will suffer when foreigners feel there are too many risks in travelling to the East Coast states because no one can be sure whether the Shariah laws apply to them as well or whether the religious police will be crawling in the hotel corridors to peep into their bedrooms.

“With all the rural charm to attract high spenders from the region and the whole world, their political leaders should take a realistic view that if businesses find it too risky to invest because the state policies are too conservative on moral values, the companies will move their operations out to other states,” the statement read.

G25 added that if a situation of economic stagnation occurs, social ills would start creeping into society with the youth set to suffer the most they claimed.

“The East Coast states will find that with economic stagnation, their youths will have no jobs, crime rates will rise, drug addiction will spread, girls will go into the sex industry — these are social problems which are far more important to worry about than the private morals of Muslims.

“The state governments should worry more about their responsibility to meet the expectations of

their people for a better life in this world and leave it to Muslims themselves to take care of their destiny with God in the next world,” the statement read.  

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