19 March 2015
A Malaysian Islamist party successfully passed measures Thursday that could see harsh Islamic criminal punishments carried out in the state it governs. Critics have sounded the alarm over the push to implement strict Shariah law in the northeastern state of Kelantan, arguing that though it would nominally apply only to Muslims, it could threaten the religious co-existence enshrined in Malaysia’s national constitution.
The Shariah amendments, known as “hudud,” were passed unanimously by Kelantan’s Islamist-controlled state legislature and would amend the state’s penal code to allow for punishments like caning and stoning for crimes ranging from alcohol consumption to apostasy, according to the Anadolu news agency. Kelantan’s population is 95 percent Muslim, and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which controls the state government, has long been pushing to strengthen and implement a hudud law from 1993 that was never enforced because it conflicted with the country’s federal constitution.
Malaysia has a longtime reputation for practicing a relatively moderate brand of Islam, but more conservative attitudes have gained ground in recent years, with various Islamist political factions, including PAS, jockeying for support from religious voters. Muslims make up about 60 percent of the country’s 30 million citizens, which include significant Buddhist and Christian religious minority populations. While Islam is Malaysia’s official state religion, the country’s constitution allows for other religions to be freely practiced.
…While PAS’ attempt to implement its strict Islamic amendments might seem like a charged move in the midst of these tensions, the concrete impact of the drive will be negligible, according to Yang Razali Kassim, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “The passing of the Kelantan bill on Islamic criminal law will not amount to much, except to demonstrate PAS’ commitment to its mission as an Islamist party, especially in the state of Kelantan it controls,” he said. “The bill still needs to be passed by the federal parliament, which is dominated by the ruling National Front coalition. There support for the bill is far from certain, if not outrightly opposed by the ruling front.”
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 23/11/2015