Despite the watered-down version of the motion by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang to enhance punishments that Syariah courts can mete out, women’s rights NGO Sisters in Islam (SIS) still believes that the government should not let the proposal go through.
“Bulldozing a law through parliament will not solve the present inconsistencies and conflict of jurisdiction between civil and Syariah courts,” said the group in a statement today.
SIS claimed that there are systemic weaknesses in the Syariah court as well as problematic overlaps with the civil courts that may still lead to injustice and problems.
More specifically, SIS said that despite guarantees by proponents of Hadi’s proposed amendment to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act (Act 355), non-Muslims may still bear the brunt of the changes as they are overlaps between civil and Syariah courts that still need to be addressed.
“While proponents of RUU355 (Act 355 amendments) insist that the bill will not affect non-Muslims, reality shows that existing Syariah laws are already impacting non-Muslims in Malaysia,” said SIS, pointing to high-profile unilateral conversion cases which showcased such problems and overlaps.
“The unilateral conversion cases of M Indira Gandhi and Deepa Subramaniam are just two examples of the far-reaching impact of the dual legal system in Malaysia,” added SIS.
SIS urges a more holistic solution to the conundrum and hope that more focus will be given to structural issues instead of just punishments which may even give Islam a bad reputation as a punitive religion.
The group was commenting on Hadi’s move to amend Act 355, though with a lower limit than what he previously wanted.
Hadi tabled the motion asking for permission to table his bill to amend Act 355 on Thursday, which is the last day for the budget sitting of parliament, and asked that debate be deferred to the next sitting in March next year.
This echoed what he did last sitting, when he first tabled his motion on the matter. However, Hadi amended his motion to only asking for the upper limit of the punishments that Syariah courts can mete out to 100 strokes of the whip, RM100,000 fine and 30 years imprisonment.
Previously he wanted to do do away with all restrictions except for the power to mete out the death penalty.
At present Syariah courts are limited to three years’ jail, six strokes of the whip and RM5,000 fine.- Mkini