BY: AZMI SHAROM
FEBRUARY 22 — The proposed amendments to the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 are very clever. When Hadi first proposed it, the original draft was arguably against the Constitution. But now they have changed it and the constitutional argument becomes harder to use.
Let me explain why. In the original draft there was a possibility that some of the additions to the law would mean there is an overlap with ordinary criminal law. This could mean that there was a question of two criminal systems in one country, and that is against the Article 8 of the Constitution which states that everyone must be equal before the law.
The current amendments merely increase the punishments for existing offences. So, nothing new is added, it is just that the penalties are harsher.
Does this make it all OK?
I say no, because in my view the new punishments imposed are inhumane. Ridiculously long jail sentences for these offences (a Muslim caught drinking beer can be jailed longer than what murderers get) means that they are disproportionate to the so-called crimes they are punishing.
I presume that the vast majority of my readers here are Chinese. It is possible therefore that you may think that this has nothing to do with me. You would be correct for the present, but what about the future?
Hadi and gang have been saying that these amendments are not hudud so there is nothing to fear. This is a disingenuous argument. Everybody knows that their real intention is to implement hudud law in Malaysia. They have been saying so for years.
These amendments are not hudud, that is true, but they are a first step towards it. And once we allow them to start, where is it going to stop? Hadi and his gang have no worries about using religion to scare Muslims into supporting them. What happens if our legal system becomes more and more Islamic? And when I say Islamic I mean from their perspective which is not something I can support.
Is it not possible as they become stronger and their laws become stronger that they think they can impose it on everybody?
I realise that this is a sensitive issue and that if we make too big a noise we can be attacked by fanatics. But for the moment we are still a democracy. We don’t have to take to the streets to oppose this Bill of Hadi’s. We can write to our MPs and tell them not to vote for it because if they do, we will not vote for them.
* Azmi Sharom is a law lecturer at Universiti Malaya