BY NURUL HAQ SHAHRIR
It is not whether the shariah should be reintroduced or reinforced as statutory law, but rather how can medieval Islamic jurisprudence be adapted to meet the needs of justice in modern societies. — Nurul Haq Shahrir
The two leading Malay-Muslim political parties, PAS and Umno have been competing to be the greater defender of Islam since the early eighties – a necessary stratagem in bolstering the credibility of their Islamic credentials in the eyes of the Malay electorate.
Due to the multi-religious composition of the governing coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), Umno which is the leading party of Barisan Nasional cultivates its image as the promoter of a moderate, pragmatic form of Islam and contrasts itself against the ostensibly backward, conservative brand of Islam as advocated by PAS whose calls to “Islamise” the laws of the country from as early as the 1980s were emboldened by the recent tabling of the motion to amend the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, or what is commonly referred to as Act 355, by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang in November 2016.
The Malaysian government’s earlier move on May 26, 2016 to expedite for parliamentary deliberation the private member’s bill introduced by Hadi too surprised and unsettled many. The move has been construed by many as a step towards the implementation of Islamic penal code (also referred to as hudud).
Others, in particular the prime minister and his cabinet members have dismissed this reading and clarified that the bill would only augment the sentencing power of the shariah court, which only involves Muslims.
Obviously, one cannot deny that this move has also been interpreted as nothing more than a ruse to boost the political credentials of Umno and PAS in the face of the coming general election.
It would eventually come to nothing. It is all part of the ruling coalition’s political gambit to win the next election. That is totally understandable and politically imperative to do so. Read more