KUALA LUMPUR: PAS’ proposal to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355) is not unconstitutional as Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, which speaks about equality of the law, does not apply.
This, according to former chief justice Ahmad Fairuz Abdul Halim, is because “Muslims are not asking for equality”, and are “happy to abide by the law” if it is passed in Parliament.
He was responding to a statement by Gerakan president Mah Siew Keong who had voiced his opposition to PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang’s Private Members’ Bill to amend Act 355, saying it contravened the Federal Constitution.
Mah was reported to have said last year that the bill might result in a duplicity of laws as there would be two sets of laws for the same offences. This, said Mah, contravened Article 8 of the Federal Constitution which related to equality under the law for citizens.
“Gerakan said no one person should be treated differently,” said Ahmad Fairuz, in a lecture titled “Islam as the Law of the Land” held at the Majestic Hotel here today.
“But I say Muslims are not asking for equality, they’re happy to follow their religion, to have hudud.
“They are happy to comply as some people believe you must literally follow the Quran, although previous Caliphs have shown there is room for different interpretations.”
Asked about Muslims who might not be “happy” with the bill’s proposed amendments, he said they could come forward and discuss it with other Muslims.
Non-Muslims on the other hand, should not concern themselves with the bill, as it had “no effect whatsoever” on them, he added.
“Come forward, we’ll discuss it as Muslims, this needs to be settled by Muslims. Act 355 is about empowering the shariah court that only has jurisdiction on the Muslims.
“I don’t understand why our non-Muslim brothers are not happy with it. It doesn’t affect them.
“And I’m not in favour of non-Muslims speaking about this in public, and being quoted by the press, this will create tension among members of the public.”
Hadi’s bill seeks to increase the Shariah Courts’ punishment caps to 30 years jail term, a fine of up to RM100,000 and up to 100 strokes of the cane.
Currently, the shariah criminal punishment is capped at three years’ prison term, RM5,000 fine and six strokes of the cane.
Non-Muslims are not the only ones against the controversial bill. Muslim leaders, including those from Sabah and Sarawak, have also objected to it.