PETALING JAYA: The Kelantan government’s reported decision to impose a 15-minute blanket ban on trading at dusk has prompted an Amanah official to ask whether PAS is saying one thing and doing another.
Speaking to FMT, Amanah communications director Khalid Samad said it would now be harder for PAS to convince non-Muslims that Islamic laws would not affect them.
He was commenting on a news report quoting a Kelantan executive councillor as saying that all traders throughout Kelantan, including non-Muslims, would risk suspension of their licences if they didn’t pause their business for 15 minutes from the time of the call for the Maghrib prayer.
Apparently, the ruling, currently enforced at night markets by the Kota Baru Municipal Council, was extended last year to cover the entire state.
Khalid said such a policy reduced the credibility of PAS’ claim that non-Muslims would not be affected by its proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act.
“Non-Muslims are going to be even more worried now because you make all this talk about Islamic laws not affecting non-Muslims and then seemingly practise something else,” he said.
“It strengthens the misconception and fear of non-Muslims and some Muslims about what Islam is really all about because you are portraying an Islam which is restrictive, punitive, and authoritarian.”
He said Islam did not make it compulsory for believers to pause trading at the times for prayer.
“This is not something that is wajib (obligatory). The Quran merely recommends instead of ruling that Muslims stop trading when they hear the call for prayer. So it is not something that needs to be legislated.”
He also questioned whether the state government had discussed the policy with all the relevant parties before enforcing it.
“I don’t know whether they’ve discussed this with all the relevant stakeholders or whether they’ve looked at it from all possible angles instead of just legislating things and trying to make life more rigid and more stringent. I don’t think they’re looking at the big picture.”
Azrul Khalib, a spokesman for the human rights group Bebas, said it was now clear that there was no credibility in assurances that laws meant for application to Muslims would not affect non-Muslims.
He recalled that in 2015, supermarkets in Kelantan were told to close during Friday prayers.
“This time, on pain of suspension of licences, Muslim and non-Muslim traders are being instructed to close during Maghrib,” he added.
“We live in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society where, unlike in many other countries, religious edicts and opinions often take on the force of law.
“Many of these affect the daily lives not only of Muslims but non-Muslims as well.”
He agreed with Khalid that the Kelantan government was not looking at the big picture.
“Rather than relying on the lazy approach and brute force of imposing regulations and threatening livelihoods to demonstrate religious piety, the Kelantan government should work harder to improve the economic and social wellbeing of the Kelantan people,” he said.
Khalid said the policy did not come as a surprise but was nonetheless disappointing.
“I am disappointed that they are not able to see beyond issues of personal religious practices and are unable to see the bigger issues that affect members of society at large, such as good governance, transparency, and welfare for the poor.”