Reform group: Have mercy on shariah offenders

Jahaberdeen-Mohamed-Yunoos-1

PETALING JAYA: A civil society leader wants the element of mercy to be included if Parliament intends to approve amendments to enhance shariah punishments, as promoted by PAS.

Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos, the founder of a movement which encourages thinking and compassionate citizens, said for every offence committed, the Quran had made provision for forgiveness.

“Even the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), which governs civil penal laws in Malaysia, has provision for repentance like binding over those found guilty or ordering them to do community service,” he told FMT.

He said this when asked to elaborate on an interview published in a Sunday daily (Sunday Star) on the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, better known as Act 355.

The lawyer, who started Rakyat Penyelamat Negara (Rapera), said PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s motion on the amendment did not allow for repentance, which even the CPC has.

He said under the CPC, the judge has the discretion to dispense with sentencing.

“It looks like the CPC is consistent with Quranic principles whereas Act355 isn’t,” he had said in the interview.

Courts rely on Section 173A to offer good behaviour bonds to adults like civil servants and youthful offenders while Section 294 only applies to those found guilty of offences that carry a jail term.

Section 293 also empowers the authorities to require offenders to perform community service, not exceeding 240 hours in aggregate.

Jahaberdeen said Act 355 could not be punitive in nature as Allah was compassionate, forgiving and merciful.

“Islam is all about mercy and allows for rehabilitation of offenders rather than merely being punitive,” he added.

Jahaberdeen said even a murderer could be forgiven in Islam if the family of the deceased was prepared to accept blood money in exchange for the accused’s execution.

He said Hadi’s proposed amendment should not be rushed by political parties.

“Instead, credible Islamic scholars and thinkers who are not formally schooled in the religion should also be included in a Parliamentary Select Committee,” he said.

On April 6, Hadi, the Marang MP, was allowed to introduce the bill but the debate was deferred to the next sitting.

The PAS president is seeking to obtain approval from Parliament to raise the punishment for shariah criminal offences to a maximum 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 strokes of the rotan.

At present, punishment for shariah offences is limited to a maximum three-year prison term, RM5,000 fine and six strokes of the cane.

Malay-based opposition political parties like Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), PKR and Amanah have said they are not totally against the amendments but there must be public consultation to fine-tune the law.