Talk to Rulers about uniform shariah law, says ex-MP

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PETALING JAYA: A former MP has urged federal leaders to get the views of the Rulers on plans for a uniform code of shariah criminal laws for all states.

Tawfik Ismail, former MP for Sungai Benut, said it was the right thing to do, as the Rulers were heads of Islam in their states, and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for other states.

Plans for a uniform code of shariah criminal laws were announced yesterday by the minister for Islamic affairs, Mujahid Yusof. The National Council of Islamic Religious Affairs said discussions would be held with all state religious leaders for a consensus on a uniform code. At present, each state has its own set of shariah laws and the punishments for certain offences vary from state to state.

Tawfik said that although the matter was only at a proposal stage, it was only proper that the government seek the Rulers’ input.

He also raised his fear that the move for uniform shariah criminal laws was a step closer towards greater centralisation of power over religion by the Federal Government.

He also spoke of his fear that discussions on a uniform shariah criminal code could be used as a backdoor towards implementing harsh punishments for Islamic criminal offences some time in the future.

Tawfik Ismail.

“The record has shown that PAS-controlled states lean towards harsher penalties,” he said, citing the move by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang to table a private members’ bill to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act with enhanced penalties.

The bill would have empowered the shariah courts to impose a higher level of fines and a greater amount of whipping on certain Islamic criminal offences. The proposed bill, known as RUU355 from its Malay short-form, created a storm of controversy, with some politicians alleging that it was a prelude towards implementing hudud punishments.

However Hadi’s motion to obtain Dewan Rakyat approval to table the bill failed to be adopted and the proposed bill expired.