Skipping prayers is a personal matter, says lawyers group

Lawyers for Liberty says Islam is a religion of compassion, justice, mercy and moderation.

PETALING JAYA: Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today slammed the jail sentences and fines handed out to six people in Terengganu for skipping Friday prayers, saying it is a personal matter in which the state should not interfere.

“It is high time to reconsider the rationale of imposing a prison sentence and fine for the mere skipping of Friday prayers and similar offences,” LFL legal coordinator Zaid Malek said in a statement.

“The alleged failure to attend Friday prayers is a personal matter which the state should neither govern nor interfere in.”

The six individuals, including two teenagers, were sentenced to a month in prison and fined over RM2,000 each by the shariah court in Kuala Terengganu.

They were caught bathing at a popular picnic spot at the Sekayu waterfall in August in a case believed to be the first of its kind in Malaysia.

Zaid said while such acts might be considered improper by some in Muslim society, criminal punishment was excessive and not the way to address these issues.

He also contrasted it with a recent statement by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa who said the government was reviewing the legal system with a view towards making penalties more rehabilitative than punitive.

“Islam is a religion of compassion, justice, mercy and moderation. In the spirit of these Islamic principles, we urge the minister to look into this matter and resolve it as soon as possible.”

The Bar Council has also criticised the sentence as “harsh and excessive”, with its president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor saying that justice must be tempered with mercy.