By Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin
So much energy and time have been dissipated over the private member’s bill moved by PAS president Hadi Awang who seeks to amend Section 2 of the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (RUU355 ). It aims to increase the existing provision of a maximum RM5,000 fine, six lashes and three years imprisonment to a maximum fine of RM100,000, 100 lashes and 30 years imprisonment.
The passage of the bill, which ran over three parliamentary sessions, has been tumultuous, spewing animosity, belligerence and resentment along the way. All of this emotional energy was expended over a trivial aspect of the existing shariah law – to enhance punishment for shariah related crimes.
Both Muslims and non-Muslims weighed in on this private member’s bill. It has become a political imbroglio, with the government later saying it would present it as a government bill but then backing out in the face of opposition from coalition members.
To many, this bill is trivial, but it has a significant subtext. It is not so much about religion as it is about political power play. Hadi’s PAS is using this bill to exert and gauge its influence and political prospects after leaving the opposition pack and the establishment of the splinter party Amanah made up of former disgruntled PAS members and MPs.
Some may think that it is really a waste of time and energy for PAS to pursue this bill when their energy could be better used to address pressing economic and social matters and malfeasance in governance. But PAS is obsessed with getting this bill through.
If this bill goes through, will it act as a deterrent to shariah related crimes? As a comparison, even the harsh punishments and the death penalty have not deterred or curbed drug-related crimes.
What the bill does is to cloud the beauty, magnificence and humaneness of Islam under the intent of imposing punishment. Islam is about caring, sharing and charitable actions that emphasise the welfare of the less fortunate, irrespective of religion, creed or stature. Above all, man’s every action should be in the service of God whose largesse, mercy and forgiveness are replete in the Quran. It is man’s weaknesses that distort the beauty of Quranic injunctions.
Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin is a keen observer of governance and a FMT reader.
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