SABAK BERNAM - The president of Malaysia's opposition Islamic party has clarified that the private member's Bill the party presented this week to expand the scope of punishments that can be meted out by Syariah courts is not meant to introduce Islamic criminal laws in Kelantan but is intended to "uplift" the court's status , the Malay Mail Online reported on Saturday (May 28).
Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) chief Abdul Hadi Awang also put the blame on the controversy surrounding the so-called hudud Bill he presented in Parliament on Thursday on the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP), a former ally of PAS.
"This is not a hudud Bill. Many people do not understand that," he was quoted telling a press conference late Friday. "What I see is there is an agenda by DAP to try and portray Islam in a bad light. They are afraid these laws will get a good response from non-Muslims," Mr Hadi said.
The private member's Bill tabled by Mr Hadi had sought to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 to empower the Islamic courts to impose any punishment allowed by Syariah law except the death sentence, the Malay Mail Online reported. The Bill does not elaborate on the nature of the punishments.
At present, Syariah courts are only limited to meting out what are called the 3-5-6 maximum punishments - jail terms not exceeding three years, fines of not more than RM5,000 (S$1,700) or caning of not more than six strokes of the rotan.
The DAP has been a vocal critic of the Bill, saying it goes against the principles of the Federal Constitution.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng has said that although the Bill currently involves only Muslims, the country should not have two different systems for Muslims and non-Muslims.
Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia had on Thursday allowed a government motion to expedite Mr Hadi's Bill for debate. But after the Bill was tabled, Mr Hadi proposed that it be debated at the next meeting of the Dewan Rakyat in October, The Star reported.
Mr Hadi's comments came as Prime Minister Najib Razak on Friday said that many people had misunderstood the so-called hudud Bill, adding that it was only meant to enhance some existing punishments for local Syariah courts, The Star reported.
"I would like to clarify to our friends in Barisan Nasional (BN) that there was a misunderstanding... I would like to state that it is not for the implementation of hudud. It is just to give the Syariah courts enhanced punishments. From six-strokes caning to a few more, depending on the offences," Datuk Seri Najib was quoted as saying.
Four of the 13 parties from the ruling BN coalition had issued a statement on Friday to say they were against the plan to introduce Islamic criminal law, which includes amputation and stoning.