KUALA LUMPUR • Details of a controversial Islamic Bill to increase punishments meted out by Malaysia's syariah courts emerged yesterday, as the government decided to form a parliamentary committee to defuse non-Muslim concern over the issue.
The Bill, proposed by the president of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) Abdul Hadi Awang, is aimed at expanding the powers of the country's syariah courts, but the move has run into deep opposition from non-Muslims and a section of Malaysian Muslims.
There are fears that the Bill, which is expected to be read for the second time in Parliament this week, would lead to the eventual enforcement of hudud - or the Islamic penal code - which includes amputations and whipping as punishments.
Malaysia's non-Muslims are concerned about the legislation's potentially overarching impact on other races, while some politicians say introducing hudud goes against the country's Constitution.
The syariah courts currently impose the so-called 3-6-5 maximum penalties - three years' jail, six strokes of the cane, or a RM5,000 (S$1,600) fine.
Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi wants to raise the ceiling to 30 years' jail, 100 strokes of the cane, or a RM100,000 fine, according to Malaysiakini news website, quoting a PAS lawmaker.
PAS Member of Parliament Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali told the website that the punishments will apply only to Muslims and involve offences such as pre-marital sex, adultery, drinking alcohol and false accusations.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on Tuesday met Muslims MPs to say that the Bill will go for its second reading this week, but will not be tabled in the House.
A select committee, consisting of Muslim and non-Muslim MPs will be formed.
"We have decided to form a select committee which includes Muslim and non-Muslim MPs from both sides.
"Its purpose is to clarify, iron out issues and detail several unclear aspects of the Bill such as separation of powers, and the jurisdiction of the syariah and civil courts," he said.
He added, according to The Sun newspaper: "We respect all religious sensitivities, and it is not ours, or (Mr Abdul Hadi's), purpose to further complicate matters."