Zahid says Umno to 'strengthen' syariah law in Malaysia if it wins supermajority in Parliament

Malaysia's 13 states each has control over the implementation of Islamic law. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Umno party will strengthen syariah law if it wins a two-thirds majority in the next general election, its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Sunday (March 28).

"When we secure two-thirds majority support in Parliament later, (we will) amend the Constitution to ensure that our syariah law system is strengthened," he said.

The next general election in Malaysia is due in 2023, but is widely expected to be held later this year due to the weak Perikatan Nasional government led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Zahid also said in his policy speech at the annual party assembly that the recent High Court decision to allow non-Muslims use of the word "Allah" has a huge impact on syariah law in the country.

"The decision has the potential to nullify other enactments under syariah law, or might even paralyse the whole system," he said.

Malaysia has a parallel civil and syariah Islamic courts with roughly equal powers.

And the country's 13 states each has control over the implementation of Islamic law.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court on March 10 ruled that Christians can use "Allah" in religious publications for educational purposes, striking down a ban that dated back to 1986.

A judge ruled the ban was unconstitutional.

The Malaysian government has lodged a challenge at the court of appeal, amid unhappiness expressed by the country's Muslim majority.

Zahid said the court's decision might affect the power of states to enact syariah law, and claimed the decision also touched on provisions of the federal Constitution.

"We might have to amend the Constitution and together with our partners, if we get two-thirds majority in Parliament, we will strengthen it, God willing," he said, without specifying what he meant.

Umno won 54 seats in the 2018 general election, before defections pared these down to 38 currently. Umno's ally Parti Islam SeMalaysia won another 18 then.

Umno, the lead party in the multiracial Barisan Nasional coalition, and its allies will need at least 112 seats in the 222-strong Parliament to form the next government.

They will need 148 seats to command two-thirds majority, also called a supermajority, in the Lower House in order to change the federal Constitution.

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