Malaysia's opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) is pushing for approval from Parliament to implement strict hudud laws in the north-eastern state of Kelantan, which it has ruled since 1990.
The Kelantan assembly on Thursday (March 19, 2015) unanimously passed amendments to the Shariah Criminal Code approving hudud in the state. PAS now needs the support of other parties in Parliament before it can implement hudud.
Here's what you should know about the hudud laws:
What is hudud?
Hudud is a set of laws and punishments set out in the Quran that could allow for flogging and amputation, among other forms of punishment that are illegal under Malaysia's federal laws.
Hudud falls within the broader Shariah law, the Islamic criminal code that prescribes how Muslims should best conduct their lives. It was originally conceived to regulate all aspects of life in Muslim societies, from the behaviour and habits of individuals to the workings of the criminal justice system and financial institutions. It stipulates, for instance, that men and women must dress modestly, refrain from alcohol and pray five times per day. It also prohibits banks from collecting interest.
What are hudud offences?
1. Sariqah or theft - Two adult male witnesses are required to prove the offence. The punishment is to cut off the thief's hands.
2. Zina or extramarital sex - Four adult male witnesses are required.The penalty is 100 lashes if the person is unmarried and stoning to death if the person is married.
3 Al-Hirabah or robbery with violence: Two adult male witnesses are required. Punishment ranges from imprisonment and cutting off of limbs, to the death penalty if a victim is killed.
4. Qazaf or false accusation/slandering - Four adult male witnesses are needed. The punishment is 80 lashes.
5. Khamar or drinking intoxicating substances: Two adult male witnesses are needed. The penalty is between 40 and 80 lashes.
6. Irtidad or apostasy: Two adult male witnesses are needed to the act of renouncing Islam. The Quran does not explicitly state that apostasy is punishable by death.
Who does the law apply to?
Hudud would be applicable only to all Muslims of sound mind and who have attained puberty and thereby deemed to be able to discern right from wrong.
The laws will also apply to Muslim foreigners who commit a hudud offence in Kelantan.
Can hudud laws be applied to non-Muslims?
Hudud laws will not be applicable to non-Muslims because Malaysia has a dual justice system - civil courts for non-Muslims and Shariah courts for Muslims.
Which other countries practise hudud?
Hudud has been implemented in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Somalia and northern Nigeria. Many predominantly Muslim countries, such as Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, have not adopted the hudud penalties in their criminal justice systems.
What are the political implications of PAS' move?
PAS' move to implement hudud in Kelantan has threatened to split the fragile opposition coalition and could also strain relations in the multi-racial country.
With the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, jailed for five years on a sodomy charge, any hope that the alliance could hold together without Anwar looks doomed with PAS bent on implementing hudud. Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and the secular Democratic Action Party (DAP) both oppose the enforcement of hudud, saying it is against the common policy framework of the PR coalition. They warn the move by PAS could mean the end of PR.
PKR and DAP have also accused ruling party Umno of using the hudud issue to split the PR coalition, after all 12 Umno state assemblymen in Kelantan supported the amendment by PAS that was unanimously passed in the state assembly. PKR and DAP have demanded that Umno chairman Najib Razak clarify the party's stance on the issue.
Contrary to earlier media reports, Mr Najib did not release an official statement on Friday. This was confirmed by the Prime Minister's Office.
Will the Bill become law?
PAS will now need to find the numbers in the Federal Parliament to amend the Syariah Courts Act to allow the implementation of hudud in Kelantan through a private member's Bill - a Bill or proposed law introduced by a Member of Parliament who is not acting on behalf of the government.
The private member's Bill will need a simple majority of 112 Members of Parliament, out of the 222-member legislature, for it to be passed. There are 136 Muslim MPs in Parliament. PAS has 21 seats; its opposition allies PKR and DAP have 14 and two respectively; and the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), 97.
However, it is very unlikely that the 10 Muslim MPs from Sarawak's Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu will vote in favour, especially with state elections due in 2016.
If all 87 Muslim MPs from the ruling Umno party together with PAS vote for the Bill, they will still be short of four votes.
Analysts believe that the DAP and PKR have been too quick in criticising the Islamist party. They also do not believe PAS has the numbers in Parliament.
"Hudud is not on the mind of the p eople in the state. It is not a key issue for the ordinary Kelantanese. It could be a matter of pride for PAS and what the grassroots demand," said law professor Azmi Sharom.