Ex-judge: Protect Malaysia’s secular status

Hishamudin-Yunus-1

KUALA LUMPUR: A former Appeals Court judge has called on all Malaysians to defend the country’s status as a secular nation as aspired by Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Mohd Hishamudin Yunus, who retired in 2015 after serving the bench for 24 years, said the status had been agreed to in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and stipulated in the Federal Constitution, and therefore must be respected by all.

“Freedom to practise religion was guaranteed during the negotiations to establish Malaysia.

“The issue of hudud (Islamic criminal punishment) never cropped up,” he was quoted as saying by The Star Online today.

“If it did then, certainly the proposal would have been overruled by the people of North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak,” he said at a forum organised by Sisters in Islam yesterday.

Referring to PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s motion in the Dewan Rakyat on April 6 to bring about intensified shariah punishments through amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355), he said the move was not suitable and will not be accepted by most Malaysians.

Hishamudin said the explanation that the amendments would not affect non-Muslims was also unacceptable.

He pointed to cases where the Orang Asli were incorrectly registered as Muslims and non-Muslim minors were converted to Islam without the consent of both parents.

There have also been instances of religious authorities taking away bodies of the deceased despite there being no concrete proof that the dead person had been a Muslim, he added.

“Recently, traders in Kelantan, including non-Muslims, were ordered to close shop during Maghrib prayers,” he was quoted as saying.

“In such cases, the argument that shariah law does not affect non-Muslims cannot be accepted.”

Hishamudin also said the amendments to Act 355 ignored the principle of proportional justice in criminal law.

He described the proposed maximum punishments for shariah courts of 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 lashes as “very extreme”.

He said the current limit of three years’ jail, RM5,000 fine and six lashes as adequate for the limited scope of shariah offences.

On April 8, the Bar Council had said Parliament should not push ahead with the bill’s debate but instead establish a select committee, as had been mooted in November last year, to undertake extensive and in-depth study of the proposals.

On Nov 22, 2016, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had announced that a select committee with Muslim and non-Muslim MPs would be formed to iron out issues on the bill and explain the separation of powers between the civil and shariah courts.

Speaking after chairing a meeting of Muslim MPs from both sides of the political divide, he had said he would recommend the move to Prime Minister Najib Razak to table at a Cabinet meeting. – FMT

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