Govt urged to amend Federal Constitution to protect Syariah criminal system (New Straits Times)

KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 200 Syariah advocates and solicitors last night recommended that the Federal Constitution be amended, including parts relating to the states’ power to enact their own Syariah criminal law.

Muslim Lawyers Association of Malaysia (PPMM) president, Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar, said that this was due to concerns over possible challenges to the provisions of the existing states’ Syariah criminal law.

This after a recent Federal Court decision which allowed a declaration sought by a 35-year-old man, that Section 28 of the Syariah Criminal Offenses (Selangor) Enactment 1995, which criminalised unnatural sexual intercourse, was null and void and not in accordance with the Federal Constitution.

“Following the ruling, we are concerned that more provisions of the existing states’ Syariah criminal enactment will be challenged and revoked for similar reasons, which could eventually cripple the Syariah criminal system in the country,” he said.

He said this in a statement, jointly issued by PPMM, together with the Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review Process (Macsa) chairman Lukman Sheriff Alias and Malaysian Syariah Lawyers Association (PGSM) president Musa Awang.

The Federal Court, in its decision, ruled that although the state has broad jurisdiction to legislate its own Syariah criminal offences, being within the precepts of Islamic teachings, this law, however, cannot touch on any ‘Federal List’ matter, including legal matters.

“The statement which referred to criminal law under the Federal List carries vast interpretation. As a result, this will invalidate many of the state’s Syariah criminal provisions if they are to be challenged in the future,” it said.

It also said that, although there is no overlapping with any existing Federal law, the states’ Syariah criminal law remains null and void if it touches on Federal List matters, especially criminal law.

“Any amendments that will be made in any provision of the Syariah criminal enactment to address the case will remain null and void, if it touches on the matter of ‘criminal law’,” the statement said.

The ruling (of the case) leads to uncertainty and could give rise to a situation where no legislative body either at the Federal or state level can enact laws that prevent Muslims from doing illegal things under Syariah, it said, adding that they called on the executive and legislature to amend the Constitution immediately.

*Published in New Straits Times

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