Religious leaders: Hand out punishment with mercy

  • Nation
  • Monday, 11 Mar 2019

PETALING JAYA: Any punishment on first-time offenders who insult Islam or Prophet Muhammad should be tempered with compassion to educate the accused, says Penang mufti Datuk Seri Dr Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor (pic).

He said as Muslims are told not to insult religious figures of other faiths, those from the other faiths are also expected to respect Prophet Muhammad.

“Prophet Muhammad is revered by millions all over the world, including Muslims in Malaysia. Any insult to the Prophet will cause an uproar.

“However, in Islam, we do take into consideration a few factors before we hand down a sentence on a person accused of insult. I am not a man of the law, but if there is evidence that the insult did occur, we must see if the accused is stable mentally.

“If he is not mentally stable, then his mental health should also be taken into consideration, although a crime is still a crime. If there is any avenue to lighten the sentence, then the reduction should be allowed,” he said yesterday.

Wan Salim was commenting on Alister Cogia, 22, from Sarawak, who was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months jail and fined RM50,000 by the Kuching Sessions Court after he pleaded guilty to insulting Prophet Muhammad on Facebook.

Wan Salim said the court could impose a light jail sentence. But if the person is a first-time offender, the court could ensure that the accused has no room to repeat such a crime.

“In Islam, if he or she is a first-time offender of such a crime, the maximum sentence should not be imposed,” he said.

He noted that if the person who insulted Islam is a Muslim and is charged under hudud law, he should be allowed to repent and be guided to the right path.

He also said that the media too has a part to play when such insults are put up by irresponsible social media users.

“Let the authorities know so that they can handle such sensitive issues behind closed doors by calling up the ones who posted it, without the public going into an uproar. Religion is a very sensitive issue with the Malays,” he said.

Former Terengganu mufti Datuk Ismail Yahya said that the 10-year sentence for a first-time offender who insulted the Prophet is “excessive” and also pointed out that the offender was not represented in court.

“Islam is not upheld through punishment, but through wise discourse. It is not a religion which was expanded through emotion, but through the understanding of its ideas,” he said.

Ismail also said that Muslims have to ensure that they do not portray Islam wrongly to the non-Muslims.

“We should be able to portray the wisdom of Islam without punishing the ignorant,” he added.

Malaysian Bar vice-president Datuk Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor said the 10-year sentence seems excessive since it does not involve violence or physical injury.

“Sentencing must be judicially assessed as the purpose of sentencing is for the offender to reform and not used to retaliate,” he said.

He added as the accused had also pleaded guilty and seemed to be a first-time offender, the sentence should have not been that harsh.

“In short, justice must be tempered with mercy,” he said.

On Saturday, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the police had filed charges against four social media account owners for insulting Islam and Prophet Muhammad, with one of them having been sentenced to imprisonment.

He said the charges against the four were made on Friday under Section 298A and Section 505(c) of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multime­dia Act 1998.

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