Appointing non-Muslim experts in the Syariah committee will spark controversy, says Umno's secretary-general


Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki. - Filepic/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Allowing the appointments of non-Muslim experts in the Syariah committee will only spark unnecessary controversy in Malaysia's multi-religious society, says Umno's secretary-general.

Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki was responding to a suggestion made by DAP Beruas Member of Parliament Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham that non-Muslim constitutional experts should be appointed to the committee to review the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court.

"Umno categorically rejects the proposal by Ngeh on the appointment of non-Muslim experts in the committee to study the powers of the Shariah Court with respect to the Federal Constitution.

"The proposal is unnecessary and out of touch with reality.

"It would only spark unnecessary controversy and instigate polemic within the peace-loving multi-religious and multi-racial society," Asyraf said in a statement on Friday (Dec 29).

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He said that since independence, it has been acknowledged and clearly stipulated in the Federal Constitution that the Syariah Court is specifically for Muslims.

Asyraf said all quarters should put their trust and confidence in the committee as they are appointed by the Selangor Sultan, who is also the Islamic Affairs National Council chairman.

"The process of improving and elevating the Syariah Court, since Umno led the previous government, has always been implemented gradually, considering the scope of powers allowed by the Federal Constitution.

"Moreover, throughout the process of upgrading the Syariah Court, which includes aspects of administration, competence, emoluments and salaries of judges and officials, as well as the form and level of punishment stipulated under the court's jurisdiction, it has never infringed upon or violated the rights of non-Muslim citizens.

"I believe whatever the outcome of the study will never infringe the rights of non-Muslims and go beyond the jurisdictions provided by the Federal Constitutions," he added.

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In a statement on Thursday (Dec 28), Ngeh said it is important to appoint non-Muslim constitutional experts to the committee so that non-Muslim views with regard to the provisions in the Federal Constitution could be taken into account before proposals for changes in the law are made.

In November, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the government would form the special committee sanctioned by the Conference of Rulers while the formation of the committee was announced on Dec 5.

He said the rulers have consented to the committee studying ways to enhance the powers of the Syariah Court over Muslims while ensuring that it would not affect non-Muslims.

According to reports, the committee would also review the competency of state legislatures in formulating Syariah laws.

The 11-member committee is headed by former chief justice Tun Zaki Azmi while other members include former federal court judge Datuk Seri Mohd Zawawi Salleh, Selangor Islamic council member Datuk Salehuddin Saidin, Melaka Chief Syariah judge Datuk Nadzri Abdul Rahman.

Additionally, those part of the committee are Attorney-General's Chambers Syariah and law harmonisation division head Datuk Anas Ahmad Zakie, civil division deputy head Shamsul Bolhassan and constitutional research unit chief Azirul Liza Abdullah.

Others include the International Islamic University of Malaysia legal dean Prof Dr Farid Sufian Shuaib and Prof Datuk Dr Wan Ahmad Fauzi Hashim, Malaysian Syariah Lawyers Association president Musa Awang and Syariah lawyer Dr Zulqarnain Lukman.

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