Everyone to empower Syariah courts but do not hurt feelings of non-Muslims

KUALA LUMPUR: The National Syariah Judiciary Committee under the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs (MKI) has been told to engage with all ulamas, including those affiliated with the opposition, says Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

He said on Sunday (Feb 18) that any engagement to empower the Syariah Courts will include all stakeholders regardless of political alignment.

ALSO READ: Syariah Court engagement will include Perikatan stakeholders, says Religious Minister

Anwar - who is also the MKI deputy chairman - said this to the media after officiating the one-day Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) Carnival held at Tasik Titiwangsa here in conjunction with its golden jubilee this year.

"Yes, it will be all ulamas - even the opposition. I have mentioned this," said Anwar briefly, when asked if his instruction to "engage all ulamas" included those ulamas aligned to the opposition Perikatan Nasional parties which govern four states.

Earlier, in his officiating speech, Anwar said that those who are politicising the Federal Court's Feb 9 decision on the Kelantan Syariah laws did not do so when there was a similar case which affected Selangor syariah laws in 2021.

ALSO READ: Syariah laws: Special committee open to discussions with all parties, says PM

"The Federal Court decision on Feb 9 calls on us to do something. In 2021, the Federal Court in the Selangor case - there was no protest - as the opposition now were then in the government. I was not the Prime Minister then," said Anwar.

He added that such attempts are meant to cause division among the Muslims.

In 2021, the Federal Court declared Section 28 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995 as void for being unconstitutional.

Section 28 then made it a Shariah offence for “any person” performing “sexual intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”, with the punishment being a maximum fine of RM5,000 or a maximum three-year jail term or a maximum whipping of six strokes or any combination.

"However, now that we are the ruling government, as soon as the judgment was made on the Kelantan case, we were reviled and attacked. The judges too were attacked.

"The judges on Feb 9 followed the laws, not their sentiments and they ruled that the Federal Constitution cannot be overwritten by the state laws. If that can be so, we would have 13 sets of laws in the country.

"This is why there is now a committee headed by Tun Zaki Azmi under MKI to empower the syariah courts, not to weaken them, without upsetting the non-Muslims in the country.

"I have issued an instruction at the last MKI meeting - which was chaired by the Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin - to engage all states, all ulamas and all muftis. They must also listen to the academicians' views and then present all of the views and study their constitutionality.

"These views then should be presented to the Malay Rulers' Council before they are presented to the Cabinet. This is because the Cabinet has to bring the amendments to the Dewan Rakyat to get the two-thirds approval to amend the laws (to empower syariah courts).

"There was never any such committee (National Syariah Judiciary Committee ) before my time (as the Prime Minister)," said Anwar.

He pointed out that even back in the 80s and 90s, civil courts tended to overwrite syariah laws, which then led to the then government to amend the Act 121(A) - to empower syariah courts so that syariah judgements cannot be cancelled by civil courts.

"Now, we need to empower Syariah Courts further, including its criminal laws. We have to study these - we are a country with laws, not one run by political sermons.

"If the parliament amend the laws, only then can the judge follow the laws," said Anwar, taking a swipe at those who misinterpret the Feb 9 apex court decision in the Nik Elin Zurina Nik Abdul Rashid case as a license for Muslims to commit crimes.

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