Differences in Malaysian opposition over Islamic law

January 9th, 2009 - 1:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Jan 9 (IANS) Differences have cropped up in Pakatan Rakyat (PR), Malaysia’s opposition alliance, over the desirability of introducing Islamic laws in a multi-religious society, with one of its ethnic Indian leaders opposing it.Lawyer-lawmaker Karpal Singh, chairman of Democratic Action Party (DAP), one of the PR constituents, has lashed out at the alliance chief Anwar Ibrahim, saying his assertion that Islamic hudud laws apply only to Muslims “is a fallacy”, The Star newspaper reported Friday.

Karpal Singh said Malaysia was not an Islamic state and the passing and implementation of hudud laws would be unconstitutional.

Ibrahim’s statement that there was no need to reject hudud law as it was only applicable to Muslims was diametrically opposed to Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS’) “avowed aim to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state”, Karpal Singh said, according to The Star newspaper.

Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), the DAP and the PAS form the opposition alliance PR, which has 88 members in the Malaysian parliament and control of five states.

Malaysia’s is a multi-religious, multi-ethnic society with over 60 percent Muslim Malays inhabiting the Southeast Asian nation along with 33 percent ethnic Chinese and about eight percent ethnic Indians who follow different faiths.

“It is important for Anwar to know exactly what PAS intends to do. This has been PAS’ stand from its inception as is clearly reflected by the statements by former and present leaders of PAS,” Karpal Singh said in a statement.

He noted that PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat was quoted late last month as saying: “I cannot see why they (non-Muslims) cannot accept hudud laws which are no different from the colonial laws of the West”.

Karpal Singh pointed out that for hudud laws to be applicable, the prerequisite would be the setting up of an Islamic state where Islamic laws were applicable to both Muslims and non-Muslims.

“It is important for Anwar to know exactly what PAS intends to do in calling for the setting up of an Islamic state,” he said, adding: “Perhaps PAS president Hadi Awang should clear the air as to whether hudud laws intended by PAS are applicable to both Muslims and non-Muslims in the event PAS succeeds in setting up an Islamic state.”

The controversy has also spilled over to the ruling alliance Barisan Nasional (BN), particularly the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA).

MCA information and communication bureau chief Lee Wei Kiat also hit out at Ibrahim, saying the opposition leader’s statement saying that hudud was only for Muslims but at the same time saying that Islamic legislative aspects should not just be confined to Syariah family or civil law was ‘contradictory’.

“The statements appear to please different listeners. It still leaves the option of expanding Syariah laws against non-Muslims open,” he said in a statement.

He called on Anwar to respect the country’s parliamentary democracy which included upholding the rights of every Malaysian.

“Our party rejects any form of a theocratic state and hudud laws. MCA would like to reiterate that Anwar should honestly inform voters that hudud laws would not only affect Muslims but also deprive their rights in various aspects of their lives,” he said.

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