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Christians wary of renewed bid for quranic punishments in Malaysia

Islamic penal code would violate country's secular nature
Christians wary of renewed bid for quranic punishments in Malaysia

Supporters of Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party pray during a 2012 rally in this file photo. Party leaders have renewed calls to for parliament to institute the hudud, the system of punishment set up by the Quran. (Photo by AFP)

Published: March 17, 2016 09:50 AM GMT
Updated: March 18, 2016 08:07 AM GMT

Christian groups in Malaysia are concerned that the Islamist party, Pan-Malaysian Islamic party (PAS), is making a renewed bid in parliament to allow for hudud, the system of punishment set up by the Quran.

All are vehement in their objection to Islamic laws being used as a parallel penal code operating in tandem with civil laws, even if it is applicable to just one religious community.

The Sabah Council of Churches said the issue is about basic human rights.

The Rev. Jerry Dusing, the council's president who spoke out against the party's bid to institute hudud last year, reaffirmed his objection March 17, a day after the party said it had approached the federal government to seek assurances that their request would be brought to parliament. 

He said the renewed bid by the Islamist party is a betrayal of the foundation of Malaysia in 1963 when Sabah joined with Malaya and Sarawak to form the new nation. 

Dusing, said Malaysia was founded as a secular country and the plans to implement the religious-based criminal law is irreconcilable.

"We are not an Islamic country … that is fundamental. We must remember that religious freedom is a fundamental human right," he said.

"There is an ongoing dilution of human rights in this country and we are concerned," he told ucanews.com. 

"I respect Islam and Muslims and they should also respect me … Christians and our beliefs. We understand the new political dynamics (are) in play," he said. 

He said that although the hudud would only apply to Muslims, the ambiguous laws on religious freedom and the current interpretation of Malaysia being an Islamic country has alarmed the Christian community. 

Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Herald, Malaysia’s Catholic newspaper, told ucanews.com that nothing had changed in Malaysians’ opposition to hudud despite the PAS claiming a new alliance with the multiracial Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia (Ikatan) that had breathed new life into its efforts to Islamize the country’s laws.

"The people are skeptical about PAS' overtures in trying to see themselves as a good guy … PAS cannot do much," he said.

Nevertheless, Father Andrew also believes fundamentalism is on the rise in the country.

Since last year when the federal government rejected hudud, the Malaysian Islamic Party forged closer links with the United Malay National Organization led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, which led to the party expecting a more accommodating stance on the issue.

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