Malaysia's leaders should only be Muslims, says cleric

Hadi Awang, who now heads a political party, calls for govt leaders ousted last year to be pardoned because of their religion
Malaysia's leaders should only be Muslims, says cleric

Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party chief Hadi Awang, pictured here, has called for former government figures accused of graft to be pardoned because they are Muslim. (Photo by Manan Vatsyayana/AFP)

With trials set to begin and scores of Malaysia's former leaders facing jail for corruption and financial crimes, a powerful Muslim cleric-turned-politician has decried efforts to enforce the rule of law irrespective of the religious status of the defendants.

Malaysian Islamic Party chief, Hadi Awang, fighting a rearguard action to dispel growing disillusionment and among his co-religionists over the morality and ethics of the nation's former Muslim leaders, said their religion should be taken into consideration when judging them.

In a lengthy opinion piece titled "Rule of Law: Where is Allah?" on Facebook where he has thousands of followers, Hadi stressed the importance of Islamic laws in governing the country.

The cleric, who is also an MP, argued that Muslims should continue to trust Muslim leaders regardless of the crimes they may have committed.

"If the one leading is a Muslim, even if he were cruel, at least [others] can become cattle herders," he wrote in a rehash of a quote attributed to a medieval Muslim ruler following the fall of his kingdom that he often cites to justify Islamic governance.

He warned Muslims that they will end up in hell if non-Muslims are allowed to participate in governing the Muslim majority country.

"But if the one who leads is a non-Muslim, even if he were the kindest, [others] can work however they wish [but] without any limits of what is 'halal' [permissible] and 'haram' [forbidden] they will still end up in hell."

In his piece, Hadi stressed that Malaysia can only be saved by Muslims and Shariah law, which he said is superior to man-made laws.

He also claimed that only an Islamic party deserves to inherit Quranic teachings to provide such guidance — a veiled reference to his own Islamist party — rather than a party devoid of morals and faith to God and his prophet.

Hadi urged that the government leaders who were ousted in last May's election, be pardoned for their crimes.

"Don't ever take the infidelic West as an example, because the best of them will still end up in hell, since their kindness is without any faith to Allah," he wrote.

Malaysia's current prime minister, Mahathir Mohammad, has stressed that no one is above the law and civil and criminal statutes apply to all regardless of religion or status.

Hadi has long been a proponent of Malay-Muslim rule. In 2017, he pointed out that Malaysia should be led by Malay-Muslims as they are the dominant community, and suggested that the group holds the top decision-making positions in the cabinet.

According to independent research firm, the Ilham Centre, there is no widespread condemnation by the Malay and Muslim community of the government of disgraced former premier, Najib Razak, despite its alleged corrupt misrule that saw it ousted in May last year.

Najib is accused of corruption and money laundering in connection with $681m that was found his bank account, allegedly from the 1MDB government economic development fund.

In a study conducted by the center, many in the community were also said to be against the Mahathir's appointment of two Christians — Richard Malanjum as chief justice and Tommy Thomas as attorney-general — and see it as an anathema in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

The people surveyed disagreed with non-Malays holding the top posts as they felt such appointments threatened the position of Islam and Malay special rights.

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