Proposal to punish non–Muslims for khalwat
• Call to mirror Sultans as protectors of Islam and Muslims
©The Straits Times, Singapore (Used by permission)
by Hazlin Hassan, Malaysia Correspondent
But critics say call by KL's top Islamic bodies is arrogant and insensitive
IN KUALA LUMPUR – A NON–MUSLIM committing khalwat with a
Muslim should also be held liable for the offence, two influential Islamic
bodies have proposed in a resolution to be submitted to the Attorney– General.
The proposal by the Islamic Institute of Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) and Syariah Judiciary Department has raised the ire of non–Muslims in Malaysia.
It is a drastic shift from the current law where only the Muslim partner in such
a situation is charged in court.
The two bodies are suggesting that the non–Muslim could perhaps be sentenced in the civil courts.
Khalwat offences in Malaysia are committed when a man and a woman who are not family members, and when at least one of them is a Muslim, are caught in 'close proximity'. The couple could be in a room or in a public park.
'Muslims are sentenced in Syariah courts...but we don't have the jurisdiction to sentence non–Muslims,' Syariah Court of Appeal Judge Asri Abdullah was quoted as saying by The Star daily.
'Their non–Muslim partners can probably be sentenced in the civil courts, to be fair to both parties,' he told reporters at a seminar on reviewing syariah laws organised by Ikim and the judiciary department.
Ikim is an influential Islamic outfit set up in 1992, while the department is a unit under the Prime Minister's Department.
The Islamic judge said the proposal, contained in a draft resolution from the seminar's findings, would be forwarded to the Attorney– General's Chambers. It would be up to the 'relevant authorities to decide how to create such a law', he said.
The proposal is a sensitive issue because concerns about minority rights in Malaysia were partly behind a huge swing against the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) in the recent general election.
Penang Deputy Chief Minister P. Ramasamy, from the opposition Democratic Action Party, told The Straits Times: 'The Barisan Nasional has not learnt its lesson. It is arrogant and insensitive to the non–Muslims. Many people voted against BN because of creeping Islamisation. If they enforce this, they will probably lose power the next time around.'
The Kuala Lumpur City Hall created an uproar in 2003 when it fined a Chinese couple for kissing and hugging in a park.
The couple said they had been merely holding hands and the officials had asked for a bribe to let them go.
That incident as well as a string of controversial Islam– linked court cases have raised concerns among non– Muslim Malaysians that their rights are being eroded.
Said Bar Council member and human rights lawyer Edmund Bon: 'We should be looking at how our country can become more integrated in terms of encouraging Muslims and non–Muslims to interact rather than encouraging separation.'
Told about the proposal by the two bodies, Malaysian Syariah Lawyers Association adviser Muhamad Burok, who was surprised by the move, said it was 'very ambitious' and would require legislative amendments.