Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Syariah lawyers want heavier penalties for Islamic offences

(Published in Malaysia Insider Online)

By Syed Mu'az Syed Putra
July 21, 2010
KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — The Malaysian Syariah Lawyers Association (PGSM) urged the government today to impose heavier penalties for Islamic offences and to standardise religious criminal laws in all states.
Its deputy president Musa Awang also claimed that the existing laws which provide for maximum imprisonment for three years, fine of RM5,000 and six strokes of the cane, had failed to deter Syariah offenders.
He said that the “3:5:6 formula” stipulated by the Syariah Courts Act 1984 was too light and outdated.
“It has been 20 years since the Syariah Courts Act 1984 was amended which has encouraged a lot of people to take the easy way out by pleading guilty, because the punishment is not as severe as the civil courts,” Musa told The Malaysian Insider.
“For offenders RM5,000 in 2010 is nothing because they can come up with the money in one day,” he added.
Musa said that amendments were necessary to protect the image of the Syariah courts.
“From a maximum fine of RM5,000, maybe it should be increased to RM20,000 or more. In Islam, gambling, adultery and consuming alcohol are considered major sins, but RM5,000 is too low,” he said.
Musa also wanted the punishment to be standardised in all states.
“For example in Selangor, if convicted for consumption of alcohol the punishment is fine and imprisonment, but in Pahang the punishment is fine, imprisonment or caning,” he said.
“The same with gambling, there are different punishments in Selangor and in other states. Same offence but different punishment,” said Musa.
He added that the different punishments could cause confusion.
“When different punishments are meted out, society will not respect the courts. We do not want this to happen,” said Musa.
“Is Selangor’s Islam different from the one in Pahang? Or is Islam in Pahang more extreme as it provides for caning for Syariah offenders? So there is a need for uniform laws so as to protect the image of the judiciary,” he added.

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