KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 — Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) sounded a call today for efforts to turn Shariah law into the supreme law of the country, insisting the belief that the country’s primary legal system is “secular” is only “temporary”.
As such, the group’s president Abdullah Zaik Abd Rahman said he disagrees with the Court of Appeal, which said in its ruling in a recent Muslim transgender case that Malaysian law is secular as the Federal Constitution restricts Islamic legislation to marriage, divorce and inheritance.
“I disagree (with the ruling),” he told Malay Mail Online via text messages.
“It is only a temporary situation that must be rectified… it means there should be efforts to perfect the incorporation of Islam into the country’s laws so it is line with the demands of Islam which is absolute,” he added.
The Court of Appeal had ruled last November in favour of three Muslim transgenders ― Muhamad Juzaili Mohd Khamis, Shukur Jani and Wan Fairol Wan Ismail ― who were convicted of cross-dressing under Section 66 of the Negri Sembilan Syariah Criminal Enactment 1992 that punishes Muslim men who wear women’s attire with a fine not exceeding RM1,000, or jail of not more than six months, or both.
The court also struck down Section 66 of the Negri Sembilan Shariah Criminal Enactment 1992 as unconstitutional and void, noting that the state law provision contravened a slew of fundamental liberties, which were personal liberty, equality, freedom of movement and freedom of expression.
The court panel ― comprising Justice Datuk Mohd Hishamudin Yunus, Datuk Aziah Ali and Datuk Lim Yee Lan ― had also said the law was discriminatory as it failed to recognise men diagnosed with gender identity disorder (GID).
In the appellate court’s grounds for judgment released on January 2 this year, it was revealed that the panel had based its decision on the Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark 1988 Che Omar Che Soh case when former Lord President Tun Salleh Abas said that the framers of the Federal Constitution had confined the word “Islam” in Article 3 — which says that Islam is the religion of the Federation — to the areas of marriage, divorce and inheritance law, based on the history of Islamic legislation in Malaya during British colonial times.
“If it had been otherwise, there would have been another provision in the Constitution which would have the effect that any law contrary to the injunction of Islam will be void,” Hishamudin quoted Salleh as saying in the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision.
Abdullah Zaik, however, said that Islam goes beyond merely family matters.
“Islam is not just about familial matters but encompasses everything of life,” he said.
The Federal Court is set to hear next Tuesday the Negri Sembilan state government’s application for leave to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision.
Hishamudin’s judgment comes even as Putrajaya is attempting to elevate the Shariah courts to be on par with the civil Federal Court, the highest court in the country.
Malay-Muslim right-wing groups have also claimed that the enforcement of hudud law — which PAS is trying to push in Kelantan — is in line with the contentious Article 3 of the Federal Constitution.