SIS: Islamic education a bigger priority than harsher punishments

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang is seeking to amend Act 355 to raise the ceiling on Shariah punishments. ― file picture
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang is seeking to amend Act 355 to raise the ceiling on Shariah punishments. ― file picture

KLANG, Feb 25 — Malaysia should look at improving its Islamic education instead of wanting to impose harsher punishments for Muslims, an Islamic women’s rights group said today.

Sisters in Islam (SIS) executive director Rozana Isa explained that despite the reasoning given behind the private member’s Bill to reduce crime, the lack of Islamic education was a bigger factor contributing to notorious activities.

“They are bringing all this punishment but Islamic education is not made stronger in the past 20 years. They need to have self-realisation.

“Something is wrong in the way you teach Islam that you have to resort to increasing punishments,” she said during a forum held here to discuss the subject.

Rozana also said that it was a myth that the Shariah courts can be improved just by implementing harsher punishments.

“If you want to improve the Shariah courts there are so many other ways to do it. We have to debunk the whole thing about Act 355 strengthening Shariah court. It doesn’t,” she said, referring to Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965.

“It only increases punishments but no way to improving Shariah court itself to give better judgements.”

Non-Muslims should also engage with their Muslim friends to make sure that they understand the implications of the Bill if it is passed, Rozana stressed.

“Encourage your Malay-Muslim friends to approach their ustaz and find out more about this. A lot of them are afraid to ask because they feel that if they question, that means they don’t have absolute faith,” she said, using the Arabic term for religious teachers.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia associate professor Dr Helen Ting also suggested that the amended laws would be misused for moral policing instead of being a crime deterrent.

“We don’t agree with this, it’s not acceptable in our political system.

“There is a deeper issue at hand, should moral policing be made a crime. Should we put someone in jail just for cross-dressing?” she questioned.

The senior research fellow at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies also said that a special committee should be formed between Muslims and non-Muslims first to deliberate the amendment before it is brought to Parliament again.

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang is seeking to amend Act 355 to raise the ceiling on Shariah punishments from three years’ imprisonment, six strokes of the cane and an RM5,000 fine to 30 years’ imprisonment, 100 strokes, and a RM100,000 fine. 

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