KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 ― Malaysia will not abolish its laws against sodomy as it cannot be tolerated here, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said.
In an interview published by the Wall Street Journal, Dr Mahathir said that the act of sodomy goes against Islam.
“We are a Muslim nation, and we do not tolerate sodomy. The rest of the world may tolerate it, but we cannot. That is against our religion,” he was quoted telling Tunku Varadarajan, an executive editor at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
Dr Mahathir was also interviewed on the first imprisonment that his former deputy Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had to go through almost two decades ago.
Anwar was in 1999 and in 2000 sentenced to jail over corruption and sodomy although the convictions were later overturned, and he served a five-year jail term over sodomy since February 2015 until he received a royal pardon this May.
In an interview aired last week by Al Jazeera English's UpFront programme, Anwar had maintained his previous stand that Malaysia's laws against sodomy are archaic, calling such laws “unjust” as anyone could be accused without proper evidence.
Anwar had said the laws must be amended to ensure that there was justice in the process, and that it would not be about the sexual orientation of a person.
Sodomy is punishable as a criminal offence in Malaysia through Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”; and is punishable with up to 20 years' jail and whipping.
Of Malaysia's brand of Islam and compassion
In the same interview, Dr Mahathir disagreed with the Western world's definition of Islamic fundamentalism, contrasting it with what was being practised in Malaysia.
“In Malaysia, we believe that what we practice is Islamic fundamentalism. If you go according to the teachings of Islam, you will be able to set up a good society, a good government. You will not be oppressive,” he was quoted saying to Varadarajan.
Dr Mahathir said the Western world's view of Islamic fundamentalism was actually “not Islam at all” but represented a deviation from the teachings of Islam.
“We have some people [in Malaysia] who are attracted to these deviations, but we have been able to argue against them. And by and large, the people support us,” he said in the same interview.
Dr Mahathir reportedly hinted at his own objection to Terengganu's Shariah court's controversial decision to cane two Muslim women six times each for allegedly attempting lesbian sex, arguing that his view represents the Islamic position of showing compassion.
“It’s not a moderate position, it’s an Islamic position. I mean, in Islam there is tolerance. We have to be merciful and compassionate. There are other forms of punishment. It’s not necessary to cane these people, so we objected to that. It gives a very bad impression of Islam,” he said of the Terengganu court’s decision.
Dr Mahathir said the two women should have been given counselling instead of being caned.
Earlier this month, Dr Mahathir when commenting on the Terengganu case said it was important to show that Islam is not a ruthless religion that hands out sentences that humiliate people, suggesting that the Shariah courts should consider giving out lighter sentences in the future.