PAS lobs Shariah Bill hot potato at Pakatan

Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang (left) greets Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the PAS Muktamar in Kuala Terengganu September 15, 2018. ― Picture by Azneal Ishak
Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang (left) greets Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the PAS Muktamar in Kuala Terengganu September 15, 2018. ― Picture by Azneal Ishak

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 15 — Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang held up Barisan Nasional’s past support for his bid to enhance Shariah sentences to pressure Pakatan Harapan to do the same.

After years of trying, Hadi’s motion for a Bill to raise Shariah sentencing limits tenfold finally made it to Parliament in 2016 after an Umno minister at the time deferred the government’s affairs to make room for the tabling.

Hadi then deferred the motion and did so repeatedly at later junctures, but now suggested that he intended to renew the controversial attempt.

“Previously, PAS found room to enhance the powers of the Shariah Court as the core of its legal implementation. So, PAS made efforts to amend Act 355 in Parliament since 2016,” he said referring to his Bill on the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 also known as Act 355.

“Now it is upon the new government to determine the attitude to the Bill,” he said in his opening speech at the PAS Muktamar that was attended by the senior leadership of Umno.

PAS and Hadi had initially presented the attempt as a means to introduce hudud, the Islamic penal code, in Kelantan and eventually Malaysia, but later retracted this to claim they were only seeking to enhance the powers of the Shariah courts.

The bid triggered a bitter row with former ally DAP, leading to the eventual collapse of Pakatan Rakyat, the precursor to the ruling Pakatan Harapan.

Prior to the general election, Umno had used Hadi’s Bill to court the Islamist party, resulting in then law minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said facilitating Hadi’s tabling of his motion.

The ambition for hudud is emotive as Muslims are religiously obligated to support it; Muslim lawmakers in PH parties do not openly oppose the bid and couch their positions by either by saying it must be streamlined or that the country is not ready for Islamic penal law.

Non-Muslim opponents to hudud openly call it unconstitutional.

This consequently allows PAS to use its own attempt to burnish its own religious credentials while calling into question that of rival Muslim politicians who do not openly support this.

Hadi’s remarks today suggest that this will again be a main pillar of his party’s Opposition to the government.

“For PAS, the governments of Kelantan and Terengganu stand ready to discuss with the federal government plans to adopt the desires of the Muslim community, along with opening the door for dialogue with academics and NGOs that understand the bigger picture of PAS,” he said.

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