Is RUU 355 intended as ‘Hudud law’?

By Aisyah Shasuddin

Malaysia has been shocked by the issue of amendment for RUU 355 (private bill) that is proposed by Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang in Parliament on 26 May 2016 where the proposal raised the issue of hudud once again. Back in 1984, the Act has been amended for three times pertaining to its penalties on the offenders. However, this time around, the issue has become the debate on motion since it was proposed by a leader of the opposition party.

As for now, the highest penalty that can be imposed on the offenders who commit seclusion, adultery or cohabitation according to the state Shariah Criminal Enactment are fine not exceeding RM5,000 or imprisonment not exceeding three years or to whipping not exceeding six strokes or any combination thereof.

However, the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Revised 1984) (Act 355) has limit the power of the state to approve any law relating to criminal law and a Sharia court judge is only allowed with the penalties mentioned because RUU 355 is a law passed by Parliament and enforced throughout the country. Any amendment of RUU 355 must be approved by the majority of parliament’s members.

The main objective of the RUU 355 amendments is to increase the jurisdiction of the Shariah Court to allow the Islamic judicial profession. If we observed on the contents of RUU 355, Hudud has nothing to do with the application of the RUU 355 amendments proposed since the application seeks to strengthen the punishment mentioned in sharia penal law. The current penalties can be seen as no more relevance to the state and it does not really give the great impact to the offenders who are Muslims. Thus, what is proposed is to increase the maximum penalty that is consistent with Islamic law as total fines, imprisonment and strokes will be determined by the Legislative Assembly itself.

Thus, this bill is not of Islamic law which is based on substantive arguments from the Qur’an and Sunnah in which every Muslim can choose to support or reject the changes made or proposed to this rule. RUU 355 also is a substantive procedure that all parties, including non-Muslims should also express the view in the content of the rules of this law. In addition, the non-Muslim should not oppose and question about it as amendment 355 is an amendment relating to the jurisdiction of the Shariah Court. Federal constitutional jurisdictions have established Shariah Courts for Muslims only and Act 355 section 2 also has explain that only Muslims can be tried and sentenced in Shariah Courts.

Some people say that this amendment will introduce hudud law in Malaysia. However, this statement is not true and baseless. RUU 355 does not provide any legal hudud inside it and any form of hypothetical assumption against RUU 355 must be handled according to the appropriate time and situation. The options to increase the sentence to the maximum rate are subject to the consideration and selection from the states. What matter is the increased penalty in RUU 355 will gives space to the states to increase their punishment to ensure the effectiveness of law enforcement.

All in all, RUU 355 has nothing to do with adding power to the Shariah Court to try the cases of theft or robbery, rape or even murder. Even though RUU 355 had been approved in future, it still only covers the issue of adultery and indecent, defamatory issue of adultery and gambling and alcohol issues. It is quite frustrating when the Act is associated with hudud law as they deliberately with malicious intent try to cause chaos in public by deflect the main contents of the Act, which in line with socio-economic changes that are needed to prevent the Muslims involved with moral behaviour which is contrary to Islamic morals. However, implementation of this amendment should be examined from various aspects in order to avoid any undesirable problems in the future.***

Image taken from TerengganuKini

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