NEXT month, lawmakers in Malaysia will debate a Bill to amend the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act or Act 355.
Often referred to as Hadi’s Bill after its proposer, Abdul Hadi Awang, president of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), the Bill seeks to increase Syariah punishment caps to a maximum 30 years’ imprisonment, RM100,000 (US$22,400) fine and 100 lashes of the cane.
This has proven highly controversial in the multi-faith nation, with fears it could lead to the spread of Islamisation and an increase in ethnic tensions.
In reaction to the proposed amendments, two rallies have been scheduled to take place today in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
One of which is the Himpunan RUU355 rally organised by the Islamist PAS in support of the amendments. Disagreement over PAS’ ambitions to strengthen the country’s Syariah criminal justice system was what led to the party’s falling out with its former allies in the opposition two years ago.
The second gathering is a counter-rally by a group of activists calling themselves BEBAS, which means “free” in Malay. BEBAS is rallying in strong objection to the Bill, which they believe will sow religious discord and create divisions.