The defeat of Jakarta’s Christian and ethnic Chinese governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama this week showed politicians would not be elected if they insulted Islam, says a leader of a Malaysian opposition Islamist party.
Malaysia’s Pan-Islamic Party (PAS) information Chief Nasrudin Hassan said similar to Indonesia, Muslim voters in Malaysia would step up to reject anyone who demeans the religion, reports the Malay Mail Online.
Nasrudin’s remarks came amid a contentious national debate on PAS move to table a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament that would impose harsher penalties under the country’s Syariah code.
Among other controversial measures, the changes would introduce up to 100 lashes and lengthy prison terms for moral offences, and a further law on unilateral religious conversions of children.
“This success clearly shows a signal of Islam’s uprising there. When you insult Islam, don’t think Muslims will not act by rejecting you as a leader. The Jakarta election has proven it,” Nasrudin was quoted as saying in a statement.
“Now, the same spirit is spreading among Muslims in Malaysia. The issue of amending Act 355 and Act 164 will open the eyes of citizens here to see who are foes and friends when it comes to fighting for Islam.”
In the coming months, lawmakers will debate a controversial bill known as “Hadi’s Bill”, to amend Act 355 of the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965. This proposes harsher punishments to replace current sentences that have long been implemented under the civil system.
Traditionally, Malaysia’s Syariah courts focused on family and marital affairs, and handing out minor fines amounting to no more than around USD$1,000 or relatively light prison sentences for moral offences, which were rarely enforced.
The religious courts are restricted to imposing punishments of up to three years’ jail, a RM5,000 fine or whipping of no more than six strokes — also referred to in the country as the “3-5-6” penalties — for offences against Islam.
However, if passed, the Bill would grant additionally punitive powers to the Syariah courts and allow its judges to impose up to a hundred lashes, RM100,000 fines (USD$21,000) and 30-year jail sentences on Muslims convicted of the same moral offences and other victimless crimes.
@twt_malaysia Malaysia could implement Syariah law, but for this moment we're just not ready yet without acceptance among different religion
— zarif (@wanakmalzarif) November 25, 2016
Save for the death penalty, the amendments will be enshrined under state jurisdiction in the Federal Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.
Examples of punishable crimes under the proposed amendments include pre-marital sex, alcohol consumption, failure to attend Friday prayers or fast during Ramadhan.
Amid a backdrop of rising Islamic sentiments and fractured race relations, PAS, an Islamist opposition party which is working closely with traditional rivals and ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno), is closer to realising its decades-long pursuit of enforcing strict Islamic Syariah laws for criminal offences, threatening to worsen religious ties in an oft-polarised multiracial nation.
Ahok was unofficially defeated by former Indonesian education minister Anies Baswedan, who rode on a wave of anti-Ahok sentiment spurred by the incumbent’s comments regarding Al Maidah 51 – a Quranic verse which deals with whether Muslims can elect a non-Muslim.
Following the comments, Ahok faced charges under Indonesia’s blasphemy laws which could see him be sent to prison.
The defeat came after a religiously charged campaign that cast shadow over Indonesia‘s international reputation for practising a tolerant form of Islam.
Anies won with 58 percent of the votes versus 42 percent for Ahok, based on an unofficial “quick count” by Indikator Politik. Other pollsters showed similar results. The election commission will announce official results in early May.
Anies’ comfortable margin of victory was surprising given opinion polls in the run-up to the election had pointed to a dead-heat. Ahok narrowly won the first round of voting for governor in February in a three-way race.
Jakarta’s first ethnic Chinese and Christian leader in fifty years, Ahok has denied the blasphemy charges which carry a maximum prison sentence of five years. A verdict is expected in the coming weeks.
Additional reporting by Reuters