Sisters in Islam call for Syariah law review

Leven Woon | October 15, 2012
They say the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment and its record of enforcement is questionable and can lead to abuse.

PETALING JAYA: The Seremban High Court judgment on four Muslim transgenders last week has prompted NGO Sisters In Islam (SIS) to call for a comprehensive review on the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment.

SIS manager Suri Kempe said this when commenting on the court’s dismissal of the transgenders’ application to seek for the right to dress in women clothes under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution.

Justice Siti Mariah Ahmad, when delivering the judgment, had said that the applicants are Muslims and hence are subjected to Section 66 of Syariah Criminal Enactment 1992, that bars Muslim men from dressing or posing as women.

Suri said the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment and its record of enforcement is questionable as it can be abused.
“Is it the duty of the state, under the name of bringing about a moral society, to turn what it considers ‘sins’ into ‘crimes against the state’?

“Should the state extend the long arm of the law to what should be best left to the religious conscience of the individual?” she asked.

She said the reality is that sexual minorities in Malaysia, especially Muslims, are vulnerable to numerous abuses by the state,

“We urge the government to form a committee which includes representation from women’s groups, human rights groups, progressive Islamic scholars and constitutional experts,” she said.

She said the government needed to adopt a more humane way that embraces the Islamic spirit of justice, equality and compassion.

“We need one that is not punitive in nature, and does not subject Muslims to discrimination and persecution in the name of Islam,” she said.

Lawyers for Liberty adviser Latheefa Koya labelled the verdict as “a dangerous trend” as the Federal Constitution now seemed to be subservient to Syariah law.

“It’s a problem if the court just makes assumption and did not take into account the differences between Syariah law and the Federal Constitution.”

She stressed that the Federal Constitution is supposed to be applied to everyone irrespective of race or religion.
“There is no article that says it is selective except when it comes to the position of religion and Bahasa Malaysia,” she said.

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