On the last day of Malaysia’s latest session of Parliament, a member of the ruling coalition, UMNO (United Malays National Organisation), had a bill amendment approved which has provoked an outcry in the country, as it aims to tighten the implementation of Sharia Law.
Critics claim it intends to bring in “hudud” punishments, such as lashes for adultery and hand amputation for theft. The term hudud refers to punishments decreed by God.
Non Muslim Malaysians, including many Chinese and Indians, have reacted strongly, saying that the Prime Minister came under pressure from the Islamist Party, which first proposed the bill. Whilst Sharia Law should only apply to Muslims, they are afraid that the intent of the bill is for it to eventually apply country-wide.
The bill was first proposed by the president of the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party, or PAS, a Malay-based political party that governs the state of Kelantan. PAS adheres to a very conservative streak of Islam and one of its main political agendas is for the implementation of Sharia Law.
However, PAS is unable to enforce Sharia Law in Kelantan until the Federal Parliament amends the Sharia Courts Act, which would allow them to administer hudud punishments.
While each state government in Malaysia has jurisdiction over its own laws and regulations, it is the Federal government that holds the key to the enforcement of hudud, thanks to its authority over the judiciary and court systems. Therefore, should the bill be passed in Parliament in October, it would pave the way for hudud penalties to be implemented by Sharia courts in Kelantan.
PAS leaders defended the bill, saying that hudud primarily governs Muslims in Kelantan, but the Democratic Action Party opposition leader, Lim Guan Eng, warned in the Malay Mail that “hudud is no ordinary law. The motion to empower the Sharia courts to mete out sentences short of the death penalty would not be limited to Kelantan, where PAS is hoping to introduce hudud, but would equip all Islamic courts [throughout the country] similarly”.
In the face of this political crossfire, a church leader warned: “PAS, has been fighting to implement Sharia since its inception. Even if they may fail now, they may succeed in the future … Only in strengthening believers to face persecution can we ensure the survival of the Church in Malaysia.”
- Pray for wisdom for the Malay Government in the light of this bill. Pray that they will listen to the concerns of non-Muslims in Malaysia and look seriously at the implications of passing this bill on their freedom to worship and meet together without fear.
- Pray for Christians in Malaysia, to unite together to pray for their country and government, and to grown strong in their faith and witness to their communities of the Gospel.
- Pray for Muslims in Malaysia over this time of Ramadan, that they will encounter Jesus Christ through dreams and vision, and the witness of Christians around them. Pray that many will come to faith in Christ over this month of fasting.
1 Timothy 2 vs 1 – 2: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.“