Friday, March 20, 2015

Malaysia: new legislation says leaving Islam punishable by death

The most populous Muslim country and one held up as a shining example of Islamic moderation is about to deal with the question of death for apostasy.  There should never be a reason in this enlightened world to have a discussion about whether someone should be killed for changing their religion, but within Islam alone, that tenet is enshrined within the doctrine through the hadiths of Muhammad.  A discussion of this tenet would go far in reforming Islam, but that will not happen until the ulema decides to reopen the gate of ijtihad and have an honest talk about how to bring Islam into the 21st century.

From FMT March 18

Apostasy under Kelantan’s hudud carries the death penalty

The hudud bill to be tabled by Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) before the Kelantan State Assembly prescribes the death penalty for the offence of apostasy, the Malay Mail Online reports today.

The Syariah Criminal Code II 1993 classifies “intidah” and “riddah” as voluntary or deliberate pronouncements or utterances of words that violate a Muslim’s creed, known has aqidah.

These involve challenges to fundamental aspects of the Islamic faith of every Muslim, including Rukun Islam (Pillars of Islam), Rukun Iman (Pillars of Faith) and the distinction between halal and haram.

According to the report, the enactment does not define what would constitute a violation of Rukun Islam or Rukun Iman.

Under the proposed legislation, the immediate punishment for such an offence is imprisonment over a period to be determined by the Syariah Court “for the purpose of repentance.”

However, chillingly it goes on to say that if the offender fails to repent, the punishment may extend to execution.

“Provided that when he repents whether the repentance is done before the death sentence is pronounced or after such pronouncement is carried out, he shall be free of the hudud sentence and his forfeited property shall be returned to him,” the enactment says, as quoted by the report.

A senior lawyer consulted by FMT suggests that the provisions were also against basic legal principles and also opens up the grave possibility of arbitrary exercises of the power by state authorities.

“Firstly, what constitutes a violation of Rukun Islam and Rukun Iman appears not to be properly defined, leaving them open to interpretation,” he suggests.

“Secondly, the fact that the purpose of the punishment – even to the point of execution – is to secure repentance throws open the possibility of a citizen being coerced involuntarily into remaining in the faith,” he adds.

“It is a trite principle of law that admissions and confessions must be voluntarily given – they cannot be extracted by inducement, threat or promise.”

“Thirdly, and most importantly, it is a clear violation of the fundamental constitutional right of freedom of religion.”

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