04th April, 2008
To: The Editor, The Star (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“Proposal to prosecute non-Muslims for khalwat” - article appearing on 03/4/2008
With reference to the above article, as well as the response from IKIM dated 03/4/2008, may I now inquire whether your paper will be publishing a retraction and apology, correction or will you stand by your report?
I have enclosed both your report and IKIM's response with the relevant portions highlighted for your ease of reference.
c.c. Editor, Berita Harian (email@example.com)
c.c. Ministry of Information (firstname.lastname@example.org)
c.c. IKIM (email@example.com)
c.c. MalaysianBar.org webmaster (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thursday April 3, 2008
Proposal to prosecute non-Muslims for khalwat
By IZATUN SHARI
KUALA LUMPUR: A seminar on Syariah Law review wants non-Muslims found committing khalwat (close proximity) with Muslims to also be held liable.
This was among the proposals made at the two-day seminar organised by the Islamic Institute of Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) and the Syariah Judiciary Department Malaysia.
Syariah Court of Appeal Judge Datuk Mohd Asri Abdullah said the seminar had proposed that non-Muslims committing khalwat with Muslims should also be sentenced accordingly, but in the civil courts.
"We don't have the jurisdiction to sentence non-Muslims committing khalwat with Muslims," he told reporters after closing the seminar on behalf of department director-general Datuk Ibrahim Lembut at Ikim here today.
"The Muslims can be sentenced in Syariah courts, and the non-Muslim partners can probably be sentenced in the civil courts, to be fair to both parties."
He said the proposal, contained in a draft resolution at the seminar, would be forwarded to the Attorney-General's Chambers.
"It is up to the Attorney-General's Chambers or the relevant authorities to decide how to create such a law," he said.
However, he declined to elaborate when the proposal would be forwarded to the Government.
Another proposal is to impose heftier penalties – of up to four times the current penalties – on Muslims caught for khalwat, prostitution, consuming alcohol and involvement in gambling activities.
Mohd Asri said Ikim and the department were proposing that the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Amendment) 1984 be amended to impose stiffer penalties of RM1,000 fine, or five years' jail or 12 strokes of the rotan for Syariah Lower Courts and RM20,000 fine, or 10 years' jail or 24 strokes of rotan for Syariah High Courts.
Current limits are a maximum of three years' jail, or RM5,000 fine, or up to six lashes or any combination of these, and different states provide different penalties for these offences.
"This has not been reviewed since 1984. It has been more than 20 years," said Mohd Asri.
There was also a proposal for Syariah judges to enforce whipping for these offences.
Another proposal calls for the establishment of a rehabilitation centre for those convicted of offences related to morals and faith such as prostitution and effeminate men, and enforcement of Section 54 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Act (Act 559) to set up such centres.
The seminar also agreed to a suggestion that a new provision be created for apostates.
Statement by the Director-General of IKIM
I would like to refer to the article on page 3 in the Tuesday, April 3 2008 edition of The STAR in which the headlines read "Proposal to prosecute non-Muslims for khalwat". I feel it incumbent to clarify certain matters highlighted in the aforementioned article, the contents of which are contentious to say the least.
First of all, IKIM's objectives for the 2 day seminar held in collaboration with the Syariah Judiciary Department Malaysia (JKSM) was intended to review existing syariah laws to see if there were any laws that were redundant and also to propose a solution to some of the issues currently plaguing the syariah judiciary system in Malaysia.
The article in the STAR which reports that the seminar had proposed that non-Muslims caught committing khalwat with Muslims should also be sentenced accordingly but in the civil courts, is entirely erroneous. No such proposal was made, and therefore if what is reported in the Star as being comments allegedly made by Syariah Court of Appeal Judge, are also in error.
Conversely, it is our opinion that non-Muslims cannot fundamentally be charged under any provision in Islamic law by virtue of the fact that they do not profess the religion of Islam. In addition, to my knowledge, there is no such provision in the civil courts to charge a person for khalwat, and therefore it would be premature to assume that non-Muslims can also be subjected to the charge of khalwat in the civil courts.
I am disappointed with the article highlighting comments allegedly made by Datuk Mohd. Asri Abdullah which emphasized the banal, when in reality the more important substantive proposals having to do with laws protecting the rights of divorced women and their rights to maintenance, were ignored.
Towards the end of the article, it also alleges that there was a proposal calling "for the establishment of a rehabilitation center for those convicted of offences related to morals and faith such as prostitution and effeminate men". To my knowledge, I have never interpreted being effeminate as an offence. But more importantly this so called proposal as reflected in the article is not representative of the proposals made during the seminar at IKIM. If indeed the learned Syariah Court of Appeal Judge made those statements, we strongly advise that it would behoove the learned Judge to be more circumspect in future.