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by Staff Writer

When a State Assemblyman from Kelantan made a press statement that the Kelantan Government was not serious in implementing the Syariah Law, he must be either ignorant or lying for he should, as a legislator, know that the matter is beyond the control of the State. He ought to have known at least the basic provisions of the Federal and State constitutions. By repeating ad nausem what his colleagues in the party have been saying all the while, he thinks that he can fool the people all the time. The matter has already been dealt with by prominent non-partisan lawyers, and their views published in the main stream media.

The same explanation must now once again be put across plainly to him and to others like him, that the implementation of the Syariah Law (in particular the Hudud and Qisas) is not possible unless the Federal Contitution is amended at the relevant parts. Otherwise there will be an impasse.

Take for example the case of theft involving a Muslim. The criminal law of theft is covered by the Federal List and excluded from the State List (Article 74, 77 and 95B(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution) In simple terms it means that only the Federal Government can legislate laws on theft and the State is excluded from legislating, let alone providing punishment for it. A person accused of theft therefore can only be tried in ordinary court and not the Syariah Court.

Or take another example of adultery ( voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone who is not that person's husband or wife), where both parties are Muslims. Adultery is not an offence in accordance with the Federal law, as distinguished from rape. Therefore an adulterer cannot be charged and punished, although it is a heinous crime under the Syariah.

Assuming that an adulterer is arrested and tried in the Syariah Court and subsequently proven guilty, the punishment meted out to him or her cannot exceed six strokes of the rotan, which is farcical in the face of Syariah Law, which imposes mandatory punishment of stoning to death (for a married person) and a hundred lashes (for an unmarried person) (see Akta Mahkamah Syariah (Bidang kuasa Jenayah) (Pindaan 1984), 1965). The same thing applies to offences like murder, robbery, drunkenness, and apostasy where hudud and qisas would have been applied if they are tried by the Syariah Court.

It is clear therefore that whether Kelantan is able to administer the Syariah Laws or not, will depend very much upon the willingness of the Federal Government to co-operate by amending Article 95B (1)(a) of the Federal Constitution, in particular giving a clear definition to the words "....precepts of that religion...."

The question now is, should UMNO leaders, who profess to be Muslims, clap their hands in glee because of wielding such power over Kelantan so as to stagnate the State's effort to implement hudud merely for its (UMNO's) political expedience? If they do, then it is clearly an act of transgression, self-betrayal, which needless to say is self-destruction in the Hereafter. No retribution is more severe than those inflicted upon Muslims who wage war against God.

But on the other hand if the Kelantan draft is found to be inherently weak-technically or otherwise, then it becomes incumbent upon the UMNO leaders to correct those weaknesses, but nevertheless let the Kelantan government pursue this sacred mission. That should have been the stand of every Muslim leader, whatever his political persuasion. For a Muslim possessed of iman, the bottom line is, he cannot trade Islam for political exigency.

The other aspect that must be realised is, Syariah is central to Islam, and fundamental to the Muslims in the practise of their religion.

"Every person has the right to profess and practise his religion..." (Article 11 (1) of Federal Constitution). A denial of Syariah is therefore a denial to practise one's religion. The obligation imposed on the Muslim to follow the Syariah is no less than the obligation imposed on the Muslim to fast in the month of Ramadhan. Its continued denial may only weaken Malay support towards UMNO.

The hard fact seems to be that Islam is, to UMNO, a misunderstood religion. UMNO understands Islam only as a religion of rituals and cultural phenomenon, and not a complete code covering one's whole life - a distorted view usually held by those who are ignorant about Islam.

And these secular extremists are the the real obstacle standing in the way of Islamic revival. But manipulative and treacherous as they are towards Islam and the Muslims, the surge for Islamic fundamentalism is marching on at a rapid pace.

The sign of God's promise that TRUTH will ultimately prevail is now very much in the air.