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Press Statement: Drop Proposal of Syariah Police

Sisters in Islam calls on the Government to drop the proposal to establish a special police unit dubbed “syariah police”.

We do not believe a punitive approach to monitor Muslims and how they practise their faith is the wisest way forward for a country that claims to lead a global movement of moderates.

Ostensibly, the “syariah police” is supposed to battle the spread of Shiite teachings. By JAKIM estimates, Shiahs number roughly 1500 or 0.005 per cent of the population. How can this justify federal intervention when the states already have their own Syariah enforcement officers to deal with offences under Syariah laws?

Coming as it did after JAKIM admitted it lacked evidence to take these individuals to Syariah court, this proposal sounds like a means to enhance the enforcement powers of the state religious authorities.

We are concerned that this could lead to further harassment, intimidation and moral policing of Muslims and the violation of their fundamental liberties as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

The Syariah Criminal Offences laws contain vaguely drafted “catch all” provisions, which provide wide discretion for interpretation and abuse by enforcement officers. Religious raids have often led to the violation of personal dignity and privacy, and in some cases death. We have not read of any investigations carried out to hold these religious enforcement officers to account.

The further expansion of the Syariah authorities’ enforcement powers and the establishment of yet another parallel Syariah institution to govern and punish Muslims does not bode well for the peace and unity of this country.

This development undermines and contradicts the Malaysian government’s own ambition to create a global ‘Movement of Moderates’ and to be an inclusive society accepting of diversity. During the Movement’s launch in January 2012, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said:

“We have many ethnic groups, many religions, but we continually strive to be a harmonious and truly united nation predicated on the values of moderation and the spirit of 1Malaysia.”

“Governments must lead by example. For how can we expect moderation from others, if our own actions take us away from the middle of the road.”

“I believe that peace-loving Muslims – the overwhelming majority of Muslims – should unite against the extremists who use our religion as an excuse to commit violence. And one of the most powerful tools we have to do so is alwasatiyyah: the practice of moderation.”

Sisters in Islam therefore calls on the Government of Malaysia to walk its talk and apply moderation to its actions, instead of manufacturing fear and sowing divisiveness in society.

Sisters in Islam
19 December 2013