Nov 29, 2006

'Death for apostates'

(The Sun) KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 30, 2006): The punishment for apostates should be death. And apostasy is also a crime under the Federal Constitution.

These were the opinions of two International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) lecturers at yesterday's "Convention on Freedom of Religion and the Issue of Apostasy: Towards Practical Solutions" organised by the IIUM Law Faculty's Islamic Law Department and the Syariah Judiciary Department of Malaysia.

Law lecturer Dr Zulkifly Muda said that according to a hadith or one of the Prophet Muhammad's sayings, the punishment for apostates was death.

However, this law on apostates could not be enforced in Malaysia because the country had yet to adopt a comprehensive Islamic administration system.

"If there is no Islamic system, even though there is Islamic law (as practised by the syariah courts), in the case of a Muslim who commits apostasy, half of the blame goes to other parties including the parents, the government, the police as well as the universities," he said in his talk titled "The Crime of Apostasy: Implications and Solutions from the Perspective of Islamic Law".

"So, the death penalty cannot be carried out here because there is negligence on the part of others which caused a person to apostacise."

Zulkifly also said the Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial, can be used against apostates because apostasy could be deemed a threat to public order and security.

He said this was in line with the prime minister's concept of Islam Hadhari.

"However, some things need to be straightened out in dealing with ISA detainees so that it is more suitable to Islam, for example, how detainees are treated while in detention," he said.

The Education Ministry's SPM syllabus for Pendidikan Islam (Islamic Studies) also teaches students that apostates should be killed.

However, internationally-recognised Islamic jurists have stated that the Quran does not at all stipulate death for apostasy, and argue that the hadith which is often used to justify death was borne out of a time when political saboteurs used apostasy to undermine the nascent Muslim community.

Prof Dr Abdul Aziz Bari, who spoke on "Freedom of Religion from the Perspective of the Federal Constitution", said a careful reading of the Constitution showed that committing apostasy was a crime.

"In the Constitution, there is nothing to say Muslims can become murtad (apostates). That is why it is important for each and everyone of us to understand the Constitution and for non-Muslims, too, to understand Islamic law," he said.

He said the issue was not a non-Muslim problem.

"It is the problem of the Muslim community. The Muslims have the right to decide on this issue."

Mufti: Many ways to become murtad

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 30, 2006): There are many ways a Muslim can become an apostate or murtad. It can be through intention, words or behaviour, Perak mufti Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria said.

This, he said, justified his claim that hundreds of thousands of Malay Muslims have apostacised.

"One can become murtad if he feels in his heart there is another being which possesses the same power as Allah or if one says that all religions are the same," he said at the convention.

"Muslims cannot say this because in the Quran, it is stated, Islam is the only accepted religion.

"We can say there are some things which are common in Islamic teaching as well as other religions but we cannot say all religions, including Islam, are the same."

Speaking on "Freedom of Religion from the Perspective of Syariah", Harussani likened apostasy to a disease. He said like a diabetic who has an infected foot or finger that must be cut off, apostates must face the death penalty.

He has been criticised for creating unnecessary alarm over his unsubstantiated claims, made in February, that 250,000 Muslims had apostacised themselves, while 100,000 more had applied to do so.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Dr Abdullah Mohd Zin said earlier this month the numbers were grossly exaggerated.

A study by Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) law professor Dr Mohd Azam Mohd Adil also revealed that according to the state syariah courts, religious departments and the National Registration Department, the number of conversions are only in the hundreds.

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