CYBERJAYA: Organisations can be deregistered for offences related to the objection towards Act 355. Dato’ Prof Mahamad Naser Disa mentioned that objection to Act 355 is against Section 2A of Societies Act. This section ensures adherence of societies to the Federal and State Constitutions. Regardless of the nature of these groups, going against the Act can be seen as an offence committed against the legitimate interest of Muslims, and the position of Islam as the religion of Malaysia.
Though not highlighted prior to this, the offence is serious in nature. Delisting of political parties that are against this act can have serious repercussions for the party. Comments that are made by politicians can bear severe consequences due to the large support that they have. Despite being inaccurate can gather serious followers. And this misconception has to be corrected, for the sake of being just and fair.
“It would not be proper to victimise Islam for the purpose of popularity. As it is, the amendment does not affect Muslims and never has. Further more there is no way a non-Muslim can be punished under these amendments. The Act has existed since 1965 and no non-Muslim has ever been sentenced.”
Mahamad Naser further added that, one of the core issues yet to be addressed is that Act 355 is limited to criminal offences. Hence issues pertaining conversions, rights over children and others do not occur.
Introduced in 1965, the Act was last amended in 1984 in accordance with the situation of the time. As of now, 33 years have passed and some of the punishments are not relevant anymore. Limited to a maximum of 3 years prison, RM5,000 fine and 6 lashes, these punishments fail to serve as a deterrents for crime.
The punishments that can be carried out are limited by Item 1, State List, 9th Schedule of the Federal Constitution. Being an exhaustive list, anything that is not mentioned cannot be executed by the Syariah Courts. Thus crimes under the penal code are not a subject of Syariah Courts by virtue of the Federal Constitution.
“Furthermore, the Act has to be debated at each and every state legislation before it can be enacted. Even if passed the approval from the Malay Kings would still be needed. The process is long and tedious”, he added.