PETALING JAYA: Attendance at the counter-rally held to object PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s proposed Shariah Act amendments paled in comparison to the one organised by the Islamist party.
While thousands were reported to have gathered along with PAS leaders at Padang Merbok to show their support for the amendments, less than 200 people showed up at the “Himpunan Rakyat Tolak Usul Hadi” held here today.
Both rallies were held at the same time.
Noting the poor attendance, and the absence of parliamentarians, Azrul Mohd Khalib from secular activist group Bebas — the organiser of the rally — urged the crowd to contact their respective electoral representatives.
“Tell them to vote against Hadi’s bill!” he said to them, adding that the group will send a letter to the Dewan Rakyat to “make sure our voices are heard. We have a voice. We have an equal stake in this country, along with our Muslim brothers and sisters.”
The only political leaders speaking at the rally this afternoon were DAP’s Zaid Ibrahim, and Gerakan youth deputy chief Andy Yong.
Addressing the attendees who came from all walks of life, Azrul warned the public of the injustice that will take place if Hadi succeeded in his plans to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965.
And those with power will most likely get away, he added.
“They will go after the weak and the vulnerable, women and those from the lower-income group that are just trying to earn money.
“They will be victimised and they will be the ones who will have to pay.”
He also rejected PAS’ claim that the non-Muslims will not be affected by the amendments, citing a case in Aceh, Indonesia as an example.
In the case that happened in Takengon, Aceh last year, a 60-year-old Christian woman was whipped 30 times in public for selling alcohol. The province is the only place in Indonesia where Islamic law is enforced.
According to Azrul, even without the amendments, non-Muslims were already affected by Malaysia’s Shariah laws, as was seen in recent incidences.
These include the raids on hardware stores suspected of selling paintbrushes made of pig bristles, and the regulation which prohibited non-halal certified cakes on McDonald’s premises.
“These are nothing compared to what will happen,” he said.
The bill seeks to increase shariah courts’ punitive powers from the current prison sentences of a maximum of three years, RM5,000 fine and six strokes of caning.
Hadi, through the bill, proposed to empower shariah courts to impose up to 30 years imprisonment, 100 strokes of the cane and a fine up to RM100,000.