The State Assembly of Kelantan, Malaysia, is considering a hudud (crimes against God) bill that will allow the state to execute anyone accused of apostasy, which is the abandonment of Islam.
The Syariah Criminal Code II 1993 classifies “intidah” and “riddah” as voluntary or deliberate pronouncements or utterances of words that violate a Muslim’s creed, known has aqidah.
These involve challenges to fundamental aspects of the Islamic faith of every Muslim, including Rukun Islam (Pillars of Islam), Rukun Iman (Pillars of Faith) and the distinction between halal and haram.
If a person is convicted of apostasy, he or she will receive a prison sentence. If the person does not repent, they could be executed.
“Provided that when he repents whether the repentance is done before the death sentence is pronounced or after such pronouncement is carried out, he shall be free of the hudud sentence and his forfeited property shall be returned to him,” says the bill.
A lawyer, who was not named, told the publication these new provisions are “against basic legal principles and also opens up the grave possibility of arbitrary exercises of the power by state authorities.”
“Firstly, what constitutes a violation of Rukun Islam and Rukun Iman appears not to be properly defined, leaving them open to interpretation,” he claimed. “Secondly, the fact that the purpose of the punishment – even to the point of execution – is to secure repentance throws open the possibility of a citizen being coerced involuntarily into remaining in the faith. It is a trite principle of law that admissions and confessions must be voluntarily given – they cannot be extracted by inducement, threat or promise. Thirdly, and most importantly, it is a clear violation of the fundamental constitutional right of freedom of religion.”
On Friday, the state’s Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob announced a revision. The current version, as written, said the penalty is imprisonment while in the English version, the penalty is imprisonment with possibility of execution. Yakob said in the English version “the death penalty word will be replaced with huded.”
“There’s no difference,” said Kelantan Deputy Menteri Besar Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah. “It reality it is the same. Punishment for apostasy is death penalty. Hudud punishment for apostasy is death. It is just that the word used was different. So, we have adjusted… using ‘hudud’ in English as well. Just so that no one is confused.”