Political Islam: Syariah-inspired laws in some parts of Malaysia, Indonesia worry

KUALA LUMPUR/PADANG: Ms Hasyimah Ayuni has only recently taken an interest in Islam outside the mosque.

The youngest of seven siblings, Ms Hasyimah, who is pursuing a masters degree in environmental health at a university in Malaysia’s Klang Valley, now believes that it is her duty to live in accordance with Islamic principles. 

This came about following a court case that challenged the validity of several Syariah laws in the eastern state of Kelantan in February.    

Ms Hasyimah told CNA that as Malaysia has a Muslim majority, it was logical that laws for Muslims be given priority over other laws.

She also wants Malaysia to use Syariah laws instead of the common law system being used today.  

“As a Muslim, you have laws in your religion that God told you to follow but your country asks you to follow (their) laws, some which are based on Western sources (and) differ from your religion. Wouldn’t you feel angry and sad?” she said, adding that Islam covers all aspects of life. 

She believes Syariah laws are the best set of laws that would guarantee the wellbeing of both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

“This is because the laws are based on legal sources for Muslims such as the Quran (Islam’s holy book),” she said. 

According to a study by the Pew Research Center in 2022, most Muslims in both Malaysia and neighbouring Indonesia favoured making Syariah the official law of the land. 

The results of the study, which were released in September last year, said that 86 per cent of Malaysian Muslims supported using Syariah as the official law of the land, while 64 per cent of Indonesian Muslims supported the idea.  

But communities in the two countries are debating whether these regulations should apply to all, or if Islam’s influence could impact diversity and social freedoms. 

According to the Pew Research Center, Syariah, or Islamic law, offers moral and legal guidance for nearly all aspects of life – from marriage and divorce, to inheritance and contracts, to criminal punishments. 

About 63.5 per cent of Malaysians are Muslims, according to official statistics.

Political analyst Azmi Hassan of the Nusantara Strategic Academy said most Muslims in Malaysia would say that Syariah law should be used to govern them, and this was regardless of where they come from or their status. 

“The belief is there in general. Syariah laws are considered to be the ultimate in governance and Muslims believe them to be the best laws compared to whatever other laws that are being practised,” he said.

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