Sun, Sep 28, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Malaysian state pledges to impose harsh Islamic law


A Malaysian state controlled by an Islamic opposition party has vowed to defy the federal government by implementing harsh Islamic laws next month which allow stoning, whipping and amputation, a news report said yesterday.

Abdul Hadi Awang, chief minister of Terengganu state, said his government would have its own enforcement teams and judges to implement Islamic criminal law, or hudud, in the state, The New Straits Times reported. Abdul Hadi is also president of the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party.

The move is likely to provoke a strong reaction from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has said that his government would obstruct the Terengganu state government from imposing the Islamic laws.

Mahathir is expected to return home today after addressing the UN General Assembly in New York.

The fundamentalist Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party competes with Mahathir's ruling United Malays National Organization for votes among Malay Muslims, who make up more than 60 percent of Malaysia's 23 million people.

The fundamentalists claim the government is not Islamic enough, while the government says the fundamentalists encourage extremism and violate Islam's tenets of tolerance.

Under the laws proposed for Terengganu, a thief's right hand is amputated for his first offense, and his left foot for the second. A Muslim who renounces Islam is punished by death. Sodomy and adultery are punishable by death by stoning. Muslims who consume alcohol can be whipped up to 80 times.

The fundamentalist party introduced similar laws a decade ago in neighboring Kelantan state, but they aren't enforced because federal laws take precedence. Malaysia's federal constitution guarantees secular laws.

Party officials were not immediately available for comment.

Yesterday, The Star daily cited Abdul Hadi as warning local media not to be critical of the laws.

"Going against the law is like criticizing the true teachings of Islam," The New Straits Times quoted Abdul Hadi as saying.

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