,Federal legislation to control and restrict the spread of non-Muslim religions to Muslims can serve as a guide for other states to update their enactments on the matter.This is according to Nik Bahrum Nik Abdullah (above), who leads the technical committee on syariah and civil laws at the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim).Yesterday, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Ahmad Marzuk Shaary revealed that Putrajaya was planning to draft a Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Amongst Muslims) Bill.At present, most states already have similar enactments but they were all drafted in the 1980s. Sabah, Sarawak, Penang, and Perlis are the only states which do not have such laws.The anti-propagation enactments provide for a fine of up to RM10,000, imprisonment of up to a year, or both for spreading non-Muslim religions to Muslims.However, there is no such act at the federal level, leaving a gap in the Federal Territories.Deputy Minister Ahmad Marzuk ShaaryFor the record, a state law is called an enactment while a federal law is called an act. Prior to being passed by the respective legislatures and becoming laws, they are called bills.While the proposed federal bill will address that gap, Nik Bahrum said improvements will be made compared to what is contained in state laws."Because at the federal level, we are only just doing it, so the drafting can include improvements on various aspects compared to what is already contained in state laws," he told Malaysiakini.Amendments to Act 355Once drafted and approved, Nik Bahrum said the various states can then refer to the new federal law to improve their own anti-propagation legislation.Religious affairs fall under the jurisdiction of states and their rulers. However, religious affairs in the Federal Territories are governed by federal law.The proposed anti-propagation law at the federal level is part of a plan to strengthen syariah implementation.Marzuk, who is also PAS' Pengkalan Chepa MP, said a total of 11 syariah legislation will be amended or created for this purpose.Another key amendment is to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355), a long-time PAS objective.Previously, PAS wanted to increase the maximum penalty provided by Act 355 to 30 years' imprisonment, 100 lashes of the rotan (cane), and a fine of RM100,000.At present, the maximum punishment under Act 355 is only up to an RM5,000 fine, six lashes of the rotan, and three years' imprisonment.Some states, including Kelantan and Terengganu, provide harsher punishments for syariah offences in accordance with hudud, but they cannot be implemented due to the capped punishments under Act 355.
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