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Monday, 8 July, 2002, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Malaysian state passes Islamic law
A group of women of different races wait at a bus stop in Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia is a multi-ethnic society with a range of faiths
A state government in Malaysia has approved a bill to bring in Islamic criminal laws, including death by stoning for adultery and cutting off hands and feet for theft.

The bill on hudud law - the Islamic penal code - was proposed by the government of Terengganu, a rural state in the north-east run by Islamic party PAS.


Although our penalties are harsh and terrifying, we must realise that these offences and sins... are truly evil and despicable

Abdul Hadi Awang, Terengganu's chief minister
The bill was easily passed as PAS (Parti Islam se-Malaysia) has 28 members in the assembly, with only four from the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) which dominates nationally.

But PAS has little chance of imposing the proposed law as the federal government controlled by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's coalition has vowed to block it.

The state government in Kelantan, the other Malaysian state controlled by PAS, passed similar laws in 1993 but they have never been enforced because of federal government opposition.

Harsh punishments

As the controversial bill was passed on Monday, the Umno legislators left the chamber in protest.

Under the code, a robber who kills his victim can be sentenced to death and crucified. A thief's right hand is amputated for his first offence, and his left foot for the second.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad
Dr Mahathir is seen as a moderate Muslim
A Muslim who renounces Islam is punished by death.

Women's groups have been particularly angered as the bill states that four male Muslim witnesses are needed to prove a rape.

If they cannot back up their claims they can be charged with slander, which is punished by whipping.

Sodomy and adultery is punishable by death by stoning, while Muslims who consume alcohol can be whipped up to 80 times.

Analysts say PAS - the main opposition party in Malaysia - is using the Islamic law as a way to try to win the support of the country's Muslims ahead of general elections due in 2004.

But Terengganu's Chief Minister Abdul Hadi Awang has defended the bill.

"Although our penalties are harsh and terrifying, we must realise that these offences and sins... are truly evil and despicable," he told the assembly on Sunday.

Mr Abdul Hadi, a hardliner, has been the party's acting president since the death last month of more moderate leader Fadzil Noor.

Muslims make up just over half of Malaysia's 23 million people, but they are in the majority in Terengganu.

See also:

17 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
02 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
12 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
11 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
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