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11/07/2021 Malaysia (International Christian Concern) – A newly implemented set of Sharia laws in Malaysia’s Kelantan state is criminalizing 24 new offenses, including the attempt to convert out of Islam.

In July 2020, the state sultan, Muhammad V, agreed and passed the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code (I) Enactment 2019, which was amended based on the Syariah Criminal Code (II) 1993 and the existing 1985 Syariah Criminal Code. The new Sharia laws came into effect on November 1, 2021.

According to the state’s chief minister Ahmad Yakob, the enactment enables the state’s Syariah courts to hear and judge on cases pertaining to a specific list of offenses, with punishments including a jail term of not more than three years and a fine of up to RM5,000 (US$1202) or strokes of the cane.

The 24 offenses that will be punished include attempting to convert out of Islam, distortion of Islamic teachings, disrespecting the month of Ramadan, destroying houses of worship, disobeying parents, tattooing, and undergoing plastic surgery.

The Star reports that during the October 31 briefing, minister Ahmad was quoted as saying that the enforcement of the enactment was aimed at educating and bringing the offenders back to the right path of Islam, not just merely punishing them. He added that the implementation of new laws would be beneficial in strengthening the Sharia law, not only in Kelantan, but also in other states in Malaysia.

Critics in Malaysia are concerned about the new enactment, as it contributes to exclusive and intolerant Islam. The women’s rights group Sisters in Islam (SIS) stated that these developments violate fundamental principles of democracy by suppressing critical thought and expression through arbitrary provisions, and punishing those who do not toe the line.

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