KUALA LUMPUR: The decision of the G25 group of eminent Malays to set up a Syariah council to reexamine Syariah laws is a bold and refreshing step, said former Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.
In welcoming the move, Zaid, who has had his own run ins with the Islamic authorities, said the review should include all laws described as Syariah by some quarters.
"But I seriously doubt if the G25 will get the support of Jakim and other state religious councils," he said, adding the government and the country's top leaders are also not keen on the G25 move.
"The Constitution which mandated us as a secular democracy has been twisted beyond recognition by religious laws that violate fundamental liberties.
"Unfortunately these laws at present have received the blessings of our top judges," he said adding that the only way to restore democracy is to repeal and revise these religious laws.
Meanwhile, MCA also came out in support of the G25 proposal.
"We believe that the G25 is speaking up for the silent majority who are tired of seeing how there appears to be a bias or running away from responsibilities by decision makers, be they the judiciary or politicians, in interpreting the Federal Constitution," its Religious Harmony Bureau deputy chairman Datuk Ng Chok Sin said in a statement today.
The G25 broached the subject after a forum on "Islam in a Constitutional Democracy" on Sunday.
Its spokeswoman, Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin, said the proposed council would study Syariah law and suggest repeals or amendments where there is trespass of the Federal Constitution.
She added the council will study Syariah laws that had intruded into a citizen's private sphere.
"You cannot have laws that intrude into a person's private sphere," she said, adding there were such problems with the various state Syariah enactments.
She also cited the khalwat or close proximity laws, adding one cannot intrude into someone's bedroom at 3am and arrest them.
Non-Muslims would also be included in the proposed council because they too are affected by Syariah laws.
As an example, she said a spouse converting to Islam had the marriage dissolved by Islamic authorities when the marriage was solemnised under civil laws.