After PJ MP sentenced for ‘insulting’ Shariah judiciary, fellow lawmakers say judges not immune from criticism

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Maria Chin was sentenced over a statement made on September 5, 2019, pointing out that Muslim women in Malaysia are still being discriminated against under the Shariah judicial system here.. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Maria Chin was sentenced over a statement made on September 5, 2019, pointing out that Muslim women in Malaysia are still being discriminated against under the Shariah judicial system here.. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — A group of MPs said today they are concerned by the Shariah court sentencing Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah to seven days of jail for allegedly insulting the Shariah judicial system.

The MPs said any judge, either in the civil or Shariah system, should be open to criticism especially when it involves institutionalised problem such as how women are being seen as discriminated by state Islamic laws.

“Especially a person like Maria who has public duties as a member of Parliament. Her comments were not scurrilous or malicious. They were clearly done in good faith with the view that the Shariah legal system and other bodies would address them.

“Judges are by no means immune to public criticism and accountability to those they serve in order to place confidence in the judiciary,” the group said in a statement.

They said Maria’s sentencing which was done in her absence is unlawful, as it contradicts existing legal provisions on sentencing.

Maria on April 25 was sentenced to one week in jail by Shariah judge Mohamed Fouzi Mokhtar for contempt of court over her statement that was found to “belittle, demean and insult” the Islamic judicial system.

She had released a statement on September 5, 2019, pointing out that Muslim women in Malaysia are still being discriminated against under the Shariah judicial system here.

The statement was in response to a case initiated by prominent businessman Datuk SM Faisal SM Nasimuddin and the latter’s ex-wife Emilia Hanafi.

“We will stand by Maria in her exercise of her right of freedom of expression in raising matters of clear public interest albeit critical of the Shariah judicial system just as we would even if the civil system was the subject matter,” they added.

The statement was signed by a total of 79 MPs.

Among those were PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, former women’s minister Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu, DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke, and Parti Warisan Sabah deputy president Datuk Darell Leiking.

Also co-signing were Parti Pejuang Tanah Air president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation (Upko) president Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau, and Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) president Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman.

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