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"Moderate" Malaysia to introduce sharia soon

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Submitted by Vijay (United Kingdom), Sep 2, 2007 at 06:31

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/09/01/wmalay101.xml

Malaysia considers switch to Islamic law
By Thomas Bell in Kuala Lumpur

Hardline Islamic law could be introduced across Malaysia under reforms proposed by the country's chief justice.

As the nation in south-east Asia celebrated 50 years of independence from Britain yesterday, its government was preparing to discuss a plan that would revolutionise the legal system put in place by its former colonial administrators.

As Kuala Lumpur witnessed celebrations that included parades, fireworks and a fighter-jet fly-by attended by the Duke of York, the proposal pointed to the deep differences which locals say are poisoning social relations beyond the glitter and skyscrapers of Malaysia's modern capital city.

Ahmad Fairuz, the chief justice, told an Islamic conference in Kuala Lumpur that 50 years of independence had failed to free Malaysia from the "clutches of colonialism". Sharia law should be "infused" into the gaps created by abolishing common law, he said.

Malaysia's non-Muslim Chinese and Indian communities, who form 40 per cent of the population, are alarmed at creeping Islamisation.

Abdul Badawi, the prime minister, this month joined other leaders for the first time in denying what the British-authored constitution has said for 50 years - that Malaysia is a secular state.

Sharia law already operates in some Malaysian states and is occasionally applied to non-Muslims, as in July when Islamic officials forcibly separated a Hindu-Muslim couple with six children after 21 years of marriage.

The majority ethnic Malays are defined as Muslim by law and forbidden from converting.

Racial tensions are already high due to official discrimination in favour of Malays, who enjoy better employment opportunities, preferential loans and lower house prices.

Dr Mohd Hatta, of the Islamic Party, welcomed the latest proposal in principle, but said: "The chief justice should be enforcing laws, not making them."

Meanwhile, dissent is increasingly harshly repressed. Journalists and bloggers say they are tailed by police and their phones are tapped.

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