Reports: Remote Malaysian state passes law against deviant teachings

Posted: Friday, April 21, 2000

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- A remote northern state has become the first in Malaysia to impose a law to curb deviant teachings among Muslims by detaining offenders in rehabilitation centers.

The Perlis state assembly passed the Islamiah Faith Protection Bill 2000 empowering Islamic courts in the state to prosecute Muslims who practice or spread deviant teachings, The Sun and Sunday Star newspapers reported on April 9.

Those found guilty will be detained for up to a year.

Perlis Chief Minister Shahidan Kassim, quoted by local media, denied that the law was passed to ''trap'' opposition politicians whom the government has accused of abusing Islam for their own political purposes. Government leaders have singled out the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, or PAS, for allegedly promising a place in heaven for Muslims in the country who support the party. PAS has denied such claims.

The fundamentalist party has repeatedly clashed with the federal government by advocating death for apostasy and the amputation of limbs for certain crimes. Malaysia's Parliament has vetoed such punishments as too extreme.

Muslim Malays comprise more than half of Malaysia's 22 million people. But the Southeast Asian nation's minority Buddhists, Hindus and Christians are allowed relative freedom to practice their faith.

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