The Malaysian federal court declared several Kelantan state Sharia laws to be unconstitutional in a judgement on Friday. The decision followed a petition deposited by lawyer Nik Elin Zurina Nik Abdul Rashid and her daughter, Tengku Yasmin Natasha Tengku Abdul Rahman, to challenge the constitutionality of provisions of the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code (I) Enactment 2019 related to offenses such as destroying places of worship, sodomy, sexual harassment, use of intoxicating substances, incest and other offenses.
The petition was filed on the basis of Article 4 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution, which provides that “This Constitution is the supreme law of the Federation and any law passed after Merdeka Day which is inconsistent with this Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.” The court found in its ruling that the state has no power to enact Islamic laws regarding such offences as they are under federal law.
Malaysia is a federal country with a dual legal system, where common law and Islamic (Shariah) law, which is applied to Muslims, co-exist, as provided by Article 121 of the federal constitution. States are able to enact laws concerning Islamic matters; however, they must abide by the provisions of the federal constitution.
Rashid celebrated the decision, stating that it proved the supremacy of the federal constitution. She further defended her petition as she reported being victim of death threats, saying that her objective was to protect “the sovereignty of the federal constitution.”
The decision received criticism from the Kelantan ruling party Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and its supporters, with PAS secretary-general, Takiyuddin Hassan, referring to it as a “Black Friday.” He was then criticiszd by Sisters In Islam (SIS), a Malaysian human rights organization, who said his comment is harmful to the country.
Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat maintained in her judgement that the case did not undermine the religion of Islam, in response to claims that it aimed to affect Islamic law in Malaysia. The court’s judgement is yet to be published.