PUTRAJAYA, 18 Nov 2008: The institution of the judiciary will seek ways to resolve the conflict between civil and syariah laws to avert any misinterpretation, Chief Justice Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi said today.
A solution must be found because many more cases pertaining to syariah laws are expected to be heard in the civil court, he said in his address at the International Seminar on Comparative Laws (ISCOM 2008), here.
The two-day seminar is organised by Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia.
Zaki made reference to a Federal Court case two months ago when he was the Court of Appeal president and had his first experience of hearing and deciding a case involving a conflict between civil and syariah laws.
In that case, one Sulaiman Takrib had wanted to declare sections 10 and 14 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Discretionary Penalty) (Terengganu) Enactment 2001 as well as Section 51 of the Administration of Islamic Religious Affairs (Terengganu) Enactment 2001 invalid.
He had been charged in the Besut Lower Syariah Court with disobeying the orders of the Terengganu Religious Affairs Department in being a member of the Ayah Pin deviationist sect.
The Federal Court decided that the state enactments in dispute were valid laws.
Meanwhile, at a news conference later, Syariah Chief Judge Datuk Ibrahim Lembut acknowledged that it would take a long time for a merger of the common law courts and Syariah courts of a Muslim-majority country, as proposed by retired Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad.
“We try to harmonise the requirements of the civil and syariah laws. Either side would have to accept (the provisions of) the other. They (the civil laws’ side) do not want to accept at all. This is a little difficult,” he said.
Ibrahim, who is also director-general of the Syariah Judicial Department, said a first meeting of the civil and syariah lawyers had been held to identify the suitable or unsuitable matters in the merger process.
On assumptions that the rights of non-Muslims would be neglected, he said that matter did not arise because Islam cared for the people of all religions in the country.
“These assumptions must be discarded. Islam has never discriminated against another religion. This matter has not arisen at all. Why do we need to talk about this (neglect of rights) before concluding discussions on the merger?” he said. — Bernama