Most Malaysians believe they are not prepared for Islamic penal code

(Photo: REUTERS / Samsul Said)Malaysian Muslims prepare to break their fast on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan in Shah Alam square outside Kuala Lumpur June 29, 2014. Muslims are observing the fasting month of Ramadan, Islam's holiest month, during which observant believers fast from dawn to dusk. They celebrate the end of the Ramadan with Eid al-Fitr festival.

About three in five Malaysians believe that the country is not yet ready to implement the Islamic penal code known as hudud, a study released by a Malaysian-based opinion research firm has found.

Merdeka Center for Opinion Research revealed in a statement Tuesday that out of 1,009 respondents, 59 percent of them said they were not prepared to see hudud laws implemented.

"Among Malay respondents, the survey found high support for hudud and yet at the same time low level of readiness to see it implemented," said the polling firm.

"In our opinion, this possibly reflects their desire to conform to established norms about the primacy of Sharia laws at a personal level but at the same time indicate hesitation to see it fully implemented publicly," it noted.

Of the total number of subjects interviewed, 58 percent were ethnic Malays.

At least 59 percent and 61 percent of Chinese and Indian respondents, respectively, also shared the same sentiment.

Only 30 percent of Malay respondents or 25 percent of the total respondents think otherwise, the study further disclosed.

Of Malaysia's 30 million people 61.3 percent are Muslims, 20 percent Buddhist, 9.2 percent Christians and 6.3 percent Hindus.

Hudud, in Islamic law, or Sharia, refers to the class of punishments that are fixed for certain crimes considered to be "claims of God."

It covers crimes such as robbery, theft, rape, sodomy and adultery, which carry severe punishments, including death by stoning, flogging and amputation.

Based on respondents perceptions of "the capacity of the judicial institutions and capability of the enforcement agencies," only 32 percent believed that hudud can currently be carried out fairly, according to the study.

But the Malay respondents were split on the matter: 44 percent of them expressed confidence that the government could roll out hudud fairly while 43 percent thought differently.

In general, just over half, or about 56 percent of the respondents said they understood what hudud was all about. This number comprised 67 percent Malay, 38 percent Chinese and 51 percent Indian respondents.

Merdeka conducted the study between April 12 and 21, interviewing by phone the respondents selected on the basis of random stratified sampling along ethnicity, gender and state of residence.

Reacting to the results of the survey, a Kelantan lawmaker Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah said that if Malaysians are not ready for hudud, they have to get prepared.

He stressed the only way for the people to accept it is to allow authorities to implement it, the Malay Mail Online reported.

But the lawmaker, head of the state's technical committee on hudud, admitted that more explanation and consultation were required before the country can enforce it.

"There is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to hudud. Yes, the punishments are severe but without understanding the philosophy of it you cannot come to conclusions," he was quoted as saying.

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