Landmark Ruling: Malaysian Federal Court Declares Kelantan State Sharia Laws Unconstitutional

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – The Malaysian federal court ruled on Friday that several Kelantan state Sharia laws are unconstitutional. The decision came after lawyer Nik Elin Zurina Nik Abdul Rashid and her daughter, Tengku Yasmin Natasha Tengku Abdul Rahman, filed a petition challenging the constitutionality of provisions in the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code (I) Enactment 2019 which dealt with offenses such as destroying places of worship, sodomy, sexual harassment, use of intoxicating substances, incest, and others.

The petition was based on Article 4 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution, which states that any law inconsistent with the Constitution shall be void. The court determined that the state does not have the authority to enact Islamic laws concerning these offenses as they fall under federal law.

Malaysia has a dual legal system, with common law and Islamic (Shariah) law coexisting. Islamic laws apply to Muslims, as stated in Article 121 of the federal constitution. While states can pass laws regarding Islamic matters, they must comply with the provisions of the federal constitution.

Nik Elin Zurina Nik Abdul Rashid celebrated the court’s decision, emphasizing that it demonstrated the supremacy of the federal constitution. She defended her petition, revealing that she had received death threats, and asserted that her goal was to safeguard “the sovereignty of the federal constitution.”

The ruling sparked criticism from the Kelantan ruling party, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), and its supporters. PAS secretary-general, Takiyuddin Hassan, referred to the decision as a “Black Friday.” Sisters In Islam (SIS), a Malaysian human rights organization, criticized Hassan’s statement, deeming it detrimental to the nation.

Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat maintained that the case does not undermine the religion of Islam, refuting claims that it aimed to affect Islamic law in Malaysia. The court’s full judgment is yet to be published.

While the decision by the Malaysian federal court declares several Kelantan state Sharia laws unconstitutional, it also highlights the ongoing tension between state and federal laws in the country’s legal system. The ruling will likely continue to spark debates and discussions surrounding the authority of Islamic laws and the primacy of the federal constitution in Malaysia.