Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today slammed the jail sentences and fines handed out to six people in Terengganu for skipping Friday prayers, saying it is a personal matter in which the state should not interfere.
The six individuals, including two teenagers, were sentenced to a month in prison and fined over RM2,000 each by the shariah court in Kuala Terengganu.
They were caught bathing at a popular picnic spot at the Sekayu waterfall in August in a case believed to be the first of its kind in Malaysia.
In a statement, its legal coordinator Zaid Malek urged the Minister for Islamic Affairs Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa to look into the matter and resolve it as soon as possible.
Zaid said while such acts might be considered improper by some in Muslim society, criminal punishment was excessive and not the way to address these issues.
He added that the decision and sentence were in stark contrast to the statement by Mujahid that the government was reviewing the legal system with a view to making penalties more rehabilitative, rather than punitive.
“The alleged failure to attend Friday prayers is a personal matter which the state should not govern or interfere.
“It is high time to reconsider the rationale of imposing a prison sentence and fine for mere skipping of Friday prayers and similar offences in the first place.
“Islam is a religion of compassion, justice, mercy and moderation. Criminal punishment is excessive and not the way to address them,” he added.
The Bar Council has also criticised the sentence as “harsh and excessive”, with its president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor saying that justice must be tempered with mercy.