Malaysia risks turning into a hardline IS-like religious state, where adulterers are stoned to death and thieves have their hands chopped off. And non-followers who are blasphemous will have their heads chopped off.
The grim warning from former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, comes as current premier Najib Razak courts Islamists to shore up support for his scandal-tainted United Malays National Organisation (Umno) party.
'70,000 people currently convicted of stealing are going to have their hands cut off': he said.
“What is happening now is that Umno feels itself isolated because of what Najib has done. So in search of alliance, Umno is actually trying to win over PAS (Parti Islam se-Malaysia),” Mahathir said in an exclusive interview with South China Morning Post.
PAS wants to introduce the strict sharia penal code hudud, which punishes thieves by chopping off their hands. There’s a chance this could happen, according to Mahathir.
“To win over PAS, they support hudud. That is why hudud has been brought up in parliament. It was actually Umno which helped this movement to increase the power of the sharia court.”
The tiny neighbouring sultanate of Brunei began implementing hudud penalties in 2014, fanning fears in Malaysia of accelerated Islamisation.
Last month, the Malaysian government unexpectedly fast-tracked the tabling of a PAS-sponsored hudud bill in parliament, taking many by surprise.
High-living Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei imposes Islamic hudud law
The bill calls for constitutional changes that allow hudud to be introduced in the north-eastern state of Kelantan, but there are concerns other states may follow suit.
Kelantan is the only state ruled by PAS. Already, there are separate checkout counters for men and women in supermarkets, alcohol is banned and cinemas have to have the lights turned on during film screenings.
The debate on the law has been deferred to October by PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang.
Currently, sharia courts deal only with family matters, including divorce and inheritance.
“The hudud that they (PAS) want to apply here will result in injustice,” Mahathir said.
Outrage in multi-ethnic Malaysia as PM Najib’s government backs Islamic law
“If two persons are accused of theft, one is Chinese and one is Malay. You chop off the hands of the Malay and you give two months jail to the Chinese … it is unjust ... and therefore it is not Islamic. In Islam, the Koran repeats 43 times, (in) 43 verses, that when you judge, you must judge with justice,” Mahathir said.
According to Mahathir, PAS first mooted introducing hudud during his term in office but he told the party it is not possible as Malaysia has a multi-religious population and it would cause problems.
“In the Koran, it is written that God doesn’t like people who cause trouble. Of course a lot of Malays are not happy with my stand but I go by the Koran.”