January 1994 : Page 1, 2, 3, 4
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News Update from Around the World

The Case of the Professor
Vs. the Fundamentalists

An Egyptian court ruled in late January to dismiss the case brought by “Muslim” fundamentalists against professor Nasser Abu Zeid (see Submitters Perspective, December 1993 issue). He is the Cairo University professor of Arabic literature whose writing so inflamed the fanatics that he has been declared as an apostate. According to the human-made Sharia law, Abu Zeid’s marriage to his wife, who is a professor of French at the same University, must be dissolved because it is unlawful for a Muslim woman to remain married to an apostate. A civil affairs court judge turned down the suit on grounds that the plaintiffs had no direct interest in the case.

“Muslim” fanatics in Egypt have waged a campaign of violence for more than two years to push for an “Islamic” state, resulting in nearly 300 deaths. Egyptian intellectuals, one of the targets of the campaign, have watched the professor’s case closely. They are reminded of the 1992 murder of Farag Foda, a writer who was an outspoken critic of the fundamentalists. The ‘ulama had issued a decree declaring Foda an apostate, hence giving the fanatics a license to kill him.

Lawyers for the fundamentalists have pledged to appeal. One of them insisted that “any Muslim has the right to ask for the separation of an apostate for his wife. An ‘ulama who supported the suit said there were 200 instances in Abu Zeid’s writings “which prove that he has insulted prophet Muhammad and Islamic law.”


Kelantan Sharia Legislation: A Move Backward

A group of Muslim professional women in Malaysia have voiced their opposition to the enactment of the Sharia Criminal Code in the Malaysian state of Kelantan. The PAS-controlled Kelantan State Assembly passed the legislation in November (PAS is the Malay acronym for the Islamic Party of Malaysia).

Calling themselves the Sisters-in-Islam, the group includes journalists, academicians and lawyers. They submitted a four-page memorandum to Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad outlining their objections. In it, they argued that the enactment discriminated against women in criminal and divorce matters. They also questioned the basis of the law which prescribes amputation of limbs for thefts, stoning to death for adulterers and lashings for alcoholic consumptions. Other aspects of the law which they found questionable included the death penalty for apostasy. “They are the product of human interpretations, consensus and human inference, not divine injunctions,” said the memorandum.

The Sisters-in-Islam has become the first Muslim group in the country to voice their objection publicly (a noted Malaysian writer, Dr. Kassim Ahmad - who is the head of the Malaysian Quranic Society - has also written a newspaper article critical of the legislation). The women’s group also urged the National Front coalition, which holds power at the federal level, to postpone any action that might permit the implementation of the Kelantan law. Although the National Front, which rules in 10 remaining states in Malaysia, has no plans to replace the present secular criminal code, it has not made clear its opposition to the Kelantan’s move. This reflects the appearance of paralysis among the politicians in the country because of this controversial issue. As one Muslim parliamentarian form the National Front of the Kelantan state puts it, “even if we disagree, we can’s oppose it because these provisions are prescribed in the Quran.” Which goes to show that so many people who call themselves Muslims are actually ignorant of what the Quran says.

Editor’s note: An article by Dr. Kassim Ahmad on how Malaysia should resolve the Sharia Law dilemma will be published in a coming issue of SP, God willing.


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