CAIRO - Quashing a pledge by a main Islamic party to apply hudud, the Malaysian opposition have reaffirmed that it will not implement Islamic penalties following next year's general election.
We are still tied to September 28, where our priority is the economy and any changes are tied to the constitution and joint policies, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of People's Justice Party (PKR), told the Malaysian Insider on Monday, May 14.
So we have not changed our stand.
The reaffirmation came days after the leader of Malaysia's Islamic party PAS, Abdul Hadi Awang, said the party would amend the constitution to apply hudud if it won the election.
But the call for hudud application drew fire from PAS's partner in the opposition alliance, the secular Democratic Action Party (DAP).
The alliance's members held a meeting Monday to discuss the issue.
We agreed back then to uphold the Federal Constitution on the position of Islam while at the same time respecting the different ideologies and religious beliefs within Pakatan Rakyat, Hadi said, referring to the opposition alliance.
Kit Siang, of the secular DAP, said the alliance would maintain the Common Policy Framework, which covers the bloc's commitment to the constitution.
If there is any change in policy it will have to be by way of consensus from all three Pakatan Rakyat parties, he said.
And on the question of hudud - it is not in the Common Policy Framework.
We respect PAS' views on hudud but our position is also very clear as we feel it is not in accordance with the Federal Constitution.
PAS leader Abdul Hadi calmed fears about cracks in the opposition coalition over differences on hudud application.
We are firm on that common policy and resolutions made by PR, he said.
And we respect the difference of ideologies but we don't want to solve this through the media... but a democratic process.
PAS non-Muslim members have earlier called on alliance's partners to avoid talking about hudud to avoid confusing voters.
Hu Phang Chiau, president of PAS non-Muslim supporters' congress, said hudud should best be discussed behind closed doors and not in the public realm because of its sensitivity.
With an estimated 800,000 members, PAS is the main rival of Prime Minister Najib Razak's United Malays National Organization.
Hudud are part of PAS' political agenda and has been one of the pillars of its policies.
A few years ago, PAS has enacted the hudud laws in its stronghold in Kelantan to be imposed only on Muslims, who represent about 90 percent of the state's 1.5 million population.
The laws introduced hudud for theft, robbery, adultery, liquor consumption and apostasy.
Malaysia's parliamentary elections are due in 2013, but expectations are high that the polls could be called much earlier.
Muslim Malays form about 60 percent of Malaysia's 26-million population, while Christians make up around 9.1 percent.Buddhists constitute 19.2 percent, Hindu 6.3 while other traditional Chinese religions make up the rest of the population.