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Geng Ustaz lodges police report against Hokkien Associations

A group calling itself the Ulama Lovers and Supporters Group, or Geng Ustaz for short, has lodged a police report against the Hokkien Associations of Malaysia.

This is over the associations' move to gather signatures to oppose the proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, also known as Act 355.

Act 355 deals with the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court to mete out criminal punishments.

Geng Ustaz today said the associations' actions were tantamount to extreme interference in Islamic affairs.

The group accused the associations of contravening constitutional provisions guaranteeing the freedom of religion, and urged the police to probe it and take appropriate action under the Sedition Act.

"The actions of the Hokkien Associations of Malaysia can create tension between the religions for inciting without going through proper process like what is taking place in Parliament.

"Our concerns have basis, for if there were to be backlash from the Muslims who are the majority in the country, it may lead to tense situations and disrupt national harmony," said Geng Ustaz president Norazli Musa.

He said this after lodging the report at the Shah Alam police district headquarters today.

The Hokkien Associations of Malaysia had worked to secure one million signatures to oppose efforts to amend Act 355.

The proposed amendments are detailed in a Private Member's Bill submitted by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and due to be debated in the next coming parliament sitting in October.

Hadi wants to lift the limit so that the Syariah Court can mete out punishment beyond the current three years' jail, six strokes of the rotan and maximum fine of RM5,000.

Critics say this would pave the way for the hudud, as this means Syariah Courts in states that have enactments allowing hudud – Terengganu and Kelantan – will be able to mete out such penalties.

Hokkien Associations of Malaysia president Khoo Chai Kaa announced the campaign in June, and it had so far garnered 600,000 signatures.

He also said that the society is looking to get 1,000 more signatures from allied NGOs and about 100 other ancestral societies.

He added that come Sept 20, a copy of their protest note attached to the gathered signatures will be sent to all 222 parliamentarians.

Meanwhile, Khoo has denied allegations of interference in Islamic affairs.

He said the signature campaign was aimed at safeguarding the Federal Constitution including freedom of religion.

"We did not interfere in their Islamic affairs. The Federal Constitution guarantees religious freedom and we only want to defend the constitution.

"…I have no right to stop them (lodging police report) or comment on it.

"We will continue with our signature campaign," Khoo told Malaysiakini when contacted.

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