Sham divorce on Facebook risks boosting Islamic law in Malaysia
by Steve Suwannarat

A “talak” on social media involving two social media personalities, later reversed, has sparked a debate over the trivialisation of Islam in a country where two-thirds of the population are Muslims. Last Wednesday, local authorities reactivated a committee to empower Sharia courts. Islamic law (Sharia) is partially enforced in three states of the Malaysian federation. The situation is raising fears among religious minorities.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – The first Islamic divorce decreed live on Facebook in April has sparked actions by Malaysian authorities and discussions among ordinary Malaysians. The couple in question is said to have later reconciled.

The reactions essentially are centred on the legality and morality of the divorce. But the case has cast a larger shadow on this and other acts proposed and conducted online, since no specific legislation either allows or bans them with related sanctions.

The online "divorce" between Noor Aziz Johari (aka DJ Wong) and his wife DJ Sal did not catch public attention even after she turning to relatives and Islamic legal experts for opinions on the validity of her husband's unilateral measure (all negative). That was not the case for their apparent reconciliation when the two took part together in an event streamed on Facebook on 19 June.

While some were scandalised by the affair, seeing it as an insult to Islam, the religion of almost two-thirds of Malaysians, others saw it as a way for the two protagonists to gain followers online.

The case highlighted however the need for further consideration. For their part, the authorities have tried to downplay the matter while seeking clarifications.

Datuk Idris Ahmad, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department for Religious Affairs, took part in a meeting of religious scholars in Kedah State during which he said that he would consult with legal experts to quickly clarify the situation.

He also urged the public to report to the competent civil or religious authorities any other cases of “talak” (repudiation) conducted on social media.

Minister Idris said that the couple probably acted out of ignorance rather than a desire to damage Islam, but he also noted that last Wednesday the Malaysia Shariah Judicial Department had re-established the Shariah Court Empowering Committee, which had ceased to function in 2018, in order to strengthen the Shariah courts.

At least three states in the Malaysian Federation have partially implemented Sharia, Islamic religious law, but the pressure is mounting to have it extended to all Muslims across the country, but so is the opposition of religious minorities who fear they will be affected in some way.