The news that Kelantan is mulling punishing male Muslims in the state with up to one-year jail if they skip Friday prayers for three consecutive weeks has managed to shock many people.
It shocked me for a different reason. My experience in lovely Kelantan has shown me that its people are quite liberal in practising Islam and far from being judgmental about others, regardless of their faith.
I know some Kelantan folks who travel across the border to Thailand and do not mind skipping Friday prayers for that (you are abstained if you are travelling further than two marhalah — roughly 90 kilometres). During Friday prayer time, it is usual to see Malay men loitering around, having lunch, with nary a judgmental look coming their way.
(In retrospect, this could be the exact reason why the Kelantan state government has decided to put the fear God on Kelantan folks, on behalf of God Himself!)
Do not blame Kelantan alone though. There are already similar punishments against the non-performance of Friday prayers in most states’ Syariah Criminal Offences enactments, where a male Muslim can be fined not more than RM1,000 or jailed up to six months.
Having religion institutionalised is not the problem of Muslims alone. Forget what has been said all this while about Shariah laws solely affecting the Muslims. Non-Muslims are getting more and more affected too, and it should be clear to us by now.