Archive for April, 2015

New curbs for Malay Bibles

April 29, 2015

MALAYSIAKINI By Bob Teoh 29 April 2015

Putrajaya has unilaterally introduced new curbs on the import of the Alkitab, or the Malay-language Bible, under the Home Ministry’s new SOP or standard operating procedures. It also affects the import and use of other Malay-language Christian publications.

But Joseph Kurup, the de facto national unity minister who unveiled the SOP last week is quick to assure church leaders that Barisan Nasional is “sworn” to protect their freedom of religion as guaranteed by the federal constitution.

This is far from the truth. The new SOP specifically targets Christians and concerns mainly the import and use of the Alkitab. Such imports are now subject to a law that was originally intended only for Muslims – the Printing of Qur’anic Texts Act 1986. Importers must now apply to the Qura’nic Text Division of the Home Ministry which has the final say whether such imports are allowed.

The sole criterion is that such publications cannot contain the word ‘Allah’. This is clearly in contravention of constitutional provisions for freedom of religion.

Article 11 (3a) of the federal constitution states, among other things, “Every religious group has the right to manage its own religious affairs.” The right for Malay-speaking bumiputra Christians to have their own Scriptures in the Malay language is an inalienable universal human right and Putrajaya should not interfere in ecclesiastical matters of other faiths. Two-thirds of the church in Malaysia comprise Malay-speaking bumiputras in East Malaysia.

What is alarming is that the new SOP comes at a time when the very constitutionality of the prohibition of the use of the word ‘Allah’ to refer God by Bumiputra Christians is still being litigated in the courts known as the Jill Ireland Sarawak and Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Sabah cases. To introduce the new SOP at this stage smacks of not only religious hegemony and arrogance but it also borders on contempt. (more…)

Sabah Council of Churches Invites Protestors to Understand True Meaning of the Cross. Plus State Exco Press Statement

April 23, 2015

We trust that if the protestors were to understand the true meaning of the cross – regardless of whether they agree with the rest of the Christian faith or not – they would not perceive it as anything other than a symbol of the love and mercy of God. The cross is also a symbol of humility and forgiveness, and could and should never be conceived as a challenge or provocation in any way, shape or form.

SABAH COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
Majlis Gereja-Gereja Sabah
P O Box No.444, 88856 Likas Post Office, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Press Statement

1.    We are disturbed, and saddened, by the protest by a group of people on Sunday, 19 April 2015, at Taman Medan, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, against a church which has been in operation since August 2014. It was also reported that the protestors had demanded that the cross be removed from the church because it was perceived as “challenging Islam” in the predominantly-Muslim neighbourhood.

2.    We are disturbed, because we believe that this latest episode of religious tension is a symptom of the deterioration of religious harmony in Malaysia. Never before has our multi-racial and religiously diverse nation faced so much anger and intolerance.

3.    Yet, at the same time, we still maintain our conviction that such hatred and provocative actions by a handful of extremists are certainly not representative of the Malaysian society as a whole, and that the overwhelming majority of our Muslim brothers and sisters strongly uphold the true Islamic value of respect and tolerance towards other religions and their places of worship.

4.    It goes without saying that it is the constitutional duty of the authority to guarantee that non-Muslims could practice their religions in peace and harmony (Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution). Such duty extends to protect not just the many in a cathedral, but also every small congregation of the few – Indeed, especially the small congregations of the few.

5.    Rather, we believe that the government also has a greater and more onerous, moral duty to foster greater understanding among all Malaysians. Incidents such as this usually stem from ignorance, and ignorance breeds hatred. (more…)

Sedition Amendments a Dire Blow to Rule of Law

April 17, 2015

Malaysiakini 17 April 2015 LINK

Related: See below for press statement by United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press statement by:

Steven Thiru, Malaysian Bar president
Leonard Shim, Advocates’ Association of Sarawak president
GBB Nandy @ Gaanesh, Sabah Law Association president

 

The Malaysian Bar, the Advocates’ Association of Sarawak and the Sabah Law Association are appalled by the amendments to the Sedition Act 1948 passed by the Dewan Rakyat in the early hours of 10 April 2015.

We are extremely disappointed that the Malaysian Government has not only reneged from the promise made in 2012 to repeal the Sedition Act 1948 and replace it with the National Harmony Act, but has substantially strengthened the former with drastic and oppressive provisions.

The Sedition Act 1948 is an archaic, obsolete, and regressive law that must be abolished. It severely restricts, or even extinguishes, the freedom of speech and expression, and hence tramples on the constitutional rights of Malaysians. It is the antithesis of democracy, justice, and human rights.

The amendments to the Sedition Act 1948 have dealt a crippling blow to the rule of law in Malaysia, and lend weight to the widely held public perception that we are becoming an intolerant authoritarian state.
The democratic space for frank, meaningful, and robust discourse has been palpably reduced.

The amendments reinforce the concern that the limits to freedom of speech and expression are to be determined by those in our society who are not open to adverse comments or contrary ideas, or who are easily offended or angered. This nurtures an environment of intemperance and intolerance.

The amendments passed by the Dewan Rakyat will result in a false sense of unity and harmony that is actually created by intimidation and a climate of fear. This perpetuates insecurity and suspicion amongst our citizenry, and does not augur well for the growth and maturity of our nation. (more…)

Call for Rational Debate of Hudud and Implementation of Syariah Compliant Govenment Policies on Non-Muslims

April 14, 2015

It is encouraging to find Malaysians across the race-and-religion divide coming together to call for rational debate on hudud and the related Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code (1993) and affirming that:

– As all Malaysians, Muslims or non-Muslims, Kelantanese or non-Kelantanese, are rightful stakeholders in the enforcement of KSCC, no one should be penalised, threatened or ridiculed for having or expressing any opinion on the matter.

– The success of Islamic banking in winning over the hearts and minds of non-Muslims through rigour and proven benefits, rather than a deceiving assurance of non-Muslim exclusion or a sloppy “trial-and-error” attitude, should be an inspiring example.

– The implementation of KSCC must not be decided on a winner-takes-all manner, such as a simple majority in the Dewan Rakyat, for this will risk tearing the country apart.

– The inclusive spirit of the Federal Constitution and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement, which lay down the secular basis of the Federation of Malaysia, must be upheld.

First, the provisions of the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code is so evidently ultra vires the Federal Constitution that there is a prima facie case to reject it out of hand. It is agreed that the call for rational dialogue should not be restricted to debating whether one should support or oppose hudud. It is a call to all Malaysians to respect the provision related to the status of Islam and other religions in the Federal Constitution which is premised on a secular framework. Put concretely, the starting point for dialogue should be the original intent of the Federal Constitution as a secular-state where there is no establishment of religion, or  provision for a dominating position for Islam. In this regard hudud or any Islamic law should not be part of our legal system, except in matters of personal law specifically enumerated in the Constitution. See related post: Malaysia Social Contract (Part 1): Religion and Equal Citizenship and Historic Documents on the drafting of the Constitution.

Second, the rational debate should publicly call into question not only the overt hudud agenda of the Kelantan government, but also the arguably, clandestine introduction of syariah compliant provisions in various State enactments in UMNO dominated State Legislative Assemblies (Dewan Undangan Negeri), and imposition of syariah compliant policies in the government departments affecting non-Muslims. Hudud naturally elicits strong and vocal opposition from all reasonable Malaysians as its implementation is an obvious and undeniable act of injustice against non-Muslims. In contrast, the introduction of syariah compliant laws and department policies are subtly and incrementally implemented so that non-Muslims remain unaware of the gradual erosion of their fundamental liberties.

In either case, the inclusive spirit and universal justice enshrined in the Federal Constitution would be shattered by the fatal blow of hudud, or gradually extinguished by the covertly introduced syariah compliant laws of the State Legislative Assemblies and government department policies.

(more…)

47 Prominent Sabahans Open Letter Urging Govt to Act Against Islamic Extremism

April 8, 2015

Excerpt from Open Letter: WE, a group of concerned Malaysian citizens in Sabah, would like to express our deep concerns at the Government’s response to the violations of religious freedom occurring in the context of misguided and extreme actions undertaken in the implementation of what is claimed to be policies for the inculcation of Islamic values.

We speak against the violation of our fundamental right and freedom of religion that has been promised and guaranteed to the people of Sabah.

Upsetting judicial decisions, unclear Government policies and aggressiveness of certain parties in promoting restrictions to our freedom of religion have caused uneasiness to Sabahans.

In Sabah and particularly in the interior, aggressive Islamisation activities are being carried out by both covert and overt means to convert especially natives through intimidation, deception, or inducement particularly targeting remote and poor villagers.

We Sabahans know that at the heart of it all is an exercise to suppress the voice of the majority genuine non-Muslim Sabahans, and to degenerate our native population and our freedom of religion.

Government departments and religious bodies have been asserting authority beyond their powers for far too long and such unlawful and oppressive practices simply must cease immediately.

Extreme and misguided actions in the name of Islamisation and religious intolerance is nothing but a threat to our national peace and stability. (more…)