Erosion of religious freedom in Malaysia – Proham

Proham views with grave concern the recent judgment by the Court of Appeal in its interpretation of Article 11 of the Federal Constitution as eroding religious freedom in Malaysia.

In this connection, Proham makes reference to the views of the Bar Council on this matter in which it stated that the way Article 3(1) was interpreted “was an unnatural reading” on the status of Islam and other religions. The Bar Council took the position that this words “in peace and harmony simply means “the right of other religions to be practiced unmolested and free of threats”.

This section was clearly explained by Constitutional Law expert Prof Abdul Aziz Bari to mean while Islam is the religion of the Federation “…non-Muslims may go on practicing their religions freely without restrictions”.

In this context Article 11 should be read within the Fundamental Liberties and the only restrain to religious freedom is the provision in Article 11(4) which is a reference “to propagation” and not practice of religion.

Proham also notes with deep concern the confusion of interpretations expounded. There are so many legal views expounded in the media by ministers, legal experts, the attorney general and the former attorney general. Some say that the prohibition is only in use of the word Allah in the Herald but others indicate that it is a blanket ruling against all non-Muslims.

This therefore requires clear judicial clarity through an appeal process to the Federal Court so that the views of the bahasa Malaysia speaking Christians who are the natives of Sabah and Sarawak are seriously considered. The Attorney General should also highlight to the Federal Court the 10 point solution announced by the Government in 2011.

Proham reiterates that it is the fundamental right of an individual or institution to commence proceedings in Court should they feel their basic rights are being threatened or infringed and such proceedings should not be discouraged or frowned upon and they should be seen as trouble makers or instigators.

Proham welcomes the call of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak when he stated that “Muslims should not hurt the feelings of the non-Muslims and non-Muslims should not hurt the feelings of Muslim’’. The Prime Minister went on further to state that “Malaysian of all races and religious beliefs must help preserve the unity in the diversity of the people”.

However, Proham observes that a number of groups have been calling for the burning of Bibles, the ban of the Al-kitab, even calling people unhappy with the Court of Appeal decision to leave Malaysia. This is creating insecurities especially among the minorities and undermining peace and harmony. However these individuals and groups are not restrained in any way.

Proham views with deep concern these matters and calls on the officials to take appropriate action on the groups sowing seeding of disharmony and therefore the Ministry of Home Affairs is required to do more than just providing political assurances.