Lawyer: Muslims better off in Malaysia, human rights treaties not needed

Malaysia should not be banded with other Muslim countries and pressured to ratify international human rights covenants as the ummah here enjoy good living conditions, a lawyer has said.

Azril Mohd Amin, who is vice-president of the Muslim Lawyers Association, also claimed that Muslim nations that had previously inked the treaties had mistakenly done so out of fear.

“It is unfair to compare Malaysia to other countries such as Myanmar and Afghanistan when debating about ratifying human rights conventions,” Azril, who led a coalition of Muslim non-government organisations to the Universal Periodic Review process (MuslimUPRo), wrote in an opinion piece for BH, a Malay daily.

“Of course the condition of Muslims in Malaysia and our effort to fix the human rights conditions in this country is better, and the space to strengthen it is wide.”

Malaysia’s human rights record had come under intense scrutiny in recent years over the treatment of minority groups and migrant workers.

Several civil societies had also banded together to lobby Putrajaya to ratify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) earlier this year.

But according to Azril, UDHR was the result of a secular liberal ideology, which makes some of its demands unacceptable for Muslims.

The UDHR was drafted from early 1947 to late 1948 by Canadian John Peters Humphrey of the United Nations Secretariat and representatives of countries which were members of the first United Nations Commission on Human Rights, including China, Iran, and Lebanon.

It was subsequently adopted by UN members in 1948, with 48 countries in favour and eight ― mostly from the then Soviet bloc ― abstaining.

Azril claimed Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Chad and Afghanistan of signing the covenants because they were under pressure due to post-war or invasion trauma.

He also accused Muslim-majority countries of making the mistake of sending incompetent representatives to draft the human right conventions, including secularists or non-Muslims.

In his article, he had chastised the chairman of the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, and Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, the chief executive of the local branch of the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) ― mooted by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak ― for pushing the nation to ratify as many human rights treaties as possible.

In November, a forum on Malaysia’s future in human rights was told that Muslim critics of human rights defenders are “barking up the wrong tree” by accusing the latter of furthering a Western-backed or Christian conspiracy.

According to Bar Council member Andrew Khoo, Muslim-majority countries were among those which have asked Malaysia to obey international human rights standards in the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in October.

Some 19 countries, including Muslim-majority Egypt, Algeria, Chad, Tunisia and Sierra Leone, wanted Malaysia to sign one or more of the six core international conventions on human rights which the Southeast Asian nation has yet to ratify.

In the run up to the UPR, MuslimUPRo had gone head-to-head with another coalition of civil societies, Comango, which had recommended the federal government ratify global treaties on human rights to protect the individual rights of Malaysians.

It sparked a row that dragged in several prominent public personalities, including activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.