Malaysia: Muslim NGO to observe Malaysia’s session in UN

KUALA LUMPUR: A group of Muslim non-governmental organisations are heading to the United Nations to observe the review of the Malaysian Government’s human rights record.

The Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for Malaysia is set for Oct 24, four years after the first in 2009.

Muslim Lawyers’ Association vice-president Azril Mohd Amin said the delegation comprised observers from the coalition of Muslim NGOs in the UPR process (MuslimUPRo).

Azril, who is leading the delegation, said there would be 17 going.

In a statement on MuslimUPRo’s Facebook page, Azril had said that Wisma Putra had for the first time invited Muslim NGOs for a consultation in preparing Malaysia’s national report for the HRC.

He said MuslimUPRo, which had been unable to participate in the first UPR, wished to ensure that proposals submitted by Malaysia are “properly based on syariah laws and the Federal Constitution.”

Azril said the UPR process must not be a technical review of the human rights situation of any particular nation.

“The UPR should only give a general picture of the human rights situation and member countries should be aware that peer review cannot replace the expertise of specialists in evaluating any particular issue.

He said it was only fair that Malaysia, as a member of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), be given the opportunity to voice its evaluation of specific declarations such as The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam.

He said response must be submitted to the Malaysian Government and or the OIC’s Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights to ensure syariah-specific and intra-faith issues are debated academically among Islamic countries, with syariah experts and scholars of Islamic jurisprudence.

He said criticism of syariah laws should not be debated openly by non-Muslims or those with only a secular human rights background as they negated the role of religion as a comprehensive element in discussing the scope of human rights.

He said that history, culture, and religion, together with the Federal Constitution, Vienna Declaration and Action Program, UN General Assembly 60/251 Resolution, Cairo Declaration, and the Asean Human Rights Declaration, all recognised “the sovereignty of a nation must include all these factors in adopting so-called ‘universal’ values and principles of human rights.”

“Our position clearly dismisses any efforts to make LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) orientations into values that must be accepted by all UN member countries as part of ‘universal human rights’,” said Azril, who cited the position of Islam as the religion of the federation as one of the reasons for their stand.

He added that issues involving freedom to practise religion must take into account Islamic views, and not be based solely on the absolute freedom to change the religion of any individual Muslim.

“As this matter is complex and may cause confusion even among religious people, it is best if interpretations be submitted to Islamic jurists and scholars, and not as revised through the UPR process.

“This and similar intra-religious issues should be given to institutions that are relevant to those issues, such as the OIC’s Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights.”