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Monday, 9 December 2013

Islam definition in constitution sufficient’

By Anisah Shukry (Free Malaysia Today)
December 10, 2013

Former Umno supreme council member, Saifuddin Abdullah, says there is no need to redefine Islam as Sunnah wal Jamaah in the Federal Constitution.
KUALA LUMPUR: The definition of Islam in the Federal Constitution is sufficient without having to specify that it refers only to the Sunni denomination, Umno’s Saifuddin Abdullah said today.
The former Umno supreme council member said there were other, more important issues at hand for the government to focus on besides redefining Islam in the Constitution, such as the demolition of shrines in Lembah Bujang.

“I’m a little concerned when it comes to trying to define Islam in the constitution into very specific things such as ‘Sunni’, instead of being all-encompassing like what we have now,” said Saifuddin, who is chief executive officer of the Global Movements of Moderates Foundation (GMMF).
“On the one hand, we want to redefine Islam in the constitution. On the other hand, we have issues with Hindu shrines in Lembah Bujang, at the same time there is the issue of the kalimah Allah – a host of other issues that need to be made priority.

“So I would like to say that perhaps we don’t really have to do that. I thought the constitution is clear enough by stating very profoundly that Islam is the religion of the federation,” he told a press conference at GMM’s office here yesterday.

Home Minister Zahid Hamidi said last week that his ministry would propose to insert the words “Sunnah wal Jamaah” in Article 3 of the Federal Constitution to specify the definition of Islam as the religion of the federation.

This was to curb the spread of other ideologies, including the much-maligned Syiah branch of Islam, in the country.

But Saifuddin pointed out that even redefining Islam in the constitution would not guarantee an end to the debate regarding Syiah in Islam in Malaysia.

“What is already stated in the constitution is sufficient, we should be doing more engagement, consultation and educating people rather than taking a legalistic approach.”

Saifuddin said this after chairing a roundtable discussion on human rights, organised by human rights watchdog Proham and GMM.

It was revealed in the discussion that Malaysia had yet to ratify six human rights international conventions, and its reluctance to do so, placed the country among the bottom ten among members of the United Nations (UN) in terms of human rights.

Michael Yeoh, chief executive officer of the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI) also called for the government to provide the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) with powers of investigation and enforcement so that it would no longer be seen as a ‘toothless’ body.

The NGO leaders agreed on a ten-point human rights blueprint which includes establishing a human rights court, setting up a law reform commission, providing human rights education for all stakeholders, and policy reforms.

This is an achievable agenda, many of which can be executed immediately. For instance, debating Suhakam’s annual report in parliament, this can be done without legislation,” said Dr Denison Jayasooria, secretary-general of Proham.

“We expect to achieve all this by 2018. Because by 2020 we are to be a developed country, but in 2018, Malaysia will face its third Universal Periodic Review.”

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was established by the UN General Assembly to assess the human rights records of each member-state of the UN. Malaysia underwent its second UPR on Oct 24 2013.

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