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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

'Islam not alien to human rights'

By Jacqueline Png (
Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi at the roundtable discussion organised by Global Movement of Moderates Foundation and Proham
Prof Shad Faruqi
KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 10): "Human rights principles need to accept and tolerate honest differences of religion. Even if they contradict, there are rooms for discussion."

Emeritus Professor of Law at Universiti Teknologi MARA Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, said that while Islam is not alien to human rights, the religion upholds it from a different perspective.

"If you look at the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, it takes values and beliefs into account rather than only individual rights," he said.

Speaking at the roundtable discussion organised by Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMMF) and Proham, Shad stressed that human rights cannot totally disregard religious sensitivity and adopting religious perspective towards human right helps advocate compliance.

"You have to use whatever arguments available to provide persuasive authority for people to comply, be it economic, religious or social. Human rights cannot be spoken only in the language of religion but it helps to tell people: your religion supports it, so should you," he said.

GMMF chief Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said that Malaysians can no longer accept mediocre excuses for delaying the ratification of core international conventions of human rights.

"We are not in 1957 anymore. People have become more educated and no longer accept answers such as our laws are not ready to ratify. They demand a timeline to see the remaining six out of nine international conventions to be ratifed," said Saifuddin.

Among conventions that Malaysia has yet to ratify include elimination of racial discrimination, protection against torture and protection of migrant workers.

"You don't need to be perfect to sign these conventions as it is a symbolic gesture to show your commitment. We can start by recognising these rights and work on it later on," he said.

He has also called for human rights education to be taught in schools, to politicians and the police force. And identify best practices to be included in their code of ethics.

Former UN coordination specialist, Dr Lin Miu Kiang who was on the panel pointed out that the country's ranking in ratifying international conventions is appalling.

Among UN member states, Malaysia ranks 187 out of 193 countries, at par with Myanmar and North Korea. Even in Organisation of Islamic Conference, the country signed the least convention. Whereas among Asean countries, Malaysia stands at eighth position out of 10, in commonwealth countries, 49 out of 54; and among Non-Aligned Movement, 108 out of 110.

"Our government has lobbied hard to win hearts of international human rights community and calls itself a moderate Muslim state. But domestically, only the legal division of PM's department initiated drafting meeting for the Human Rights Action Plan, but it hasn't moved forward since then.

Meanwhile, Tan Sri Michael Yeoh of Malaysia's Asean and International Human Rights Obligation suggested that since Malaysia is hosting the 2015 Asean summit, it should play a proactive role to push for a formation of Asean human rights court in a five to 10 year plan.

"If we want another term in the UN Security Council, we must show improvements in human rights standard. If we don't bring domestic standard up, we lack the credibility when speaking on international platform," he said.

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