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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Flawed conflict resolution, religious policing deterring Malaysia’s progress

Haji Zaid, Prof Valentine & Denison at the Public Forum (Sept 24, 2014)


KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 — Poor conflict resolution and religious policing are two key factors hampering Malaysia’s progress towards becoming a model nation for race relations, a human rights activist has asserted.

Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria stressed that left unaddressed the two factors may cause greater enmity and disharmony among Malaysia’s races, ripping  society apart.

He said this is especially in the wake of several raids on houses of worship, the seizure of bibles and bitter custody battles pitting Muslim against non-Muslim spouse.

“The issues that are emerging need some clear resolution, as these  matters are not being handled adequately,” he told reporters after a late evening forum  yesterday.

Denison said that the amendment to Article 121(1) of the Federal Constitution has also led to complications pertaining to the jurisdiction of the civil and Syariah courts as there was a ‘particular’ problem in the way the Syariah courts decision were being overturned by the civil courts.

In 1988, the constitutional amendment to the provision saw the removal of the words “the judicial power of the Federation shall be vested in two High Courts” and the insertion of a new Article 121(1A).

Article 121 (1A) reads that the courts referred to in Clause (1) shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of the Syariah courts.

He said that the question however, is not about which court is superior but establishing the jurisdiction of courts in family and religious matters.

“A practical problem of resolving a family dispute, a divorce,  a custody battle, death and burial or a verification of something then becomes a hugely complicated process because proper resolution and conflict management is not in place.”

Denison said that religious enforcement authorities also have to be more cautious in addressing concerns before raiding places of worship.
“Follow standard operating procedures of investigation, or discuss with the concerned religious leaders before doing anything that affects harmony and  mutual respect among those of different faiths.

“We want a mechanism to resolve this, so two communities who are upset with each other, don’t make hundreds of police report. You would want them to sit down and actually come to some consensus opinion.”

Denison said that the problem with interfaith related conflicts stems from the lack of discussion and negotiation between concerned parties.

“If religious authorities feel strongly about a particular practise of another faith, they should not rush into the matter by executing harsh remedies.”

Denison said that stakeholders in such issues should avoid high-handedness and discuss matters amicably while observing the spirit of the Federal Constitution

“We need Islamic leaders to sit down with leaders of other religions more,” Denison said, adding that  non-Muslim religious leaders often lament about the lack of Muslim leaders in such discussions.
“Sit down with the bishops and the priests. It doesn’t make Islam a subservient that way.”

Denison said that given the backdrop of increasing global hostility, Malaysia can be a model for multi-racial understanding and negotiation if things improve domestically.

Some reflections shared at the IDEAS Public Forum on Should Government Control Religious Affairs? held on Sept 24, 2014 at KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall KL


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