Wednesday, 24 September 2014
Use dialogue, not aggression, to mend religious and racial conflict, says activist
Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria says taking a high and mighty approach against
another religion is not constitutional.
– The Malaysian Insider pic by Zhafri Azmi, September 25, 2014.
BY ELIZABETH ZACHARIAH Published: 25 September 2014
Religious authorities should opt for dialogue and mediation rather than resolve conflicts with a "high and mighty" approach, a human rights activist said. Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, the secretary-general of the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham), said that instead of lodging countless police reports or taking aggressive action when conflict arose, the religious authorities should try mediation as a solution.
"Don't use a high and mighty approach against other religions as it is not constitutional," he told reporters after a forum titled "Should government control religious affairs?" in Kuala Lumpur last night. He was commenting on recent issues involving religion and actions taken by Islamic religious authorities, such as the seizure of Malay and Iban-language Bibles by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), "body-snatching" or taking the bodies of those who supposedly converted to Islam away from their families for funeral rites, and raids on non-Muslim houses of worship.
"I think enforcement agencies need to be cautious about the issue of raiding places of worship and should follow the standard procedure of investigating or discussing with religious leaders before doing anything. "Accord respect to another religion. These problems will cause, in the long run, greater enmity in society. Religious authorities can approach it by sitting down and talking about it," Denison added.
The forum was organised by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas). Besides Denison, French Professor Valentine Zuber who specialises in religious tolerance in Europe also spoke.
Many religious conflicts in Malaysia involved Islam, which Denison said while it is the religion of the federation, did not imply a "secular state" or an "Islamic state". Malaysia, Denison said, was more of a "hybrid" – a model on its own – when it came to the question of whether it was an Islamic or secular state. "Islam comes under the state but the constitution is the supreme law of the land," he added.
He said in view of this, the amendment to Article 121 (1a) of the Federal Constitution had caused a problem of jurisdiction between the civil and Shariah courts. "The issues that are emerging that needs clear resolution are ones that impact religious minorities or between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. "There were problems of how civil courts were overturning Shariah Court decisions. And the question now is when a new Muslim convert and non-Muslim spouse has a dispute, the constitution narrows the scope of the Shariah Court to only cover Muslims ," he said.
These problems turn complicated as there are no proper avenues for conflict management and the practical problem of resolving a family dispute becomes more serious, Denison said. "We need community leaders to sit down and discuss with one another when there are problems instead of all these police reports." – September 25, 2014.
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