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Saturday, 11 October 2014

Suhakam: Gov't defence of Bible burning alarmin

The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) is alarmed that Putrajaya defended the threat by right-wing group Perkasa to burn the Malay language Bible.

"Suhakam notes with disappointment and alarm the justification given by the government and the findings of the authority that the highly intemperate call to burn Malay language Bibles was not a threat to the larger society but was done to defend Islam," Suhakam chairperson Hasmy Agam said in a statement.

The justification was made by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri in a parliamentary reply on Wednesday.

After being met with a torrent of criticisms, Nancy's office, in a statement the next day, insisted there was not enough evidence to prosecute Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali.

Ibrahim issued the threat early last year after taking offence that the Christian holy book in the national language used in worship mainly by East Malaysians had the word 'Allah'.

Hasmy (right) stressed that Putrajaya must walk the talk on its message of moderation.

“It is therefore imperative that such an intemperate statement, which is out of place in the globalised world of today, be not condoned by the authorities, lest it sends the wrong message to the public at large and will only deepen misunderstanding and division among them,” he said.

He added that the government must fulfil its commitments at the United Nations' second Universal Periodic Review to combat all forms of discrimination, including religious discrimination.

“In this regard, it is of utmost importance for the government to combat acts, including threats and harassment that promote religious extremism and hatred among different religious communities,” he said.

'Mockery of moderation'

Meanwhile, Council of Churches general-secretary Hermen Shastri (left) said Nancy's defence of the Bible burning threat was a mockery of the moderation it espouses.

“Any public statement made that threatens the burning of holy books of any religious community is not only repugnant but highly inflammatory. It should never be tolerated.

“The minister has made a mockery of the government’s urging for moderation and for maintaining mutual respect among the different races and religions in the country,” he said.

NGO Sisters in Islam (SIS) too condemned the government's position, warning that it will send a signal that aggressive behaviours, threats and public incitement are acceptable in the name of "defending Islam".

"If the reverse was done and an individual or group called on the public to burn the Quran, it is doubtful that the government would have been so generous," SIS said in a statement.

It added the threat is against the teachings of Islam and the Quran.

"Any act of disrespect or intimidation by any group in Malaysia should be condemned, as there is no place for religious hatred, extremism and chauvinism in our country.

“Defending Ibrahim's actions as a way to defend Islam represents a setback in achieving justice and equality," SIS added.

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