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Thursday, 25 February 2016

PROHAM Comments on Religious Freedom and Human Rights

Andrew delivering the talk on Religious Freedom

PROHAM hosted a talk on this theme yesterday Feb 25, 2016 at BAC-PJ Campus and was attended by about 35 people a majority of whom were law students from BAC. The talk was delivered by Mr Andrew Khoo, a human rights lawyer and advocate for a human rights approach to religious freedom. This talk was comprehensive, informative and contemporary drawing relevance to current issues pertaining to religious freedom issues in Malaysia society.

PROHAM recognises that religious freedom is a very important and a central tenet of human rights. This is guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in Article 18 that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” which is reiterated in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights in article 18. This right to religious freedom, thought and conscience is universal, inalienable, interdependent and indivisible.

PROHAM also recognises that the Federal Constitute provides adequate safe guards for the protection and promotion of Religious Freedom as per article 3; article 11 (1), (3) and article 12 including 12 (4).

We do note that the 1988 amendment to article 121 with the new clause in article 121(1A) on the jurisdiction of the civil and Syariah courts has posed major problems on cases affecting people of Islam and others from other faiths. The Federal Constitution in the Ninth Schedule, List 11-State List, indicates that the Syariah courts “have jurisdiction only on persons professing the religion of Islam”. Therefore matters pertaining to a Muslim and other faiths should be heard by the civil courts.

The founding fathers of the nation both in 1957 and in 1963 affirmed this protection of Religious Freedom and therefore PROHAM reiterates this founding principal based on the spirit and content of the Federal Constitution.

PROHAM notes with sadness that religious issues in Malaysian society have been on many occasions politicized impacting negatively inter religious understanding and relations. We also note that at times the administration and enforcement is perceived to be partial in the handing of issues which warrant a fair and just handing.

PROHAM welcomes the Federal Governments initiative in setting up of the “Committee to Promote Understanding and Harmony among the Religious Adherents” with the appointment of 32 members. We recognise that the cross section of representatives from religious, academic and community organisations is a strength.

While this is a timely set up, its objectives and task of utmost importance, PROHAM recommends that this new Committee be given the resources to carry out this mandate.
In addition the Committee will require some legislative provisions such as legal basis to undertake mediation between disputing individuals and communities as well as inquiry powers to effectively carry out their task in a just and fair way.

PROHAM calls on the Federal Government to ensure that there is strong political and administrative support of various agencies with little interference to the Committee’s work. The committee’s findings must be respected and appropriate action taken especially by all the relevant agencies.

PROHAM recognises that the key priority is finding solutions and ensuring effective execution so as to enhance inter religious harmony in Malaysian society.

Issue on behalf of PROHAM by:-

Datuk Kuthubul Zaman (Chairman) and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Secretary General)

Feb 26, 2016

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