PM – address cumulative Article 11 concerns

Secondly, on Inter-religious relations today and the past 50 years. In the first two decades of nationhood, the government sponsored the establishment of a Inter-Religious Council headed by a Cabinet Minister to promote inter-religious dialogue, understanding and goodwill. Today, a very similar proposal, the Inter-Faith Council, is regarded as highly sensitive and intolerable by the government-of-the day. What has gone wrong?

It is most regrettable that despite six requests in the past nine months, the Prime Minister has refused to meet the Article 11 coalition of 11 civil society groups to uphold the Federal Constitution as the supreme law of the land — or even to give any response.

Why is the Prime Minister who preaches inter-religious dialogue in international conferences adopting such a hostile attitude to Article 11 and domestic inter-religious dialogue?

Non-Muslim concerns about religious freedom as entrenched in Article 11 have been re-ignited by the latest Court of Appeal judgment in the R. Subashini case.

Just like the S. Shamala case in 2004, the Hindu women found they could not seek legal remedy in the civil courts to protect their rights after their husbands converted to Islam and unilaterally converted their children.

While the civil courts told Shamala to seek the Majlis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan’s help, Subashini was told to gain recourse through the Syariah Appeal Court.

Since Shamala’s case, there had been the M. Moorthy, Nyonya Tahir, Anthony Rayappan and Lina Joy cases, where the court has not provided just remedies to the grievances raised by the plaintiffs on constitutional grounds, causing grave injustices and setting dangerous precedents in subjecting non-Muslims to the laws or Islam.

If Islam Hadhari as espoused by the Prime Minister cannot give justice to non-Muslim Malaysians to uphold the constitutional right to freedom of religion, then Islam Hadhari will not only be seen as irrelevant but detrimental to the constitutional rights and freedoms of non-Muslims — definitely not a desirable way to celebrate Malaysia’s 50th Merdeka anniversary.

I call on the Prime Minister to meet with Article 11 and play a proactive role to allay the cumulative concerns of non-Muslims about their constitutional right to freedom of religion.

[Speech (13) on Royal Address debate in Parliament 22.3.07]

  1. #1 by undergrad2 on Friday, 23 March 2007 - 10:44 pm

    Article 11: “(1) Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion….” is an Article in the Federal Constitution of 1957 that is heavily qualified, and has to be read together with Articles like Article 3.

    The way in the past towards solving problems of “inconsistencies” is to tread a fine line which I think is a mistake because it provides political fodder for civil libertarians and political activists.

    UMNO has been too defensive in its approach.

    The framers of the 1957 Federal Constitution were of one mind and that is to recognize Islam as the official religion meaning inter alia public funds would be used to set up the institutional infrastructure needed not only to protect its position in the political life of the country but to propagate it among non-Muslims.

    But those responsible for its drafting thought it fit to also include Articles like Article 11(4). This Article serves only to muddy the water.

    It is called ‘muddying the water’ approach to management.

  2. #2 by sheriff singh on Saturday, 24 March 2007 - 9:44 pm

    For the PM to refuse to meet his rakyat is most unfortunate and would be against all standards to decency and etiquette. It is unacceptble the PM cannot spare some time. What is he afraid of? What’s his agenda? Shouldn’t he live by his principles?

    Faith and piety in Allah
    Just and trustworthy government
    Freedom and independence to the people
    Mastery of knowledge
    Balanced and comprehensive economic development
    Good quality of life for all
    Protection of the rights of minority groups and women
    Cultural and moral integrity
    Protection of the environment
    A strong defence policy

  3. #3 by DarkHorse on Sunday, 25 March 2007 - 12:58 am

    Singh, it is not a question of decency and etiquette.

    It is political. To encourage discussion of Article 11 would be a strategic political error. This Article of the Constitution serves to solidify and consolidate UMNO’s position among the Malay conservatives who are staunch Muslims.

  4. #4 by hiro on Monday, 26 March 2007 - 10:52 am

    I have a PROPOSITION that the Muslim scholars in Malaysia should support if they truly want non-Muslims to have faith in the syariah legal system.

    In any dispute involving all Muslims or one Muslim and one non-Muslim, the parties should have the right to decide whether to go to syariah court or the civil court.

    In the civil court, syariah principles could, as matter of further option, be used as expert evidence if so consented to by both sides.

    And the scholars should further agree that if any of the two parties refuse to let the matter be heard before the syariah court, or that syariah law should not be used as expert evidence, then the matter should by default be heard before the civil court, using civil law principles.

    The measure of acceptance of syariah justice system will then hinge upon truly tested credibility and popularity. It is not too farfetched, considering that non-Muslims have embraced Islamic finance and banking.

    That would also mark a mature and democratic nation, as opposed to one which is repressive towards non-Muslims. The point is not whether syariah principles are fair to non-Muslims or not (even though there are many times when it is not fair, in particular to women). The point is the non-Muslims, since the birth of Malaya and eventually Malaysia, has never subscribed to the syariah justice system, and it has become a social contract, constitutional convention, and as a matter of law, their constitutional right not to be compelled to accept the jurisdiction of syariah law into any aspect of their life, unless they voluntarily choose to.

    All non-Muslims, and moderate Muslims should take note of the impact of this Court of Appeal decision. It has far ranging implications. Pressure your members of parliament to be rational about this and not just be a rubber stamp to the few loud but reckless voices up there.

  5. #5 by DarkHorse on Monday, 26 March 2007 - 12:35 pm

    “I have a PROPOSITION that the Muslim scholars in Malaysia should support if they truly want non-Muslims to have faith in the syariah legal system.” Hiro

    It is not a question of Malay Muslims wanting non-Muslims to have more faith in anything.

    Malaysia does not have a secular Constitution and has a court system based on syariah law. That having been said, it is not a legal issue but a political one. There cannot be a legal solution to a political problem.

  6. #6 by Maddresearch on Thursday, 29 March 2007 - 8:42 am

    After reading the newspapers on S. Shamala, M. Moorthy, Anthony Rayappan and Lina Joy cases, if you have some common sense, do you think there is freedom of religion in Malaysia?

  7. #7 by akarmalaysian on Wednesday, 11 April 2007 - 10:44 pm

    what is so sensitive about having inter religious forums when all the good religions meet up with good and right teachings?in this world no one can claim each of his own religion superior to others cause good teachings will never teach its own people to belittle others beliefs.

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