The escalating religious intolerance must stop

– Lawyers for Liberty
The Malaysian Insider
August 16, 2013

Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the escalating religious intolerance in Malaysia where in recent months, several minor incidents of perceived insult against Islam have been blown completely out of proportion by Umno leaders, their supporters and the mainstream media – leading to the arrest and remand of Maznah Yusof, known as Chetz, and Syed Ahmad (the resort owner), and in Alvivi’s case, criminal charges and denial of bail (which was later reversed after eight days in prison).

While religion especially Islam is a sensitive subject to most, this however must not detract from the fact that Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious democratic state with established democratic norms including the Federal Constitution guaranteeing fundamental rights, rule of law, due process and other practises that mark Malaysia as a
modern and civilised state.

Religion like any other important issue cannot escape from being subjected to scrutiny, comment, satire and to the less eloquent, insult and condemnation.

The government and state institutions such as the police, Attorney-General’s Chambers and Jakim, instead of advocating harsh action, should take a more measured approach in diffusing this obvious attempt to pit Malay/Muslim against other ethnic group/religion and explain why Islam or any other religion should not be subjected to insults.

While it is true freedom of speech is not absolute and there are accepted limitations e.g. incitement to violence and hate speech – the threshold for freedom of speech however must be high.

This is all the more true in the vast and borderless Internet and social media age where anybody, in good faith or otherwise can comment on any issues including on religion.

It would be futile and irresponsible for the authorities to keep going after these perceived “insults” when there are more pressing matters at hand especially the high crime rate andthe shocking spate of violent crimes involving guns and explosives.

What Alvivi, Chetz and Syed Ahmad have done while insensitive and naïve were nothing compared to what pro-Umno individuals such as Ibrahim Ali, Zulkilfi Noordin, Ridhuan Tee, Mohd Noor Abdullah and others have done which were much more serious and offensive but led to no repercussion or action.

Needless to say, the authorities have acted selectively, disproportionately, in bad faith and double standards when persecuting Alvivi, Chetz and Syed Ahmad while doing nothing against pro-Umno individuals.

We therefore call on the authorities to act fairly and professionally, and not to misuse their powers for Umno’s political ends which are clearly aimed at eroding our nation’s inter-ethnic/ inter-religious relations and dividing the nation between Malay/Muslim and other ethnic group/religion and bolstering Umno’s credential as the “defender” of Islam and Malays. – August 16, 2013.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Saturday, 17 August 2013 - 7:33 am

    The truth is the issue is about entitlement. This country, thanks to Mahathir, is now lost on issue of entitlement and the truth is Islam is a religion with many entitlement.. You mix up that cocktail, all THESE should have been expected and can only get worst – again THANKS to Mahathir..

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Saturday, 17 August 2013 - 8:37 am

    The BTN poison might well have a part in creating the intolerance.

  3. #3 by Di Shi Jiu on Saturday, 17 August 2013 - 10:13 am

    Like someone has said elsewhere, I do not understand why some Muslims in Malaysia want to present Islam as an intolerant religion.

    Why do these so-called Muslims want people to hate Islam?

  4. #4 by Cinapek on Saturday, 17 August 2013 - 11:24 am

    It is very sad. I have to confess that I am now even wary of mixing more often with my Muslim friends. People whom I have known for years and could virtually share anything, I am now subconsciously avoiding lest I said or do anything that might be construed as insulting Islam even though there was no intention or malice. The times when we could call each other derogatory ethnic names in jest are now gone as we do not know when it is deemed an insult and could result in police detention. This has led to a complete destruction of the spirit of camaraderie that once existed between friends that do not have the religious or racial wall between us.

    For those history buffs, this present religious hysteria is similar to the Spanish Inquisition in the Middle Ages when the Church went on a witch hunt and rampage and the clerics ruled supreme. I sincerely hope that amidst this fast sliding inter-religious relationships, a strong and cool head can lead us out of this malaise.

    And he is certainly not our ostrich PM.

  5. #5 by john on Saturday, 17 August 2013 - 11:59 am

    As long as this Nation kept at tenderhooks, status quo ONE Mamak will feel safe as ALL attention diverted away from him and families’ wealth, well being, ,,, and to remain relevant.
    All very clear, is the doing of ONE Mamak & gang& clones & Bumno – all to ensure they remain in power and enrich themselves continuously.

  6. #6 by sheriff singh on Saturday, 17 August 2013 - 12:18 pm

    All these recent incidents purporting to ‘insult’ Islam and Muslims could have been handled more professionally rather than using the ‘bulldozer’ approach. Take the surau incident. It could have been handled in a much more different way e.g.

    1. Inform the resort owners of their ‘wrongs’ (if any) and stop allowing non-Muslims to use the surau for their prayers and meditations.

    2. De-consecrate the surau if necessary as a place for Muslim worship. Let the owners of this private property then construct or find another place for Muslim worshippers in accordance with the requirements of their religion.

    3. Let the owners of this private property decide what to do with this property. They can use it as a community hall or convert it into a multi-faith place of worship (excluding Muslims) for use by the resort’s guests and maybe the community. Non-Muslim guests also need a place to worship.

    4. There will be no need to tear down or bull-doze the place down, a perfectly well constructed and fit for use building.

    It is with deep concern that Johor Religious authorities and government deem it fit to do the more controversial and perhaps the high-handed way – tear down the building at all cost. Why can’t we be more gentle and level-headed?

    Of late, we have seen this country becoming more intolerant and the authorities more high-handed. We often condemn the West but ironically the people in the West are more tolerant than our “Moderate Muslim” country. See how the Jews in America respect and help the Muslims to pray in the clip below. No problems there but will such gestures ever happen in 1Malaysia? Our religious authorities might go berserk.

  7. #7 by sheriff singh on Saturday, 17 August 2013 - 1:37 pm

    We are told the resort operator’s Pr status has been revoked today.

    This smacks of unnecessary punishment and victimisation. Poor fellow.

    Our authorities seems determined to want to bring bad reputation to themselves and to the country.

  8. #8 by Bamboo on Saturday, 17 August 2013 - 4:32 pm

    Umno shoring up diminishing support by using Islam.

  9. #9 by sotong on Saturday, 17 August 2013 - 5:21 pm

    If you mix politics with religion, the religion will be in the political arena to be challenged for its political agenda and its good name tarnished.

  10. #10 by yhsiew on Saturday, 17 August 2013 - 5:43 pm

    Egypt crisis: Does political Islam have a future?

  11. #11 by yhsiew on Saturday, 17 August 2013 - 9:19 pm

    #7 sheriff signh: “We are told the resort operator’s Pr status has be revoked today.”

    That is why an intelligent farsighted Lee Kuan Yew reminds Singaporeans who invest in Iskandar to take caution for they are building their businesses in someone’s land.

  12. #12 by tuahpekkong on Saturday, 17 August 2013 - 9:47 pm

    With the emergence of a credible Opposition, UMNO knows pretty well that the none-Malays are unlikely to switch support to the BN again as long as BN continues with its racist and discriminatory policies and the rampant corruption in the Government machinery not addressed seriously. Since the GE, UMNO has turned a blind eye to the feelings of the Chinese while at the same time appearing to be playing the racial/religious card by over defending the Malay/Muslim rights to try to shore up its support base among the Malays. UMNO must be feeling insecure.

  13. #13 by Bigjoe on Sunday, 18 August 2013 - 8:13 am

    What we really have is a resurgent of conservatism, our very own version of NEO-CONS and the top leader is likely Zahid Hamidi who also likely has the backing of their living ideologue Mahathir. A whole bunch of these people are jumping in the band wagon without thinking and the middle in UMNO HAS COMPLETELY LOST IT.. UMNO clearly on one-way track down EXTREMISM with the middle completely sidelined and irrelevant..

  14. #14 by pulau_sibu on Sunday, 18 August 2013 - 2:00 pm

    There is a new religion monopolising bolehland, the arm-know

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