Respect right of freedom of religion – Hasmy Agam

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    The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (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 larger society but was done to defend Islam.

    As much as Suhakam understands and fully appreciates the sensitivity of religious issues in this country, it is of the view that every individual and community, regardless of differences in beliefs, enjoy the basic right to religion and the freedom to profess their faith as guaranteed under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

    Suhakam reiterates its call for the government to fulfil the commitments that it had made, either in principle or in full, during the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) with regard to the need to combat all forms of discrimination particularly religious discrimination, to protect religious minority groups in the country, to reconcile different schools of Islamic thoughts and other religions, as well as to promote and protect the rights of all people to worship in peace and security without discrimination or restriction.

    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, thereby safeguarding the basic right of all people to practise freely their faith as they have practised for generations in this country.

    In a pluralistic society like Malaysia, domestic peace and national harmony are best guaranteed through a policy and practice of moderation – which approach the government is commendably advocating at the international level.

    In this context, 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.

    At the same time, the commission takes this opportunity to renew its call for the removal of the outdated Sedition Act as soon as possible, for the reasons already mentioned in its previous statements on this issue, not the least of which is that it is inconsistent with international human rights principles and norms. – October 11, 2014.

    * Tan Sri Hasmy Agam is chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

    * This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

    Source: The Malaysian Insider