Without religious freedom, Malaysia will suffer

William Leong

William Leong Jee Keen, The Malaysian Insider

The Federal Court which represents the last bastion of hope for upholding civil liberties and protecting citizens whose rights are violated by the executive has once again disappointed.

The majority decision not to allow the Catholic Church leave to appeal to the Federal Court against the Home Ministry’s ban on the use of “Allah” in the Herald has allowed the fundamental right of Malaysians to practice the religion of their choice to be violated without remedy.

Article 3 of the Federal Constitution states that Islam is the official religion of the Federation but Article 11 guarantees that every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and to propagate it (except among Muslims). The Federal Court has now rendered the 10 point solution meaningless. The government of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak must take immediate action to correct the incursion into Article 11 of the Federal Constitution if this Government believes in the rule of law.

In multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia, the government has a duty to create and maintain an environment where the different faiths may peaceably be practiced and equal protection of all faiths is ensured.

Failure to do so will increase tension and disharmony. It leads to tyranny and oppression resulting in the disintegration of our nation and the Government must be held accountable.

The government is reminded that freedom of religion is an internationally recognized basic human right. It is enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United Nations recognize in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”.

The United Nations has also declared religious tolerance is important as set out in the preamble to the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination based on Religion or Belief that the disregard and infringement of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or whatever belief, have brought, directly and indirectly, wars and great suffering to mankind and amounting to kindling hatred between peoples and nations. Article 6 declares that the right to freedom of religion includes the freedom to write issue and disseminate publications which includes newsletters such as the Herald.

If the government does not practice these basic tenets and principles, its attempt to seek a seat in the Security Council is hypocritical and farcical in pretending to uphold these principles in the United Nations and enforcing them against the rest of the world while violating them at home.