Religious Freedom In Malaysia Under Microscope

The report makes it clear that many religious minorities face discrimination and persecution. Among others, it identifies Shi’a and Ahmadiyah communities as targeted groups.

(Forbes) – At the end of March 2019, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), in cooperation with the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB), published a new report scrutinizing the protection and enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief in Malaysia. Malaysia may not be a state that comes to mind when one thinks of restrictions on religious freedom or of religious persecution. Yet, as the report clearly identifies, there are several challenges pertaining to the right to freedom of religion or belief in the country that need to be addressed. 

Malaysia is a predominately Muslim country with 61.3% Sunni Muslim (data published by the Malaysian Department of Statistics in 2010, up to date data is not available). The remaining population consist of 19.8% Buddhist; 9.2% Christian; 6.3% Hindu; 1.3% adherents of traditional Chinese religions and 0.4% other religions. Malaysia is also ethnically diverse. Religion and ethnicity have always played an important role in politics and society. Indeed, as the report confirms “Ethnicity and religion have often been utilized by political parties to advance their agenda.”

The Federal Constitution of Malaysia protects the right to freedom of religion or belief, including religious manifestation by way of professing, practicing and propagating one’s religious beliefs. Despite this, federal law favors the Islamic faith over any other. Article 3 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia equips Islam with special and effectively privileged status within the country. This has the potential to affect the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief by other religious groups.

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