Call for Anti-Evangelicalism Laws Provocative and Unconstitutional

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Centhra, a coalition of Islamic groups, wants Evangelicalism banned in Malaysia like what Russia did last year. But Russia’s law was for the purpose of curbing religious extremism and terrorism, which Malaysian evangelical Christians are not involved in.

  • Centhra: Ban evangelicalism
  • NECF: Suggestion uncalled for, provocative
  • Constitutional lawyer: Banning evangelicalism unconstitutional
  • Utusan Malaysia criticised for publishing radical and extreme views

The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Malaysia (NECF) is appalled by the suggestion of Centre of Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra) CEO Azril Mohd Amin to outlaw Christian evangelicalism in Malaysia.

NECF chairman Eu Hong Seng said the idea is uncalled for and provocative.

Evangelicalism or Evangelical Protestantism is based on the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement for the sins of the world through his death.

Centhra is a coalition of Islamic groups.

In an essay published on Utusan Online on Jun 15, Centhra CEO Azril reasoned that evangelicalism is a dangerous movement.

However, no supporting evidence was provided.

He also said the banning of evangelicalism was in line with Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, towards preserving peace among religions.

Azril said Malaysia should follow Russia’s Yarovaya Act.

The Yarovaya Act was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin last year against evangelicalism, with the stated purpose of curbing religious extremism and terrorism.

Eu said media reports, however, do not name Malaysian evangelical Christians as being involved in extremism and terrorism.

“The essay has the tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility against evangelical Christians,” he said, describing it as irresponsible and seditious.

“It is extremely disconcerting that these radical and extreme views are published by Utusan Malaysia, a national newspaper,” he said in a statement.

Azril had said in a column on Jun 15 that the government made the right decision in blocking the Jerusalem Jubilee gathering in Melaka which was scheduled to be held from June 15 to 18.

DPM Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the Home Minister, banned the Melaka event. He said that if the event were allowed to go on, it would hurt the sensitivities of Muslims, especially during Ramadan.

Azril also claimed that evangelicalism had initiated a new religious outlook 20 years ago that was inclined towards liberties and openness “without limitation”.

He said that even Christian scholars had admitted that the movement’s inclinations had brought negative impact to the growth of the church.

Azril called on the government to contemplate introducing an anti-evangelicalism law to prevent Christian propaganda from becoming dominant.

“It is a fact that the groups that are spreading Christian propaganda to Malaysians, especially Muslims, will keep up their efforts as they believe that there is no effective law that can stop them,” he said.

Eu urged the Prime Minister and police to take action, saying Azril’s suggestion was in violation of basic human rights and the protections guaranteed under the Federal Constitution.

“We call on the prime minister to ensure that the rights of every citizen of this country as guaranteed under the Federal Constitution regardless of their religious persuasion be protected, upheld and enforced,” he said.

“We call upon the Police to take action against the writer and newspaper concerned under the Sedition Act and Penal Code for uttering and publishing words which tend to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between people of different religions

According to The Malaysian Insight, constitutional lawyer Syahredzan Johan said that to outlaw evangelicalism in Malaysia would be unconstitutional especially when the church worships in private without propagating to Muslims.

“Outlawing Evangelical Christianity would be unconstitutional. These are Christian denominations we are talking about, and Article 11(1) is clear; all persons have the right to profess and practise their religion.

“This right cannot be restricted or denied by the state at all. So there are no grounds to outlaw it.

“Firstly, Article 11 guarantees the freedom of religion. The NGO is wrongly relying on Article 11. Article 11 does not support what they say,” Syahredzan said.

He said the only restriction is on propagation to Muslims and there were already laws for it.

“But if an evangelical church worships in private and without propagation, then there is absolutely no ground for the state to outlaw it.

Following the outcry over the Jerusalem Jubilee, Sarawak church leaders cancelled the All Borneo Revival Convocation in Miri.

The Malaysian Insight reported that the National Unity and Integration Minister Joseph Kurup said the event should not have been cancelled as it had received the blessing of state leaders and Christians formed the majority in Sarawak.

However, it did show that the Christian leaders were sensitive to the feelings of Muslims in the state.

“Although I feel that the Muslims in Sarawak have no issues with the event, the Christian community has shown great respect by cancelling the event.