Minister opposes Putrajaya’s plan for law on non-Muslim religions

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Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) will not stand for any proposed law that impinges on a person’s right to religious freedom, its president Maximus Ongkili said.

Mohd Sahar Misni/The Star

“PBS will continue to stand alongside the people to fight and defend the freedom of religion as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution and the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63),” he said in response to news that federal authorities are reviving plans for four proposed bills on Islamic matters.

The bills are on wakaf, mufti, shariah courts and, of concern to PBS, the control and restrictions on the propagation of non-Muslim religions.

Ongkili is the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Sabah and Sarawak affairs.

He said he hoped other parties in government, such as the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) coalition, MCA and MIC, will take a similar stand to oppose the proposed laws if they are ever brought to the cabinet for discussion.

So far, the proposed laws have not been raised in the cabinet for discussion or approval.

“PBS is confident that Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob will honour these guarantees, which have become treasured assets of our nation since the formation of the federation,” said Ongkili.

“This is especially so in light of the prime minister’s vision of building a Malaysian family.

“We (PBS) assure the Malaysian public, especially Sabah people, that PBS will always be faithful and true to our political struggle and goals, including defending religious freedom.”

There is confusion now over the proposed bill to restrict the propagation of non-Islamic religions.

It was mentioned recently by Deputy Minister of in the Prime Minister’s Department (religious affairs) Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, who said the bill as well as the other three are in the midst of being drafted.

However, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and law) Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar later said there has been no proposal to enact any law to restrict and control the spread of non-Muslim religions.

Marzuk has yet to withdraw or clarify his statement on the said bill.

The topic is not new, however, as similar calls for such a bill were raised previously in connection with court cases over non-Muslims’ right to use the word “Allah”.

The federal government has filed an appeal against a High Court ruling in March in the case of a Sarawak Christian, Jill Ireland, that non-Muslims can use the Arabic word for “God”.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) said Ismail must make a statement before it causes further anxiety.

“Every person has the fundamental right to practise and propagate their religion according to Article 3 of the Federal Constitution.

“In fact, the right of freedom of religion is so fundamental that it cannot be curtailed even during an emergency. This is provided for Article 150 (6A),” they said in a statement.

The statement was endorsed by Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC) and MCCBCHST president Sardar Jagir Singh Arjan Singh, Dao Zhang Tan Hoe Chieow of the Federation of Taoist Associations Malaysia, Malaysia Hindu Sangam president RS Mohan Shan, Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim and Malaysian Buddhist Association (MBA) Venerable Seet Lee Terk.

The MCCBCHST said, while it welcomed Wan Junaidi’s response, it contradicted that of Marzuk.

“The deputy minister’s statement caused great anxiety among non-Muslims and thus Wan Junaidi’s comments helps to calm things down.

“Marzuk has not withdrawn his statement, so the MCCBCHST wishes to point out that there are many flaws in his statement and wishes to remind that Article 11 (1) of the Federal Constitution gives the right to every person “to profess and practise his religion”.

“MCCBCHST therefore wishes to remind Marzuk that the basic structure of the constitution will not allow for a theocratic Islamic state for Malaysia.” – TMI