Home Civil Society Voices Why the need for a new law for non-Muslim religions?

Why the need for a new law for non-Muslim religions?

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For far too many times, we get to hear of news reports of politicians and sometimes even those appointed to political office making statements in the media that are deemed over and beyond their call of office.

And when such statements create confusion and uneasiness among the public, the government must take ownership and be accountable for such misdeeds.

Patriot refers to the most recent statement by Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (religious affairs), Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, who reportedly said that the government is considering 11 new Sharia laws, including one relating to limiting the propagation of non-Islamic religions (Akta Kawalan dan Sekatan Pengembangan Agama Bukan Islam) in the country (Free Malaysia Today, 7 September 2021).

Patriot believes the deputy minister should have been more mindful and not seemingly have overstepped his appointment and jurisdiction.

By making such statements, he seemingly sends out the impression that he is overzealous and insensitive to our nation’s multi-religious social fabric. He also gives the impression that he is seemingly ignorant of the role and responsibility of our rulers as the heads of matters concerning Islam.

Ahmad Marzuk needs to be reminded that he has overstepped his responsibilities because Islam is under the jurisdiction of the Malay rulers as is clearly enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

Hence, Patriot would like to seek an answer from the deputy minister whether the proposals he proclaimed had been in the very first place, tabled before the Malay rulers for their consent?

If this due process is flawed, then we urge the deputy minister to withdraw his statement and apologise for the concerns, distrusts, fears and unhappiness being shared widely on social media and especially among Malaysians of other faiths.

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The nation’s most sacrosanct Federal Constitution declares the country is a secular state, thereby protecting the freedom of the multi-religious practices while at the same time establishing Islam as the religion of the federation. Tunku Abdul Rahman, the country’s first Prime Minister, had himself reiterated that we are a secular state and not an Islamic state.

Although Islam is recognised and accepted by all Malaysians as the official religion of the state, it does not give anyone the license to impose punitive restrictions on the religious practices of other faiths.

In fact, the wisdom of our Malay-Muslim rulers throughout the centuries and during the post-independence period ensured that there were no restrictions – political or otherwise and in any form – imposed upon the religious practices of other faiths in their respective states. Such tolerance and respect shown and sustained throughout the decades, right to this moment in our nation’s history, serves as the hallmark of every true Malay-Muslim ruler and therefore it must never be jeopardised or pawned for any political advancements.

Hence Patriot, cognisant of public concerns, demands to know what and why the urgency and reasons for the steps that are being taken by the government of the day, namely to implement new Sharia laws, including one relating to limiting the propagation of non-Islamic religions in the country?

Is Islam really and suddenly under serious threat because of the existence of the various non-Muslim faiths in the country?

If Islam is indeed under threat, where have the Islamic organisations and institutions gone wrong? This is a critical question that the government must account for with utmost honesty especially when our rulers had all through our history played their judicious roles well in protecting, nurturing and keeping the Islamic faith progressing down through the centuries while securing exemplary respect from the citizens of other faiths.

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Muslims in Malaysia truly believe that Islam is a religion for all humankind and a religion of peace and harmony. Even before mooting oppressive laws, perhaps the deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (religious affairs) should foremost answer – where have the well-funded Islamic religious bodies failed, so much so they need to coin more oppressive laws? Islam, being the dominant religion here, should be the religion that takes on that leadership role in successfully ensuring humanity’s coexistence.

Patriot strongly believes that Islam in the country has never been under threat by any other faith. It is a perception created by politicians for their own political advancements. And the tempo of peddling fears over other non-Muslim faiths will grow louder as the general election gathers momentum.

Patriot also echoes the public (Muslims and non-Muslims), who are now increasingly questioning even that very need in the first place for a department at the Prime Minister’s Office to look after Islamic religious affairs when the heads of states have been in good and exemplary control over all things Islam in the country.

Patriot warns that any diabolic political agenda that trespasses the sanctity of religions and betrays or scars the guarantees of the Federal Constitution will have far-reaching and irreparable damage to the peace and harmony of this nation, which has been painstakingly built on the backbone of the nation’s Federal Constitution and nurtured prudently and guarded wisely by the heads of states and the constitutional monarchy.

Patriot believes that any attempts to demonise all the other or any particular non-Muslim religions in the country with laws that punitively marginalise their coexistence will derail the progress, peace and harmony that has made Malaysia a model moderate nation.

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Above all, Patriot will vehemently protest any politically laced attempts that can jeopardise the reputation of our rulers in relation to all matters relating to or implicating Islam and the various other religions that have coexisted and built a one nation.

Retired Brigadier General Dato’ Mohd Arshad Raji is president of the National Patriots Association (Patriot)

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The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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