A climate of tension and apprehension appears to be gripping Malaysia whenever the subject of religion is raised. In the past year and recent months we have seen overreaction on the part of the authorities, certain politicians and right-wing groups in raising and handling issues concerning the practice of religions. We have not seen the end of the Allah issue – the extent or limits on the right of non-Muslims over the use of the word “Allah”.
We have seen the mishandling of the right of Muslims to have and handle dogs, the growing persecution of the Shias, the protest over the display of a cross in a church, protest over building and demolishing of places of worship. Further there is a lack of consultation and uniformity in the religious edicts (fatwas over what is haram and what is halal often seems arbitrary) and the attempt by a state government to introduce the Hudud. In this climate, the government had also rushed amendments to the Sedition Act. Religion it would seem is not only a sensitive subject – but is often used as an excuse to stifle freedom of expression over matters should should be best left to personal space and choice.
HAKAM believes that there is a need to create space for debate and discussion in respect of the freedom of religion in our country. To what extent do Malaysians have freedom of religion, freedom of expression and other human rights in the context of a multi-religious Malaysia and whether such rights are compatible with religions practised in Malaysia?
1.Forum: Human Rights & Religion: Are the two compatible?
To kick start the project, HAKAM and University of Malaya Law Faculty Human Rights Research Group hosted a Forum to discuss the issues pertaining to human rights and religion: whether the two are compatible.
Eminent speakers invited were:
- Shad Faruqi, Prof Emeritus, MARA Uni of Technology
- Dr. Dian Diana Abdul Hamed Shah, Lecturer of Law, University Malaya
- Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, Past President of HAKAM & Lawyer
- Philip Koh, Co-editor of Sheridan & Groves’ The Constitution Of Malaya (5th Edition) & Lawyer
The forum which was held on 23 May 2015 at the Tun Suffian Auditorium, University of Malaya Law Faculty, was attended by more than 200 hundred participants. The post-event report of the forum may be found at this link.
2. Resources on the subject of Human Rights & Religion
Backgrounders & Related Articles
3. Further forums, discussions and projects
HAKAM will be organising more forums, discussion groups and projects to continue the conversation of religions and human rights. We are looking for volunteers and members to join us in organising the same. Please contact us at info[at]hakam.org.my.