Sunday 19 June 2011

Hindraf: End religious ‘persecution’

PETALING JAYA: Hindraf Makkal Sakthi, an NGO in overdrive since late 2007, wants Malaysia to end all forms of religious persecution in the country or incur the wrath of the international community on the issue.
They fear that Malaysia will end up as an “international pariah state and outlaw like some other countries run by rogue regimes”.

The NGO warns that religious persecution is a serious offence under the United Nations Charter, of which Malaysia is a signatory, and under international law. Religion should not be brought into the public sphere, it added, to clobber anyone with it.

“This (religious persecution) has been going on long enough in the country and we want to see an end to it,” said Hindraf chair P Waythamoorthy in a telephone call from political asylum in London.

“Enough is enough. Don’t play politics with religion.”

He was commenting on the on-going polemics on the incidence of apostasy (murtad) in the country following conflicting statements from Selangor mufti Tamyes Abdul Wahid and Islamic Affairs Minister Jamil Khir Baharom.

The minister, in particular, has allegedly contradicted himself by telling the press something different from what he told Parliament.

Waythamoorthy refuses to be drawn into the polemics which, according to him, is being politicized by the mufti and the minister.

Instead, the Hindraf chair wants the authorities to buck up on the issue of religious persecution or risk the international community applying sanctions against Malaysia.

“We must not think that it (sanctions) will not happen. It will once the international community decides that the country has lost credibility on the issue of religious persecution,” said Waythamoorthy.

“If enough people in Malaysia stand up on the issue, things could get very hot quickly for the government.”

New umbrella body

Asked for his definition of religious persecution, Waythamoorthy cited, as an example, that the country was not allowing freedom of worship as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

One aspect was “the authorities forcing non-Muslims to embrace Islam against their will when they married Muslims”.

Other examples, he said, were rampant incidents of body-snatching by Islamic Religious Department officials, difficulties in getting official permission to build places of worship, indiscriminate demolishing of places of worship, religious establishments being forced to take down the symbols of their faith and discrimination against one on the basis of faith.

“The worst form of religious persecution in Malaysia is the encroachment of the Syariah Court into the domain of the civil courts,” fumed Waythamoorthy. “The civil courts are the last bastion of civilization in Malaysia.”
Unfortunately, he added, there were too few non-Muslim judges in Malaysia to defend the judiciary from insidious attack by the Syariah Court.

The Hindraf chief conceded that his ad hoc apolitical movement had not been vocal enough on religious persecution in the country. However, he vowed that things will be very different from now on under the UK-based Human Rights Foundation Malaysia which was recently set up to work closely with all human rights NGOs in the country.

“Religious persecution will top our agenda in Malaysia, at the United Nations and in international forums,” said Waythamorthy.

“We have already raised the issue of Islam being imposed illegally on Sabah and Sarawak as the official religion and the Orang Asli Christians being persecuted for their faith.”

Opting out of Islam

Another sore point, continued Waythamoorthy, is the establishment of religious rehabilitation centres all over the country to re-brainwash apostates in Islam and force them to abandon their original faith or reject their new non-Islamic faith.

He reckons these centres as akin to the re-education camps set up by the communists during the Cold War years.

“The Islamic religious authorities in Malaysia are treading the same path as that taken by the communist bloc since 1917,” said Waythamoorthy.

“The Free World would sooner or later have to fight yet another global Cold War, this time against religious intolerance and the lack of respect for democracy, human rights and women.”

The Selangor mufti, Tamyes Abdul Wahid, has since disclosed that many new converts to Islam in the country applied to renounce their new faith and return to their original beliefs once their marriage to Muslim partners fell apart. He denounced the tendency among non-Muslims to embrace Islam only when they married Muslims.

Tamyes was elaborating on Jamil Khir’s recent statement in Parliament, as recorded in the Hansard, that 168 applications had been approved in recent months to opt out of Islam.

Jamil Khir has also been reported as saying by Bernama, the national news agency, that the Syariah Court had not approved even a single case of “opting out” todate.

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