Friday 5 August 2011

No law against Muslims in churches, says Bar Council

August 05, 2011
Lim said the Jais raid and the recent 8TV advertisements were a poor reflection of the nation’s multiculturalism. — File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 5 — The Bar Council said there are no laws stopping Muslims from entering church premises, and accused the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) today of “disrespecting” the right to association by raiding a Petaling Jaya church this week.
Its president Lim Chee Wee also pointed out there is no law stating Muslims cannot be part of the audience at a thanksgiving event held in church premises, even if it contained religious elements like prayer and singing.

“By conducting such a raid... then taking down the particulars of Muslims found in attendance, treating them as though they had somehow broken the law, Jais has besmirched the good name and sullied the hard-earned reputation of Malaysia and her peoples for multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-faith acceptance,” he said in a statement.

“Especially in this month of Ramadan, one would have hoped that the Islamic religious authorities in Selangor would have focused their attention on more constructive pursuits rather than the disruption of a community thanksgiving dinner that brought together people of various races and faiths in peace, harmony and unity.”

Lim said the raid — which followed “insensitive” public service announcements (PSA) by 8TV — did not bode well for racial and religious harmony in Malaysia as their actions suggested that moderation was increasingly giving way to “mindless orthodoxy”.

“If, after almost 54 years of independence in Peninsular Malaysia, a state Islamic authority and a national television company can still display a form of arrogant authoritarianism and callous condescension in their actions, then we must collectively ask ourselves where we have failed as a nation,” he said.

He added that he welcomed the statement of regret offered by Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and urged that disciplinary action be taken against Jais officers responsible for the raid if they are found to have exceeded their authority.

“The civil authorities cannot allow the Islamic department to wantonly disrespect the fundamental rights and liberties of all citizens to gather and associate freely with one another,” Lim stressed.
Jais enforcement officers raided a dinner function at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church late Wednesday night without a warrant after receiving an unspecified complaint, bringing with them a team of policemen.

Between 100 and 120 people, including several Muslims, attended the non-religious event to celebrate non-profit outfit Harapan Komunity’s success in helping women, children, HIV/AIDS sufferers and victims of natural disasters.

Immediately after, Khalid called on Jais to furnish the state government with a full report on the purpose of the raid while assuring that the state government fully respects freedom of religion and rights of religious groups.

But state executive councillor Datuk Hasan Ali defended Jais’s actions, alleging that the words “Quran” and “pray” were used in the presence of 12 Muslims at the dinner and claimed this was proof Christians had been proselytising to Muslims there.

Hasan’s PAS colleague, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, then sought to distance the party’s state leadership from its former chief by saying it was “not Selangor PAS’s stance”, revealing a deep and continuing rift between the Islamist party’s liberal and more hardline factions in the state.

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