Call to ban Evangelicalism simply wrong, says constitutional lawyer

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Source: The Malaysian Insight 

Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra) CEO Azril Mohd Amin proposes that the ‘dangerous movement that is evangelicalism’ be kept in check as it ‘threatens religious harmony in Malaysia’. – YouTube screenshot, June 16, 2017.

EVERY Malaysian has the right to profess and practise his or her religion according to the Federal Constitution, and this right may not be restricted or denied by the state, a constitutional lawyer said, on the call to ban Evangelical Christianity in Malaysia.

Lawyer Syahredzan Johan said to outlaw evangelicalism here would be unconstitutional especially when the church worships in private without propagating to Muslims.

“Outlawing Evangelical Christianity would be unconstitutional. These are Christian denominations we are talking about, and Article 11(1) is clear; all persons have the right to profess and practise their religion.

“This right cannot be restricted or denied by the state at all. So there is no grounds to outlaw it,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra), a coalition of Islamic groups, had said the banning of evangelicalism was in line with Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, towards preserving peace among religions.

However, Syahredzan said the only restriction that could be imposed by the individual state is on propagation to Muslims, and there were already existing laws for it.

“But if an evangelical church worships in private and without propagation, then there is absolutely no ground for the state to outlaw it,” he said.

“Firstly, Article 11 guarantees the freedom of religion. The NGO is wrongly relying on Article 11. Article 11 does not support what they say.

“That is not quoting out of context. That is ignoring the clear words of the Article.

Kamarul Yusoff, the Universiti Utara Malaysia lecturer who had accusedSelangor Speaker Hannah Yeoh of proselytising to Muslims, had cited Section 4(1)(a) of the Enactment of Controls and Sanctions (expansion of non-Islamic Religions) of Selangor 1988 and Section 298 (A) (1) of the Penal code which touches on similar issues of preserving peace among religions.

Shahredzan said Section 298A had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (as the Federal Court was known before 1994).

“The Supreme Court held that Section 298A of the Penal Code is by pitch and substance. This section is a law with respect to which Parliament has no power to make law. The power lies with the states to legislate such matters.

“Section 298A cannot be attached to the whole Evangelical Christian denomination in the country. If any, it is an offence only for individuals who commit the offence, not the church as a whole.

Similarly for the enactment, he said, only those who engage in propagation can be liable. Not other members of the denomination. It is an offence by an individual, not for the church as a whole.

“So any reference to these legislation to justify this dangerous and ridiculous suggestion to ban Evangelicalism, is simply wrong,” Shahredzan added. – June 16, 2017.