OCTOBER 21 — The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) welcomes the decision of the Court of Appeal on October 11, 2016, allowing the appeal of Rosliza Ibrahim; a woman who was born out of wedlock to a Buddhist mother, was raised a Buddhist and continues to profess Buddhism as an adult.
Over the decades, many individuals have approached the MCCBCHST because of similar problems i.e. individuals wrongly designated as “Muslims” by the Government. They are designated as such despite never having professed Islam all their lives. It must be emphasised that these are not cases of people wanting to leave or renounce Islam, but cases where they are not even Muslims in the first place.
Historically, Malaysia is a diverse nation; a nation of many ethnicities, religions and cultural traditions. These exist in West and East Malaysia. There can only be unity in Malaysia if this diversity is acknowledged and preserved by all institutions of Government i.e. Parliament, Cabinet and the Judiciary.
Actions by the Government to define the religious identity of citizens without their consent or in disregard of their choice are violations of freedom of religion. Forcing someone to be labelled a “Muslim” and preventing them from making changes to this label is coercive and shows contempt for human dignity. Government actions like this are reflective of religious intolerance; which fractures the peaceful and harmonious co-existence of Malaysia’s multi-religious society while harming the spiritual well-being of individual Malaysians.
The Cabinet and Parliament must take steps to formulate an inclusive policy and enact relevant laws respectively to resolve disputes faced by people like Rosliza Ibrahim. Citizens shouldn’t have to expend money or be made to go through the courts simply to have their true religious identity recognised. The administrative process to resolve such disputes must also be effective, responsive, accessible and fair.
Our political representatives cannot continue to hide behind party politics and deprive Malaysians of their constitutional rights and human rights. Support and respect for the country by citizens can only be gained if the Government respects citizens’ rights and develops measures for the exercise of those rights. Eliminating access to justice for citizens will create a Malaysian society that is distrustful, cynical and apathetic towards the country.
MCCBCHST calls upon Cabinet and Parliament to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution by taking proactive steps to recognise freedom of religion in Malaysia in line with Article 11 of the Federal Constitution 1957 and 1963 and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. That “Malaysia is a constitutional democracy founded upon the Rule of Law” would be a hollow statement if the Government cannot or refuses to commit itself to international human rights standards ,which proclaim that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
* This is a press statement written in the name of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST)