Religious NGOs must respect each other

Source: Brunei Post

KOTA MARUDU: A senior Sabah politician yesterday issued a stern warning against religious non-governmental organisations which tried to destabilise the country by taking the law into their own hands.

“We treasure the existing religious peace and harmony that we enjoyed since the formation of Malaysia,” said acting Parti Bersatu Sabah President Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili.

He made the call following a provocative proposal by a coalition of Islamic NGOs to ban Christian evangelicalism in Malaysia.

“Today’s harmonious situation has been achieved through respect for the Federal Constitution and practice of moderation and tolerance towards each other’s religion,” the Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister added. Read more

Diversifying perspectives in understanding religion — Mohd Izzuddin Ramli

Source: The Malay Mail Online

BY MOHD IZZUDDIN RAMLI

opinion-clipart-gg60666501FEBRUARY 10 — For most people, religion is the fundamental element in human life. It is perceived in many ways by the believers, either as an identity marker or something that is sacred and embraced as the pillars that they hold onto in their lives. Unsurprisingly, religion particularly Islam has increasingly become a hot topic in Malaysia. It is especially so when Islamisation creeps into every stratum of society.

Religion that is perceived as something personal is gradually becoming social and, worse, a state matter. But what is also worrying is that Islam as is practised in Malaysia is governed by religious institutions that have a monopoly over the interpretation of the religion. In other words, aspects of Islam receive singular, as opposed to diverse, interpretations prescribed by the state institutions. The inclination to be exclusive and monolithic is ostensible not only in intra-religious relations but also in inter-religious relations.

Sunni and Shia conflict that has been going on for decades in countries like Syria, Pakistan and Bahrain, has also reached the shores of Malaysia albeit the intensity of the split is not as high as we can visually perceive in those countries. Yet, we can still see the clash between the conservative and the progressive with all the erroneous labels such as Jews, liberal, Illuminati, traditional and so on that are thrown at each other.

There are such cases that can be seen at the inter-religious level. The relations between Muslims and Christians experiences a setback by cases such as the removal of the cross from a church that happened in Taman Medan, Selangor in 2015 as well as the use of loudspeakers for azan by Muslim. Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) has once again stirred up controversy by asserting that Malays should not wish Christians “Merry Christmas” and celebrate together with them. Read more

How Malaysia can reverse trend of increasing religious intolerance ― Maszlee Malik

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Maszlee Malik is Visiting Fellow at the ISEAS ― Yusof Ishak Institute. This is adapted from a longer piece in ISEAS Perspective.

Maszlee Malik is Visiting Fellow at the ISEAS ― Yusof Ishak Institute. This is adapted from a longer piece in ISEAS Perspective.

NOVEMBER 17 ― A series of incidents in recent years has been undermining the religious harmony that Malaysia has thus far enjoyed. This began with the infamous “cow-head protest” in Shah Alam in August 2009 against a proposed Hindu temple that displayed unveiled disrespect and hatred towards Hindu citizens; and continued with three churches being torched in the Klang Valley in early January 2010.

This was followed by apparent retaliatory arson attacks against two suraus (prayer rooms) in Muar in late January 2010. Then came the mind-numbing act of incitement in April 2015 by 50 residents in Taman Medan over the display of a cross on a newly minted church, followed by the unfortunate Low Yat fracas, which led to the Red Shirts demonstration that further stoked racial tensions.

The mood was further affected by the conundrum over the use of “Allah”, the proposal to make Islamic and Asian civilisation studies compulsory at private universities, and a parliamentary Bill being presented that sought to allow the conversion of minors to Islam based on only one parent’s approval. The government eventually withdrew this controversial Bill, which would have allowed this unilateral conversion throughout Malaysia.

Public statements and actions by national Muslim leaders and state religious authorities have further exacerbated racial and religious discord. Read more

Malaysia’s secular versus religious divide — Saleena Saleem

Source: New Mandala

By Saleena Saleem

The uneasy co-existence of civil and Sharia law in Malaysia and the polarising ethnic and religious divides within its population could be improved by establishing an independent mediation committee, Saleena Saleem writes.

PHOTO: NAIM FADIL ON FLICKR

PHOTO: NAIM FADIL ON FLICKR

In late August Prime Minister Najib Razak announced a proposed amendment to Malaysia’s Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.

The proposal is an attempt to resolve the recurring problem of highly-publicised custody battles over unilateral conversions of children by spouses who have converted to Islam. Several such court disputes, framed around religious freedom, have been pursued in Malaysia’s dual track legal system of civil and Sharia (Islamic law) courts in the past decade.

Amid the growing religiosity of the majority ethnic group, the Malays, who increasingly choose to identify themselves by religion and are calling for wider implementation of Islamic codes and laws, laws that negatively and disproportionately affect non-Muslims are ominous evidence of how secularity is being eroded within the Malaysian polity, especially for non-Muslims.

This dynamic not only leads to increased inter-ethnic tension between the Malay Muslim-majority and the non-Muslim minorities, it also creates tension between the religious and the areligious within the ethnic Malay majority populace. Increasingly, we see societal tensions in Malaysia being expressed in a polarising socio-political discourse that pits the secular against the religious. Read more