Thursday, December 8, 2016

Malaysia’s human rights record weak, says report

 | December 8, 2016

Freedom of Thought Report by human rights group cites 'government figures or state agencies which openly marginalise, harass, or incite hatred'.
PETALING JAYA: Malaysia continues to be a “violator” of human rights, including the freedom of thought and expression, coming under serious assault, according to this year’s Freedom of Thought Report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).

“Malaysia rates very badly with ethnic Malays subjected to strict state controls over an enforced, homogenous religious identity, including mandatory shariah laws, and in two states hudud enactments mandating death for ‘apostasy’,” the report stated giving the country a “5” rating for the category of “Freedom of Expression, Advocacy of Humanist Values” – with 5 being the lowest rating.

According to the report published earlier this week, the two states with the “death” penalty for the crime of apostasy are Kelantan and Terengganu, with both governments having passed hudud enactments in 1993 and 2002, respectively.

However, in March last year, Kelantan had passed an amendment to the 1993 enactment, prescribing a jail sentence, should an apostate repent, with the death penalty still possible if such an apostate refuses to repent.

IHEU acknowledges however, that no one has been convicted of apostasy under this shariah law and that according to a 1993 statement by the attorney-general, such a ruling could not be enforced in either state without a constitutional amendment.

That is part of the reason behind the constitutional amendment to the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355) tabled by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang in the Dewan Rakyat under a Private Member’s Bill earlier this year.

The IHEU also gave Malaysia a “5” rating for the category of “Family, Community and Society”, with the emphasis being on “government figures or state agencies which openly marginalise, harass, or incite hatred or violence against the non-religious”.

IHEU cited a speech by Prime Minister Najib Razak, where he labelled “humanism, secularism and liberalism” as dangerous threats to Islam and the state.

“They call it human rightism, where the core beliefs are based on humanism and secularism as well as liberalism.

“It’s deviationist in that it glorifies the desires of man alone and rejects any value system that encompasses religious norms and etiquettes. They do this on the premise of championing human rights,” he had reportedly said in his speech at the opening of the 57th national Quran Recital Assembly in May 2014.

Meanwhile, Malaysia was rated “4” for “severe discrimination” in the other two categories of “Constitution and Government” and “Education and Children’s Rights”.

In the former category, IHEU cited the government’s ban on the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims in Malay-language Bibles and other Christian publications, and its selective application to human rights.

“Malaysia has a narrow conception of human rights, having signed only two of the eight legally enforceable human rights treaties derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

“Even then the state asserts constitutional exemptions to these treaties and to the UDHR itself, asserting that only ‘those fundamental liberties provided for’ in the Constitution will be upheld, thus rendering its signature to the UDHR essentially an empty gesture,” IHEU said.

Malaysia registered an overall score of 4.5 in the IHEU’s Freedom of Thought Report for this year. Among its neighbours, only Indonesia (4.5) and Brunei (4.75) fared the same or worse.

Cambodia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste were all given an overall rating of 3.

The IHEU Freedom of Thought Report has been compiled since 2012, and is based on the submissions of members of IHEU, a worldwide umbrella of humanist, atheist, secular and similar organisations.

~ Free Malaysia Today

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