Updated 2 days ago · Published on 1 May 2017 8:54AM ·
In its annual report, the United States Commission on Religious Freedom added these fears were heightened by reports of religious leaders being harassed and kidnapped.
Pastor Raymond Koh was abducted in broad daylight in February in what appeared to be a well-coordinated operation. There has been no ransom demand or any communication from his kidnappers, suggesting that money was not the motive for the brazen act.
The police have not made much headway in their investigations in the case that has troubled Christians and other religious groups. Christian churches and groups argue that even if Koh was involved in converting Muslims, there are a slew of offences to charge him in court with.
Malaysia was listed as a Tier 2 country in the report that was released this week. Tier 2 countries are those places where religious freedom requires close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in and tolerated by the government. Also on Tier 2 is Afghanistan, Cuba and India.
The commission noted that Malaysians are generally free to worship but minorities often experience discrimination related to their faith, and some have difficulties accessing religious materials, such as Bibles, and obtaining permission to build houses of worship.
It added that there are reports that proselytisation to Muslims widely occurs in public schools, even Catholic schools.
"Majority Malay Muslims increasingly impose restrictive views and norms upon ethnic and religious minorities that not only impact these groups' ability to practice their faith freely, but also constrain their everyday lives. Religious and ethnic minorities have expressed growing concern about the government's pro-Malay Muslim policies and subsequent limitations on their right to practise their beliefs freely, said the commission.
It noted that the dual system of civil and shariah courts, as well as the lawyers of federal versus state laws, sultan-based decrees, religious edicts, erode the notion of a secular state and the constitution as the supreme law in Malaysia.
The commission recommended to the US government that:
* human rights and freedom of religion or belief are pursued consistently and publicly at every level of Malaysia-US ties.
* it press the Malaysian government to bring all laws and policies into conformity with international human rights standards, especially with respect to freedom of religion and freedom of religious expression, including the right to use the word 'Allah".
The USCIRF monitors the right to freedom of religion and belief outside the US and make policy recommendations to the US President, State Secretary and Congress. – May 1, 2017.
~ The Malaysian Insight