KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 — G25 spokesperson Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin urged today non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who have been defamed by religious agencies to file lawsuits and complaints with the police.
Speaking during her keynote address at the 6th Civil Society Award ceremony here today, in which she addressed Malaysia’s status as a secular state, Noor Farida highlighted that religious authorities have been singling out organisations that are labelled as having “liberal Muslim” ideologies.
“Any NGO that have [sic] been defamed by Malaysian Islamic Strategic Research Institute (IKSIM) and the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and others — lodge a police report for criminal defamation and sue them for defamation,” said Noor Farida, whose G25 group comprises former senior civil servants and promotes moderation.
In her speech, she claimed that federal religious agencies were “sowing seeds of discord and disharmony” in Malaysia due to their strict interpretation of Islam and their opposition to any Islamic or intellectual discourse.
She referred to a booklet published by IKSIM, a think-tank under Jakim, which stated that secularism was a threat to Malaysia’s sovereignty and also reportedly stated that the importance of Islam does not rank lower than the Federal Constitution.
“Civil society needs to put a stop to this nonsense, before we wake up one day and find ourselves in an Islamic state according to their interpretation of Islam,” she said.
Noor Farida said that the narrow interpretation being espoused by these authorities was not only a threat to non-Muslims, but also to Muslims.
“For them, Islam is like Hotel California, you can go in but you cannot come out,” she said.
She also called on more rulers to speak up against the actions of Putrajaya-backed religious bodies, noting that the Johor Sultan and Perak Sultan have voiced out on the matter.
Johor Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar recently criticised Jakim ,while Perak ruler Sultan Nazrin Shah had reprimanded religious authorities that engaged in abuse of power.
Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Kelantan, a group of indigenous activists who set up a blockade at Gua Musang to prevent logging at their land, won the Civil Society Award by the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.
The two other award winners were the Delineation Action Research Team (DART), a group that promotes fair delineation of constituency boundaries, and Chong Ton Sin, founder of publisher Gerakbudaya.