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Islam under threat if Putrajaya buckles at Geneva review, Muslim NGO warns

A visitor takes pictures with the Putra Mosque (left) and the Malaysian Prime Minister’s office in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur on June 26, 2013. — AFP pic
A visitor takes pictures with the Putra Mosque (left) and the Malaysian Prime Minister’s office in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur on June 26, 2013. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 ― Islam will come under the threat of apostasy and secularism if Putrajaya caves to pressures from civil rights groups during its human rights review in Geneva this month, the Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association warned today.

In a statement here, association president Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar urged the government to ignore the demands of Comango or the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR (Universal Periodic Review), which had recently issued its list of recommendations ahead of the October 24 review by the Human Rights Council.

According to Zainul, the coalition of over 50 NGOs had recommended far-reaching proposals purportedly to improve the country’s human rights record but this would also effectively usurp Islam and Malaysia’s sovereignty.

Among others, the leader pointed out that Comango had sought for Malaysia to be signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a convention to protect freedom in religion that he said would encourage apostasy.

Zainul said Comango had also asked Putrajaya to sign Malaysia on as part of the International Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), another human rights treaty that he claimed would infuse western laws into the local justice system, without offering any consideration to local cultures and values.

“Malaysia was asked to submit to the ICERD, which will force the country to follow the dictates of the secular West, as well as accede to universal values that are contrary to local norms and will threaten the country’s sovereignty,” he said in the statement.

Zainul noted that Comango had also urged Putrajaya to endorse SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) righs or rights of the LGBTIQ group, better known as Lesbians, Bisexuals, Gays, Transgender, inter-sexed and queer persons.

“In fact, there are also pressures calling for the elimination of, inter alia, Section 277A of the Penal Code, which criminalises consensual anal or oral sex, on the basis of human rights,” he said.

“If these LGBT rights are permitted, then the first step that the Malaysian government has to take is to repeal laws on sodomy, allow same-sex marriages and many others,” he warned.

Comango had also created “confusions” over the issue of freedom of religion in Malaysia, Zainul claimed, citing the coalition's stand on the controversial “Allah” legal tussle between Christians and Muslims here.

“PPMM insists that such claims not only challenge the position of Islam as the religion of the federation and the country’s sovereignty, but it is also done through an invalid platform like Comango,” he said, referring to the association by its Malay initials.

“PPMM urges the Malaysian government not to entertain or accede to Comango’s demands as they had not taken into account the cultures, practices and religions of Malaysia.

“No religion in this world endorses adultery and homosexuality,” he said.

“It is extremely important that the government does not cave to these pressures and defends Islam as the religion of the federation,” he added.

Comango comprises NGOs like Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), the Pusat Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower), Christian Federation Malaysia, Amnesty International Malaysia, KLSCAH Civil Rights Committee, Centre for Independent Journalism and others.

Malaysia is expected to face a beating for its human rights record when the government faces its second UPR this October 24.

The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) said in a recent statement that in particular, the government will come under grave criticism for approving the latest amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act 1959.

Among others, the amendments allowed the return of detention without crime, a highly-contentious element in the Internal Security Act that was done away with when the law was repealed recently by the Najib administration.

“(The) current legislative initiatives in the interest of public security ... in particular the amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act 1959, will open the country to scrutiny and criticism by the international community,” its chairman, Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, said in a statement recently as quoted by The Sun daily.

Malaysia was first came under the UPR review on February 11, 2009, and consequently accepted 62 of the 103 recommendations issued by the UPR working group.

The UPR, according to media reports, is a United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council mechanism that was established in 2007 to improve the treatment of human rights in all 193 UN member states.

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