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KUCHING, March 3: Putting aside their political differences, state opposition leaders today welcomed the move by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to amend Sarawak’s Syariah Court Ordinance 2001 to address administrative complications faced by converts leaving Islam.
State Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman and also state DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen, state PKR chairman Baru Bian and state AMANAH chairman Fidzuan Zaidi in a joint statement today said Sarawakians should all be united in their stand on this matter as the recent apostasy jurisdiction case was not a Muslim versus Christian issue, but merely honouring the rights of the people to freedom of religion.
“We appreciate the immediate and positive statement made by the Chief Minister today in response to our call for the government to amend the law to set clear procedures for those who wish to convert out of Islam, in the light of the Federal Court’s decision on Tuesday on the apostasy cases.
“The Chief Minister’s promise to amend the law is consistent with Sarawak’s rights under MA63 (Malaysia Agreement 1963) and pursuant to the Federal Constitution. As Sarawakians, we should all be united in our stand on this matter. It is clearly not a Muslim versus Christian issue, but merely honouring the rights of the people to freedom of religion.
“After the Federal Court decision, some extremist people have made outrageous accusations and lies about Baru Bian’s role in these cases. Some have said that our stand on the matter is a stand against Islam and our call for the government to amend the law would open the floodgate for conversions out of Islam. We hope that the Chief Minister’s clear statement today will cause them to pause and reconsider their rash actions and words,” said the opposition leaders in the statement.
They also said that the Chief Minister’s rational and calm statement clearly shows that he understands the issue for what it is, and that there is no Christian agenda.
“We are merely protecting the individual’s rights fought for by our forefathers.
“As a result of the events after Tuesday’s decision, we are reminded of the late (former Chief Minister Pehin Sri) Adenan Satem’s stand on this matter, as he had said on many occasions that the state would protect the rights to religious freedom for its multiracial community, and he had said after the Rooney Rebit case that he would formulate a policy to safeguard Sarawakians’ freedom of religion after the 11th state election.
“We are glad to note that Abang Johari is taking up the mantle from Adenan Satem. We hope that the Chief Minister will personally see to it that the amendment will be effected within six months, as he had promised, and that the heated debate and condemnation on social media will cease with this affirmative stand,” it said, further stressing that this issue must not be politicised, as the state’s religious and racial harmony would be too precious to be sacrificed for political expediency. — DayakDaily