Unconstitutional to control, restrict practice of non-Muslim religions, says SUPP

Datuk Sebastian Ting

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By Jaythaleela K

MIRI, Sept 8: Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) opposes a plan by the federal government to legislate a new law to control and restrict the development of non-Muslim religions.

The proposed drafting and introduction of new shariah laws, including a bill on the control and restriction of the development of non-Muslim religions which was announced by the Deputy Minister in charge of Islamic Affairs, Ahmad Marzuk Shaary recently, has caused concern amongst non-Muslims in the country, disclosed SUPP secretary-general Datuk Sebastian Ting in a statement today.

“This is a matter of grave concern to the 45 per cent non-Muslim population of Malaysia who have been guaranteed the freedom of religion as enshrined under Article 11 of the Constitution,” he said.

While Article 3 clearly stipulates that Islam is the religion of the federation, other citizens have a right to practise a religion of their choice in peace and harmony, Ting pointed out, adding that Article 11 of the Constitution does not infringe in any manner whatsoever, on the manner of practice and the rights of non-Muslims to practise a religion of their choice.

“Indeed, the statement of ‘controlling and restricting on the development of non-Muslim religions’ goes against the Federal Constitution, as Article 3(1) says ‘Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation’,” he said.

Ting further said, Article 11(4) clearly provides the right to the government to enact laws to restrict the propagation of any religious doctrines or belief amongst Muslims.

This is a fundamental provision to ensure there is peace and stability and to ensure the majority population that their belief is protected by the Constitution.

“It is very clear from the Federal Constitution that Federal Government cannot control and restrict the right of any non-Muslim from professing, practising and propagating his religion as long as there is no propagation toward person professing the religion of Islam,” he explained.

“SUPP is greatly dismayed as the statement by the Deputy Minister has indeed caused or created fear, uneasiness, anxiety and alarm amongst the non-Muslims on their fundamental right to practise a religion of their choice for to do so means it is unconstitutional and portrays a negative light in view of the new newly minted government,” he said.

Ting pointed out that such a proposal and plan if moved ahead will certainly create a disharmonious Malaysia and will hamper all efforts of the initiatives of the National Unity blueprint.

“From the feedback we received from the ground, many Sarawakians find this statement distasteful and it is tantamount to a lack of mutual respect for other faiths as practised by other Malaysians, in particular Sarawak where the majority of the people are Christians,” said Ting.

Such an insensitive statement is definitely not welcome in Sarawak because it goes against the spirit of unity, harmony and freedom of religion that has been the norm in Sarawak all these years, even before the formation of Malaysia in 1963, he stressed.

“It is important to note and indeed we wish to highlight and stress that any proposal to enact law to restrict the development of non-Muslim religions in Sarawak must first get the consent from the Sarawak government because it affects the interest of Sarawak people for religious freedom, enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report.

“We would like to reiterate that SUPP strongly opposes the proposed drafting and introduction of the above four new shariah laws, including a bill on control and restrictions on the development of non-Muslim religions,” Ting added. — DayakDaily