By iPeguam and YP
iPeguam and the Young Professionals (YP) condemn strongly the call by National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) chairman Rev Eu Hong Seng for the prosecution of Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA) CEO Azril Mohd Amin for his article published in Utusan Malaysia which called for a ban on Christian evangelicalism, as reported by the Malay Mail Online and Free Malaysia Today.
We note this call comes on the back of efforts by highly irresponsible parties to vilify Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) academician Kamarul Zaman Yusoff for revealing efforts by local evangelists to propagate their faith in flagrant disregard of existing state laws banning such activities among Muslims, made pursuant to Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution, a fact detailed by Ian Buchanan in his works The Armies of God and Sang Nila Utama and the Lion of Judah published in 2010 and 2015 respectively.
For the information of Rev Eu Hong Seng, while Article 11(1) of the Constitution does provide for religious freedom, this is not just subject to limitation under Article 11(4), but also Article 11(5) where laws limiting such freedom for public order are expressly allowed. Azril had made his argument for the ban based the said provisions, as evident not only by his citing of Russia’s Yarovaya Act but also Singapore’s Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act, made under Article 15(4) of the island republic’s constitution, which is the same as our constitution’s Article 11(5).
Section 8(1) of Singapore’s Act allows a restraining order to be made against individuals and organizations carrying out activities to promote a political cause, or a cause of any political party while, or under the guise of, propagating or practising any religious belief or carrying out subversive activities under the guise of propagating or practising any religious belief, among others. This is precisely what is being done by irresponsible politicians cited by the UUM academician, Kamarul.
Further, contrary to Eu Hong Seng’s claim, far from the alleged failure to cite evidence and the alleged non-mention of Malaysian evangelical Christians as being involved in extremism and terrorism, Azril’s citing of the cancelled Jerusalem Jubilee event due to be held in Melaka is in fact such evidence. Before this, news portal Menara.my has also reported on efforts by the International Christian Association to convert Malay Muslims in Kedah and Johor.
In addition to this, even Parti Cinta Malaysia president Datuk Huan Cheng Guan of and the former president of Hindu Sangam, A Subramaniam, have complained of unethical conversion of Buddhists and Hindus by Christian evangelicals, with as many as 160,000 Hindus converted in the 1990s. Yeoh’s biography, Becoming Hannah is also indicative of her propensity for fomenting division amongst peoples of various races and religions along the line of Zakir Naik, another controversial figure.
The NECF’s call for prosecution of Azril, a known human rights defender, under the Penal Code and the Sedition Act, long denounced by various local and international human rights organizations for purportedly stifling freedom of speech, based solely on his expert opinion is equivalent to persecution for his exercise of academic freedom in the same vein as Kamarul, and must be denounced by all Malaysians for violating the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution as well as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It is more perplexing and hypocritical of NECF to call for action to be taken under the Sedition Act when it has itself denounced the Act as a stumbling block to democracy.
Article 19 of the UDHR states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression and this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Such a right is crucial if our society is have an honest, open debate on Christian evangelicalism and how it affects our community, Muslim and non-Muslim included. The attempt by NECF to shut down this debate by calling for Azril’s prosecution therefore, is truly contemptible and abhorrent, given hard won recent strides made in upholding freedom of speech.
That NECF can even contemplate the call indicates not only its own hypocrisy, but also increasing disrespect for and erosion of this fundamental freedom. The NECF would be wise to heed the saying of the enlightenment philosopher Voltaire who defended the right of everyone their views, notwithstanding any profound disagreement he might have had views contrary to his own.
We call upon SUHAKAM, the Malaysian Bar and other local and international human rights and civil society organisations to condemn and denounce the call by the NECF for police action and prosecution of Azril for exercising his right to free speech, and for SUHAKAM to initiate an investigation into this call. We also stand in solidarity with CENTHRA on this matter, and call on fellow Malaysians to affirm their belief in freedom of speech by doing the same.
- Press Statement by iPeguam and YP.
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