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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Interfaith council: No one is questioning Islam


A religious council has rubbished allegations that the position of Islam in the country is “under siege”.

Saying that they are “concerned”, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) is amazed by the remarks made by the Coalition of Muslim Organisations (Pembela) earlier this week.

“How could lslam’s position be under siege when all public institutions and other organs of government are under the control of Muslims?” asked coalition president Reverend Dr Thomas Philips.

He quoted Kita president Zaid Ibrahim who recently said in his blog that the Malays are already in complete political control.

The party president also said that various government-linked companies such as Maybank, Petronas, Telekom Malaysia are already in the government’s hand and managed by Malay-bumiputras.

“The G-20 group of largest listed GLCs alone possesses RM353 billion (around half) of the market capitalisation of the entire Bursa Malaysia,” Zaid had said.

With that, MCCBCHST said that they are “amazed” at Pembela’s claims that a non-Muslim affairs exco position in Penang is unconstitutional and threatens Islam’s position.

“There is no prohibition anywhere in the federal constitution against the designation of a non-Muslim affairs exco. In fact, currently most states under Barisan Nasional have non-Muslim affairs committees to address religious, places of worship, burial grounds and other issues faced by the non-Muslims,” said Philips.

Pembela spokesperson Yusri Mohamad (right) had earlier said that the Penang state government’s designation of a non-Muslim affairs exco as well as the ‘pseudo-appointment’ of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Idris Jala, a Christian, to handle issues pertaining to the Malay-language Bible as threatening Islam’s position as the official religion.

Yusri claimed there is no provision in the federal constitution for any official non-Muslim affairs body, and that making Idris the go-to minister for Christian affairs is thus unconstitutional.

The Perak state government under BN is incidentally the first to designate a non-Muslims affairs exco.

‘Cannot use Islam’s position to question other’s rights’

In a three-page-long statement by MCCBCHST quoting legal provisions, precedent cases as well as constitutional expert Shad Saleem Faruqi, the council also said that they are not aware of anyone questioning Islam’s position as enshrined in Article 3 of the federal constitution.

Shad Saleem had said that Article 3 (on lslam) does not extinguish anything else in the constitution.

“Article 3(4) provides that ‘Nothing in this Article derogates from any other provision of this constitution. This means that Articles 3 cannot be employed to challenge the validity of a drug trafficking law on the ground that some of its provisions were un-Islamic (Che Omar Che Soh (1988),” Shad was reported to have said.

“Thus, one cannot use the position of lslam as the religion of the federation to question other’s rights. lt has to be based on the provisions of the federal constitution,” said Philips.

He added that though the council reiterates and accepts unequivocally the position of lslam as the religion of the federation as provided for by Article 3, it cannot be used to challenge any other constitutional position.

“The MCCBCHST therefore calls on Yusri and the Muslim NGOs to work together with all citizens towards a harmonious, judicious and united Malaysia,” said Philips.

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