The coalition of Islamic NGOs in the UPR process (MuslimUPRo) will be sending a small delegation of observers to the UPR session involving Malaysia at the Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland on 24th October 2013. Prior to this, it was the first time that the Islamic Non-Government Organisations were officially invited by Wisma Putra, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to attend a consultancy process for the preparation of a Malaysian national report to the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The Islamic NGOs were not able to conduct immediate short-term research on issues and proposals put forward at Malaysia’s first UPR process in year 2009. However, MuslimUPRo wishes to give several suggestions to ensure that human rights issues in general, and those that involve the rights of Muslims in particular, are given fair consideration, and that proposals submitted by Malaysia are properly based on Shari’ah (Islamic Laws) and the Malaysian Federal Constitution.
MuslimUPRo wishes to endorse Malaysia’s joint statement with Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), particularly on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). We support the voice of world leaders who want the United Nations, and in particular the Human Rights Council, to be restructured fully independent from attitudes of “politicization”, “selectivity” and “double-standards”.
MuslimUPRo is of the view that this UPR process must not be a technical review on the human rights situation of any particular nation. The UPR should only give a general picture of the human rights situation of any particular nation, and member countries should be aware that peer review cannot replace the expertise of specialists in evaluating any particular issue.
Hence, it is only fair that Malaysia as an OIC member country be given the opportunity to voice its evaluation of specific declarations, in particular, based on relevant sources including important documents such as The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam.
MuslimUPRo is of the opinion that a response must be submitted to the Malaysian government and/or the OIC Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights to insure that issues characterized as shari’ah-specific and intra-faith be debated academically and in detail among Islamic countries and organisations, with the attendance of Shari’ah experts and scholars of Islamic jurisprudence.
Criticism of Shari’ah laws should not be debated openly by those who are non-Muslims, or those who only have a secular human rights background, since they negate the role of religion as a comprehensive element in discussing on the scope of human rights.
The reality of history, culture, and religion, including the Malaysian Federal Constitution, the Vienna Declaration and Action Program, UNGA 60/251 Resolution, the Cairo Declaration, and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, all recognise that the sovereignty of a nation must include all these factors in adopting so-called “universal” values and principles of human rights.
As an example, reference needs to be made to Malaysia’s support of OIC’s Member Countries for having sent a letter to the President of UN Human Rights Council, Laura Dupuy Lasserre, to state the concerns of OIC countries with regard to recent efforts to incorporate terms and standards on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI), and that “acceptance of universal values” cannot pertain to the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and trans-sexuals (“LGBT”).
Our position clearly dismisses any efforts to make LGBT orientations into values that must be accepted by all UN member countries as part of “universal human rights”. If this matter is raised, it should respect Malaysia’s participation in recognising the standing of the OIC and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration in Cambodia in November 2012.
Reference to the OIC Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights should also be made in proposals to Malaysia, in particular those involving the rights of practising Muslims, being the majority of the community in this country. This is also in respect of the position of Islam as the religion of the Federation as embodied in Article 3(1) of the Malaysian Federal Constitution.
Issues involving principles of freedom to practice religion must take into account Islamic views, and not be based solely on the absolute freedom to change the religion of any individual Muslim. As this matter is complex and may cause confusion even among religious people, it is best if interpretations be submitted to Islamic jurists and scholars, and not as revised through the UPR process. This and similar intra-religious issues should be given to institutions that are relevant to those issues, such as the OIC Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights.
Article 8 of the “Statute of the OIC Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights” clearly states: “The Commission shall seek to advance human rights and serve the interests of the Islamic Ummah in this domain, consolidate respect for the Islamic cultures and noble values, and promote inter-civilizational dialogue, consistent with the principles and aims of the OIC Charter.” As an active member of the OIC, Malaysia should seriously support responses in challenge to the UPR on such guidelines as raised in the OIC statute.
Azril Mohd Amin is vice president Muslim Lawyers Association of Malaysia and head of delegation, MuslimUPRo 2013