Malaysia is fast approaching the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session, to be held on October 24, 2013 at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. There were some reports sent individually to the Council by bodies such as the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Bar Council, the International Commission of Jurists as well as other human rights-based NGOs. However, the contents of the COMANGO (a coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR process) report form the bulk of the demands contained in the documents used as a point of reference for Malaysia’s human rights record this time around. Some of the more dangerous claims to be found in the report are:
i. Paragraph 1: Malaysia is pressured to sign and ratify the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR). One example of the harmful elements contained in the ICCPR can be found in Article 18, on the rights of religious freedom. Please see the following comment: “The Committee observes that the freedom to ” have or to adopt ” a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one’s current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views , as well as the right to retain one ‘s religion or belief …”. The full commentary can be viewed here. The implications of acceptance on the ICCPR will allow for rampant apostasy.
ii. Paragraph 6.8 relates to claims for Malaysia to sign and ratify on International Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), with recommendations to “…provide the institutional legal framework for adopting international obligations into domestic laws”. Compliance with ICERD will only result in Malaysia following the lead of the Western secular views, thus dictating a redefinition on the term of “racism” to apply to Malaysia. This overrules domestic actions which take into account the realities and historical background as well as local religious and socio-cultural aspects. As such, this should be deemed or labelled negatively and stereotyped by the press or media as merely malicious agenda toward a nation.
iii. Malaysia is pressured to recognize SOGI-based (Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity) rights, namely the rights of LGBTIQ (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgendered, inter-sexed and queer persons). The claims of this group allegedly being denied their rights are raised in paragraphs 6.1.1 and 6.1.2 of the report respectively. There are also pressures to abolish section 377A of the Penal Code (carnal intercourse against the order of nature).
iv. Malaysia is also forced to submit to the contents of the 2006 Yogyakarta Principles which gives absolute freedom to those who practice unnatural or deviant sexual practices. With regards to these LGBTIQ rights, please refer to earlier writings here and here . If these LGBT rights are permitted, then the first step that must be taken by the Malaysian Government is to abolish legislation on criminal sodomy. This will pave the way for introduction of legalizing same-sex marriages, which so far has been allowed in 14 countries around the world. Neighbouring Thailand is currently considering introducing similar legislation.
v. Paragraph 6.2 claims that Article 153 of the Constitution in respect to the privileges of the Malays as being racist in nature and termed as a ‘political tool’. This notion is in contravention of the social contract as well as the main features that make up the Federal Constitution.
vi. Paragraph 9 questions the enactments of Shariah Criminal Offences, particularly paragraph 9.5 which urges the repeal or amendment of the Shariah criminal offenses and enactments that are allegedly claimed as denying the rights to privacy.
vii. Paragraph 10 creates confusion on issues of religious freedom in Malaysia. This include the case on the use of the term “Allah” by Christians, which has yet to be decided by the Malaysian highest court. The report also questioned the ban on Shiite followers and their spreading of teachings among Muslims. Additionally, the rights of a Muslim father to convert his underage children to Islam have also been made into a human rights issue.
Given that the UPR process takes place every four years (the first time since 2009), then it is appropriate that the federal government, as well as Islamic organisations (NGIs) always examine the submitted claims so as to avoid contradictory claims toward the position of Islam and the historical and cultural context of the Malaysian society.
Such claims as made in the report are not only contrary to the position of Islam as the religion of the federation, as well as to the country’s sovereignty, and also to the fact that they are made through illicit platforms such as COMANGO. In fact, such organizations and their members need to be investigated in depth, since upon closer scrutiny, only 12 of the 54 members are registered with the Registrar of Societies, Malaysia. These ‘organisations’ do not represent the majority of the Malaysian society, yet they seem large and influential due to their frequent mention. The existence of these entities is also illegal, since they are not legally registered.
Azril Mohd Amin is vice president, Muslim Lawyers Association of Malaysia and Head of Delegation, MuslimUPRo (Muslim NGOs in the UPR process).