National harmony law violates Rukunegara with nod to atheists

Originally reported here.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 — The National Unity Consultative Council’s (NUCC) proposed anti-discrimination law contravenes the Rukunegara’s principle of belief in God by recognising atheism, a coalition of Muslim groups have said.

In a column in Malay newspaper Mingguan Malaysia today, MuslimUPRo chief Azril Mohd Amin noted that the NUCC’s National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill 2014 defined “religion” as “any religion and includes any belief or lack of a religious belief”, which he said would include atheists and the freedom to renounce a faith.

“This clearly contradicts the Rukunegara’s first principle, which is belief in God,” Azril wrote.

The Rukunegara, or National Principles, are a set of five values introduced after the 1969 race riots to foster unity among Malaysians.

He also said the NUCC should refer their three proposed laws to replace the Sedition Act to the Conference of Rulers first as the bills touched on religious matters and racial unity.

“The draft laws were also not referred to the state Islamic religious councils and not discussed with the Cabinet’s Special Committee to Promote Understanding and Harmony Among Religious Adherents (JKMPKA) or other relevant bodies.

“Instead, bodies with lesser credibility like Proham and the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) have monopolised discussions on the content of the bills,” said Azril.

He claimed that the NUCC’s proposed laws, which include an anti-hate crime bill, violated Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution that positioned Islam as the religion of the federation.

The MuslimUPRo head further alleged that the NUCC’s anti-discrimination bill was an attempt to redefine Article 153 of the Federal Constitution on the special position of the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak.

He noted that although the National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill stated that nothing in it derogated from Article 153, the proposed law contradicted itself by prohibiting “racial superiority”, “exclusivity based on religion, race,” and the “exclusive control by persons of a particular religion, race”.

“The usage of such terms is a direct criticism and an attempt to change Article 153,” Azril said.

“The drafters of the National Harmony Bill must remember Article 38(5) that states that the Conference of Rulers must first be consulted before any change in policy affecting administrative action under Article 153 is made,” he added.

Azril also said that the NUCC’s National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission Bill, which detailed the functions of the commission that would inquire into complaints of discrimination, was akin to taking over the role of the judiciary in deciding on constitutional issues and other matters involving the role of the monarchy as the head of Islam.

“In fact, if you look at it closely, the powers and function of the tribunal are similar to the proposed Interfaith Commission that was wholly rejected by various parties, especially the Malay-Muslim NGOs and the federal government,” he said.

Last August, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup said the Interfaith Commission of Malaysia that was proposed in 2005 had not been shelved, but was merely given another name, which was the JKMPKA.

The NUCC is proposing three laws: the Racial, Religious and Hate Crimes bill, which outlaws hate speech; the National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill, which prohibits discrimination; and the National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission Bill, which details the functions of the commission that will inquire into complaints of discrimination.

The proposed laws are designed to replace the Sedition Act that Putrajaya pledged in 2012 to repeal.

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