Malaysian interfaith groups welcome non-passage of bill on non-Muslims

A top Malaysian official earlier announced that laws are being drafted, including one restricting the propagation of non-Muslim religions

An interfaith groups in Malaysia welcomed the reported non-passage of a proposed measure that will regulate the practice of non-Muslim religion in the country.

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism said no proposals have been submitted to parliament to restrict or control the development of non-Muslim religions in the country.

The group said the issue was not also brought to the Cabinet for discussion.

The council made the clarification following an announcement made earlier by Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs YB Ustaz Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, who said the government has been drafting four new laws that include one on the “Control and Restriction on the Propagation of Non-Muslim Religions.”

Ahmad Marzuk said the new laws were part of a five-year federal government “empowerment plan” to strengthen Sharia laws through 11 changes to existing legislation.

“The government has drafted a plan to strengthen sharia laws, especially in the Federal Territories, over a period of five years from 2020 to 2025,” he said.

“In this empowerment plan, the government has proposed 11 key shariah laws, which include the enactment of new laws and amendments to existing ones.”

He said that changes to the 1965 Sharia Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, which has been underway since 2016, are also part of the plan.

The announcement worried various non-Muslim groups in the country, according to a report by the Catholic Herald Malaysia.

The interfaith council said the statement of Ahmad Marzuk was flawed because the country’s Federal Constitution states that every person has the right “to profess and practice his religion and … to propagate it.”

The only condition is that federal law “may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.”

The interfaith council said that if there is no propagation of other religions doctrines or beliefs to Muslims, the condition does not apply.

Meanwhile, the Association of Churches in Sarawak also expressed its “surprise” at Ahmad Marzuk’s statement.

The group said it considers any attempt to introduce bills affecting non-Muslim religions as directly contravening the very spirit of the formation of Malaysia.

Ahmad Marzuk has not yet withdrawn his statement about the bill.

Up to 60 percent of the 32 million Malaysian population are Muslims, about 20 percent are Buddhists, 10 percent Christians and about 6.3 percent are Hindus.

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