Wednesday, July 26, 2006
posted by PabloPabla at 2:23 pm

Just when we thought Malaysia is moving towards a new chapter and age where citizens are free to air their views in a peaceful and civilised manner, we appear to be taking a step backwards.

I am talking about the Article 11 Forum. Article 11 is an umbrella body of 13 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which had held forums in Penang and Johor Bahru recently. The topic for discussion in the Johor Bahru forum was "Freedom for All". For a more detailed view of what was discussed and transpired during the meeting, read this report by Serene Ong from the Malaysian Bar who was present in the meeting.

It was a victory for freedom in this country of some sorts. A group of people were given the right to meet and discuss "sensitive" issues in a civic and matured manner. Police permits are hard to come by for such meetings on "sensitive" issues. Whilst there were a group of demonstrators outside the hotel calling for an end to the discussion, freedom won in the sense that the police allowed them to demonstrate peacefully.

The interesting part to note is that Sisters in Islam (SIS) is part of this 13 NGOs and had the maturity to discuss issues relating to the legal position of muslims in the Civil Court and the Syariah Court vis a vis the Federal Constitution. These women ought be commended for their maturity in handling such issues tactfully, with an open-mind and being able to agree to disagree where views differ. Some of the speakers are muslims too.

In today's news headlines, the Prime Minister of Malaysia Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi informed that Article 11 forums to discuss inter-faith issues must be stopped immediately because they are deemed to cause tension in our multi-religious society. Following the UMNO Supreme Council's meeting wherein the council had expressed utmost concern over the inter-faith issues being discussed, Pak Lah (as he is fondly known) was further quoted to have said "If possible, such discussions should not be carried out at all. It has passed the stage where it is worrying all of us. The Government will monitor the situations and developments."

Taken from his press statement, it paints a picture that Malaysians are not capable of having a rational discussion with one another without threat of tension. What tension was he talking about? He must obviously be referring to violence. Mere words alone does not break bones. If there is a threat of violence, which may have been the justification for the call to Article 11 to stop the roadshows, what steps had been taken to arrest such threats of violence?

We must not remain on cloud 9 thinking that everything is hunky-dory in Malaysia especially where matters of faith and ethnic relations are concerned. There is much dissatisfaction amongst the citizens of the country on the lack of freedom to express their views.

Though I may not agree with some views, I would not be stupid enough to start picking up a stick or samurai sword to attack those people whose views are different from mine. Rather, one should try to understand the alternative views canvassed so that one can emphatise with their position and background as well as whatever constraints they may be living in. By understanding, we can learn to adjust our lifestyle, demands and expectations to live harmoniously with one another.

I for one, do not understand why some muslim brothers / sisters find it totally unacceptable to discuss about their religion as against mine. How am I suppose to understand if proper and rational discussion is not allowed? And how are they expected to understand my beliefs and my predicaments? How does a discussion threaten Islam as a religion? The Almighty God does not need men to defend Him for He is omnipotent. I am sure they would agree with me that God is omnipotent.

If freedom to discuss issues in a civilised manner is curtailed in the interest of some with veiled threats to disrupt national unity (whether in the form of threats of violence or actual violence), then the country is taking a further step backwards in the quest for deeper understanding between the multi-ethnic multi-religious people of this country.



At 6:57 pm, Blogger Trashed

It is sad that religion continues to be politicised.

Seems like in this country, you cannot say anything against one particular religion but feel free to be critical on the others. Mana boleh ?

Shows weakness when one uses "sensitive issue" to discourage discussion when it is probably for the good of the country if the issues are clarified.

I am all for a sacular state.


At 10:54 pm, Blogger H J Angus

I agree with you.

It is a sad day for Malaysia as peaceful citizens have been sidelined.

Maybe we should all start wearing black arm-bands as a sign that our rights have been jeopardised by the mob and the authorities who have taken the side of the mob.


At 8:41 am, Blogger PabloPabla

I suppose this is what you call the power of politics. The majority will always impose their might on the minority using all sorts of excuses.


At 1:36 pm, Anonymous joshua


where is power people? and when?

by the way, i'm stil unclear abt Article 11


At 2:28 pm, Blogger PabloPabla

Article 11 of the Federal Constitution guarantees the fundamental liberty of every person in Malaysia to "profess and practice his religion".

The group which called themselves Article 11 is committed to embrace, uphold and pursue the realisation of principles concerning freedom of thought, conscience and belief as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution and International Human Rights norms. Forums are being organised to discuss and make the public aware of their fundamental rights as recently, there has been an increasing hostility towards the affirmation of the right to freedom of belief for all Malaysians under the Constitution.



At 11:15 pm, Anonymous joshua

ok thanks

so the joy lina's case comes under Article 11 too?


At 9:40 am, Blogger PabloPabla

In a way, yes. Counsels in Lina's case have submitted to the Court on Freedom of Religion. Lina is of the view that she has the right to choose her religion and convert from being a Muslim to a Christian and have her MyKad reflected that way. However, the NRD is of the view that she must first go to the Syariah Court to confirm her renunciation of Islam before NRD make the changes.


At 12:53 pm, Blogger Meng

Is there a diffeence between the Article 11 lectures and the inter faith dialogue. I understood this as different initiatives.

The Article 11 does not at all question the relevancy of Islam because under the Fed Const. it is clearly protected as the official religion of the country.


At 12:57 pm, Blogger PabloPabla

meng : According to Article 11, their forum does not touch on IFC. Rather, their forum seeks to understand the protection for all under the Federal Constitution. However, some groups feel that the forum by Article 11 threatens the Islamic religion. Anyway, it looks like it is best that everyone cool down for now as advised by the Government...