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Verbal assault on human rights defender a setback — CENTHRA, CLJ, MLC, PPMM, iPeguam and YP

MAY 17 — The Centre for Human Rights and Advocacy (CENTHRA), the Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ), the Malaysian Lawyers Circle (MLC), the Muslim Lawyers Association (PPMM), iPeguam and the Young Professionals (YP) strongly condemn Farouk A Peru for his article, ‘Islamofascist Think Tank Which Tanks At Thinking’ in which CENTHRA chief executive Azril Mohd Amin was likened to a snatch thief.

The CENTHRA head was likened as such for his comment regarding the proposed Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Amendment Act 2017 wherein one of the changes proposed is to require joint consent of both parents for a child of a non-Muslim marriage to be converted to Islam but not when converting to other religions.

In a report by online news portal Free Malaysia Today, the chief executive pointed out that there was no equal treatment between Muslim and non-Muslim marriages when it came to conversion of children by the proposed amendment, and as such, the amendment was discriminatory against Muslims in particular, citing the cases of Indira Ghandi and R Subashini in support.

For this, self-styled ‘Islamologist’ and author Farouk A Peru compared him to a snatch thief who wants a law enacted to protect a so-called ‘right’ to snatch purses belonging to others.

The comparison is false, absurd and utterly contemptable. It is in no way valid in any way and to give it any credence is to go beyond the pale.

That such a comparison can be formulated by Farouk in itself lends support to the idea that Farouk is hardly an authority when it comes to rational discourse in itself, much less an expert in Islam, human rights or anything remotely related to the two.

It also smacks of a personal attack and a verbal assault against a known Malaysian human rights defender, contrary to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1998, allowing the conduct of human rights work and discussion of human rights ideas and principles generally.

We urge Farouk A Peru to come to his senses, and, while respecting his right to disagree, not to come off as being disagreeable.

Discourse must be rational if it is to be credible, and his inflammatory as well as personal rhetoric lends nothing to the debate on the status of Islam or human rights in Malaysia. It represents a setback for human rights here and as such ought to be condemned by other international human rights organisations around the world as well.

Reference is also made to the allegation by Farouk that Muslims in Malaysia have no freedom of religion.

Such a statement is wholly false and without factual basis. Muslims in Malaysia enjoy freedom of religion just like any other Malaysian citizen, and there is no shred of evidence adduced by Farouk as to supposed inescapability faced by Muslims wishing to convert to a religion other than Islam.

If he is suggesting that the freedom that was denied to the Muslims is freedom to become apostates, then he has lost whatever credibility left in his self-gratification pursuit of being an armchair expert.

Article 11(1) of the Constitution is clear in that everyone has the right to freedom of religion.

Other articles of the Constitution, such as Article 12(4), however, make it clear that the religion of a child shall be decided by his or her parent or guardian.

Previous cases have made it clear that the consent of only one parent is required regardless of religion that the child is converted to, and to change this as regards to conversion to Islam in particular is clearly discriminatory, offending not just Article 12(4) but also Article 8(1) of the Constitution which stipulates that everyone is equal before the law.

To request that this be made applicable in respect of Islam and Muslims is not the same as wanting a right to snatch or steal the belongings of others!

Evidently, Farouk A Peru also has scant regard for the principle of freedom of speech, as contained in Article 10(1) of the Constitution and is reflected by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

He would be wise to heed the wise saying of Voltaire, who stated that although one can disagree with an adversary, one cannot and must not, go against his right to state his position on any matter, and this includes Islam and child conversion.

* Press statement by the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA), the Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ), the Malaysian Lawyers Circle (MLC), the Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association (PPMM), iPeguam and Young Professionals (YP).

 ** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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