Islamic conservatism is prevalent in Malaysia because the federal government uses religion as a tool to retain power, a senior law lecturer said during a forum on freedom of expression today.
Dr Azmi Sharom, an associate professor from Universiti Malaya, noted that it was convenient to employ religion to get the public “excited”, claiming that religious authorities had been working in tandem with the government.
“It’s not about the religion, it’s not about the faith, it’s not about the principles and ideologies behind the religion. It’s about maintaining political status quo and power. That’s all it is.
“Nothing is more disgusting than when you use faith in order to maintain earthly power,” ..
..example Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria’s alleged attempt early this year to use so-called religious statements in order to suppress opposition towards the government.
Harussani had controversially issued a religious edict saying that it was halal (permissible) to shed the blood of those who joined the rally protesting price increases, an opinion which Azmi found “extremely disturbing”.
He also criticised laws such as Section 13 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act and Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publication Act, under which publications “contrary to Islamic laws” and “undesirable” are made illegal, saying that these gave authorities extraordinary powers to decide what Malaysians may read.
Azmi also claimed that Section 9 of the same law on criminal offences under Islam supports an “undemocratic” practice where religious edicts issued by the National Fatwa Council cannot be questioned, pointing out that the council’s decisions are only made by a small group of men without going through the usual law-making process.
“I don’t think in a democratic society, we should live with these kind of threats hanging over our heads,” he said.
Although the Federal Constitution provides for “freedom of religion”, there is a “substantial contradiction” and only some religious practices are protected, the report said, adding that the government prohibits worship or religious practices of one or more religious groups as general policy.
The government also limits public preaching, the spread of religious texts, proselytising, and conversion from one faith to another, the report said, adding that minority non-approved religious groups in the country have come in for harassment or intimidation.
Today’s forum was jointly organised by the Islamic Renaissance Front and the Penang Institute, with the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation providing the venue.
source: Malay Mail