KITA and religious freedom

This posting was extracted from the blog of KITA president, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.

KITA is the only political party in the country that will fearlessly defend Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, which safeguards religious freedom.

We believe that this freedom belongs to everyone – Muslims and non-Muslims – and is a fundamental right of every human being. We believe it is cruel for anyone to be forced to accept a religious belief or faith that he or she in all good conscience has renounced or refuses to believe in.

In Malaysia today, religious freedom is available to non-Muslims, but unfortunately and for all practical purposes, it is not available to Muslims. Federal Court decisions have made it almost impossible for a Muslim to renounce his faith; not only that, he would be subject to punishment for apostasy. Lina Joy‘s case effectively amended Article 11 by implying that a Muslim’s right to religious freedom is limited or circumscribed.

That is why in this country, there will be more and more confusion and an escalating war of attrition among religious communities. State laws will continue to empower officers to make arrests and raid premises so that they can make sure Muslims are not in the company of evangelical Christians. JAIS clearly feels duty-bound to ensure Muslims cannot exercise their right to convert. JAIS doesn’t really care what lies inside the heart of Muslims. They are simply happy to punish and imprison someone like Kamariah Ali and regard her as a deviant Muslim. It does not matter what her true beliefs are, just as it does not matter if she is happy with the faith.

Other parts of the country will experience similar JAIS raids in future, and increasing numbers of Muslims will be punished for exercising their freedom to believe. PAS, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and DAP will not support the true meaning of Article 11 for different reasons. PAS will not because they feel that as good Muslims, they must not allow the freedom to choose as “lesser” Muslims may take the opportunity to do so. Anwar will not support it because it may affect his chances of becoming Prime Minister. DAP will not support it because they don’t want to lose votes, and they want to keep Penang. That explains why the great defenders of freedom in Pakatan Rakyat had to issue a gag order over the JAIS matter. Don’t address sensitive issues, is what they seem to be saying… get to Putrajaya first.

If KITA were to run the Government, the issue would be dealt with differently. We would refer Article 11 to a properly constituted Constitutional Court. If the court were to hold that Article 11 applies to Muslims as well, then they would not need to hide in church premises to exercise their beliefs and agencies such as JAIS would not need the power to trespass and ransack private properties to look for possible converts. Our motto would be, “To each his own.”

If, however, the Constitutional Court rules that the intent of Article 11 is not to accord religious freedom to Muslims as well, and that Malaysia is in fact an Islamic State, then we would need to amend the Federal Constitution to insert an all empowering Article (such as in Iran) that states that all laws must conform to the Qur’an, and that laws contravening Islamic tenets and practices would be void. Islamic tenets and Islamic practices, in this case, would be those that are approved by the Conference of Rulers.

The problem today is that we live in a Jekyll and Hyde situation. We have a secular Federal Constitution but politically, we want Muslim laws to be our primary governing instrument. We want to be a member of the family of the UN Conventions and ostensibly support human rights, but we also want Islamic laws and morality to prevail.

Our politicians will not touch this crucial issue as they believe it will jeopardise their popularity. Some will continue to express anger and frustration, but nothing will change. KITA is the only party that is truly ready and capable of making that change happen.

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