MCCBCHST: Proposed Law ‘Against Religious Freedom’

An inter-religious body of minority faiths has denounced a bill regulating peaceful assembly and demanded it be withdrawn.

The Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 “clearly hands the police and home minister more powers and is restrictive, repressive and against freedom of assembly and against freedom of religion,” said a December 2 statement by the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST).

The alliance “is particularly concerned the bill now specifies places where public assembly cannot be held and includes all places of worship,” the statement added.

The inter-religious body is particularly worried at what it sees as the government’s ability to stage manage a protest.

The bill gives police the power “to impose restrictions and set conditions on gatherings including the duration of an event [and] participants’ conduct. … It can also refuse gatherings on the grounds of cultural or religious sensitivity,” the statement continued.

“While governments all over the world are opening up democratic processes, we appear to be back tracking. Even Myanmar has now passed a ‘protest bill’ which allows citizens to protest peacefully,” the inter-religious group said.

The bill was passed in the lower house of parliament on November 27 and is scheduled to be reviewed by the Senate on December 7.

It has been subject to widespread protests since it was tabled in parliament on November 22.

The alliance called on all religious leaders to pray every Friday for the government to withdraw the proposed law.

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