Rights group wants legislation combatting racial, religious hate

Ravin Palanisamy

National Unity Minister Aaron Ago Dagang says it is currently not necessary to enact new laws to preserve unity in Malaysia. – Facebook pic, April 2, 2023.

A RIGHTS group wants Putrajaya to create new laws to combat racial and religious hate in the country. 

The Global Human Rights Federation (GHRF) expressed their disappointment with National Unity Minister Aaron Ago Dagang, who had said new laws weren’t needed to ensure unity. 

The group’s president S. Shashi Kumar said the current laws were lopsided and called on the minister to enact a racial and religious hate act to maintain peace and harmony in multiracial, multireligious Malaysia.  

“We are extremely sad and disappointed with the minister for not wanting new laws, even to tackle issues like racial and religious hatred,” he told The Malaysian Insight.  

“If the unity government is serious about eliminating all forms of racism and religious hatred, then a racial and religious hate act should be enacted.  

“We want this act to be unbiased. Meaning if you insult any race or religion, you should be arrested, regardless of race or religion.  

“It should be applied to all. Muslims and non-Muslims should be protected,” he added.  

On Thursday, Aaron told Dewan Rakyat that there was no necessity to enact new laws at this time to preserve unity in the country. 

He said the existing laws were sufficient in that regard. 

Generally, authorities investigate cases involving disharmony under section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act and sections 298 and 504 of the penal code. 

Section 233 criminalises online content that is obscene, indecent, false, menacing, or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass another person. 

Section 298 provides for action against those who insult any religion while Section 504 deals with intentions to disturb the peace. 

Shashi said existing laws were skewed, hypocritical, and unfair, especially to minorities.  

He cited several cases of Islamic preachers insulting other religions and walking free despite numerous police reports made against them.  

“We (GHRF) have the evidence to show the existing law has failed to protect everyone. The law applies double standards.  

“There are several cases of individuals going unpunished under the same law that the minister mentioned.  

“Among them are independent preachers Zamri Vinoth, Firdaus Wong, Syakir Nasoha, Idris Sulaiman, and as recently as this year, Wadi Annuar. In the name of religious comparisons, these preachers insult other faiths.  

“They seem to be untouchable, and the law seems to be protecting them,” the GHRF president said.  

Shashi was referring to the case of Islamic preacher Zamri Vinoth, where the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) decided not to pursue the case despite thousands of police reports made against him for allegedly insulting Hinduism during a religious lecture. 

In another case, the AGC decided not to delve further into the case of independent Islamic preacher Syakir Nasoha, who made disparaging remarks against other religions and the Dayak community in a video that went viral. 

The AGC declined to act despite receiving more than 3,000 police reports nationwide, including in Sarawak.  

In the one-minute clip, Syakir could be heard saying “at the end of time, disciples of non-Muslim religions will be scrambling together to kill Muslims in the world”.   

He also asserted that Hindus were carrying out killings of Muslims in India and Pakistan, and Buddhists doing the same in Thailand.

Idris Sulaiman, who denounced Muslims for helping to clean the houses of worship of other faiths and insulted Hindus, has yet to be charged.  

Despite more than 100 police reports lodged against Idris, no action has been taken against the preacher, with previous law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, in a written parliamentary reply, saying the AGC was “still deciding” whether there was enough evidence to prosecute the preacher. 

In February this year, Muslim preacher Wadi Annuar Ayub said Hindus who participated in a Thaipusam procession were “worshipping Satan” in a video published on social media.  

Several reports were made against Wadi Annuar despite his apology but to date, no action has been taken.

“The attacks against minorities by preachers and politicians have been happening for years and has heightened since 2017 but nothing has been done to combat the situation. 

“Don’t tell me that the minister is not aware of all this. It is there in the news, social media, everywhere.  

“He should consider all these before deciding not to enact new laws,” Shashi said. 

Recently, Klang MP V. Ganabatirau asserted that authorities practised selective prosecution by taking immediate action against only those who criticised Islam. 

Speaking in the Dewan Rakyat, the DAP man said this amounted to unequal treatment as Muslims were not dealt with as quickly if they criticised other religions.    

He said this was not in line with article 8 of the Federal Constitution, which prohibits discrimination and guarantees equal treatment under the law.  

Jelutong MP R.S.N. Rayer also raised the same point in the Dewan Rakyat.

Aaron responded by saying the government would act against any party who committed such offences, regardless of race or religion.  

Engagement in dialogue session 

Having made several police reports in attempting to seek justice, Shashi said he even resorted to presenting memorandums. 

Shashi said as recently as March 10, he had handed a memorandum to the Prime Minister’s Department to urge the enactment of a racial and religious hate act.  

“It is sad that the matter was not extended to the unity minister, who declined to have a new law.  

“We have been presenting various memorandums to stop racial and religious attacks. We have sent a memorandum to the police, Home Ministry, Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, even to the Agong,” he added.

 Shashi wants Aaron to have a dialogue session with GHRF.  

“We will write to the ministry to have an appointment to discuss this matter. 

“We changed the government because we wanted changes,” he said.  

Shashi also drew attention to the fact that Malaysia is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, hence it should not be biased. 

“They should not forget that; they cannot be hypocrites in this matter.   

“In human rights, there is no such thing as race or religion. Humanity, equality comes first,” he said. – April 2, 2023.  

Sign up or sign in here to comment.