DAP calls for  an inter-religious conference to establish a national consensus that vibrant inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogue and debate become  the   hallmark of a democratic, tolerant and   progressive Malaysia


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Sunday): The swirling controversy over the memorandum by the Muslim Scholars Association of Malaysia (PUM) to the Conference of Rulers calling for action against six writers for denigrating Islam and the institution of ulama has far-reaching implications for democracy, human rights and pluralism in Malaysia.  

In a country where the worldís greatest religions find a common home, all Malaysians must be imbued with the greatest respect and sensitivity towards each otherís religion, where denigration of any  religion must  be regarded as an assault on our common national heritage. 

What is most disturbing about the controversy surrounding the PUM memorandum is the claim to immunity from fair comment and criticism which are equated with vilification of Islam or Islamophobia, which attacks the very foundations of a democratic, tolerant and plural Malaysia.  

For instance, when a Muslim or non-Muslim Malaysian opposes the proposal to impose the death sentence for apostasy - such as my statement of 9th th July 1999 that the DAP would   not support the private memberís bill in the Dewan

Rakyat to make apostasy a capital offence among Muslims which had been tabled in Parliament by the Deputy PAS President, Abdul   Hadi Awang but which did not come up for debate - it is not be equated with being anti-Islam or  Islamophobia as it is grounded on the basic human right of freedom of religion  and  there are reasons to  question as to whether the proposal  conforms to Islamís eternal commitment to the universal principles of  justice, equality, freedom and virtue.  

And when non-Muslims refer to Islamic literature and learn that the Quran is completely silent on the death penalty for apostasy and of the opinion of a  significant body of Islamic scholars from the earliest Islamic history that apostasy is not a capital crime, such efforts must be responded to seriously and not dismissed as either ignorant or irrelevant as coming from non-Muslims.  

With the process of Islamisation in the past two decades, and now the increasing claims and demands over Malaysia as an Islamic state, how Islam will impinge on the life of all Malaysians is the concern not only of Muslims but also of non-Muslims as well.

DAP calls for  an inter-religious conference to establish a national consensus that vibrant inter-religious and inter-civilisational debate and dialogue  become  the hallmark of a democratic, tolerant and   progressive Malaysia - where the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression are not stymied by  any indefensible claim of immunity from fair comment or criticism.

(24/2/2002)


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman