Malaysiakini News

Reminder: Malaysia is still a secular state

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Malaysia is a secular and democratic country but many, even those in prominent positions, seem to have forgotten this, lamented Ba'Kelalan assemblyperson Baru Bian.

"Why is it that so many politicians, judges, religious leaders and all manner of public commentators have forgotten this?" he asked in a statement today.

The public cannot help but feel like religion is encroaching into every aspect of society, he said, citing the example of the "normally pragmatic" Perlis Mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin who spoke about a Muslim stewardess who was tormented about serving alcohol to passengers and not being allowed to wear the headscarf.

He also used M Indira Gandhi's case as an example, saying that the Court of Appeal judges should be guarding their jurisdiction instead of relinquishing it to the syariah court.

"When the judges of the Appellate Court freely relinquish their jurisdiction to the Syariah Court instead of jealously guarding it as would be expected of them, the public cannot help but to see this as a failure of the judges to carry out their sworn duty to protect the constitution," he said.

It seems as if the judges are unable to separate their religious convictions from their duty to uphold the constitution, he added.

Indira is a mother caught in a controversial child custody case, where her ex-husband had unilaterally converted their three children after he left and converted to Islam himself.

The court had ruled that issues of conversion is the exclusive jurisdiction of the syarish courts.

Retired Court of Appeal judge Mohd Hishamudin Yunus understood a judge's duty, Baru said, as the retired judge had previously said that a judge must not decide a case based on their religious or political leanings as it would not be an honest decision.

He also commended former de factor law minister Zaid Ibrahim and G25 member Noor Faridah Ariffin for daring to speak their mind.

"This country needs more Malaysians to speak the voice of reason and to defend our democratic and secular Malaysia," he said.

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