New religious bills raises concern

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KUCHING: The Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) considers the recent move or any future attempts to introduce Shariah bills affecting non-Muslim religions as directly contravening the very spirit of the formation of Malaysia where Sarawak, Sabah, and Malaya are equal partners.

“Furthermore, the Federal Constitution clearly states in Article 11(1) that every person has the right to profess and practise his religion.

“Such bills to control and restrict the development of all the non-Muslim religions should never be allowed to be tabled in our multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia,” said ACS chairman Archbishop Simon Poh in a statement on Thursday (Sept 9). 

He was commenting on recent reports that four new Shariah laws were being drafted by the federal government, including a bill on the control and restrictions of the development of non-Muslim religions.

Poh said it was also reported that Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Ahmad Marzuk Shaary had said a Wakaf Bill, Mufti Bill, and Syariah Court Bill were the other new laws being planned.

“ACS reiterates the stance of our chief minister of Sarawak, our Sarawak political leaders and Members of Parliament, and Unit for Other Religions (Unifor), that have consistently rejected any introduction of such laws that would undermine and destroy the harmony among races and communities in Sarawak and Malaysia,” said Poh, who is also the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuching.

He noted that on Aug 22, newly appointed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob in his maiden speech presented the concept of ‘Keluarga Malaysia’ where all Malaysians can be united regardless of religion and race.

“He pointed out that Malaysians are all a part of a family despite their diversity in religion, race, and ethnicity, with all of them complementing and needing each other as different parts of a single body. We are a ‘Malaysian Family’,” he said.

Poh added that in Sarawak, in conjunction with Malaysia Day, Inter-faith Harmony Walks had been organised since 2017.

“In pre-pandemic years, thousands of Bahais, Buddhists, Christians, Hinduism, Muslims, Sikhs, Taoists, and people of goodwill have walked together as friends on the streets of Kuching and other major towns to promote mutual respect, acceptance, harmony, and unity as Malaysians,” he said.

He stressed that this is an integral part of the social fabric of Sarawak.

“As Malaysians, let us work together and assist one another to overcome this pandemic. The heads of churches of ACS wishes all Selamat Hari Malaysia,” said Poh. 

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