A US-based report suggests that while Malaysia's government was more relaxed on religious restrictions, it still had a long way to go.
In a report entitled “Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion” surveying 197 regions, Malaysia’s government seemed to be more relaxed over religion, scoring 6.4 in mid-2010, compared to 8.1 in mid-2009.
However, the decrease in government-applied restriction -collated under the report’s Government Restriction Index- still puts it at 0.2 points below the “Very High” marker.
As a result, the country now shares a “High” placement with nations such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iraq.
At the same time, Malaysia seemed to have higher social hostility where religion was concerned. In mid-2009, the group’s Social Hostility Index (SHI) marked Malaysia with a score of 1.3. In mid-2010, this figure increased to 2.2.
As such, Malaysia is termed as a “Moderate” country SHI-wise, sharing the category with the US, Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Haiti and Australia.
According to the report, the GRI’s score was determined by various questions including:
- how national law and policy affected religious freedom.
- the regulation of religious symbols.
- harrassment of religious groups by any level of government.
- terming certain groups as “dangerous cults” or “sects”.
- if all religious groups had same level of government access or privilege.
The SHI on the other hand, was determined by questions such as:
- whether there were crimes involving religious hatred or bias.
- if sectarian violence occurred.
- if religious groups prevented other groups from operating.
- the threat of violence to enforce religious norms.
- the harrassment of women for violating dress codes.
The report did not delve into Malaysia’s individual score.
Meanwhile, the report said that more than 5 billion people in the world today (75%) lived in a country where their government restricted them from practicing their faith.
It added that restrictions seemed to increase even in regions that had previously low or moderate levels of tolerance.
The report admitted however that it focused on the religious constraints of each country, but did not look at the amount of free religious activity that would take place there.
It also did not look at whether these restrictions were justified or not, or why they came about in the first place.
For more information on the report, its report is available