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Stop demonising those who disagree with you, LFL tells govt

 | December 8, 2017

Eric Paulsen says a climate of intolerance and hate is already apparent.


PETALING JAYA: Lawyers for Liberty has warned that demonising secular or religious thoughts which aren’t in line with the government’s official position could lead to a rise in extremism.

Its executive director, Eric Paulsen, said it has already led to a climate of intolerance and hate in the country.

He was commenting on the Freedom of Thought Report, by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), which said Malaysia had been listed as one of the worst offenders in a global report on the rights of the non-religious.

It said this ranked Malaysia alongside countries like Afghanistan and North Korea.

Malaysia was also one of 30 countries which had infringed on its most serious conditions. These included the criminalisation of apostasy.

The report said Malaysia was one of 12 countries in which apostasy is “in principle” punishable by death.

It added that government authorities pushed a socially conservative, religiously-inspired agenda, without regard to the rights of those with progressive views.

Speaking to FMT, Paulsen said he was not surprised at all at Malaysia’s poor ranking.

He said Malaysia had seen the threat of extremism.

“So the danger is clear and present and it is incumbent upon the authorities to address the issue in a democratic and open manner,” he said.

Paulsen said shutting down discussions, closing civic spaces, arresting and charging those who the authorities find disagreeable, was certainly not helping to ease the situation.

He said the authorities must allow for different viewpoints and discussions.

He cited the example of action against Turkish author Mustafa Akyol and ZI Publications director Ezra Zaid, which should not have happened, or the persecution of Shia Muslims.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) executive director Sevan Doraisamy said the freedom of religion continues to decline in 2017 with the growth of intolerance and harassment of religious minorities by state and non-state actors.

“In some cases, religious minorities were barred or prevented from expressing their faith openly or from carrying out their faith-based events and programmes.

“The degree of religious intolerance in Malaysia was also reflected in several incidents and the views held by various religious preachers in the country,” he told FMT.

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