Muslim group backs government ratifying ICERD

The call to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination has sparked a backlash from some Malay and Muslim groups.

PETALING JAYA: The Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) has hit out at Malay and Muslim groups who oppose the ratification of a global treaty against racial discrimination, reminding them of the Quranic maxim to treat every human being as equal.

“Only those who make racist calls and advocate discrimination, albeit calling themselves Islamists, are unhappy with ICERD which aims to eliminate racism and racial discrimination,” said IRF spokesman Ahmad Muziru Idham.

He was referring to protests by some groups after Putrajaya said it was planning to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, or ICERD.

Malay and Muslim groups such as Isma and Ikram say ratifying ICERD would undermine the special position of the Malays, including provisions to allow quotas in public institutions, as spelt out in Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday gave assurance that the government would consult with all communities, but said it hoped to eventually ratify the ICERD.

Yesterday, some 100 people representing several Malay-Muslim organisations protested outside Parliament, urging the government not to sign the treaty.

They said ICERD, a UN-sponsored convention recognised by the United Nations and signed by close to 90 countries, was a threat to Bumiputera special privileges, as well as a way of forcing Malaysia to accept practices that are considered legal in Western countries such as same-sex marriage.

But Muziru said such an argument was based on hearsay, adding that ICERD had clearly made distinctions between discriminatory practices and affirmative action programmes to help downtrodden communities climb the social ladder.

“Fears of ICERD causing the closures of MRSM, Mara, UiTM, the abolition of Malay reserve lands and the removal of many other special rights of Malays and Bumiputeras are something that will not happen. This is based on hearsay,” he said, referring to the government’s educational and economic institutions to help Bumiputeras.

Muziru said ICERD should be welcomed as it would end discrimination in the workplace and education.

The convention provides individuals worldwide with a mechanism for complaints over issues of racial discrimination, among others, and is enforceable against member states.

Specifically, it obliges parties to eliminate racial discrimination in all forms including in public institutions as well as in government policies.

Muziru said ICERD had from the outset stated exemptions on affirmative action policies that seek to guarantee basic rights to some communities as well as to narrow the economic gaps within society.

“As such, ICERD is clearly in line and does not contradict with Article 153 of the Federal Constitution as far as its spirit and objectives are concerned,” he said.

IRF said it was also a misconception that by ratifying ICERD, the government was bound by everything the agreement calls for.

“Ratifying ICERD is good to ensure that society accepts equal treatment without discrimination in order to live harmoniously and democratically.”