Personal freedom must be respected as human beings are created with free will. While communities have the right to express and promote their collective values and preferences, these must not be imposed on others or be propagated through threats or violence, whether by the state, groups or individuals. Similarly, the happiness and harmony of a family is collectively created and defined by the individuals involved and their choices need to be respected.
It is unfortunate and distressing that the families of M Moorthy and A. Rayappan had to endure extraordinary pain, anxiety and stress due to the policies and actions of the religious authorities. Various government agents, taking advantage of ill-formulated and ill-interpreted laws, are also denying mothers like S Shamala and R Subashini their parental rights following the conversion by their estranged husbands to Islam. Similarly, individuals like Lina Joy are denied the right to marry the persons they love because certain authorities have chosen to impose on them arbitrary decisions based on a narrow interpretation of the law and of religious principles.
In another shocking development, Revathi Masoosai/Siti Fatimah (29) was forcibly separated from her husband S. Veerapan and her 15-month daughter by the Malacca religious authorities. Revathi was born to Muslim parents but raised as Hindu by her grandmother, and is married to a Hindu. She was sent to a faith rehabilitation centre initially for 100 days and then extended to another 80 days following the Malacca Syariah Court’s decision. Her husband has also lost the custody of their infant daughter to Revathi’s Muslim mother.
We are alarmed at the wave of recent cases such as Revathi’s, and dismayed that, in our multi-ethnic, multi-religious society, family members of different faiths are not permitted to live together in harmony. Press articles have describes how JAIS is prohibiting Najeera Farvinli Mohamed Jalali from living with her husband Magendran Sabathy on the basis that she is a Muslim and their Hindu marriage is void. In another development, Raimah Bibi has to part with her husband P Marimuthu and their seven children as the law prohibits inter-faith marriages of Muslims and non-Muslims.
Humanity must prevail over politics. Decisions made within the family for their personal peace and harmony, including those of children, must be respected. All right minded Malaysians must stand up now and join the growing chorus of calls from progressive Malaysian individuals and organizations for urgent political and legal action to end such apparently state-sanctioned tragedies.
In this light, we support the view expressed by HRH Raja Nazrin Shah, the Crown Prince of Perak, on April 3 that Malaysia belongs to all her citizens regardless of race, religion and origin; that nation-building should be built through a sense of common destiny and common purpose; that the integrity of our Constitution must be defended towards the promotion of these goals, and that coercion and threats will only nullify nation-building. Our Independence will cease to have meaning if having freed ourselves from colonialism, we are subject to new, arbitrary and undemocratic dictates.
We the undersigned civil society groups call upon all individuals, groups and communities to cherish and celebrate the rich diversity of Malaysian society and to respect one another as equal fellow citizens with constitutionally-enshrined rights and duties. Failure to do so has now threatened the value and institution of family, causing misery to the lives of many. We Malaysians of all faiths and ethnicities must arrest this dangerous trend so that our 50-years-old Independence will not be reduced to a hollow slogan.
1. The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
2. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
3. Women’s Development Collective (WDC)
4. The Women’s Aid Organization (WAO)
5. Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHS)
6. Herald-The Catholic Weekly
8. Women’s Centre for Change Penang
9. Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC)
10. National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)
12. Democratic Action Party (DAP)
13.Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
14. United Chinese School Committees’ Association of Malaysia.(Dong Zong)
15. United Chinese School Teachers’ Association of Malaysia (Jiao Zong)
16. Gabungan Persatuan Alumni Universiti Taiwan, Malaysia
17. Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall
18. Youth Section, Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall
19. Group of Concerned Citizens
20. Jaringan Rakyat Terindas (JERIT)
21. Community Development Centre (CDC)
22. Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF)
24. Vivekananda Youth Movement Seremban
25. Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)
26. All Petaling Jaya Pro Action Committee (APPAC)
27. SOS (Save Ourselves)
28. Malaysian Voters Union (MALVU)
29. Penang Watch
30. Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
31. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
32. Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (KOMAS)
33. Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)
34. Centre for Policy Initiatives
35. Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility (CARAM Asia)
36. Research for Social Advancement (REFSA)
37. Gabungan Persatuan-persatuan Bekas Penuntut Sekolah China Wilayah & Selangor
38. Bahagian Belia, Gabungan Persatuan-persatuan Bekas Penuntut Sekolah China Wilayah & Selangor
39. Gabungan Persatuan Bekas Penuntut Sekolah China Negeri Sembilan
40. Save Our School (SOS) Damansara Committee
41. Persatuan Ibubapa SJK(C) Malaysia
42. Persatuan Alumni Persatuan Bahasa Tionghua USM (LIHUA) Selangor and KL
43. Persatuan Murid-murid Tua Sekolah Kuen Cheng KL
44. Kwang Hua High School Ex-pupils Association
45. Persatuan Huian Quangang KL & Selangor
46. Persatuan Eng Choon Negeri Sembilan
47. Committee of National Clan-Based Youth Federations of Malaysia
48. Youth Division, Selangor & Federal Territory Shing An Association
49. Youth Section, Selangor Hokkien Association
50. Youth Section, The Selangor & KL Kwang Tung Association
51. Youth Section, The Federation of Chinese Association Johore State
52. Inter-Varsity Council
53. University Malaya Association of New Youth (UMANY)
54. Persatuan Bahasa Cina Universiti Malaya
55. Persatuan Bahasa Tiong Hua USM
56. Persatuan Bahasa Tionghua Universiti Putra Malaysia
57. Youth Section, Malacca Chinese Assembly Hall
This signature campaign is initiated by Civil Rights Committee and Youth Section of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH),SUARAM and Women’s Development Collective (WDC).
The joint statement received endorsements from a wide variety of organizations. Organizations that participate include multi ethnical and civil society groups. Basically the endorsements are from organizations of human rights, religion, women, Chinese associations, Indian associations, community organizations, work unions, political parties, academic institutions, press freedom.
Mr Ser Choon Ing, (Chairperson, Civil Rights Committee, KLSCAH)
Mr Tan Soon Lim (President, Youth Section, KLSCAH)
Mr Yap Swee Seng (Executive Director , SUARAM)
Mrs Maria Chin Abdullah ( Executive Director, WDC)