Kuala Lumpur plans Bill to curb racial and religious hatred

Malaysia's iconic landmark Petronas Twin Towers domninating the skyline of Kuala Lumpur, on June 26, 2018.
Malaysia's iconic landmark Petronas Twin Towers domninating the skyline of Kuala Lumpur, on June 26, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

The Malaysian government is moving to curb racial and religious hatred in the country amid the growing number of such cases, particularly on social media.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Religion) Mujahid Yusof Rawa told Parliament yesterday that a Bill would be tabled soon.

He was replying to a question from opposition Umno MP Ismail Mohamed Said, who asked about the measures the authorities planned to take against those who insult Islam on social media.

"The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government intends to table a Bill in Parliament towards enacting the Religious and Racial Hatred Act... not just to deal with incidences when Islam is insulted, but also when non-Muslim faiths are insulted," Datuk Mujahid said.

"This is to ensure that our multi-religious and multiracial society is protected from being insulted and belittled," he added. Datuk Mujahid, who is in charge of Islamic Affairs, also said he would meet religious scholars this month on the matter.

In recent years, concern has grown in Malaysia about rising intolerance and exclusivist views on religious issues, especially among the Muslims.

LEGISLATIVE ACTION SOON

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government intends to table a Bill in Parliament towards enacting the Religious and Racial Hatred Act... not just to deal with incidences when Islam is insulted, but also when non-Muslim faiths are insulted... This is to ensure that our multi-religious and multiracial society is protected from being insulted and belittled.

MINISTER IN THE PRIME MINISTER'S DEPARTMENT (RELIGION) MUJAHID YUSOF RAWA, in reply to a question in Parliament on measures planned against those who insult Islam on social media.

Last year, a human rights organisation, Pusat Komas, released the Malaysia Racial Discrimination report which highlighted this issue.

"The rise of religious extremism in Malaysia, with the notion of protecting one's religious purity, has led to discriminatory actions that have impeded the rights of Malaysians from different ethnic groups," the report said. The new trend was not only worrying but highlighted the "inherent danger of the overreach of bureaucratic Islamic institutions", it added.

Malaysia's Unity Minister P. Waytha Moorthy was taken aback by netizen comments about a close friend, a Hindu scholar named Arunachalanandaji, in the latest case of what is being regarded as racial insensitivity. The disparaging remarks related to the scholar's appearance, with many comments about his "ghostly" appearance, long braided hair and thick beard.

"In the spirit of a new Malaysia, people must change their perceptions," Mr Waytha Moorthy said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2018, with the headline 'KL plans Bill to curb racial and religious hatred'. Print Edition | Subscribe