Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA) hosted an essay contest in 2015. I wanted to take part but I was not allowed because the age limit was from 18 years old and above. I was twelve at the time but I still wrote an essay on the topic given, and sent it to CENTHRA as my submission for the contest even though I was told that I cannot take part because I was too young. I think young people like me must also be given the chance to voice out our opinions and not to be considered as immature. We also have our rights as granted by the Federal Constitution and the Convention of the Rights of the Child and we hope to be given the opportunity to be included in making the decision for the future of our country.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was drafted as the result of the Second World War experience. It was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December, 1948 General Assembly resolution 217 A as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations.
Generally when people talk about human rights, they will be referring to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) “common standard law of human rights” that was drafted by a group of people who subscribed to the ideology of liberalism.
The question is, is it fair to use the UDHR as the universal standard human rights law for all peoples from all nations in this world?
The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action 1993 states the human rights regulations must take into account, the religions, customs and cultural systems of the region. In other words, the human rights of the people must be subjected to the aspiration of the people; and not only subjected to the aspiration of the committee of the UNHRC and the drafters of the UDHR alone.
Part I, Para 5 of Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action 1993:
All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis. While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
In my opinion, human rights regulations must be subjected to the state laws of the Member State. Let us take Malaysia as an example. Malaysia is a country which has stated in its Federal Constitution (FC) that, “Islam is the religion of the Federation”, making Malaysia an Islamic country.
Article 3(1) of the FC:
Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.
Hence, any UNHRC human rights regulations that are against the law of Islam are against the FC which is the supreme law of Malaysia, as stated in Article 4 of the FC:
This Constitution is the supreme law of the Federation and any law passed after Merdeka Day which is inconsistent with this Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.
Since the religion of Malaysia is placed under Article 3(1) of the FC, it shows the importance of Islam in the FC; hence the interpretation of other Articles of the FC must be harmonious with Islam; including the Articles about the human right of its people.
If we look at the UNHRC human rights conventions, we can see that some of the Articles of the conventions are against the FC. First, let us look at Article 18 of ICCPR:
Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
Thus, Article 18 of the ICCPR is inapplicable and unconstitutional in Malaysia because, while Article 11(1) of the FC guarantees freedom of religion; the rights to propagate is subjected to Article 11(4). In the Federal Court judgement of ZI Publications Sdn Bhd and Another v Kerajaan Negeri Selangor, The Right Honourable Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif said:
“Thus, in the present case, we are of the view that Article 10 of the Federal Constitution must be read in particular with Articles 3(1), 11, 74(2) and 121. Article 3(1) declares Islam as the religion of the Federation. Article 11 guarantees every person’s right to profess and practise his religion and to propagate it. With regard to propagation, there is a limitation imposed by Article 11(4) which reads:-
“(4) State Law and in respect of the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya, federal law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.”
In the same judgement, Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif concluded that:
Federal Constitution allows the Legislature of a State to legislate and enact offences against the precepts of Islam. Taking the Federal Constitution as a whole, it is clear that it was the intention of the framers of our Constitution to allow Muslims in this country to be also governed by Islamic personal law.
Therefore, unlike the UNHRC liberal interpretation of freedom of religion, it is the right of the Muslims to be governed according to the Islamic law and to be protected against the secular and liberal ideology of the UNHRC common human rights regulations; apart from the freedom to manifest Islam in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
Article 18 of the ICCPR also gives people the freedom to choose whether they want to believe or not to believe in god. It is very important to understand that according to the Rukun Negara or the National Principles, the “freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice” means ‘freedom of religion’ and not ‘freedom from religion’. The Rukun Negara clearly states that all citizens of Malaysia must believe in god in its first principal which is, ‘Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan’ or ‘Belief in God’. As opposed to the UNHRC’s ideas of human rights, atheism is not part of the rights guaranteed under the freedom of religion in Malaysia.
Apart from going against the Articles 3(1) and 11(4) of the FC; Article 18 of the ICCPR is also against the Articles 37, 38, 76 and 159(5) of the FC. That means it should be void even if it was signed by the federal government as pressured by the UNHRC.
According to Article 38 of the FC, the Parliament cannot make into law and implement Article 18 of ICCPR without the consent of the Conference of Rulers because it touches the matters of religious acts and observances.
Article 38(2)(b) of FC:
The Conference of Rulers shall exercise its functions of— (b) agreeing or disagreeing to the extension of any religious acts, observances or ceremonies to the Federation as a whole;
Article 38(2)(c) of FC:
consenting or withholding consent to any law and making or giving advice on any appointment which under this Constitution requires the consent of the Conference or is to be made by or after consultation with the Conference;
Also, Article 18 of ICCPR cannot be implemented and made into law without the concern of the Government of the State, as in accordance to Article 76 of the FC.
Article 76(1)(a) of FC:
Parliament may make laws with respect to any matter enumerated in the State List, but only as follows, that is to say – for the purpose of implementing any treaty, agreement or convention between the Federation and any other country, or any decision of an international organization of which the Federation is a member.
Article 76(2) ) of FC:
No law shall be made in pursuance of paragraph (a) of Clause (1) with respect to any matters of Islamic law or the custom of the Malays or to any matters of native law or custom in the States of Sabah and Sarawak and no Bill for a law under that paragraph shall be introduced into either House of Parliament until the Government of any State concerned has been consulted.
To be continued in Part II…