THE Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is surprised but heartened by the Home Ministry‘s nod to a rally against the recent court decision permitting the use of “Allah” by Christian publication Herald.
The rally, organised by dominant Muslim organisations and will be held in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of the country, has been given a rare green light from the usually prohibitive Home Ministry, though police have warned against it.
The Home Ministry has consistently opposed and sanctioned actions against peaceful rallies on less emotive issues, such as the petrol price hike and the Internal Security Act. Government officials, with the help of mainstream media, paint those rallies as a public nuisance, threat to the economy and unrepresentative of the people.
Instead, majority groups are often given a platform to shout out their sentiments while shouting down minority groups, who are often relegated to the lower end of an unlevel playing field — if given space at all.
Indeed, the rally could be seen as yet another case of the majority intimidating the minority into silence. As such, CIJ would like to take this opportunity to call on the government to allow forums, debates and peaceful rallies for all views. It is an opportunity for all parties to show that Malaysians are mature enough to exercise their right to free expression and assembly peacefully.
This is also a chance for the police to do better than the past, when they stood by while rowdy demonstrators forcibly cut short indoor civil dialogues held by those with views that differ from the establishment’s.
Centre for Independent Journalism
7 Jan 2010