THE Malaysian Bar is disappointed with Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein‘s response to the demonstration outside the Selangor secretariat building on 28 Aug 2009. By not denouncing the offensive actions of some of the demonstrators and instead accepting their weak explanation, he has trivialised the seriousness of the incident.
It is also disquieting that a number of federal government leaders have made irresponsible statements — including blaming the Selangor government — that have politicised and exacerbated the situation while not addressing the issues at hand.
The fact that this is a Muslim-majority area is immaterial and should not, in and of itself, be permitted to serve as an adequate basis for rejecting the establishment of a place of worship for any other faith. In a uniquely multi-ethnic and multi-faith society such as ours, we must uphold the right of every group to have access to, and build, places of worship, within the parameters provided in the federal constitution.
The Malaysian Bar firmly believes that individuals must be allowed to legitimately exercise their rights to assemble peaceably and to express their viewpoints, including dissenting opinions. However, we do not condone any acts that disrespect, insult, or incite intolerance towards others and their beliefs. We regret that a small group of individuals engaged in an act that, in the public perception, was deliberately calculated to inflame sentiments, offend and show contempt. We commend all those who have spoken up to criticise that behaviour.
We have numerous examples of how our diverse and rich cultures and faiths have co-existed, and even flourished, peacefully. The location of a mosque, Hindu temple and Christian church in very close proximity in the vicinity of Pitt Street in Penang, and the presence of temples and large Buddhist statues in Muslim-majority Kelantan, are but two compelling examples.
This, then, is our cherished heritage, which we must strive to preserve.
We urge not only an attitude of openness and tolerance, but the practice of mutual respect and acceptance. The true test of a mature democracy and responsible government is how the rights of the people, including minority groups, are protected.
3 Sept 2009
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