participants "enemies of Allah," BosNewsLife learned Thursday June 29.

Human rights group Aliran and Article 11, a coalition of 13 religious and human rights groups, wanted to discuss the growing influence of Islam in society and the dilemma created by a dual legal system incorporating both civil and Muslim, or Sharia, law.

But hotels on the island of Penang have declined bookings from these organizations because hundreds of angry protestors violently ended a May 14 meeting at the Penang Road’s Cititel hotel, organizers and Malaysian media reported.

In an open letter to Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, seen by BosNewsLife,
international human rights groups recalled how "early in the morning on May 14, 2006, about 300 participants gathered near the hotel Cititel where the forum was to take place." Some media reports spoke of 500 people.


Several protestors carried slogans such as "Allah’s laws prevail over human rights” and shouted "in a very aggressive manner,” the letter claimed, adding that demonstrators also “tried to assault the hotel."

Some of the protestors made their way into the hotel, confronted the organizers and disrupted the forum titled "Federal Constitution: Protecting All," photo footage showed. 

Police officials eventually ordered the organizers of the forum to stop the event, several sources said.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, which issued the open letter, urged the prime minister to follow United Nations agreements and “ensure the protection" of the activists as anyone "promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms,  has the right, individually or in association with others, […] to meet or assemble peacefully”


A group calling itself the Anti-Interfaith Commission (BADAI) reportedly described Article 11 as an “enemy of Allah" and threatened the coalition members, saying, "I guarantee that the Article 11 coalition and the like will face greater risk than what happened on May 14."
Article 11 immediately reported the incident to police, accusing BADAI of criminal intimidation.

Despite the setback, the president of its sister organization Aliran, P.Ramakrishnan, toldDespite attack and threats on May 14, organizers want to continue with religious rights forums. reporters that human rights groups will attempt to organize another meeting in August.

"I am still liaising with our co-organizers and once we secure a venue, we can confirm the date for the forum to reconvene,” theSun newspaper quoted him as saying. "We have not been successful in getting the venue despite trying many places," he added.


The aim of the forum is to discuss the overlapping of jurisdiction between the civil and Shariah courts which has led to problems between people of different religions for instance in cases of marriage.

Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim nation and under the country’s laws, people must convert to Islam if they want to marry a Muslim. 

The Malaysian state of Kelantan, ruled by a hard-line Islamic party, has even offered cash and other incentives to Muslim preachers who marry and convert indigenous people.

Kelantan Religious Affairs Committee chair Hassan Mohamood reportedly said the state government was unhappy with the conversion rate of indigenous people or "Orang Asli", who traditionally do not follow mainstream religions.


"We were not satisfied with the numbers that have embraced Islam and that’s why we thought of several measures to motivate them," local media quoted Hassan as saying this week.

Preachers who marry Orang Asli will receive a lump sum of 10,000 ringgit ($2,707), as well as free accommodation, a four-wheel drive vehicle and a monthly allowance of 1,000 ringgit, news reports said.

In addition there have been custody battles over children between people of different religions. People converting from Islam to Christianity are especially facing difficulties, church watchers say.

In a case that came to symbolize tensions, Lina Joy failed in her application to drop the word Islam from her identity card after becoming a Christian. A Sharia Court also insisted that national hero M. Moorthy had converted from Hinduism to Islam prior to his death after a heated debate in Malaysian society. (With reports from Malaysia and BosNewsLife Research).


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here