Malaysian Christian leaders on Thursday criticized draft proposals to restrict religions other than Islam, saying the measures should not be put to a vote.
In a statement released by the Sarawak Association of Churches, a multi-faith group, Simon Poh, the Catholic Archbishop of Kuching, said the Control and Restriction of the Spread of Non-Muslim Religions Bill proposed by the government amounts to “directly contravening the very spirit of the formation of Malaysia.
“Such bills… should never be allowed to be introduced in our multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia,” Poh said, according to local newspaper Borneo Post.
Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said on Tuesday that the bill, which critics say would limit the rights of around 40% of Malaysians who adhere to beliefs other than Islam, part of the four Sharia laws being drafted by the government.
The proposals have also been criticized this week by other religious groups, including Buddhists and Hindus, as well as political parties in eastern Malaysia, on the island of Borneo, where many of the country’s Christians live. . Details of the proposals had not yet been released.
Nearly 10% of Malaysia’s approximately 33 million people are Christians of various denominations.
Malaysia applies parallel systems of civil law and Sharia, the latter only applying to Muslims.
Ethnic Malays, who make up more than half of the population, are required by law to adhere to Islam.
Most other Malays are of Chinese or Indian descent and are mostly Buddhist, Christian or Hindu.