Published in Malay Mail Online
As I turned one year older on Human Rights Day yesterday, I contemplated the human rights situation in this country.
Malaysia was cited for “grave violations” of the rights and treatment of the non-religious in the annual Freedom of Thought Report by International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) — a worldwide umbrella of humanist, atheist, secular and similar organisations .
With a score of 4.5 out of the worst score of 5, Malaysia joins Muslim-majority neighbours Indonesia and Brunei as the worst offenders in the region — especially with the existence of Shariah laws that heavily punish apostasy, even with death, although the penalty cannot be enforced yet.
In the category of “family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals”, IHEU noted that there exists “systemic religious privilege results in significant social discrimination” and “religious control over family law or legislation on moral matters.”
An example of the instance where religious control and privilege benefit Muslims disproportionately is when it comes to divorce and unilateral conversion of a child; when one parent decides to convert into Islam when he/she has already entered into a civil marriage.