Key Points

An examination of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Malaysia across two cycles of the UPR (2009, 2012) reveals:

  • Despite Constitutional guarantees of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), major concerns were raised over limitations on the scope of FoRB due to Islam being recognized as the official religion and its negative impact on religious freedom of non-Muslims;

  • Battles over conversions from Islam regulated by Sharia courts that tended to prohibit such conversion;

  • Discrimination against women on religious grounds;

  • The negative impact on FoRB of Indigenous peoples due to land appropriations and assimilation policies; and

  • A knock-on negative impact on freedom of expression.

Key UPR Recommendations on FoRB

The following recommendations were made on FoRB across the two cycles:

  • A revision of the Constitution to better ensure FoRB and the removal of any faith-based governmental discrimination;

  • Ensure that all persons, including Muslims, can freely exercise their right to FoRB without interference by the State, including the right to change religion;

  • Ensure more open discussion on freedom of religion and the rights rights of non-Muslims; and

  • Promote inter-religious dialogues and to reconcile different schools of Islamic thought.

Follow-up Action for Parliamentarians

Whereas the Malaysian government has noted that all are free to practice their religions Parliamentarians must follow-up in order to:

  • Ensure that Malaysia provides constitutional guarantees on FoRB in line with international standards;

  • Push the Government to adopt core international human rights instruments, notably ICCPR and ICESCR; and

  • Reviews its constitution with a view to removing any faith based discrimination.

Source: Country Briefing on Freedom of Religion or Belief produced by Asia Centre and IPPFoRB

Mohammad Mujeeb