Suhakam rubbishes ‘narrow approach’ to interpret, understand human rights

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) today expressed dismay over the narrow approach taken by the country's leadership to interpret and understand the long established universal human rights principles. Its chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam said that as a signatory, Malaysia should uphold both the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). "In the simplest of terms, human rights are rights that people have by virtue of being human; and these are based on the fundamental principles of non-discrimination, equality, fairness, justice and respect for human dignity, without which almost all other achievements will be rendered less meaningful," he said in a statement today. Two days ago, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak reportedly said that human rights must be defined according to Islam and its principles, even if it contradicts universal concepts of such rights. He had expressed worry over the emergence of extremists and liberal groups that used the name of freedom to impose their views on others. "Groups like the Islamic State and lesbians, gay, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBT) both target the younger generation... and seem successful in influencing certain groups in society," Najib was quoted as saying. Hasmy, although not naming anyone said today that it was important for the country’s leadership to maintain a consistency of position and approach in its interpretation of human rights, irrespective of which segment of the community is being addressed. "The Commission is disappointed that despite the existence of the CDHRI, a declaration of the member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) that seeks to reconcile the concept of human rights and Islam, there has been inadequate and limited public education by the state on human rights," he said. He also pointed out that the CDHRI guarantees many of the same rights as the UDHR, while at the same time affirming the Shariah as its source. "Nevertheless, it is stressed that the 30 Articles of the UDHR are not contrary to the tenets of Islam," Hasmy said. "The Commission therefore regrets the many myths and misunderstandings that have sprung up about the concept of human rights, and in particular the construal and superficial understanding of human rights in Malaysia," he said. Furthermore, Hasmy said that the interpretation of human rights by the leadership has ignored Section 4(4) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 which provides a legitimacy to the UDHR by stating that regard shall be had to the UDHR “to the extent that it is not inconsistent with the Federal Constitution”. As such, Hasmy said Suhakam called on the government to emulate the best practices of other Muslim countries with regard to the advancement of human rights, pointing out several Muslim countries, namely; Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria and Turkey, that have adopted the UDHR as far back as 1948. "Malaysia, as the current Chair of Asean and former member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, should rise to this opportunity to provide leadership and ensure that the commitments made at the Asean and international levels, particularly on human rights are the same domestically." he added. – August 20, 2015.

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