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KUALA LUMPUR: Legal experts, an eminent historian and a parlimentarian have criticised the United States-based Human Rights Watch for asking Malaysia to drop charges against opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and to repeal laws on homosexuality.
Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said Islam was the official religion of the country and the government had the responsibility to honour it.
“I don’t think we are in a position to implement Human Rights Watch’s call as religion prevails. It’s a clash between Islamic maxim and human rights and I will uphold the religious point of view.”
He added that Islam should not be portrayed as being against human rights.
“There are many other human rights issues that are consistent with Islamic values.”
The Human Rights Watch’s stance delivered in a recent article is widely seen as a move to put pressure on the courts ahead of the Jan 9 verdict on Anwar’s sodomy case.
It said that a November 2011 report by the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, recommended that UN member states repeal laws used to criminalise individuals on grounds of homosexuality, for engaging in consensual same-sex sexual conduct.
Universiti Teknologi Mara Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi said it was unreasonable to tell someone to forget their religious beliefs.
“If that is the case, then we also can tell others to forget about human rights.”
He added that human rights were not something static and constantly changed with the times.
He questioned that if the human rights hat was put on, then what about sex with animals and incest.
“What right does the UN human rights council have on this?
“Are they more educated or intelligent than us? Are they God?
“They have put themselves on a high pedestal and think they are superior to others.
“I can’t subscribe to this. This is hegemony of values and absolute arrogance.”
Muslim Lawyers Association president Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar said Human Rights Watch was wrong to impose its Western culture on Malaysia in calling for the government to revoke its colonial-era law that criminalised consensual sexual acts between people of the same sex.
Zainul Rijal said the New York-based global human rights organisation’s Dec 22, 2011’s article titled Malaysia: Revoke Law Banning Same-Sex Sexual Relations — Drop Case against Ex-Deputy Prime Minister (Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim was very wrong.
“This is too much, how can a Western-based NGO say that our sodomy law is a colonial-era law as such a law was already in place even before the Portugese arrived in the Malay peninsula.
“There was already an Islamic law in place then, covering punishment on sodomy, adultery, marriage and other things. We have historical proof, as it is documented on the Batu Bersurat Terengganu, the Undang-Undang 99 Perak, Kanun Melaka and Kanun Johor,” he said.
He added that in the preamble of the Undang-Undang 99 Perak, it was stated that those who did not follow the Al-Quran and Sunnah could not stay in the state and must stay in the jungle.
In the article published on its website, the Human Rights Watch, which is known to be a sympathiser of Anwar, said the so-called sodomy law was a relic of British colonial rule dating back to the mid-19th century.
Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said, “laws punishing consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex are an unjustifiable invasion of the rights to privacy and personal security.
“They foster a climate in which discrimination and abuse takes place.
“These rights cannot be willed away by selective appeals to cultural tradition and religious belief.”
Zainul Rijal thinks otherwise as he says such a law cannot be removed as it is already embedded into the culture of Malay Muslims in the country.
“It is already part of our adat and they (the western people) must respect our culture,” said Zainul Rijal.
The article also said that leading members of the Commonwealth of Nations, to which Malaysia belongs, called for the abolition of sodomy laws during the recently concluded summit meeting in Brisbane, Australia.
“As a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Malaysia has agreed to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.
“Revoking the sodomy law would be consistent with Malaysia’s undertakings as a Human Rights Council member,” Human Rights Watch said.