We must encourage a human rights culture in Malaysia that is in accordance with and affirms the Constitution.

THE Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra) regrets polemics about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

This is following the tweet by LGBT activist Numan Afifi asserting the right of LGBT couples to observe Aidilfitri.

We would like to restate our position on how and in what manner human rights should take shape in Malaysia.

While we uphold the Universal Declaration on Human Rights 1948 (UDHR), we believe the rights must not contradict the Constitution.

Centhra takes the cultural relativist position that while UDHR may be used as a benchmark for a minimum standard with respect to the measurement of human rights, anything more must be developed with reference to international human rights instruments.

This is in keeping with our position as a Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation, and to this end, we believe in a greater role of the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam 1990 (CDHRI) as well as the Asean Human Rights Declaration 2012 (AHRD) in our human rights discourse.

Nonetheless, with those who would disagree, particularly those who advocate universalist human rights notions, Centhra remains committed to a process of dialogue when it comes to debating the compatibility or otherwise of Islam.

However, we would caution that this must never be an excuse to hoodwink people who subscribe to Islam and Asian values.

While we affirm that LGBT persons have the right to basic dignity and freedom accorded to all persons, such as the right to life and dignity, we would like to remind the public that no one has the right to disrupt society, to offend the values of the culture and the religion of the federation, nor the values of any other religion in Malaysia.

Asian values stress community and responsibility in place of individualism, and every citizen must respect the peace and cohesiveness of society.

Rights associated with sexual orientation do not exist in any international human rights instruments accepted by Malaysia, including UDHR, and must not be asserted when they are unrecognised in the country.

Instead, such so-called rights must be identified as foreign, chiefly Western imports that are alien to Malaysia.

Centhra reasserts its position that the basis of any dialogue on human rights should remain clear for all interested parties — that human rights in Malaysia are those derived from its highest law, the Constitution.

Our Constitution recognises the need to balance rights with responsibilities and safeguards to ensure they are not abused, that the greater good of society takes precedence over the individual exercise of rights, and that any right must consider local values and norms.

This is thought to be the ideal solution as this provides for maximum possible exercise of rights by individuals without endangering society nor destroying institutions symbolising our nationhood.

Centhra calls on Numan to apologise for asserting a non-existent right and encouraging disregard for the teachings of Islam and the provisions of the Constitution and laws.

We call on him and Malaysians to join us in encouraging a human rights culture in Malaysia that is in accordance with and affirms the Constitution, UDHR, CDHRI and AHRD as its inspiration and source.

AZRIL MOHD AMIN

Lawyer, Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy

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