According to a reader, not only Catholics but also Protestants are suffering restrictions in Malaysia…
A short time ago I wrote a post entitled Catholic newspapers embattled in Malaysia, proposing reasons for the Malaysian government’s apparent persecution of newspapers associated with the one true Church. I said there that the policy was probably either a lashing out by an increasingly paranoid government against a vulnerable target, or an ill-thought attempt to curry favor with strict Muslims, in which case it will likely backfire due to the distinct nature of Southeast Asian Islam.
Afterwards, a reader named Valerie commented that not only authentic Christians but also Protestants are suffering restrictions imposed by the government. Because of its import, I reproduce her comment in full, thus:
It is not only the catholic church that has problems in Malaysia, Recently a shipment of religious books (in Bahasa Melayu) to a [Protestant] Christian church int he east Malaysia too was confiscated due to the Word Allah which the Malaysian authorities deem only for the MUSLIM God. They think in term of My God nad Your God but they forget their religion the same as Christianity belies there is Only One God!
Recently the Forum on Conversion to Islam organized by the Bar Council of Malaysia to talk about the issues when one member of the family converts to Islam and how it affects the lives of the whole family members was abruptly cut short due to Demonstrations and storming of the forum.
I know though not all Malays Muslims feel the way the hooligans acted during the demonstration yet it is so very sad to know that you are the minority and even though in your constitution it states the freedom to worship and the freedom of speech but it is not upheld due the conflicting law on sensitive issues and the stated official religion of Islam of this Country.
I note that my earlier post was founded on the idea that we shouldn’t exaggerate the apparent arbitrariness of the Malaysian government, or the extent to which Islamic rigorism informs its policies. However, Valerie’s comment provides a sobering corrective to my own optimism and hence merits serious consideration, in view of the spate of news reports on the increasing restriction of minority religions’ rights in Malaysia. To Miss Valerie, again I say, thank you for the correction; but if you wish me to delete my reproduction of your comment, just say the word and I shall comply.
To digress into fundamentals: It must first be conceded that, in a democratic society, the minority qua minority always lives at the sufferance of the majority. For society evolves for the furtherance of social goods, which will necessarily be defined in different ways by groups within it; and when the definitions are irreconcilable, then their encounter becomes a contest of power, whether in elections or in less peaceful encounters, that the most powerful faction will win. In a democracy, where power emanates from numbers, the majority that approves the Constitution and chooses the MPs is the primary possessor of civil power and the final arbiter of positive law.
However, this majoritarian power is limited in 3 ways. First, some entitlements, like those against arbitrary killing and torture, are Hohfeldian correlatives of absolute natural norms, and can demanded from the majority at any time. Second, such other natural rights as are not absolute, and that must hence be balanced against competing interests like public safety and majoritarian rights, nonetheless cannot be infringed without objectively valid cause. In such a standard, the natural but relative right of freedom of conscience may be restricted, but not arbitrarily or without reason.
Third, a democratic majority may itself limit its own rights vis-a-vis minorities, by legislating groundrules to govern the conduct of majorities and minorities alike; by setting a standard to determine when there exists good reason to impose restrictictions (e.g., the jurisprudential “clear and present danger” requirement under American law); or by creating civil liberties that apply to minorities and their members. In such case, if the majority agrees to such groundrules, then it must comply with the same, since the rule against arbitrary government is a natural mandate that no State may infringe.
Politically speaking, therefore, Catholics and Protestants in Muslim countries may in reason demand for a fair application of the publicly agreed groundrules, which means their rights in law in liberal democratic nations. However, it must be understood that even these rules are only articles of peace, as Fr. John Courtney Murray called them; for the majority can interpret them in a way that accords with the majority’s standards but not with the minority’s; and these rules would bring a mere truce that would moderate but not remove the causes of unrest, which are ultimately sin and error. Therefore, I also hope and pray that one day, all people, including Muslims and Protestants, will receive the grace and truth given by God through Christ in the one true Church and thus become authentic Christians, for this alone will provide the infallible foundation for that salvation and justice without which an authentic peace is impossible.
May God bless us all.