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Catholic bishop wants constitution respected, Christians protected from Islamic Law

by Joseph Masilamany

ICC Note: Here is some more information the fight in Malaysia over civil court and Islamic court.

4/3/07 Malaysia For full story….(AsiaNews) – In an appeal made via AsiaNews to Malaysia’s lawmakers, Mgr Paul Tan Chee Ing, SJ, chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), said that every means should be used to uphold “the constitution and the rights of non Muslims,” insisting that “matters involving civil liberties and the family should come under the jurisdiction of civil courts rather than Islamic tribunals.”

Bishop Tan’s made the appeal at a time when Malaysia ’s dual legal system, one civil and one Islamic, is causing profound social cleavages, generating a heated debate in the general public over the actual existence of religious freedom in the country.

For the CFM the Subshini case is “clearly unconstitutional” since ethnic minorities like the Chinese and Indians come under the jurisdiction of civil courts.

“It is troubling to note, and is indeed of great concern to all Malaysians, that what is clearly stated in the Federal Constitution, namely that Sharia courts shall have jurisdiction only over persons professing the religion of Islam, is now being extended, by a court decision, to include non-Muslims,” Bishop Tan said.

The CFM is not alone in its protest. The Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism has expressed its support for the appeal.

This week the CFM has also organized a national prayer campaign in favor of minority rights.

“Non Muslim communities are not prepared to accept the ‘cajoling’ of the civil courts, forcing people to go before Sharia courts,” the prelate said.