Islamic rights group, Malaysian Muslim Solidarity (Isma) rejects any concept that will favour the freedom of individuals and expression above societal needs.
Isma member Hazlin Chong said this in her speech to participants of the second Liberalism Conference organised by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) held at the Pullman Hotel in Jalan Pantai Baru, here today.
“We do not want injustice to others. We want peace but to achieve that we need to recognise that we have differences. As a nation like Malaysia grows bigger, to achieve and maintain harmony gets difficult.
“What we need is a system where we will be able to look after the needs of the individual and society as one.
“This is where liberalism is problematic as it favours the freedom of individuals and expression above anything else,” she said, adding that as such Isma wanted strict laws to be imposed against those who criticise Islam.
Chong cited controversial blogger, Alvin Tan, as an example. She said in the name of liberalism, Tan had angered and hurt the feelings of Muslims.
“It tells you, you can do whatever you want at the expense of other people. As long as you don’t harm them physically, you can say whatever you want including offending others,” Chong said.
Tan had courted controversy in July 2013 when he made a Facebook posting featuring a photo of him and his then girlfriend Vivian Lee having a meal with the accompanying message, “Happy breaking fast with bak kut teh…fragrant, delicious, appetising”.
Chong said this showed liberalism had caused friction, disunity and distrust among Muslims and non-Muslims in the country.
“Islam, on the other hand, guarantees society individual freedom but which is subject to societal needs for the common good of the people.
“Therefore in the context of Malaysian laws such as the Sedition Act, although far from perfect, is deemed necessary to provide some sort of balance for our society,” she said.
Chong also gave the example of Muslims facing a hard time in France as their rights are being stripped under the concept of liberalism.
“Muslims are not allowed to wear burkini. How is this promoting unity?” she asked.
Sisters in Islam programme manager Suriani Kemp was quick to rebut Chong’s arguments however, saying that people have the right to interpret Islam and urged Isma to fight for worthy causes to uplift the rights of Muslim women.
“There is no country that has absolute freedom and therefore, this idea that you (Chong) create is the worst kind of expression. You create this boogeyman, this strawman of what happens if we allow people absolute freedoms of expression.
“It becomes absolutely problematic because its always the worst? Freedom to kill, freedom to rape? That’s not what anyone is arguing for.
“So my request today is that we don’t go down that path because that’s not what we’re talking about today.
She said Isma should be looking at uplifting the rights of women such as in the case of polygamy where it is so easy for Muslim men to marry another.
“We should be looking at ways to ensure women’s rights are respected and not downgraded.”