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Universal values won’t help resolve issues faced by Malaysia (The Ant Daily)

My comment addressing allegations made against COMANGO, and on the compatibility and relevance of universal human rights mechanisms in Malaysia (definitely rebutting the claim highlighted in the article’s title):

Meanwhile, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) advocacy officer Yu Ren Chung said while Isma and the Muslim groups are entitled to express their views on the matter, the use of state machinery to vilify Comango is a cause for concern.

WAO is one of the 54 endorsees of Comango’s demands and Yu said the coalition has been subjected to “outlandish comments” and “baseless allegations” – including through the official Friday prayers sermon text prepared by the Islamic Development Department Malaysia (Jakim) on Oct 18.

“It is our responsibility to respond to Isma because what they have said are factually untrue. Isma is claiming to speak on behalf of the larger Muslim community when that is not necessarily true either,” said Yu, in pointing out that matters of religion should be personal to every individual.

He also maintained the overall concept behind championing for adoption of universal human rights standards is so that every individual will be able to live their chosen life with dignity.

This, he said, is due to the fact that a UN member country will receive technical assistance to implement the resolutions which it has ratified for the betterment of the people.

Read the full article published in The Ant Daily on 23 November 2013. 

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Comango: Muslim NGOs missing forest for the trees (The Malay Mail Online)

My comment on the perceived notion that human rights, including international mechanisms like the Universal Periodic Review, are foreign ideas and at odds with religion.

“There’s a misconception that human rights is something from the West … If one looks at the history of the human rights, it has global support,” said Yu Ren Chung from Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).

According to Yu, two of the five authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) were P.C. Chang who was from China, and Charles Malik who was from Lebanon.

The UDHR was subsequently adopted by UN members in 1948, with 48 countries in favour and eight abstained ― mostly from the Soviet bloc.

The representatives also rubbished claims by Muslim NGOs that by ratifying international human rights protocol, Malaysia will open the floodgates to practices that “would threaten the position of Islam” such as same-sex marriages and apostasy.

“Realistically and practically speaking, it seems a far-flung idea, used simply to scare people into taking a position in line with (them) … They choose the most polemic of all topics, we’re not even at that stage yet,” said Suriani.

“By signing (the protocols), it sends a signal that we would like to meet these standards, basic global human rights standards, and one can work progressively to achieve that,” explained Yu.

Yu has also stressed that there are many Muslim countries that have ratified the global protocols, without any sudden spike in same-sex marriages and apostasy.

*Correction: I noted that there were eight or nine drafters of the UDHR, not five.

Read the full article published in The Malay Mail Online on 24 October 2013.