From their press release published on MyIslamNetwork, the group leading the coalition of 77 Islamic NGOs acknowledge the influence of political parties in the general direction of the country. The demands arised out of their concern for the many outstanding unresolved Islamic issues. The document served to highlight their concerns for the considerations of all political parties and does not imply of the group's support for any particular political parties.
The area of their demands cover the special constitutional position of Islam; Islamic education and da’wah (call to Islam); good governance; democracy and civil society; inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations; and Islamic faith and morals.
The list of demands as in accordance to the areas of demands are:
1. Special Constitutional Position of Islam
- Defend the position of Islam as the Religion of the Federation under Article 3 of the Federal Constitution.
- Assert the significant role of Islam in the state and rejects the notion of Malaysia as a secular state.
- Defend and strengthen the position and jurisdiction of Syariah Courts under Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution.
- Legislate laws controlling the propagation of non-Muslim religions among the Muslims in Sabah, Sarawak, Perlis, Pulau Pinang and Federal Territories as provided by Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution.
- Enhance the level of professionalism among the staff of Islamic agencies.
- Legislate Halal Food and Processing Act as a means to govern halal industry and enhance the enforcement of halal requirements.
- Take stern action against employers who prevent employees from practicing their Islamic religious duties at work.
- Prosecute those who cause religious disharmony, especially by making offensive remarks against Islam, under Section 298A of the Penal Code.
2. Islamic Education and Da’wah
- Increase the learning period of Islamic subjects in national primary and secondary schools.
- Set up Islamic higher learning and research institutions in specific fields such as education, technology and management.
- Guarantee academic and intellectual freedom by giving autonomous status to the universities.
- Re-instate and increase the per-capita aid to People’s Religious Schools (Sekolah Agama Rakyat, SAR) and provide free textbooks to students of these schools.
- Re-introduce the teaching of Mathematics and Science in Malay at national schools.
- The Ministry of Education to allow excellent students from private religious schools to enrol in boarding schools under the supervision of the ministry and the Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA).
- Extend the provision of government scholarships, which are currently enjoyed by Malay students, to non-Malay Muslim students.
- Increase the number of recipients of the Public Service Department’s scholarship award to Muslim students to further their studies abroad.
- The Ministry of Education to continue encouraging Islamic practices in schools.
- Provide special allocation to Islamic NGOs to carry out Islamic educational activities.
- The Ministry of Information to be sensitive toward the feelings of Muslim majority in devising broadcast policies; prioritize television programs that contribute to the development of a moral society; increase the number of Islamic education programs; and stop airing entertainment programs that promote hedonistic culture.
- Private television stations must adhere to the National Culture Policy and the National Education policy in selecting their programs.
3. Good Governance
- Step up the efforts to curb graft and abuse of powers among public officials.
- Appoint public officials among those who are free from graft, abuse of power and immoral conduct.
- Foster the internalization of Islamic values among civil servants.
- Public officials to make public declaration of their assets.
- Appoint senators among the leaders Islamic NGOs to oversee the implementation of Islamic policies and promote the welfare of Muslims.
4. Civil Society and Democracy
- Ensure that elections are clean, free and fair.
- Select election candidates among those who are of high integrity, good conduct and able.
- Ensure that the government exercises its powers in accordance with the rule of law and the constitution.
- Widen the democratic space in order to allow civil society institutions to contribute to social empowerment and nation building.
5. Inter-Ethnic and Inter-Religious Relations
- Enhance commitment to religious and racial harmony.
- Reject political parties and politicians who disregard special position of Islam in Malaysia and those who advocate the secular understanding of absolute religious freedom.
- Strictly enforce laws on the building of houses of worship irrespective of religions.
- Ensure that the sensitivities of local residents be taken into consideration before a house of worship is built in the area.
- Form a special committee comprising the representatives of Muslim organizations and local authorities to deliberate on applications to build non-Muslim houses of worship in Muslim-majority residential area.
6. Islamic Faith and Morals
- Reject the notion of religious pluralism which claims that all religions are the same.
- Reject the use of specific Islamic terms like “Allah”, “Ka’abah”,”Baitullah” and “Solat” to refer to certain dissimilar concepts in non-Muslim religions.
- Increase the number of religious enforcement officers and their level of professionalism.
- Strictly enforce the existing laws on religious and moral crimes.
It is understood that the demands by the Islamic NGOs is a reaction to the demands made by certain other religious groups. Temples and churches group are exerting political presence and it is not only limited to voicing their demands but are participating in the partisan politics to insert their religious agenda. Thus far, incidence of bringing inter-faith issue into the political arena have been detected.
Newton's physical world mantra that every action will result in an equal and opposite reaction. If this is let allowed, it is not conducive to peace and harmony. This is certainly not an encouraging trend because the current interfaith disputes in the court are of legal, administrative and family nature in which the proper platform is not at the political arena. In fact, interfaith issues is best be addressed through concensus and dialogue amongst the familiar and knowledgable.
In the history of man, religion is attributed to more human disputes than even racial issues. Thankfully, Malaysia has never succumbed to any major form of religious unrest and lets keep it so. Taking religious disputes into the open should best be avoided. Lets be judicious in our discussion. Any discussion should be confined among the knowledgable, taking stock of the sensitivity of religion and exercise caution in stretching it to the point of sacrificing inter-community peace and harmony.