PETALING JAYA: The perception that the Federal Constitution is being hijacked by religious laws will have serious consequences for the country, a group comprising former senior civil servants has warned.
G25’s founding member Sheriff Kassim explained that such a perception could cause worry among the elites about where the country’s future was headed, and could even result in an exodus of many of the country’s best talents.
Sheriff, who is a former finance ministry secretary-general and the current chairman of highway operator PLUS Malaysia Berhad, warned that businesses will also fear the safety of their investments if Putrajaya’s policies were dictated by religious extremism.
“When businesses stop investing in the country and take their money out, the country will then start on the journey towards becoming a failed state,” he said during his keynote address at the Malaysia Freedom Summit.
This is why groups such as G25, and think tanks such as the Islamic Renaissance Front and the Institute of Leadership & Development Studies (LEAD) must band together to defend the Federal Constitution, particularly when it comes to individual freedoms, he said.
Earlier, Sheriff expressed his fear that extreme religious laws would influence public policies and curtail freedom.
“This could also lead to doubts on the supremacy of the Federal Constitution, and will be a cause of concern for countries that practice democracy.”
On a related note, Sheriff warned that the need for credentials in order to hold religious discussions in Malaysia, would stifle the social and economic progress of the Muslim community.
He was referring to the incident in September, when Turkish-born writer Mustafa Akyol was arrested by the Federal Territory Islamic Department (Jawi) for “teaching Islam without credentials”.
It was later revealed that Akyol was arrested based on a “complaint from the public” over a speech he made at a roundtable discussion titled “Does freedom of conscience open the floodgate to apostasy?”
Later that month, the home ministry banned several Malay-language titles dealing with topics on Islam, including a translation of a book by Akyol published by the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF).
The ministry said Akyol’s book, alongside two others published by the IRF, were potentially “prejudicial to public order” as well as likely to “alarm public opinion”.