Sunday, August 12, 2007

Malaysian prime minister vows to be fair to all faiths
Posted: 12 August 2007 1626 hrs

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Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has vowed to be "fair" to all faiths and urged minorities to be patient on legal disputes including freedom of worship, reports said on Sunday.

The premier also did not rule out parliament reviewing current laws to solve conflicts over jurisdiction between secular and religious courts, the reports said.

"I am your prime minister representing all races. I have to be fair to all," the Bernama news agency quoted Abdullah as saying during a visit to the state of Sabah on Saturday.

"I know these are serious issues. We cannot run away from this," Abdullah was also quoted in the Star and New Straits Times as saying, stressing however that "this cannot be rushed".

Malaysia's Buddhist, Christian and Hindu minorities have expressed fears over certain court verdicts that they said favoured majority Muslims despite constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion.

Among the most celebrated cases involved a Federal Court's decision rejecting a woman's bid for legal recognition as a Christian after renouncing Islam.

Born a Muslim, Lina Joy, waged a decade-long battle to have the word "Islam" removed from her national identity card. But the Federal Court threw out her case and said only the Sharia court can legally certify her conversion.

More than 60 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people are Muslim Malays and Islam is the official religion under the country's constitution.

The constitution defines the ethnic majority Malays as Muslims but it also guarantees freedom of religion. Minority Chinese and Indians are mostly Buddhists, Hindus or Christians.


- AFP/so