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WEBINAR: Freedom of Religion in a time of COVID-19: A case of competing rights? with Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi & Andrew Khoo
April 23, 2020
Date: Saturday, 25th April 2020
Time: 3PM MYT | 7AM UTC | 8AM London
Organized by: Islamic Renaissance Front
*The Zoom link for the Webinar will be sent to your email on Saturday, 25th April at 10AM.
How far can a government limit religious freedom in the name of fighting the coronavirus under our national law? As the global pandemic continues, we and many other governments are grappling with this question. Religious gatherings are important opportunities for people to practice and share their beliefs, but they are also sites for transmission of COVID-19, endangering not only participants in these gatherings but everyone with whom they interact. Crises require decisive government action, but governments often use times of crisis to encroach on individual freedoms or target minority groups long after the crisis has passed.
Given the fundamental nature of freedom of religion or belief, it is subject to fewer restrictions than other rights. Only manifestations of this freedom can be limited, but never holding beliefs itself. Unlike other rights, religious freedom cannot be derogated in times of public emergency, which means that governments must continue to balance this fundamental right even in efforts to combat the impact of the virus. While freedom of religion is not absolute, it also cannot be limited disproportionately, or in a way that discriminates against believers and non-believers or a certain religion or belief. Public health emergencies should also not be used to target or stigmatize certain religious groups.
Religious freedom must be balanced with public health concerns, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. We cannot allow fear to override human rights principles, including the unique protections afforded to the freedom of religion or belief. Instead, we must be vigilant that the government carefully balance this right and enact neutral responses that do not unduly target religious communities. The government responses must be compliant with international human rights standards and public health should not be used as a mask for persecuting religious communities especially the religious minorities in this country. We urge others to be vigilant in ensuring that our most sacred right is not forsaken, even in this time of crisis.
About the Speakers
Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Hj Shad Saleem Faruqi was the Holder of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Chair at the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya. He is currently the Holder of the Tun Hussein Onn Chair at the Institute of International and Strategic Studies Malaysia (ISIS); a Member of the Judicial Appointments Commission; a Fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia; a former member of the post GE-14 Institutional Reform Committee and the MA63 Committee. He is an Emeritus Professor of Law at Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam. He has also served as a Visiting Professor at USM, Penang; as Associate Professor at UIAM; and an Adjunct Professor at New England University, Australia. He is the author of ten books including Document of Destiny: The Constitution of the Federation of Malaysia; Reflections on Life and the Law; Media Law & Regulations in Malaysia and Our Constitution. In four and a half decades in the law he has authored more than 600 articles in journals, periodicals and newspapers. He has done many national and international consultancies including the drafting of the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives in 1992.
Andrew Khoo graduated from King’s College London in law and was called to the Bar of England and Wales by the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn in November 1991 and the Bar of the High Court of Malaya in Malaysia in May 1995. He has been in active legal practice in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for almost 25 years. For 11 years (2009-2020) he served as an elected member of Bar Council Malaysia and is Co-Chair of the Constitutional Law Committee and Trade in Legal Services Committee. He is also Co-Deputy Chair of the Legal Profession Committee. He was Co-Chair of the Bar Council Human Rights Committee from 2009-2018. He has represented the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM), the Malaysian Bar, the Council of Churches Malaysia, the Diocese of West Malaysia and the Bible Society of Malaysia in watching briefs before the Federal Court, Court of Appeal and the High Court in cases involving election petitions, constituency redelineation, child custody, citizenship and freedom of religion. His most recent assignment was as a member of a Special Committee established by the government of Malaysia to study alternative sentences in lieu of the mandatory death penalty.
300-315PM: Introduction by the Moderator, Ehsan Shahwahid
315-345PM: Presentation by Andrew Khoo
345-415PM: Presentation by Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Hj Shad Saleem Faruqi
455-500PM: Concluding remarks by the Moderator, Ehsan Shahwahid
Organized by: Islamic Renaissance Front