In the midst of a multi-million dollar Asian tour, President Obama became the first president since Lyndon B. Johnson to visit Malaysia. The Obama Administration has referred to the country as an “emerging partner,” but the alliance is truly bizarre given Malaysia’s record on human rights.
Just last week, CNS News reported the U.S. State Department’s evaluation of Malaysia’s human rights record “identified problem areas including abuses by security forces and restrictions of freedom of the press, speech, assembly, association and religion.” In regards to religious intolerance, the State Department identified the following issues:
-Denial of legal status to some religious groups
-Restrictions on proselytizing and on the freedom to change one’s religion (except that members of other religions may convert to Islam)
-Marriages between Muslims and non-Muslims are not recognized by the state and children born of such marriages are considered illegitimate
-While Islamic religious instruction is compulsory for Muslim children in public schools, non-Muslim students are not allowed to take classes in their religion, but instead must take non-religious morals and ethics courses.
-The government prohibits publications, public events and debates which it says may incite racial or religious disharmony, including public discussions of issues such as religious freedom and apostasy.
On radio this morning, Glenn played the audio of President Obama at a press conference with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib on Sunday, in which the President makes a head scratching human rights comparison between the Southeast Asian nation and the U.S.
“So I couldn't think of what they were doing over in Malaysia. I'm like, what did he go over there for? He was supposed to announce a trade agreement that fell through… So he had nothing to do but apologize for the unions,” Glenn said. “So he goes over to Malaysia. In Malaysia, you know, you have anything at all going on that's Christian, and they'll kill you in the streets. You don't have a right to talk about another religion. You don't have a right to leave Islam. You don't have a right to convert to any other religion besides Islam. It's really bad. Really, really bad. There are no human rights.”
CBS News’ Major Garrett asked President Obama to expand on what the U.S. could do “to speak out on behalf of human rights, racial tolerance, political accountability and free speech” especially given the situation in Malaysia.
“I think the Prime Minister is the first to acknowledge that Malaysia has still got some work to do -- just like the United States, by the way, has some work to do on these issues. Human Rights Watch probably has a list of things they think we should be doing as a government,” President Obama responded. “And I am going to be constantly committed to making sure that these issues get raised in a constructive way. And Prime Minister Najib came in as a reformer and one who is committed to it, and I’m going to continue to encourage him as a friend and a partner to make sure that we’re making progress on that front.”
You can watch the President’s full remarks below:
“You have got to be kidding,” Pat said. “Unbelievable.”
As Glenn explained, for all those sitting in Malaysian prisons because they have stood up for liberty and freedom, President Obama’s arrival in the country was probably a source of great hope. When asked to address the human rights issue, however, he not only makes excuses for Malaysia, but he also demonizes the United States.
“We're not jailing people for their religion yet… It is so far from the United States,” Glenn said. “So you're sitting in jail and you're thinking to yourself, ‘Oh my gosh – the United States – they’re one of them. They're the same. There's nobody standing up for me. I'm going to rot here in jail. There's nobody holding a light up in the world.’”
“People wonder why we have our doubts about where his allegiance lies. [It’s] because he goes all over the world and says this kind of stuff,” Pat concluded. “In a country that has virtually zero human rights, he goes there and says, ‘Yes, they have some issues but so do we,’ and he compares our civil rights issues to theirs. It’s despicable. It's incomprehensible.”
Front page image courtesy of the AP