KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysians should not be forced to abide by the values of any particular religion, says MCA vice-president Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun.
She said the recent sarong and towel incidents stemmed from the lack of mutual understanding among the races.
"Although the respective departments have taken immediate action to investigate and apologise, people's feelings have been hurt and the public have drawn their own image of the incidents," she said during a seminar on inter-racial and inter-religious relationship within the context of the Malaysian Constitution held at Wisma MCA yesterday.
Chew said new rifts had appeared in inter-ethnic and religious relations, adding that if these were not resolved soon, the country could descend into "mob rule".
She said that instead of avoiding religious issues by labelling them as sensitive, there should be a friendly and safe platform to discuss how to preserve national unity.
"While online debates, especially on social media, can rage on, isn't it better for us to come together and find meaningful discourse?" she asked.
Chew said the Federal Constitution should be interpreted according to the spirit that it was drafted, which was to "safeguard, enshrine and balance the rights" of all Malaysians.
"It was never devised to be a polarising law," she said.
Chew said it was a worrisome trend that articles in the Constitution relating to religion had been subjected to a "wider interpretation" recently, sowing fear and suspicion among the races.
She said a law should be enacted to protect religious freedom in Malaysia.
MCA secretary-general Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan noted that the Constitution was a combined effort of leaders of different races and religions via the Reid Commission.
Ong criticised PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang's attempt to introduce hudud into the country's legislation, adding that it would spell disaster for the whole nation.
"The Constitution, drafted by our forefathers was difficult to formulate. We should preserve it as it is because it protects the rights of all of us," he said.