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Friday, March 30, 2012

Religious unity not govt’s agenda


Since when has Christianity become the 'enemy of the state', so much so that a seminar is deemed necessary to brainwash young Muslims into hating everthing to do with Christianity?
COMMENT
Does religious harmony count for anything in this country of 28 million people? Hardly, as far as the Barisan Nasional (BN) government is concerned.
Had racial unity been a priority for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, he would have wasted no time in scrapping tomorrow’s seminar about the alleged “threat posed by Christianity”, the world’s largest religion.
The seminar is themed “Pemantapan Aqidah, Bahaya Liberalisme dan Pluralism Serta Ancaman Kristianisasi Terhadap Umat Islam. Apa Peranan Guru?” (Strengthening the Faith, the Dangers of Liberalism and Pluralism and the Threat of Christianity towards Muslims. What is the Role of Teachers?).
The uncalled-for weekend programme is organised by the Johor Education Department and the Johor Mufti Department and will involve 110 religious teachers from all the national schools in the state.
Islamic Affairs Minister Jamil Khir Baharom is all in support of the seminar, saying it was meant to protect Muslims and not to hurt any quarter.
He said the seminar will be held according to the laws that allowed states to hold such programmes if Muslims were deemed threatened.
“The states have the right to safeguard the interests of Muslims, it is within their jurisdiction. The interests of Muslims is important and we must consider this,” he said.
What threat is Jamil talking about and where is it coming from? Has he, like the Johor Mufti Department, become so “delusional” about the fate of Muslims in this country that teachers are now being used as scapegoats to validate Muslim belief in Islam?
Who is posing a threat to the Muslims of this country? To character-assassinate Christians is not going to help improve matters when truthfully, the problem lies within the Muslim community itself, its ummah or community being swayed by the emotions of extremist minds.
Since when has Christianity become the “enemy of the state”, so much so that a seminar is deemed necessary to brainwash young Muslims into hating everthing to do with Christianity?
Is anarchy what Jamil and the Johor Mufti Department hope to achieve, using this seminar as a conduit to unleash their hatred towards the Christian community?
Proselytisation no child’s play
An officer with the Johor Mufti Department has said the state authorities “fear young Muslims will be confused and not understand” when faced with attempts to convert them, albeit there being no attempts at proselytisation.
Should one deduce then that it is as easy as “ABC” to seduce the young Muslims into renouncing their faith? Is their belief in Islam so shallow that they can easily give up their trust in Islam?
Christians form 9.2% of Malaysia’s 28.3 million-strong population.
The seminar has triggered yet another outrage among the country’s Christians amid an already souring relations between them and the country’s majority Muslims over several sensitive incidences in the recent past.
Church leaders had come out to condemn the Johor mufti and education department for allowing the seminar to take place, saying it endorsed the unproven claim that Christians were threatening the Islamic faith.
Religious unity not BN’s agenda
With such chronic hatred against the Christian community in place, where does Malaysia today stand in relation to religious tolerance? Does the nation still have what it takes to own up to the fact that the spirit of muhibbah or goodwill between Malaysians of different races has, like an avalanche, crumbled, burying deep any hope of reconciliation between people of different faiths in this country?
But then religious unity was never of any interest to the federal government under BN. Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has unabashedly made it known he will do everything in his power to uphold Malay rights and privileges.
It is just as hurting when former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad last year cautioned the non-Malays against being too comfortable calling Malaysia as their home. The non-Malays, he said, had to be indebted to the Malays for being granted the citizenship that enabled them to reside in Malaysia.
As always, Najib has no “comments” on topics that concern harmony between Malaysians of different faiths. He and his band of ministers are keeping their mouths shut on the controversy tomorrow’s seminar has caused. What should the rakyat make of this “deafening silence”? Is it wrong to affirm that BN and Najib do not care a fig about the declining confidence plaguing rakyat of different faiths?
Why then the show by Najib of sealing formal ties with the Vatican in July last year, in what was seen as a high point in religious relations?
BN prejudiced against Christians
Najib’s disinterest in this latest attempt to discredit Christianity is not going down well with the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taosim (MCCBCST) which is annoyed with this latest move labelling Christianity a threat. And the council’s reason is justified.
For one, the controversial seminar will undermine the years of hard work put in to foster and strengthen religious peace and kinship.
The council has put up with enough, as far as condemning Christianity goes. There was the legal tussle over the right to use the Arabic term “Allah” to describe the Christian God.
To the Muslims, the legal battle “confirmed” their suspicion of a widespread Christian conversion campaign and embittered relations between the two. But Christian leaders vehemently denied the allegation.
In 2009, the High Court allowed the church to use the word, but the case is pending a Home Ministry appeal of the decision. The ruling led to several churches across the country falling prey to arson attempts.
Then there was the Selangor Islamic Religious Department or JAIS raid on the Damansara Utama Methodist Church on Aug 3 last year under the pretext that proselytisation efforts were in progress, targeting the Muslim guests who had attended a fund-raising dinner at the church.
Christians were further outraged when the Home Ministry seized 35,100 Malay-language bibles.
The bibles were later released ahead of the Sarawak state election in April last year on condition that copies in Peninsular Malaysia be marked with a cross and the words “Christian publication”.
With so much damage and indoctrination at the expense of Christians, dare Najib as the people’s leader claim that his propaganda 1Malaysia is well-intended?
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.

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