Malaysia

Interfaith group wants heads to roll over ‘inflammatory’ seminar

KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 — The government must explain why it is allowing a “highly inflammatory” seminar on the “threat of Christianisation” to be held this weekend, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) has said.

Religious teachers from national schools in Johor will attend an officially-sanctioned seminar this Saturday focusing on the “threat of Christianisation”. The seminar has sparked outrage among Christians.

The seminar, organised by the Johor Education Department and the Johor Mufti Department, 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?).

Two religious teachers from each of the 55 national schools across Johor are required to attend.

“How can the government agree to something which will affect different sensitivities?

“Is this the policy of the Education Ministry? Who has sanctioned this? Highly inflammatory, uncalled for, someone must be held responsible,” MCCBCHST honorary deputy treasurer-general Reverend Dr Hermen Shastri (picture) told The Malaysian Insider.

He said the council will hold a meeting tomorrow to discuss the matter, and will come up with a more thorough response then.

“On behalf of the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) as well, we are extremely disappointed with the government for allowing this to happen,” said Shastri, who is also CCM secretary-general.

“What if we said Islam was a threat towards Malaysians, we can also ask... what happens then?” said the reverend.

A copy of a letter about the seminar from the Johor Education Department to national schools appears on its website.

Hasimah Abdul Hamid, supervisor for the Islamic Education Unit of the Johor Baru Education Office, declined to comment on the programme’s stance towards the apparent threat of Christianity against Muslims.

“The purpose of this programme is of course to strengthen the faith of Muslims,” she told The Malaysian Insider.

“But I can’t say anything about the title, because it was provided by the organisers.”

But the Malaysian Ulama Association (PUM) said yesterday the Johor government should not be apologetic for organising a seminar on the “threat of Christianisation” as it is an “Islamic” administration and has a duty to do so.

“We need to have these kind of seminars,” PUM president Datuk Sheikh Abdul Halim Abdul Kadir told The Malaysian Insider.

“I do not accept the excuse that Christians will be upset or hurt because of this seminar... the problem of Christianisation has been around for a long while, it is real.

“Therefore, any authority or government which is Islamic has a right to do this. You need to educate teachers, especially the young ones who are unaware of this problem.”

Christians form 9.2 per cent of Malaysia’s 28.3 million population.

In recent years, the Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in a tug of war over the word “Allah”, with Muslims arguing that its use should be exclusive to them on the grounds that Islam is monotheistic and the word “Allah” denotes the Muslim God.

Christians have argued that “Allah” is an Arabic word that has been used by those of other religious beliefs, including the Jews, in reference to God in many other parts of the world, notably in Arab nations and Indonesia.

A number of conservative Muslim groups have also accused Christians of attempting to convert Malays, resulting in heightened tension between followers of the two religions.

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