Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sarawak cancels Islamic talk after Christians object

BY DESMOND DAVIDSON


Christians worshipping during a Sunday service in Kuching, Sarawak. The state’s Islamic affairs department has decided to cancel a religious talk after Christians objected to it. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, January 13, 2015.

Christians worshipping during a Sunday service in Kuching, Sarawak. The state’s Islamic affairs department has decided to cancel a religious talk after Christians objected to it. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, January 13, 2015.An Islamic talk deemed by Christians in Sarawak as highly provocative has been cancelled by the Chief Minister's Office today.
Datuk Daud Abdul Rahman, the minister in charge of Islamic affairs in the state, said he “advised” the organisers to cancel the talk because of objections from the Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS), certain individuals and politicians.
The talk – organised by the Islamic Information Centre (IIC) and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) – was scheduled for tomorrow and Thursday.
But it was deemed unhelpful in defusing religious tension between Muslims and Christians in the country.
“We have looked into the objections and we find that they have a valid reason,” said Daud.
“We do not want to create disharmony among the various religious groups especially the Christians and the Muslims and the various races.
“It’s totally unnecessary,” Daud, who is also a Minister in the Chief Minister's Office, told reporters after witnessing Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem hand over cheques to various organisations at his office in Kuching this afternoon.
The talk, in conjunction with Prophet Muhammad's birthday, was to feature Iraqi Islamic scholar Shaykh Afeefuddin Al-Jalani speaking on the Prophet Muhammad in the Bible.
It was planned to be held at the IIC tomorrow and Unimas on Thursday.
The Anglican Diocese of Kuching, Assistant Bishop Aeries Sumping Jingan, told The Malaysian Insider yesterday that he spoke to the chief executive officer of IIC, and a state authority on the ACS's objection to the programme.
Sumping, who was acting on behalf of ACS chairman Datuk Bolly Lapok, said he made it clear to the CEO of IIC and the state authority that “we want the talks to be cancelled”.
PKR state chief Baru Bian, who today faxed a letter to Daud, stated that the topic of the talk was “an affront to Christians because Prophet Muhammad was never mentioned in the Bible, contrary to what the topic implies”.
He said many church leaders considered the topic to be blasphemous.
“Imagine how the Muslims would feel if a group of Christians proposed to invite a Christian scholar to talk about the Quran.
“I shudder to think of the reaction from the extreme ‘defenders of the faith’ in West Malaysia,” he added.
Baru said his objection to the talks was not an attempt to curb people’s freedom of expression, but said it they had to be done in an inclusive and accommodating manner.
“Sarawak is considered to be the last bastion of religious harmony and mutual respect and we must be mindful to guard this fortress at all times,” he said.
IIC reportedly tried to salvage the talk by changing the topic to “Muhammad SAW: The Blessing for Mankind.”
It made changes to the talk's promotional poster on its Facebook page this morning but removed it soon after. – January 13, 2015.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/sarawak-cancels-islamic-talk-after-christians-object#sthash.MKhoojbQ.dpuf

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