Friday 3 June 2011

Concern over posting of religous teachers in S'wak

Any Sarawak BN ministers who are not happy with the posting of religious teachers from peninsular Malaysia to the state should bring up the matter at the state cabinet meeting, former deputy education minister Salleh Jafaruddin said today.

NONE"Unnecessarily harping on emotional religious issues to gauge any political support is treading on dangerous propaganda, which can open up the floodgates of many unhealthy choices for everybody to make," Salleh (left) said in reaction to comments from Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president James Masing and Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) vice-president Daud Abdul Rahman last week.

Masing, who is also the state minister of land development, was reported to have expressed concern with the posting of religious teachers to Sarawak under the guise of school counsellors.

Daud, who is also an assistant minister in charge of Islamic religious affairs in the chief minister's office, said the Sarawak Islamic Religious Council would monitor the activities of religious teachers from peninsular Malaysia to prevent the spread of extremist teachings.

"We do not want them to spread their extreme religious teachings to the school children," Daud was quoted as saying.

Salleh said the recruitment of trained religious teachers to Sarawak schools, either aided or government, has been under way since 1978 when he was a deputy education minister.

Same standards for foreign teachers

"These teachers need not only come from peninsular Malaysia, Sabah or Sarawak, but they can be recruited anywhere from any Islamic countries, with the tacit approval from the federal government and provided they are religiously qualified and meet the Education Ministry requirements," he explained.
Salleh said the same standard applies to the recruitment of foreign English teachers for Malaysian schools.

"In fact, the late Hussen Onn, then the prime minister, even allowed me to recruit religious teachers from Indonesia and Philippines and middle eastern countries because during that time, there were not many qualified religious teachers available locally, especially for Sabah and Sarawak schools.

"I do not think that the idea of imbibing any holistic religious education legitimately guided by the Education Ministry would lead to a creation of extremists in the country," he said.

Salleh said providing religious teachers for Sabah and Sarawak is a continuous process aimed at fulfilling the requirement and the extension of the Malaysian Education Act.

He said one of the provisions of the Education Act stipulates that where there are 15 or more Muslim students, the government should provide a religious teacher for the aided or government schools.
"This scenario has been well accepted and acknowledged by BN leaders since then, and why should now be a serious concern as if teaching Islamic as much as studying religious knowledge of other religious denominations is profane and will end up in the country being turn into a terrorist state.

"On the contrary, it is the absence of religious education that causes members of the ignorant society to deny any sense of respect and love for one another," he said, adding that Masing could have been worried that a large number of religious teachers would swarm schools in the state in the future.

Parallels drawn to teaching Christianity

During his time in the Education Ministry, Salleh said, the recruitment of religious teachers was done without any hitches or complaints from religious denominations or religiously conscious political leaders from the state - except for a request made by the late Stephen Yong, then a federal minister, for a similar opportunity to be accorded to the teaching of Christianity in Sarawak schools for non-Muslim students.
"The teaching of Christian religious knowledge was not legally covered by the Education Act, although many Christian students are not prohibited from studying it as a subject for their SPM examination," he said.

Many Muslim students also took Bible study during his time in school, Salleh said, but none of them converted to Christianity.

"Hence any approach which is legally allowed, religiously acceptable and legitimate, should not be made into a big political issue," he said, adding that the most important issue now is how to stop corruption and abuse of power within the existing BN administration.

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