Wednesday 10 August 2011

NGO says had prayers, songs but denies tied to Christianity or church

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 — The non-profit outfit at the centre of last week’s controversial church raid has said it featured prayer, religious songs and a quiz on Islam at its dinner but denied it was aimed at converting the Muslims present.

Harapan Komuniti also pointed out that it had no ties with Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC), where last Wednesday’s thanksgiving function was held, stressing that the church hall only served as a venue.
The dinner was later raided by Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) officers on suspicion that Muslims at the event were being persuaded to leave Islam.

Harapan Komuniti lawyer Annou Xavier said while attendees had offered a prayer thanking God for aid received by the organisation, it was “general” and non-denominational as the 120 or so attendees professed various faiths.

“It is not a Christian prayer ... it is more like thanking God almighty,” he told The Malaysian Insider today.
He confirmed that two Malay-language thanksgiving songs were also sung at the dinner — “Allahu Akbar” and “Alhamdullilah” — but similarly denied they were religious in nature.

Annou also brushed off claims by Malay dailies and blogs that the quiz on Islam conducted at the dinner was meant to disparage the religion as the questions were “very general” in nature and “not insulting”.

“It was not to convert anyone, it was not to influence anybody ... They thought this is Ramadan month, they thought let’s have a quiz on Islam,” he said.

The dinner could have been held anywhere else, such as a Chinese community hall, but Harapan Komuniti opted for DUMC as the church had offered to let out the venue for free, Annou added.

“Because it is a non-profit organisation they look for somewhere that is conducive, simple and cheap,” he said.

Harapan Komuniti executive director Raymond Koh said earlier today his organisation was committed to “bringing love, hope, peace and dignity to the needy, downtrodden, children, women and people living with HIV and AIDS,” regardless of colour or creed.

“Harapan Komuniti has helped many needy and downtrodden citizens of Malaysia, without regard to race, religion, creed, yet Jais took it upon themselves to disrupt a peaceful and harmonious charity event,” he said in a statement issued through Annou.

The raid caused a public uproar, and the Selangor government under Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has since demanded a report from Jais explaining the raid.

But Muslim lobby groups have rallied behind Jais and Selangor executive councillor for religious matters Datuk Hasan Ali, who defended the raid by claiming that the words “pray” and “Qur’an” were used in the presence of Muslims who had attended the dinner.

This was among the evidence cited as proof by the former PAS Selangor chief that Christians had attempted to convert Muslims during the function.

Lawyers for 10 of the 12 Muslims who attended the dinner were informed earlier that Jais is investigating the incident under Section 4 of Selangor’s Non-Islamic Religions Enactment 1988.

The section makes it an offence for a person to “persuade, influence or incite” a Muslim to be inclined to any non-Islamic religion, become a follower or a member of a non-Islamic religion or forsake or disfavour Islam.
It is understood that seven of the 12 Muslims in question were recipients of Harapan Komuniti aid.

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