Wednesday 28 March 2012

‘Christian threat’ seminar in Johor sparks religious row

Mar 28, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 – Religious teachers from national schools in Johor will attend an officially-sanctioned seminar this Saturday focussing on the “threat of Christianisation”, and this has sparked outrage among Christians.

Organised by the Johor Education Department and the Johor Mufti Department, the seminar with the theme “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?) requires the attendance of two religious teachers from 55 national schools across Johor.

“I was shocked and in disbelief when I found out about it. Why is there a perceived threat? Do they have to create this sense of fear?” Chrisanne Chin, Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) Youth Moderator told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.

“The fact that it’s officially on the website suggests that the state department is lending support to this thinking that there is a threat against Islam,” she added.

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

Chin, who is also an executive council member of CCM, stressed that while she was not against religious teacher training programmes, one such as this would put pressure on the teachers to spread religious tension and fear aming unsuspecting pupils.

“This seminar will sow suspicion and hatred within the community, and be counterproductive to the 1 Malaysia concept touted by the ruling government.

“We need unity. No more rhetoric. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is,” Chin said.
When contacted, Hasimah Abdul Hamid, the supervisor for the Islamic Education Unit of the Johor Bahru 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.”

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

In recent years, the Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in a tug-of-war over the word “Allah”, with the latter group 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, however, 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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