‘Stop sending Ustaz to Sarawak schools’

By Joseph Tawie, FMT

KUCHING: A simmering issue over the alleged conversion to Islam of Dayak students and pre-schoolers in Sarawak is set to explode in the Umno-led Barisan Nasional’s face .

Responding to the latest allegations that there was an attempt to impart Islamic teaching and practices to non-Muslim children in some Kemas and government pre-schools in the rural areas, the state’s largest Dayak organisation has demanded an immediate stop to such covert activities.

Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) which has well over 100,000 members are demanding that the Taib Mahmud-led state administration intervene and arrest the situation or face public wrath.

In May this year Barisan Nasional coalition partner Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president James Masing had alleged that the Education Ministry would be seconding thousands of teachers including ‘Malay religious teachers’ from the peninsular to Sarawak to meet the shortage of teachers.

But Educationa Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had dismissed Masing’s claims.

Last week at the state legislative assembly, Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian had expressed parents’ concern that their pre-school children were being exposed to Islamic prayers and practices.

Reacting today, SDNU deputy president Dr John Brian Anthony said: “We want the government to put a stop to it, because it is not healthy for the country where one religion is trying to patronise each other.

“Yes (we know) in Malaysia we have Islam as the official religion…but we have to respect each other.

“Once you have embraced Islam, dress like a Malay and speak the Malay Language, you are Malay. I think this is a political reason.

“We Dayaks in Sarawak must resist this attempt. It interferes with our rights.”

‘Real attempt’ to convert

Brian was responding to Bian, who is state PKR chairman, and Barisan Nasional assemblyman Dennis Ngau’s (Telang Usan) concerns which they raised during the debate on the state budget.

Bian said he had received complaints from parents that their pre-school children in the government run Kemas schools in the rural areas have been receiving Islamic teachings and that these children were reciting these prayers at home.

Describing the allegations as a “real attempt at imparting the Islamic teachings and practices”, Bian urged the state government to intervene and investigate the issue.

Ngau from ruling Barisan Nasional also supported Bian’s call and told the members of the state assembly that he too received similar complaints from parents.

He agreed with Bian that the government should seriously look into the complaints.

No need for West Malaysian teachers

According to Brian, there were also complaints that Muslim religious teachers were being sent to the rural areas.

“We have heard that Muslims teachers including Ustaz have been sent to the rural areas where they are Dayak children.

“As there are no Malay children, who are going to learn, if it is not with the intention of converting the poor Dayak children to become Muslims?

“We want the government to look into the matter and put a stop to it.

“It is not going to be healthy for the country,” Brian said.

In May this year, Masing along with several other quarters had voiced concerns over religious teachers from Peninsular Malaysia being imported into Sarawak.

Sharing Masing’s concern was Sarawak DAP secretary Chong Chieng Jen who said that Sarawak must oppose these teachers from being imported to the state, “especially after having seen the effects” (of Islamisation) in Peninsular Malaysia.