Bishop censures Muslim scholar’s ‘toxic’ remarks

Bishop Paul Tan criticises Ridhuan Tee Abdullah over his article which belittles Hindus and calls on the Muslim scholar to apologise. 

RK Anand, FMT

After more than five decades of independence, this nation which once celebrated the harmonious existence of its diverse racial composition is now mourning the regression of race and religious ties.

And this lamentable state of affairs is unravelling under the watch of a prime minister, whose clarion call of 1Malaysia is premised on cementing such relations.

With the seat of federal power at stake in the next general election, the desperation for votes had driven certain quarters to exploit sensitive issues at the risk of widening communal fissures.

The latest to join that bandwagon was academic Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, who penned an article which the head of the Catholic Church in the Malacca and Johor diocese found unpalatable.

In sharing his thoughts on the article which belittled Hindus and Indians, Bishop Paul Tan did not mince his words when rapping the Muslim scholar’s knuckles.

Build, don’t burn the bridges

First and foremost, Tan said he was disappointed that such a learned and religious man would stoop to such a deplorable level.

Speaking to FMT, he said people like Ridhuan should draw upon their wisdom and religious knowledge to build and not burn bridges between the various communities.

He stressed that the issue was not one of belief but rather the simple fact of according respect to fellow human beings irrespective of colour and creed, which was the essence of all faiths.

“Ridhuan painted the annual Thaipusam festival in Batu Caves as vexatious to the non-Hindu public and a provocation to the ethos of the majority religious community in Malaysia.

“This is an example of toxic arguments against a harmless and pacific religious community that are aimed at stirring revulsion against them,” he added.

Calling on Ridhuan to apologise, the bishop argued that the academic’s remarks were comparable to Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali’s call to burn the Christian bibles which contained the word Allah.

“In the one instance, you have a hate speech and in the other, you have an example of incitement to do something rash and provocative,” he added.

Ridhuan, an associate professor with the National Defence University and a familiar face at government functions and programmes, had penned the article for the Malay-language newspaper Sinar Harian.

Under the provocative title “Muslims’ patience has limits”, he had cited Thaipusam as an example when commenting on the controversy surrounding a Tamil movie.

The movie with a plot revolving around terrorism had been pulled out of cinemas following complaints that certain scenes had put Islam in a bad light.

Ridhuan’s article drew flak from both the opposition and ruling politicians, with MIC leader S Vell Paari demanding the home minister to take action or face electoral repercussions.

The issue also received widespread coverage in the Tamil press.

Observers noted that Ridhuan’s article which appeared at a time when the nation was on the brink of a nail-biting general election could prove detrimental to the ruling coalition, which claims to have recaptured the hearts and minds of Indian voters, who deserted it in the previous polls.

The academic had refused to respond to his critics, prompting speculation that he had been warned not to exacerbate the situation.