Politicians have failed religious minorities, so ordinary folk must stand up, says Muslim group

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Sheridan Mahavera, TMI

Politicians, from Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, have failed to protect the freedom of worship for all religions and it is now up to the ordinary citizen to stand up.

At the same time, faith groups must band together to push the government for a formal mechanism to protect that freedom and to which people can seek help when that freedom is violated, an interfaith symposium concluded last night.

This was the take-away from a forum organised by a Muslim group which brought together Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and other faiths to heal rifts that have opened up in a climate of heightened religious tension.

The symposium was held just hours after an 81-year-old Muslim scholar and activist was hauled to court by the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) and Department of Islamic Development Malaysia on charges he had insulted Islam and disobeyed a fatwa (religious decree).

Speakers at the talk, organised by the Malaysian Ahmadiyah community, argued that minority religions were being made victims in the battle for the Malay Muslim vote between the country’s largest Muslim parties, Umno and PAS.

Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa of the Islamic Renaissance Front (pic) argued that this battle had spawned small but vocal extremist groups which were emboldened to go around and agitate non-Muslims.

“The Pakatan Rakyat leadership’s failure to stand up for religious minority rights makes them seem the same as the narrow ethnocentrism espoused by Umno,” said Farouk.

Farouk based his argument on how the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat government took six days to respond to the raid and seizure of 300 Bibles from the Bible Society of Malaysia in Petaling Jaya by the state Islamic Religious Department.

“And when the so-called prime minister-in-waiting gave a statement, he pushed the ball back into Najib’s (Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak) court,” Farouk said referring to a comment made by Pakatan Rakyat leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on the raid.

The BSM raid and the Catholic weekly Herald’s continuing court case are the latest incidents in the row over the use of the word “Allah” in Malaysia.

The dispute has heightened tension as it is being framed by Malay supremacists as a battle between the Malay Muslims and Christians.

This is while Malaysian religious authorities have been criticised by Muslim scholars worldwide for wanting to ban non-Muslims from using the term, which is Arabic for God.

Eminent Muslim scholars have stated that the term is not exclusive to Muslims while Malaysian Christians have claimed that it has been used by the community for more than a century.