Christians should have been invited to UiTM seminar, says PAS leader

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(Malay Mail Online) – The organisers of yesterday’s public lecture by Muslims on Christianity should not have allowed it to be turned into a platform for inter-religious hatred, said PAS MP and National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) member Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa today.

Instead, he said the organisers should have invited Christian leaders to explain issues that were causing concern among Muslims.

“It would have been more effective if Christians were invited to explain matters that have caused concern among Muslims such as the use of the word Allah, so that prejudices among the two sides could have been reduced,” said Mujahid, who is also Parit Buntar MP.

The public lecture at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Shah Alam has sparked widespread outrage, particularly among Christian groups.

At the day-long seminar in its Shah Alam campus yesterday, UiTM had invited several Indonesian Muslims, academics and converts, to lecture on the use of the Arabic word for God, “Allah”, in the Malay archipelago and their interpretation on the life of Jesus Christ, whom Christians revere as God manifest on earth.

A speaker told the thousand-strong audience — which included former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi — that the New Testament gospels, which recount the life of Jesus, were hearsay and falsehoods as the prophet was only “a human slave to Allah” and not a divine being.

Another said that Christians should convert to Islam as they would be “betraying Jesus” and his principles otherwise.

The Council of Churches of Malaysia called the seminar a masquerade to spread “hate speech and sectarian religious propaganda.”

Accusing the organisers of the seminar of bias for not allowing rebuttal of controversial interpretations of Christianity presented during yesterday’s event, the group representing the majority of the country’s churches categorised the act as an “abuse of trust and stewardship.”

It added that an honest exchange of ideas would have given space for conflicting ideas and views to those presented yesterday, which included claims that the Gospels of the New Testament were “fake” and Jesus Christ, the Christian Messiah, to be simply a “human slave to Allah”.

This follows criticism from another Christian group, the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF), who this morning expressed dismay over the decision by UiTM to conduct a seminar in which Indonesian Muslims interpreted Christian doctrine.

The NECF branded the programme “negative” and a threat to the peaceful co-existence and harmony of diverse religions.

Mujahid said this evening in a press statement that if there was indeed proof of a mass Christianisation attempt on Muslims, it should be reported to the authorities.

But the PAS leader said that if sweeping generalisations were made about attempts to convert Christians then it would only serve to spark anger and affect ties between Muslims and Christians.

The lecture took place against the backdrop of strained ties between Muslims and Christians over the use of the Arabic word “Allah”

Last year, the Court of Appeal overturned a lower court’s decision to allow a Catholic newspaper to use the word. The appellate court ruled that “Allah” was not an integral part of Christianity.

The Catholic church is looking to appeal the decision at the country’s highest court.