Opportunists riding religious extremism for own gain, says new bible society chief

Rev Datuk Ng Moon Hing

(Malay Mail Online) – The wave of religious extremism currently roiling the country is a platform for opportunists willing to risk the country’s future for personal gain, said the incoming president of the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM)

Rev Datuk Ng Moon Hing explained that spewing vitriol in the name of religion was an easy tactic to gain an audience, which could be later leveraged for narrow personal gain or for the interests of a select few.

“The best way to make your name known is to say something extreme. Other people call it cheap publicity, I call it opportunist,” he said in a casual interview with several journalists after he was elected last night.

“These people are taking advantage of religion, the name of religion, for their own benefit. They are capturing the wave, this fervour… one day the wave will go in a different direction, and they will ride on a different thing.”

Ng, who previously chaired the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) from 2009 to 2013, said the recent spike in religious fundamentalism from groups such as Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) is nothing new, but has grown to worrying heights.

He stressed that public antagonism such as at a recent forum on “Allah”, the Arabic word for God, and regional Christology hosted by UiTM raised questions of the extent these groups are willing to go to push their agendas.

The Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia said the situation is not helped by Putrajaya’s unwillingness to take a firm position on religious issues in the country, allowing extremist groups to hijack the public’s attention.

“Unfortunately the present government is not taking a stand, which is not helping the country and polarises the country even more. This is a bad thing for the nation,” he said.

Ng noted that the public exposure that these groups crave would typically reveal their true motives, but warned that it could get to a point of irrevocable damage if nothing is done now.

“At the end of the day, we will see their real agenda come out. We just hope that it does not reach the point where we cannot mend the social fabric that they have torn with their actions,” he said.

On Tuesday, Isma president Abdullah Zaik Abd Rahman said the influx of Chinese migrants into peninsular Malay had been “a mistake” that must be rectified, but stopped short of saying how this could be achieved.

He said that the ethnic group were considered intruders into Malay land, and had been brought by British colonialists to oppress Malays.

The following day, UiTM hosted a day-long seminar at its Shah Alam campus where Indonesian Muslims, academics and converts were invited to lecture on the use of 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 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.