Let’s dialogue to save Malaysia from religious fires, PAS leader tells Muslims, Christians


(Malay Mail Online) – Malaysia needs to push for interfaith dialogue to combat religious extremism and strengthen the ties among its people of diverse beliefs, PAS lawmaker Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa said today.

Amid a “dark cloud” of religious insults and the use of religion to kill and incite hatred, Mujahid pointed to the “Common Word” model — a Jordan-based interfaith initiative — as a solution.

“On the day that Christians celebrate their big occasion, I invite all so that the Kalimatin Sawak or Common Word programme will be started in Malaysia.

“Much can be discussed and worked on together, only this will reflect our sincerity and our courage to nullify the conspiracy theories and thickening prejudice that is becoming more serious in the Malaysia that we love,” the Parit Buntar MP said in a statement in Malay.

In October 2007, 138 Islamic personalities wrote an open letter titled “A Common Word between Us and You” to the-then Pope Benedict XVI to promote dialogue between Muslims and Christians.

Earlier in his statement, Mujahid said the Common Word approach should spur Muslims, Christians and Jews to among other things, work together to defend the poor and stem the rise of extreme religious views.

“These three religions must also fight the rise of religious extremism and racial hatred as a common struggle,” he said.

Mujahid also said that Malaysia’s laws allow for freedom of religion, but noted that this view was being challenged by extremism and religious bigots.

“Religious festivals are days that are considered holy by the believers of each religion. Celebrating it in their own way is a right that has to be respected. What more in our country’s legal framework that practises freedom to practise one’s own religion,” said PAS national unity committee chairman.

Viewing religion as a bridge for peaceful relations, Mujahid again pushed for healthy debate and dialogues, before firmly saying that the “prejudice” displayed by some self-appointed spokesman for Islam does not reflect the religion’s nature.

Mujahid, a known moderate, is also the leader of the anti-racism movement Gerakan Anti-Perkauman and a member of the National Unity Consultative Council.

Religious tensions have been growing in multi-cultural Malaysia in recent years, notably between fundamentalist Muslims and Christians in Malaysia over the “Allah” word, after the Catholic Church challenged a Home Ministry order in 2008 prohibiting its publication in the the church newspaper, Herald.

Since then, a series of incidents that included the seizure of non-Islamic published material bearing the word “Allah” and other Arabic words deemed exclusive to Islam, the latest being the seizure of 31 hymn books — titled “Mari Kita Memuji Allah Kita” or Praise Be To God — in Johor on December 5.

Though the hymn books have been returned two weeks later, it did not lessen the heightened sensitivity over the “Allah” issue.

Ahead of Christmas this year, an activist from local Islamist group, Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia, has called on fellow Muslims not to wish Christians “Merry Christmas” or to join in celebrating the religious festival.

The local chapter of international hardline Islamist group Hizbut Tahrir warned Muslims against the “dangers” of Christmas that is seen as a ploy by the Christian community to convert Muslims.