Non-Muslims should debate Islam

(FMT) – A former deputy minister has lent his support to a call on non-Muslim leaders to participate in public discourse on matters relating to Islam.

It would be wrong for such leaders to distance themselves from debate on Islamic issues, especially when non-Muslim rights were at stake, said Gan Ping Siew, who was deputy youth and sports minister from 2010 to May 2013.

Speaking to FMT, Gan indicated his agreement with social activist Marina Mahathir, who said at a recent forum that non-Muslims would not necessarily be interfering in matters that didn’t concern them if they were to speak on public policies drawn from Islamic sources.

Gan said religion should not be seen as a sensitive issue in a country that has pride in the diversity of its cultures. “It merely needs to be handled sensitively, sincerely and in good faith.”

Issues that have raised concern among non-Muslims include PAS’ intention to enhance the powers of the shariah courts through a private member’s bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965.

The issue of child marriage has also been the subject of heated debate, with Pakatan Harapan’s women leaders urging Putrajaya to set the legal marriage age of Muslims, whether male or female, at 18.

Gan said questions raised by non-Muslims regarding such issues often concerned only the practice of Islam, not the fundamental beliefs of Muslims.

“When a certain religious practice of Muslims raises the eyebrows of non-Muslims, and when such practices may well affect the overall interests of our nation, inquiry into them may be done in good faith and for the common good,” he said.

It was especially important, he added, that such issues be raised by elected representatives whose constituents came from various religious communities.

“Raising the relevant questions is merely part and parcel of their duty,” he said.

“It is only fair and just that the voice of non-Muslims is heard. Just as the majority Muslims would not like non-Muslims’ religious values imposed on them, non-Muslims would also resist such impositions.”