Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Non-Islamic Religions Council is not new

I am puzzled over the reaction of some of the Members of Parliament and the Kelana Jaya Umno Youth leaders towards Loh Seng Kok's speech in Parliament on March 15.
Neither the issue nor the suggestion to set up a non-Islamic Religions Council or bodies alike was new.
I had raised the issue and the suggestion to set up a non-Islamic Religions Council in the Selangor State Assembly since I was elected in 1995. I raised it with 3 Menteri Besar namely, Tan Sri Mohamad bin Mohd Taib, Tan Sri Abu Hassan Omar and Dato Dr Seri Khir Toyo. During Abu Hassan's tenure as Menteri Besar, I had even specifically named it as Majlis Agama Bukan Islam Selangor (MABIS) to deal with the non-Islamic religious affairs.
Eventually, Khir Toyo decided to set up one in Selangor though the name used was not the one I suggested. It is now chaired by Selangor MCA Exco member, Dato Tang See Hang. Although the performance of that council has not been satisfactory and no annual allocation is given to it, at least it has become a precedence. It's nothing new.
I am unable to understand the logic of those MPs and the Umno Youth leaders when they claimed that the issue was sensitive and it hurt the muslims' feeling. How could the legitimate demand of the non-muslims for the development of their own religions be sensitive to the muslims? How could this become a zero sum game?
Some have claimed that by having a non-Islamic council, it would make non-Islamic religions equivalent to Islam in term of its status as the religion of the Federation. Now, we have Islamic Council solely for Islam but all other non-Islamic religions are being lumped into one council. Where is the equivalance?
I think those MP and leaders concerned are allergic to non-Islamic religions.

15 comments:

pemerhati_msia said...

Mr Teng,

We had been living in tolerance of each other's religion and race. We also acknowledge that this is after all, a land once called "Tanah Melayu".

Do the non-Muslims really need a council or body to tackle religious affairs? What affairs? The same way JAIS, JAWI, or any Islamic religious body had not been meddling in other religions' affairs, isn't it only prudent for each religion to care for itself? Would Christmas be merrier if the Council of Churches have a good relationship with the Taoist Council, and would Taipusam be more "pious" only when the Muslims joined in the celebration?

Would Hari Raya Korban be more meaningful by having non-Muslims standing at the side of the sacrificial animals, smiling and chanting their own religious prayers?

What exactly is this "Majlis Agama Bukan Islam Selangor" trying to achieve? Inter-faith tolerance? If so, isn't there already enough tolerance between believers of the various faiths?

We don't hear a Taoist family blasting disco music if they know their Muslim neighbour had just lost a family member. We see Muslims, Hindus, Christians attend Taoist funerals.

When the great Tsunami brutally whacked the north part of our country, we see people of all races and religions stepped forth to offer prayer, donation and support.

While pigs and pigs' waste is a taboo to the Muslims, the local Muslim government had not banned the rearing of pigs. They just asked for a more systematic way in managing the animals' waste.

Beer is haraam in Islam. But the Muslim government had not banned it. Infact, on one same highway, you could see the Carlsberg and Guiness factories.

While the Hindus abstain from eating beef and the killing of cows, they had not raised any objection to having cow slaughthered and sold in markets which they (the Hindus) frequent.

Filling up government forms, all due respect is given to ALL religions. Infact, every religion's festival is given recognition: public holidays, and greeting on tv channels...

I really don't see why there seems to be an issue when the evidence showed that we indeed, do tolerate each other's religious practices.

The Thean Hou Temple in Seputeh, the Kek Lok See and Statue of the Godess of Mercy in Penang, the Sri Mariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur, the Anglican Church by Dataran Merdeka...

Don't we already have aplenty? Do we need more? If so, what is it that we want more? At what cost? Disharmony? Distrust? Can't we just move on and put religion where it belongs - in our personal heart?

Billy said...

I am a trainer. Some time last year while having lunch with two non-Muslim participants, a Malay participant (girl) asked whether she could join us at the same table. We were more than happy to have her seated with us as this was an opportunity for us to do networking and get to know fellow participants a little better. Our conversations started off with us talking our job problems, the economy and before we knew it, it went into religion. The questions posed to her was a no hold bar since we were experiencing many contradictions and ironies in the way the religion is being practised by the global Muslim community as well as our local Muslims. The questions asked could be considered highly sensitive but you know what, this lady, with a radiant countenance slowly explained to us about Islam and its practices, the way it should be. The questions posed by the two non-Muslim participants started off as matter of deep concerns due to Mahathir's declaration that our country was an Islamic state but gradually it delved on curiosity. Not a moment did this lady shudder at the many sensitive questions posed to her. The session was so interesting that it went past our lunch time and we had to hurry back to the training room. We were truly enlightened.

How old was this delightful Malay girl? Only 24 years, wore a tudung and spoke with a soft voice.

If a young girl can take time to patiently explain the virtue of Islam to non-Muslims, why can't those "samseng" in UMNO Youth do the same. They should be setting better example instead going around terrorising the public. First, they wanted to burn down the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, then they threaten to burn down the PAS office. If this is no bad enough, we have the Education Minister waving a keris and now this. What kind of image are our people trying to project their religion as - a violent one??? Thank God, we have this girl, a shining example of a true Muslim.

jbhlee said...

Dear Pemerhati,

You missed the point by a million miles. Can you say that the government has been tolerant just because you can still see churches, chinese and hindu temples? Can we have sufficient churches in Shah Alam? Why not? Why do the Christians need to make churches shaped like a factory or house church halls in shoplots? If you think it is justified, then have the masjid in one of the shoplots in any commercial area?
We need a body to discuss and see to it that policies are balanced.
You may think that one race is being very tolerant if you are on the other side of the divide, you may not think so.

pemerhati_msia said...

jbhlee,

Lest we forget, I did say 'a land once called "Tanah Melayu". ' - and you know what that means. There is such a thing called "ketuanan Melayu", which I hope you know its meaning.

Look at it this way, during my entire time in Miami, Los Angeles, London and Rome (not to mention Sydney and Amsterdam!!!), it was not easy to see a masjid. Especially since the September 11 crisis, it was becoming increasingly difficult for Muslims in the western world to establish a masjid or a muslim community without the scrutiny of the relevant authorities. Even a totally democratic and free country like the US has such "discrimination" against minority religions.

The very fact that you do see some churches, chinese tokong and kuil hindu in this country is very evidence that the local islamic government does tolerate the existence of these religions.

In Islam, helping the spread and growth of other religions is an act of defiance. It is equivalent to being "murtad", therefore no ISlamic country in this world would risk the wrath of Islam to help the development of other religions. I believe it is the same in other religions. Tolerance is ok, but that's where it ends. So, the local muslim government has been tolerant enough to allow the practice of other religions. It is very obvious.

I totally agree with ong (yet again!). Leave it to some over-zealous politicians to tarnish the purity and simplicity of Islam. Between UMNO and PAS, you could see what politics and personal agenda can do to a religion.

Again, I am sure we (the rakyat, minus those politicians) can live in harmony, in good faith and in full acceptance of each other across the boundaries of religion and race. Lets not allow small claims tarnish what little peace we have.

Personally, I don't see any benefit of setting up an interfaith commission, because by just accepting each other as is, is already a strong basis to maintaining interfaith rapport and trustworthiness.

Teng Chang Khim said...

Dear pemerhati_msia,

Your patronizing tone resembles the attitude of those MPs and Umno youth.

The non-muslims are also citizens and tax-payers. They are equally entitled to land and allocation for the development of their religions. How and what injustice would it cause to the muslims if MABIS were to set up to deal with non-Islamic religious matters? What harm could it possibly bring about to Islam?

Some have claimed that by setting up MABIS or bodies alike, it would make non-Islamic religions equivalent to that of Islam in term of its status as the religion of the Federation. When we can set up Islamic Religion Council solely for Islamic affairs but all other non-Islamic religions (Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Sikhism and etc) have to be lumped into only one non-Islamic Religions Council, where is the equivalence?

The non-muslims, are not demanding to have a temple, church or place for worship in every kariah (Arabic: means within the radius of 1 mile) like the muslims. Neither are they asking for a place for worship, like surau, in every school, work place or shopping complex. They are only demanding for a fair share for their religions.

For instance, Selangor state government has been allocating funds for Islamic affairs since independence. In 2003 alone, a sum of RM175 million was allocated for Islamic affairs, not including funds for Syariah Courts. However, the non-muslims (Buddhists, Taoists, Christians, Catholics, Hindus, Sikhs and etc) were only given RM3 million, less than 1.7% of RM175 million, for the first time after 46 years of independence when they consist of about 50% of the Selangor population. Is this fair in the eyes of Islam?

Non-muslims need facilities for proper religious education, too. Do the muslims want to have bad Buddhists, bad Christian, bad Hindus & etc as their neighbours?

We, muslims and non-muslims, fought together and obtained independence for this our beloved country. We built it up as a secular state. Let's see to it that everyone under the sun in this country get his or her fair share.

Teng Chang Khim said...

Dear pemerhati_msia,

Let me correct you. There is nothing in the Federal Constitution called "ketuanan Melayu".

On tolerence, please tell us how to be tolerent of unfairness and injustice.

Whatever discrimination suffered by the muslims, which I sympathize with, in the western world should be used as the justification for suppression of development of non-Islamic religions in this country. Lest we forget.

Leong Kim Ming said...

Bravo Mr. Teng.

Teng Chang Khim said...

Let me correct my self. 3rd paragraph of my statement posted at 6:35:42pm should read as follows:

"What ever discrimination suffered by the muslims, which I sympathize with, in the western world should NOT be used as the justification for suppression of development of non-Islamic religions in this country. Lest we forget."

Anonymous said...

Dear pemerhati_msia, your comments show how narrow minded a person can be. there is no such thing as "ketuanan melayu"... please know your history before commenting...

see comments form another muslim...

Here's a sampling of readers' response, from Shufiyan Shukur:

Loh Seng Kok wasn’t really far off in his speech when he complained about ‘imbalanced’ history textbooks, prayer recital guidelines and the difficulty of non-Muslims with regards to places of worship.

My fellow brethren strut around thinking that we shaped this nation. Well, let me tell it to you guys, others have shed blood for this nation, and if it were only possible to put the blood from all the races into barrels, classified by race, I wager that non-Malay blood would probably fill up more barrels. And if you could do it for sweat, the result would be the same.

without the sacrifices and hard work of all Malaysians, this country would be hmm… maybe like Papua New Guinea. Anyway, without the Chinese and Indians who influenced the culture of this peninsular, we Malays would still be strutting around half-naked.

They civilised us, before Islam did. So my brethren, cut some slack. Recognise and acknowledge the contributions of others who helped give us so much. (I won’t touch on the issues of prayer guidelines and worship that Loh brought up as well, lest my brothers in Islam label me murtad [apostate] which would be most scary.)

sonicwall said...

Dear pemerhati_msia,

Yes, there is nothing in the Federal Constitution called "ketuanan Melayu". The Chinese and Indian fought and worked together with the Malay to obtain Merdeka from the British. We are all Malaysian!

Don't be like your UMNO warlord, Dato' Paduka Haji Badruddin bin Amiruldin, Jerai MP to tell your fellow Chinese and Indian: "Malaysia Ini Negara Islam - You Tak Suka, You Keluar Dari Malaysia" or your UMNO ultra ex-Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Noh “If the orang asing (foreigners) think we are zalim (cruel), ask them to go back to their own country,”

Bangsa: Malaysia. said...

This is like a child's play with bullies coming in to threaten the peace. I am sure many of you can see the similarity in this scenario:

A bunch of schoolboys playing football in a field. Along came A to join in and was accepted. Then A decide to exert his influence and push the others out. The others decided to keep peace and play elsewhere. A being left alone throws a tantrum and say others cannot play elsewhere as this will make him lonely and deprive him his ability to exert his influence. A thrives on exerting his wishes on others and relishes when others bodek him. As such he sees the others playing elsewhere as a threat to his enjoyment. He then plays the territorial card.

Moving on, have any of you seen the school history books especially for Form 1 2 and 3. I was shocked when I saw my son's books. History was so different from what I studied. Go see for yourself.

pemerhati_msia said...

I think you all got me wrong. I NEVER said that Ketuanan Melayu existed in the constitution. We all knew that. BUT, we also knew that the Malays are the majority. The Malays have a longer history here compared to the Chinese, Indians and what-have-you. It is "considered" the "ruler" of this country. Any objection to that statement? (Don't lie to yourself!)

I am not saying that a collective group of other religions will be a threat to Islam. I am sure Islam does not fear that.

Mr Teng, as it is now, without any majlis agama-agama bukan islam, aren't Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Hinduism doing o.k. on their own? I am playing devil's advocate here: Do these "lain-lain agama" need the Islamic government's blessings in carrying out their respective rites and way of life? That is what I am asking.

If my plain question like that got me branded by you readers, you think you have what it takes to speak to the Msian government? Would they listen to you?

Sonicwall, don't jump to conclusion. "Don't be like your UMNO warlord..." How can I be like him when I am not qualified to be in UMNO? I am not even Malay... In fact, I am not pro-BN at all!

You see, if you read my postings, and conclude that I am Malay and Muslim, then you are not matured enough to tackle this race-religion issue. I had not given my view from a Malay or Islam standpoint. In fact, I am not going to.

My postings are just to challenge you guys in thinking hard how to tackle this issue. Not to make a personal stand. That is why I chose not to state my race and religion, where possible.

We are all Malaysians, no doubt about it. And being Malaysians also mean accepting each other. The fact that the local gomen allows the building of churches, tokongs and kuils is already being tolerant of the lain-lain bangsa and agama. The RM3 million was a bonus. Just for comparison sake: would a Christian government give money to another religion so that they can grow along the Christian religion? Get real man! The local gomen is already being kind to allocate that money for lain-lain agama. Is that fair in Islam? You know what? They were NOT obliged to give, if they really held on to their Islamic principles. In fact, in Islam, contributing to the growth of another religion is a an act of betrayal to Islam. So, the local gomen had put aside their Islamic principles in favour of the lain-lain agama. In the name of tolerance, wanting to co-exist alongside each other.

Am I saying that the "lain-lain agama" are asking for too much? Honestly, I wouldn't dare say that. Lest we forget, these Muslims in the higher rung of the local gomen had already done their part. The question here now is: Where are we taking their generosity?

Teng Chang Khim said...

Dear pemerhati_msia,

Undeniably, the Malays came here before other races. However, that does not meke them "considered" the "ruler". If at all it has to be so considered, it has been fully satisfied when the Malay Rules are constitutionaly given the status of rulers, the Malay language is made the national language, Islam is made the official religion and privileges be given to the Malay and natives in Sabah and Sarawak in accordance to Article 153 of the Federal Constitution. That's all and nothing more than what have specifically been stated in the constitution.

The point is not whether the non-Islamic religions have done well on their own. It's not about getting the Islamic government's blessing (after all as I have stated earlier, this is not an Islamic state and therefore there is no Islamic government in this country).

It's about the non-muslims getting their fair shares from the public facilities and fund for which the non-muslims have also contributed to.

The RM3 million after 46 years of independence is no more that chicken feed compare to the billions of ringgit that have been allocated to the Islamic affairs.

Most of the non-Islamic places of worship are pre-indenpendent building. What is the big deal about the so-called tolerence?

You only know that, in Islam, contributing to the growth of non-Islamic religions is an act betrayal to Islam. Do you know at the same time that suppressing non-Islamic religions is also an act betrayal to the Islamic teaching?

Tolerence is not a magic word. It has unfortunately been wilfully exaggerated to cover up the ugly faces of the religious extremists and fanatics.

Bangsa: Malaysia. said...

Dear pemerhati
There is no need to be an apologist for the BN race biased government.

Just because the government gave some crumbs does not mean that we should be thankful. I will be thankful if the government gave us the justified treatment to all. What is justified treatment? That it has to ask itself honestly and sincerely but I know at this point it is not enough.

Allowing a few temples, churches here and there is appreciated but is not sincere and not just. Not recognising the contributions of all Malaysians irrespective of race is not honest and not just. Imposing your values on others explicitly or implicitly is not sincere and just.

The only part that I agree with you is that it is the politicians who screw up and skew the rakyat towards racialsm in Malaysia.

burntck said...

wow! mr teng, senyap senyap, cili padi jugak ya. coolman.
pemerhati malaysia have wrote something on ms teresa blog. hope that you will add in some sugar there too. on "islam hater" write-up!