Syed Jaymal Zahiid | February 21, 2012
PETALING JAYA: Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin today insisted that Malaysia enjoys interfaith harmony amid a backdrop of escalating tension sparked off by recent incidents.
Muhyiddin, who is also education minister, told students at an event celebrating the World Interfaith Week in SMK Sri Aman here that multi-racial Malaysia is “unique”.
“We have accepted this (uniqueness) and there are no fights, no war among us. No crisis despite our multi-religious practices,” he said.
Muhyiddin emphasised that it is this religious understanding between the various faiths that contributed to the country’s economic development and urged Malaysians to preserve “this hard-earned unity”.
He said this is further strengthened by the 1Malaysia idea introduced by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
The supposedly all-inclusive 1Malaysia concept, however, has come under fire over what is described as Putrajaya’s lack of political will to tackle religious disputes, particularly between the majority Muslims and the Christian minority.
Islamic hardliners, often linked to the ruling Malay-Muslim party Umno, claimed there is a concerted effort by Christians to undermine Islam and have used this to attack the opposition.
Allah and Christians
The tension ignited with the confiscation of Malay-language bibles and the dispute to use the Arab term “Allah” to describe the Christian God which subsequently resulted in several church bombings.
Christians in Sabah and Sarawak, most with poor English proficiency, claimed they have been using the term for masses for more than a century but conservative Islamic leaders alleged it was an insult to Islam and part of an attempt to convert Muslims which is illegal in Malaysia.
The tension continued with a raid on a church holding a charity event here last year by the Selangor Islamic Authorities (JAIS) that triggered a nationwide outrage among the country’s Christians.
Church leaders called the raid outrageous and claimed it was illegal although JAIS claimed it had evidence that the event was an attempt to proselytise Muslims. The Church denied this.
The country’s leadership was criticised for its whimsical and feeble response to the matter.
Observers said Putrajaya’s lopsided treatment with regard to non-Muslims was part of a systematic effort to strengthen Malay support which is key to securing a victory for the ruling coalition in the upcoming national polls.
But Najib went on to establish ties with the Vatican City in a move to contain the possible voter backlash although Islamic hardliners quietly frowned over this.
In the clearest signal that Malaysia is yet to get over its religious differences, Najib himself was the subject of attacks by conservative clerics when he attended the Hindu Thaipusam festival recently.
He was presumed to have been “un-Islamic” for that, prompting the national Islamic authority Jakim to panic and explain that Najib’s visit was done according to its guidelines.
Muhyiddin today appeared to have ignored the altercations and said Malaysia was doing well in preserving religious harmony.
He said the schools are the best place to “sow the seeds of understanding” between the various faiths.