KOTA KINABALU: Following his remarks on turning Sabah and Sarawak into "medan dakwah" for Islamic religious teachers, Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik has been asked to respect the Constitution with regards to the rights of the two states.
In a statement issued Thursday (Dec 20), the Sabah Council of Churches (SCC) said that freedom of religion guaranteed under the Constitution must be upheld and reflected in any policy of the government.
It said that in safeguarding the position of Islam in the country, the federal government had every right to set up religious schools, as provided in Article 12 of the Federal Constitution.
However, it was not right to utilise religious teachers to propagate the Islamic religion in non-religious public schools.
Under sub-clauses (3) and (4) of Article 12, no person shall be required to receive instruction in or to take part in any ceremony or act of worship of a religion other than his own.
SCC said that the religion of a person under the age of eighteen shall be decided by his parent or guardian.
The council was reacting to the Education Minister’s statement in Parliament that suggested the Education Ministry was prepared to deploy teachers paid with public funds to propagate Islam in non-religious schools in Sabah and Sarawak.
“This is unacceptable within the social and cultural fabric of Sabah and Sarawak,” SCC said.
The council said there were more pressing and challenging issues to improve the quality and standard of education for future generations, particularly in the two states.
“We find it most appalling to hear that the government has totally misused the resources of the rakyat's money and manpower with the objective of spreading Islam in public schools,” the statement read.
The council pointed out that the Federal Constitution was drafted with the recognition of the unique position of Sabah and Sarawak, as reflected in, among others, Article 161e, which gives the two states the power to determine issues relating to religion and immigration.
“We have always enjoyed religious and racial harmony in Sabah due to mutual respect.
“The words used by the Education Minister in Parliament goes against both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, and has the effect of disrupting the existing religious harmony in Sabah,” said the council.
“We urge the federal government to stop this act of eroding the rights and position of Sabah and Sarawak within Malaysia and to cease from violating the Federal Constitution immediately,” it added.