Allow Muslims to visit non-Muslim places of worship but no propagation allowed, says group

PETALING JAYA: An interfaith group has called on the government and Islamic authorities to not impose a blanket ban on Muslims from going to non-Muslim places of worship but must make it clear there will be no propagation to Muslims.

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) said the recent statement by the Selangor religious affairs exco member Mohd Zawawi Ahmad Mughni that any programme involving Muslims at non-Muslim houses of worship is not allowed, appears to suggest that even unity walks to houses of worship are disallowed.

"The MCCBCHST recalls that the King of Jordan had proposed a resolution in the United Nations many years ago to have a World Interfaith Harmony week to create goodwill and unity amongst all races and religions of the world.

"The resolution was unanimously supported - including by Malaysia - and the first week of February of every year was declared as World Interfaith Harmony Week," said the group in a statement on Saturday (March 18).

MCCBCHST said that for over 10 years, it together with other NGOs, like the Allied Coordinating Council of Islamic NGOs (ACCIN), Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim) and Ikram Association Malaysia (Ikram), had taken part in unity walks to places of worship as a show of respect and tolerance including some organised by the National Unity and Integration Department.

"This had created great goodwill amongst the different races and created a sense of muhibbah (harmony) amongst them.

"We quote the Grand Mufti of Syria Sheikh Dr Ahmad Badri Al-Din Hassoun: ‘The nation that is established on the collective of races and religions is destined to succeed in the future. And when cultural diversity is embraced, the strength of humanity shines through’.

"The unity walks to places of worship are to see and understand the different cultures. There is no propagation of any religion involved. The Non-Islamic Religions (control of Propagation Amongst Muslims) Enactment 1988 referred to by the state exco is enacted under Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution and which prohibits only ‘propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam’.

"Thus, if there is no propagation of other faiths to Muslims, no offence is committed. Therefore, the mere visiting of places of worship cannot be an offence.

"It is necessary for all races to work together in a spirit of goodwill, mutual respect to enhance harmony and unity in the country," it added.

On March 14, a Jom Ziarah project under the Youth and Sports Ministry received flak after allegations of proselytisation against Muslim youths through the ministry’s programme of visits to houses of worship.

Youth and Sport Minister Hannah Yeoh denied the allegations and said data showed no Muslim youths were registered in a programme called Projek Article 11 organised by Impact Malaysia, which had so far visited the Federal Territory Mosque and Gurdwara Sahib Shah Alam this month.

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