NGO: Don’t ban unity walks

PETALING JAYA: The tradition of interfaith mingling via unity walks to each other’s places of worship should be preserved for the betterment of the country’s multicultural and multireligious fabric, says the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST).

It called upon the government and Islamic authorities to not impose a blanket ban on Muslims from going to non-Muslim places of worship, but make it clear there will be no propagation of religion to Muslims.

MCCBCHST said the recent statement by the Selangor Islamic Affairs committee chairman, 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 not allowed.

“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 among all races and religions of the world.

“The resolution was unanimously supported – including by Malaysia – and the first week of every February is declared World Interfaith Harmony Week.

“For more than 10 years, MCCBCHST together with other NGOs like the Allied Coordinating Council of Islamic NGOs, Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia and Ikram Association Malaysia have 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 created great goodwill among the different races and created a sense of muhibbah (harmony) among 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’,” said MCCBCHST in a statement yesterday.

It added that by their very nature, unity walks to places of worship are to see and understand different cultures, without any 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,” said MCCBCHST, which also called upon the government and Islamic authorities to not impose a blanket ban on such visits.

“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 came under scrutiny after allegations of proselytisation among Muslim youth through the ministry’s programme of visits to houses of worship.

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

On March 17, Selangor Religious Affairs Council (Mais) chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said the Jom Ziarah had promoted an event at a church in Klang, where the programme invited the young who were interested in learning more about different religions to join in.

“Mais is of the view that this programme has elements to attract the interest of youth, especially Muslim youth, to study or acquire knowledge related to religions other than Islam.

“If this kind of programme is allowed to be organised, it can subtly and subconsciously influence the thoughts of Muslim youth to be inclined towards a religion other than Islam,” he said in a statement reported by Bernama.

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