Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Religion Under Threat?

First, it was Sabah and now, it is Sarawak’s turn. 

The issue is about the proselytization of Christians. In this particular incident in Balai Ringin in Serian District, Sarawak, seven angry parents were unhappy over attempts by an NGO to convert their children to Islam. They did this under the pretext of an “anak angkat” (child adoption) program. 

“At first we allowed our children to attend a seminar and the ‘anak angkat’ program, as we thought that it was part of the curriculum activities of the school”, the parents had complained. 

The NGO in question is the Organization of Graduates and Educational Institutions Malaysia, or better known as Haluan, which is based in Bangi, Selangor. This agenda began in 2009 with the purported aim to motivate poor students to perform better academically. Does this mean that school teachers are incapable of motivating their own students? 

In any case, the whole initiative was supposed to have been run for 10 Saturdays. It started at SMK Serian – attended by about 50 mostly non-Muslim students on March 08 – followed by SMK Balai Ringin the following Saturday but the number of students who attended was only 21. 

Students told their parents two teachers picked who should attend the program and said it was a co-curriculum activity, but added they were asked questions on Islam. They also pointed out that the program facilitators were all Muslims and the talks had religious elements. 

“When our children told us that they were taught about Islamic values and teachings, we are very angry because we are Christians of the Roman Catholic Church,” the parents told PRS and the media. 

Already, last month, there was an uproar when two Iban students from Sarawak were quizzed on Islamic teachings when they applied for Mara scholarships. 

It was to Sarawak’s credit that the state education department promptly suspended the ‘Anak Angkat’ project in Sarawak schools. 

Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister's Department Daud Abdul Rahman had described the issue as a misunderstanding. After all, it was a sanctioned motivational program funded by the Rural and Regional Development Ministry, aimed at students from poor families. And that there was no intention to convert non-Muslims to Islam. 

What he was trying to say was that the complaining students and parents had misconstrued the good intention and wrongly assumed that it was a covert religious conversion exercise – even if there were Islamic elements in the module. 

You may or may not know that in Malaysia, non-Muslims are expressly forbidden to proselytize to Muslims, but the latter are free to do so to non-Muslims. 

Already, we are all sick and tired of the Isma rants. I wonder, I really wonder which religion is actually under threat?

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