Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Will SMALL FRY Koh Tsu Koon get clarification from BIG FRY Muhyiddin??

Inter-faith committee faces collapse
By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani
KUALA LUMPUR, April 12 — The Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) will boycott the Cabinet-endorsed inter-faith committee, unless the deputy prime minister provides an explanation for his “small-fry” remark today.
Earlier today Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had said the inter-faith committee set up by the Cabinet consisted only of “small-fry,” in a bid to calm fears expressed by right-wing Malay groups that it would threaten the sanctity of Islam.
The lack of any legal powers in the committee, said Muhyiddin, means it will not have any influence over the nation’s official religion.
However, non-Muslim groups have taken offence at the DPM’s remarks and are now threatening a boycott of the panel.
MCCBCHST president, Reverend Dr Thomas Philips, said that they will not attend the sub-committee meeting scheduled tomorrow if there is no explanation for the remark.
“We want clarification before tomorrow’s meeting before we proceed. So until there is a clarification then there will be no meeting. We feel that if we are ‘small fry’ or have no influence, then there is no point to the committee.
“Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon must get the clarification from the deputy prime minister. He was the one that made the statement,” he told The Malaysian Insider tonight.
The Cabinet agreed recently to form an inter-faith committee to foster religious understanding and harmony, damaged in the past few months by religious differences such as the controversial “Allah” ruling.
It had earlier this year appointed Datuk Ilani Isahak to chair the committee and green-lighted five sub-committees to draw up proposals on how best to deal with the inter-religious conflicts.
The sub-committees will be jointly-chaired by a Muslim and a non-Muslim, and include five religious representatives from both communities.
The MCCBCHST president went on to express discontent over the label given by Muhyiddin, and pressed for the latter to specifically identify those he was referring to.
“It was a bit offensive to everybody but who do you mean when you called a ‘small fry’? You know religious heads are not ‘small fry’. If you call the committee as ‘small fry’ then I do not think so because [the] head of Jakim, Ikim, all were there. Even the head of the Fatwa Council was there. It was very insulting.
“We want a clarification on what he meant in the light of what Perkasa has said in a lot of statements,” he said.
Nevertheless, Philips remained optimistic but cautiously so given the national leader’s slur on the inter-faith committee.
“We say that we want to engage in the inter-faith issues because it is important for the country and is about the people’s interests. Even though they call it a small committee but it is a good start and beginning. We still have a long way to go. If any other person had said it, it would not have mattered but the deputy prime minister who is the acting prime minister has said this,” he said, referring to the fact that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is currently overseas.
Meanwhile, the Perak Fatwa Committee, led by influential state Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria, also announced its objection to the panel, dealing a further blow to Najib’s efforts to repair inter-religious ties.
Harussani said other religions could not be placed on equal footing with Islam, which he said had a higher position by Allah’s side.
The idea for an inter-faith panel was first mooted in the early 1980s but was shot down following objections from Muslim groups such as the Islamic Development Department, better known by its Malay acronym Jakim.
According to sources, the objection was because an inter-faith council would place Islam, the nation’s official religion, on equal footing with the other religions.
This was the same objection put forward by Malay rights group Perkasa yesterday. Perkasa has demanded the Najib administration places its new inter-faith panel under the national Islamic Affairs Department, saying it rejected the entity in its current form.
Perkasa says it would tolerate the committee only if it fell under the guidance of Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom, the Islamic Affairs Minister under the Prime Minister’s Department and not Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, who is currently the minister in charge.

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