Inter-Religious Council: Have sincere intentions


I WELCOME Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s view that there is no need to set up an inter-faith commission (“DPM: Solution may be found through dialogue” — New Sunday Times, Jan 31). Although the majority of Muslims objected to the earlier proposal to form such a commission, we continue to see simplistic arguments that sensitive inter-religious issues could be resolved through the body. This implies that the IFC is the only means to promote inter-faith dialogue and that the objection of Muslims lacks valid justification.

Muslim organisations’ reasons for objecting to the formation of the commission are well documented. However, continued calls by non-Muslim politicians and religious leaders to set up the commission on the grounds that it will promote inter-religious harmony through dialogue and protect the constitutional rights of non-Muslims only serve to cast the Muslim organisations in a bad light. In 2007, the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia gave its grounds for rejecting the IFC. Among the reasons was that the IFC was meant to be an institution that promoted a one-sided view of religious freedom, which its proponents claimed, was based on “prescribed international norms”.

Another reason was that in 2001, when the formation of the IFC was discussed, there were calls for a review of the constitutional provisions that restrained a Muslim from converting to another religion. The IFC also appeared to be interfering in matters internal to one’s religion. Let’s stop making assertions that the IFC is the only mechanism for inter-faith dialogue. The main principle of a successful dialogue is agreement from all parties to suspend blame, incipient “lust for power” and any hidden agenda to convert parties from one religion to another. We also must willingly cease and desist propagating our personal “conspiracy theories” for the sake of a more harmonious outcome in service to national unity. This is not a battle for souls, but a battle for the soul of a peaceful and secure Malaysia.

Meaningful inter-faith dialogue can only be held when all parties have the sincere intention of promoting understanding and harmony among the different religious communities. It should not be an avenue for the imposition of one’s view over the others, or an opportunity to demonise other religions.

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