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Discuss religious issues behind closed doors

SHAH ALAM, 22 Dec 2008: Any discussion on religious issues should not be done openly to preserve racial harmony in the country, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Instead, he said, such discussions or dialogues needed to be held behind closed-doors so that those involved would be able to better understand the religious similarities and differences.

“The more such discussions are held, the further apart we will be. Therefore, our contention is that there should be less such discussions but more racial integration activities, such as holding functions together to honour religious leaders which can improve relations between people of different religions,” he added.

Ahmad Zahid said he had already asked senior officials of the Islamic Development Department Malaysia (Jakim), Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) and Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (Yadim) to meet officials from the Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry to draw up new guidelines for better religious understanding, and not religious integration.

He was speaking to reporters after opening the 4th Islamic Religious Enforcement Officers and Syariah Prosecutors’ Conference and launching the Code of Ethics for Religious Enforcement Officers, here, today.

The cabinet had recently suggested that the ministry and Jakim’s officials discuss drawing up a sound mechanism aimed at ensuring that any arising religious issue would be explained properly to the public so as to preserve racial harmony and unity in the country.

Ahmad Zahid also said that it was best for religious issues or problems be resolved by the respective religious leaders and not by politicians who would use religion for their political aim.

“We have seen the examples in other countries where the more dialogues there are between religious and non-religious leaders, the more problems have arisen. The religious conflicts are not caused by the religious leaders but the political leaders.”

On the code of ethics for Islamic religious enforcement officers, he said it covered uniformity of enforcement laws, posts and identity to boost their image and effectiveness so as to gain more respect from the public.

He said to date, 1,242 enforcement officer posts had been created nationwide from only about 300 previously, but still the ratio was only one enforcement officer for every 23,000 people.

On the implementation of hudud law in the country as proposed by PAS, Ahmad Zahid said it would first require the Federal Constitution to be amended.

“PAS can implement hudud law if it rules the country. If that is their aim, it is good and I hope they can achieve this, but the political reality is different,” he said when asked to comment on PAS vice-president Datuk Husam Musa’s assurance on 20 Dec that hudud law would be implemented if Pakatan Rakyat, the opposition pact, could rule the country in future.

But the idea has already drawn objection from DAP, one of PAS’ partners in the opposition pact, as this was not included in Pakatan Rakyat’s manifesto in the last general election. — Bernama


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