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Interfaith body: Then and now

“The committee is not a legal structure; it’s not a rigid structure. It’s a framework to provide exchange of ideas on religion.

“We don’t want to call it an inter-faith panel, but a special committee to promote understanding and harmony among the various faiths.

“The idea of the committee is for the members to hold informal dialogues, not on only one issue, but also matters such as inter-marriages, religious conversions as well as custody of children.

“The committee will exchange their views and we will get feedback and get a better understanding on religious issues.”

MINISTER in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, on the interfaith committee that was approved by the cabinet of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. (Source: Govt agrees to interfaith committee, The Star, 6 Apr 2010)

“We will carry out an in-depth study especially when it involves the position of Islam, this is a very sensitive matter … What we encourage is interfaith dialogues but not necessarily in the form of a commission and so forth.”

Najib, then deputy prime minister, on his reservations regarding the formation of an interfaith commission. The Bar Council-proposed Interfaith Commission (IFC) was eventually “postponed” after vehement protests by Islamic groups and political parties. (Source: Islam is a sensitive matter, warns Najib, Malaysiakini, 25 Feb 2005)

“Saya tidak bersetuju dengan cadangan itu (menubuhkan IFC) kerana perlembagaan negara ini telah menetapkan bahawa Islam adalah agama rasmi. Kalau IFC ditubuhkan bererti Islam pun sudah pasti akan turut berada di bawah suruhanjaya itu, bagaimana ni?”

Then de facto Minister of Religion Datuk Dr Abdullah Md Zin, opposing the IFC because he claimed it would have been “unconstitutional”, and that Islam would be “subjugated”. (Source: IFC: Dua kenyataan berbeza pemimpin Islam hadhari, Harakah as published on the Federal Territory PAS Youth blog, 25 Feb 2005)

“It is just an avenue to allow space for better understanding between religions in the country … They are just small fry, [with] a small role played within the Prime Minister’s Department.”

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, adding that Najib’s current interfaith committee was not a threat to Malaysian Muslims since it is legally toothless. (Source: DPM: Interfaith panel just a “small fry”, Malaysiakini, 12 Apr 2010) favicon

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8 Responses to “Interfaith body: Then and now”

  1. matfrost says:

    Muhyiddin has gone and done it again. First, he contradicted 1Malaysia by declaring himself as being Malay first instead of Malaysian. Now, he calls the IFC a small fry.

    In both cases, he is caught contradicting his boss. I can think of three possible reasons why he would say such contradictory remarks:

    1) 1Malaysia and IFC are really ‘small fry’ because they are all just for show. That is, neither Najib nor Muhyiddin really care about these things they have implemented. So Muhyiddin can say whatever he wants about them.

    2) It’s all a political ploy. Muhyiddin’s comments are aimed at satisfying the conservative Malay-Muslim constituency, while Najib’s actions satisfies the requests of all Malaysians.

    3) Muhyiddin is truly a maverick willing to say how he feels. Though, one has to wonder why no one is reining him in if his comments are doing more harm than good.

  2. faith04 says:

    Muhyiddin is very arrogant in saying “they are” just small fry. He shows no respect to other law abiding Malaysians who are leaders of non-Muslim faiths. By naming others as “small fry”, that also indicated he has no respect to Gerakan president KTK, who is the minister of this “small fry” group. If that’s so, why waste a minister’s precious time to hold “small fry” meetings. Muhyiddin is definitely an intelligent person who can be deputy president of Umno, minister of education and DPM, he can’t be saying it out of ignorance or a mistake, he surely meant what he said.

    The non-Islamic faith leaders must not continue to be in the “small fry” group until the DPM apologises unconditionally.

  3. Merah Silu says:

    Muhyiddin was correct. He is Malay first, then Malaysian. Anyway, the word Malaysia itself comes from the root word “Malay”, or the land of Malays. By saying he is Malay first, shows that he is the genuine son of the soil, and could represent the culture of the ‘real’ people of the country. The other ethnic groups should say Malaysian first, because they could be confused as someone from China or India, or from USA, UK and others. After all, their generations move from one place to others for economic-seeking purposes.

  4. jyong23 says:

    Even with something so basic and fundamental as this, BN still can’t get it right. Now we know why the country is heading in the wrong direction. […]

  5. Farouq Omaro says:

    The Inter-Faith Committee would not have been necessary if only the Syariah courts kept to the jurisdiction entrusted to them in the Federal Constitution, and if some of the civil judges did not practise selective justice and place their personal faith above the Federal Constitution! Blame also Dr.Mahathir who amended Article 121 to give the Syariah court vague powers!

  6. halftruth says:

    If you have followed what Muhyiddin said all this while as he becomes our DPM, you may begin to understand he is being true to himself though he may look like a fool. He is telling us the IFC is actually a small fry, which it really is. It is just a game. He knows what he is saying, trust him.

  7. Keruah says:

    Merah Silu says that “non-Malays” can be “confused” (mistaken?) for people from other countries. This is true of all “races” of course. Physical appearances are unreliable for determining “Malayness” or “non-Malayness”. Any Muslim who speaks Malay is considered Malay under the constitution – and appearance is irrelevant. The most reliable classification for “race” is probably language, yet this too is inadequate for racial segregation, in any nation. Finally, lots of Malays, as well as non-Malays, move to different countries to seek economic opportunities, or for other reasons. Many Malays moved to these shores recently from Jawa, Sumatera, Maluku, India, the middle east and other places. This “Malayness” and racial differentiation, that Merah Silu insists on, is a cultural and political construct. It is exploited ruthlessly by politicians to divide and rule, so that they may stay in power and gorge themselves silly on our national resources. Many of us (“Malays” and “non Malays”) are growing in awareness and critical thinking, and are no longer willing to play these little racial games.

  8. Merah Silu says:


    “Any Muslim who speaks Malay is considered Malay under the constitution.” The constitution does not say that!

    “Many Malays moved to these shores recently from Jawa, Sumatera, Maluku, India, the middle east and other places.”

    Well, Malaysia is part of Malay archipelago and the Malay people did move from one place to others within the archipelago. Before the Malay Malacca Sultanate, the main Malay kingdom was Srivijaya which was based in Palembang, and the empire covered most of Sumatera and Semenanjung Tanah Melayu. Melaka was opened by a prince from Palembang, and Islam was spread from Melaka.

    The non-Malays were brought in mainly by the British to work in tin mining and plantations. Some may have come earlier as traders. Most of these immigrants were not expected to stay permanently in the country. However, as part of the arrangement for the British to leave Semenanjung Tanah Melayu, these immigrants were given citizenship. It had never happened before in many developing countries where immigrants were given citizenship en-mass and threatened the balance of the population. While their fathers or grandfathers understood clearly how they became the legal people of this country, these decendants of the economic-seeking immigrants are no longer grateful. In fact they are the ones who are so eager to lead and change the culture of this country. Look at S’pore – and the Malays should take an expensive lesson from it.

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