(Background pic by Petter Hermoza G / sxc.hu)
PETALING JAYA, 16 July 2009: Appalling, offensive, unethical, and un-Islamic. These words used to describe Al Islam magazine’s undercover story of attending Catholic mass and insulting the holy communion have come not from Christians, but from Umno Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin.
Khairy, the Rembau Member of Parliament, is the first Barisan Nasional leader to condemn the magazine article and the journalist who consumed and then removed the holy communion from his mouth to photograph it.
The article, Tinjauan Al Islam Dalam Gereja: Kesahihan Remaja Murtad in the magazine’s May 2009 issue, caused an uproar among Catholics and is now a police case, but has received scarce coverage in the newspapers.
Writing in his blog today, Khairy condemned the article as “unethical journalism, grounded in both disrespect and ignorance”.
“Everyone involved in the researching, writing and publishing [of] this article should have considered the fact that Muslims already find it offensive when non-Muslims do not observe basic courtesies expected when in a mosque, like taking off shoes and covering heads.
“They should further imagine their own reactions if someone went undercover in their local mosques, pretend to worship as a Muslim and made a mockery of congregation prayer,” Khairy wrote.
He also wrote about empathy, and said that the “heart of the problems” Malaysia faced as a plural society was that people did not think about the perspectives of other communities before acting.
He said the Al Islam journalist and the magazine’s editorial team had not shown the Islamic values of “empathy, respect and tolerance”.
Khairy also noted that non-Catholics were allowed to sit and observe mass, and as such, there was no need for the reporter to go undercover.
“This ‘blunder’,” he said, “speaks volumes of the journalist’s ignorance and the prejudices held even before he set out on his little mission.”
He also criticised the magazine for being sensationalist by publishing the story when there was “no story to sell”, since the journalist did not find evidence of Muslim apostates in the church.
Cover of the magazine“Feelings of moral superiority and righteousness vis-à-vis other faiths, even if unavoidable, should remain private and not manifested in the public domain,” Khairy wrote.
Apply the law fairly
Meanwhile, Reverend Jestus Pereira of St Anthony’s Church in Pudu, Kuala Lumpur, has called on the police to investigate the magazine and act according to the law.
Although Al Islam did not name the churches visited by its reporter, Rev Pereira said the descriptions in the article appeared to refer to his parish.
He said congregants at the Bahasa Malaysia service described in the article numbered around 800 people who were mainly from Sabah and Sarawak.
Police have so far interviewed another priest in the parish and an office staff member, he told The Nut Graph.
“I hope this is not a public relations exercise, trying to show the public they are doing something about it. The police and other authorities must investigate and take action. If there is some criminal element, they must be ready to do the right thing and charge the person or persons concerned.
“Islam being the religion of the federation does not place Muslims above the law,” he said.
“The government must be prepared to use just laws fairly and equally against all peoples, without preferring one religion over another. If disharmony is being caused they must have the courage to address it, even against persons of the dominant religion. The government must have the political will to do so.”
Rev Pereira added that the church receives many visitors but does not ask people for identification. “We do not stop anyone from entering. I do not know if anyone from Al Islam came in for our religious service. No one identified himself or herself either before or after the service,” he said.