(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.
Gopal Raj Kumar says
What is the law that has been broken in this matter? Why should the police go on a fishing expedition to placate a bunch of hotheads showing a level of intolerance based on rumour, gossip and feigned moral outrage?
State specifically what law was broken to justify the nexus between this man’s article in a magazine titled “Al Islam” and that of Islam’s claim to a higher position in Malaysia or elsewhere.
The rage is dangerous. It is no more a moral outrage by Islam than the act of Madonna the Catholic US pop singer simulating masturbation on stage being a representative of Catholicism even if it is proved that her large fan following in unprecedented numbers come from Christian backgrounds.
hanana bt abdullah says
The whole episode is ‘much ado about nothing’.
By giving a bad complexion to the reporters of Al Islam, KJ is trying to buy loads of sympathy for himself. Giving KJ a spot to criticise two reporters who were merely doing investigative reporting is like giving him soap to clean up his image.
From a positive angle, the two reporters have confirmed that the Catholic church was not in the business of converting Muslim youths.
Or is that not the business of the reporters? Even if the church is in involved in [such conversions]?
Philip Selvaraj says
How ignorant and stupid of the journalists for believing they could expose the conversion of Muslims by attending a Sunday mass!
For the record the Catholic Church is not actively involved in proselytizing non-Catholics. They should instead try attending an Evangelical Christian service, chances are they would come out singing Hallelujah!
Awan Gebu says
What Khairy says is true, even if it IS Khairy who is saying it. If non-Muslim journalists, in the name of “merely” doing their jobs, were to enter a mosque, take part in communal prayers, handle the Quran, etc. etc., we can be sure that the response from the Muslim community would not just be a police report. There would be riots all over the place. As for whether or not any law has been broken in this case, is that not for the police to investigate? At the very least, looking at the journalists’ intention for being there, are we not looking at a prima facie case of criminal trespass?
Azizi Khan says
Khairy, would you like some cheese with your whine ? The question to you is – what are you going to do about it ?
Nine Christians were wrongly accused of trying to propogate Christianity to Muslims and were arrested immediately but in this case, PDRM is still “investigating”.
Even more surprising that the offending tabloid’s license is still intact. If this [situation] was reversed, the relevant ministry would have immediately cancelled the printing permit.
Double standards much?
When Muslims insult non-Muslims, it’s always branded as much ado about nothing. But when non-Muslims make comments (not insults) about Muslims, it’s seditious. Non-Muslims are often told that they have no right to make comments about Muslims or Islam.
When Muslims insult non-Muslims, only an investigation is conducted. No arrests are made. The same cannot be said to be true if the roles were reversed.
The issue here is not the presence of the two journalist in church during mass but rather their despicable act of consuming the holy communion, spitting it out and taking a photograph of it when they are not allowed to do so. Only catholics (practicing catholics to be exact) are allowed to consume the holy communion. And that Ms Hanana, is definitely not the business of reporters.
So conversely, if a non-Muslim journalist wants to investigate and confirm the rumours that sermons given during the Friday prayers in mosques are very racist in nature, can they go into the mosque and pretend to prayer like the other Muslims there? Can they then violate the sanctity of your mosque by doing something which they are NOT ALLOWED to do? Will this be “much ado about nothing” as well? Or will this be ok because as you say it is the business of reporters to investigate the rumours?
hanana bt abdullah says
I can safely guarantee that non-Muslims who want to be in a mosque out of curiosity, to learn or pray for that matter are more than welcome. Whether or not he or she does it out of genuine interest or otherwise is a matter for Allah to decide for only Allah knows the heart of men.
One may start by pretending to pray and there is a positive prospect that he/she may receive ‘hidayah’ (guidance) to continue pray after the initial exposure. Such is my confidence that I make this guarantee. Anyone is welcome to the mosque – male, female, mothers, fathers – by all means bring the whole family if you so wish.
Thus far you have been negative – creating illusions of doom when there is none. There is only light if you make your way to the mosque.
Try it. There is a Malay proverb – tak kenal maka tak cinta. Translation: if you have not tried to get to know (Allah), you will not have the opportunity to love Him.
So my fellow Malaysians – there are no government men trying to catch you if you enter the mosque. By all means get to know the mosque and Allah, our creator. My mother was a Chinese and my grandmother came from China. She had no misgivings in giving her daughter away to a Malay and she became a devout Muslim. When our forefathers came from China or India they had no negative feelings about Islam and the institutions that are connected with it – eg mosques and madrasah. Now the third generation Chinese and Indian [Malaysians] think that Islam must not intrude into their lives and have a mental block when faced with issues like going into the mosque.
Interestingly, I read that Chinese Malaysians, though mostly atheist, are buying up churches and church properties in the UK for reasons best known to them. If they do not have a mental block on going into a church, why are you people making a brouhaha about going into a mosque? In fact I would volunteer to bring you into
the mosque if there are takers to my suggestion.
Bernard Yee says
Intolerance against Muslims in Malaysia are unacceptable. But Catholics mostly seem to be patient in any aspects where they are condemned or being faced with perjury by others. One thing that has been stable is the inability to come to a conclusion. Like some of us have stated here, what are you going to do about it? Are the local authorities just going to keep “investigating” it until it becomes lost and forgotten underneath centuries of gunk and junk? Is that our Malaysian principle for efficiently? Where are we coming to? More so, I believe that justice will always prevail. If authorities do not take action, I believe the day will come when justice and fairness is invoked.
Let other religions remind you (Islam) that we will keep on tolerating until the rage becomes uncontrollable. And when it does, you have to accept the stupidity of a few people that will cause an abundance of pain to you.
Again, let me spell it out to you, the brouhaha IS NOT ABOUT non-Christians going into church or non-Muslims going into the mosque.
It’s about the things they do in the church/mosque that is the problem here. You are also most welcome in the church as I agree with you that tak kenal maka tak cinta. But, and I have to stress this again lest you miss the point once more; What you do in the church (or mosque, temples or kuils for that matter) needs to be in accordance with our doctrines/customs/rules, and not to your own whims and fancies.
So, the brouhaha is not about stepping into a church/mosque, but the despicable act of the journalist when they were in the church. NOT THEIR PRESENCE in the church.
Personally I have nothing against Islam or the fact that the journalists are Muslims. I just feel that what they did was wrong, full stop; regardless of whether they are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist.
Nicholas Aw says
Despite the brouhaha, there is still no action from the authorities. As what Rev. Fr. J. Pereira of the Parish of St. Anthony said about the police: “I hope this is not a public relations exercise, trying to show the public they are doing something about it”, we hope that the police would be able to expedite investigations without being influenced by religious convictions since the majority in the force are Muslims.
On the other hand it is ironical that quick action was taken when a few students of UPM were alleged to have propagated Christianity which is rather skeptical. I was not there to witness the incident but I believe that it was a misunderstanding. Even if a Muslim had been approached and a religious pamphlet was accidentally handed to him/her, the best thing would have been to politely refuse and state that he/she is a Muslim. I believe that if the case were in reverse, this would have been the most likely action by the offended party. This is definitely religious tolerance in action.
Why make a mountain out of a molehill? Islam is a great religion but some of its followers are acting irrationally thus creating negative perceptions about the religion.
@Hanana bt Abdullah,
As Muslims, we would like to remind you that your voice does not represent us, the majority.
John D'cruz says
I agree with Awan Gebu. Look at the swiftness of the police in detaining the nine students distributing Christian pamphlets in UPM. Then contrast this with the lack of action on this case of desecration of a place of worship, despite police reports being lodged. Shouldn’t the police also have ‘investigated’ the students before apprehending them? After all, following the logic of the arguments that have been put forward by Gopal Raj Kumar and hanana, they were only distributing pamphlets. Why the ‘moral outrage’ ?
We have seen the type of action (or inaction) against the persons who instigated a near riot against the Christians in Silibin previously. What is apparent to the non-Muslim [Malaysian] community is that the authorities (the government, the police and the Attorney General) drags it’s feet when it comes to prosecution or action against Muslim [Malaysians] but does not even bother to investigate before taking action in the cases involving non-Muslim [Malaysians].
I am glad that some have pointed out the essential things that we Catholics find hurtful about this whole saga.
So let me reiterate again. It is not about people who want to pretend or want to be in the Church, it is about Holy Communion.
Catholics, whether you like them or not, or whether you agree to or not, are duty bound to believe that this ‘wafer’ is the Body of Christ (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity). You have the right to laugh about it, pour scorn over the very ridiculous idea of it, but the fact remains that is the belief of the Church.
Even Catholics who are in a state of mortal sin are advised not to receive communion, and in fact to receive communion unworthily is a sin in itself. To adore this Real Presence of God in the wafer is often advised as the next best thing to contemplating God in Eternity, so in a way to us Catholics, the Eucharist is a foretaste of Heaven. Now, the point of explaining this is not to preach, it is rather to show how extremely integral this understanding is to the ‘aggrieved’ partner in this crime.
When the jewel of someone else’s faith is ridiculed in public it puts enmity between communities that would otherwise carry along with mutual respect. Respect does not mean that one is heterodox.
Had the two Muslim journalists not published it – what they discovered or wanted to discover – the severity of their conduct in the eyes of the Church would not be less. But their wisdom in choosing to remain anonymous would at least necessitate that we, Catholics owe them the benefit of the doubt that they did not know what they were doing.
Abuses such as these often happen even among Protestants who go to Catholic Churches. The main difference is that they do not intend to do it out of spite for a certain community or investigative journalism into something they should know better of. They do it out of child-like ignorance … and most often this form of ignorance is much easier to forgive.
Paul Ong says
Hanana, I am sure you are most welcome to any Catholic Church to attend their service and listen to the sermon by their priest and sing praise and worship songs along with them. No problem about that.
But to pretend to be a baptised Catholic and consume the Holy Communion (wafer bread) and spit it out is a great disrespect!
For the Catholics believe that Jesus is present in the Bread during this Holy Communion ritual.
How would you feel, if some non-Muslims bring pork and wine to the mosque and consume it in the mosque?
Philip Selvaraj says
If Islam or the mosque has so much hidayah, nur or whatever you want to call it, why do you need Muslims to go undercover to investigate conversions out of Islam in a Christian place of worship?
And if Muslims are the wonderfully rightly-guided people why are [so many apostasising]? Prompting Al Islam to send some fumbling fools to desecrate a Christian place of worship under state protection, and [others to defend them].
Philip Selvaraj says
Maybe I am wrong but I think this insult to Catholicism is in retaliation for for its “audacity” in challenging the Islamic exclusive privilege to the name of God.
I’m a Muslim, and even I am pissed off at this blunder. No wonder non-Muslims are leaving this country by the droves, and the government laments about the brain drain. Even the liberal Malays are leaving this country because they cannot tolerate all this Islamisation bullshit and the effect it’s having on racial stability. I’m a Bumi and I too want to leave this country.
I am worried that by demanding prosecution etc the Church is now talking like [some] Muslims (I mean the individual nut cases not the people in general). Interesting how we become what we want to hate … This could have been better handled by EXPOSING certain Muslims being ignorant and having no decency to respect other religions.
Christianity has never taught its followers to be so confrontational. Christianity never made the communion something SACRED, only [some] Christians made it. The communion is only an act of remembrance, not some HOLY ACT. Read the Bible as it is very clear on such matters.
When any one religious group acts with such disregard for the common, courteous respect that is the norm in Malaysia, it smacks of a kind of religious snobbery. We-are-holier-than-you-ness.
Paul Warren says
Al Islam has done more damage to the reputation of Islam as a tolerant and progressive religion than any number of Islamophobes expressing the usual invectives.
Is Khairy willing to use UMNO Youth to carry out the usual noisy protests as they did against the Danish embassy before?
If he cannot, then really Khairy’s as well as Umno Youth’s ability to make out the enemy from a friend becomes questionable.
Paul Warren says
Hanana Bt Abdullah,
By the same token you are invited to a church and maybe the spirit might fill you and you will see on the right hand of God Christ Jesus. You’ll receive salvation and redemption finally.
Some of the commentators have assumed that the issue here is about Muslims attending a church for the purposes of spying or investigating. Has Jester not said it already? It is the violation of the holy sacrament that Christians take issue with.
And as for Raj Kumar, maybe you’d like to see me taking some beef into a Hindu temple? Understand one thing, with every religion, there are no-nos.
As for Madonna’s act of masturbation with a crucifix, well she was only aping what she had previously seen in the Exorcist! Every religion has had its practices or activities go through some strange acts. If you went to Kajuraho you’d see it on stone sculptures. In Kathmandu they are wooden sculptures and these are all on temple walls and columns. At best you can only be amused with our present day hypocritical attitudes towards sex and what not. But don’t assume that Madonna’s excesses have any attribute that Christians at large take as part of their belief system.