Jamil Khir Baharom, who oversees Islamic affairs, says the state has the right to safeguard the interests of Muslims.
He said the seminar will be held according to laws that allowed states to hold such programmes if Muslims were deemed threatened.
He added that the seminar, jointly organised by the Johor Education Department and state Mufti Department and to be held on Saturday, was not intended to hurt any quarter.
“The state has the right to safeguard the interests of Muslims, it is within their jurisdiction. The interests of Muslims is important and we must consider this,” he told reporters here.
The seminar triggered yet another outrage among the country’s Christians amid an already souring relations between them and the country’s majority Muslims over several sensitive incidences in the recent past.
Church leaders had come out to condemn the Johor Mufti and education department for allowing the seminar to take place, saying it endorsed the unproven claim that Christians were threatening the Islamic faith.
Title deemed inappropriate
The seminar was themed “Pemantapan Aqidah, Bahaya Liberalisme dan Pluralism Serta Ancaman Kristianisasi Terhadap Umat Islam. Apa Peranan Guru?” (Strengthening the Faith, the Dangers of Liberalism and Pluralism and the Threat of Christianity towards Muslims. What is the Role of Teachers?).
Jamil was asked if he agreed with the criticism that the title of the programme was inappropriate and offensive.
He replied: “I don’t know. You have to ask the agency involved. I haven’t seen the title myself.”
It was reported yesterday that the Johor Mufti Department had defended the seminar’s title, saying said it was held only to ensure young Muslims were not influenced by “the threat of Christianity.”
An officer was quoted as saying that state authorities “fear young Muslims will be confused and not understand” when faced with attempts to convert them although there was no proof to show proselytization attempts.
Several opposition leaders also voiced their disapproval to the seminar.
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim said yesterday the seminar was part of an effort to manage control through the use of fear and faith.
Christians form 9.2% of Malaysia’s 28.3 million-strong population.
The recent legal tussle over the right to use the Arabic term “Allah” to describe the Christian God had strengthened Muslim suspicion of a widespread Christian conversion campaign and embittered relations between the two. Christian leaders denied the allegation.