KUALA LUMPUR: A Muslim academic has called on Christian groups in Malaysia to engage more with local mainstream Islamic leaders, saying this could help avoid controversies borne out of misunderstanding as shown in the recent call to ban Christian evangelicalism.
International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) lecturer Maszlee Malik said such efforts can be done without the fear of proselytisation, or attempts to convert a person from one religion to another.
“Evangelical churches should start engaging with mainstream Muslim groups and authorities, without the element of proselytisation,” he told a forum organised by Christian think tank Kairos Dialogue Network, which was also attended by Bishop Emeritus Hwa Yung of the Methodist Church.
Maszlee called for more dialogues with mainstream Muslim figures such as Federal Territory mufti, Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri and Perlis mufti, Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, as well Islamic associations such as the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Abim), All-Malaysia Muslim Welfare Association (Perkim) and the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (Macma).
He said one misunderstanding among Muslims in Malaysia was that local Christians are pro-Zionists, the ideology adopted by the state of Israel.
A local rights group called Centre for Human Rights and Advocacy (Centhra) recently sparked outrage among Christian groups after it accused evangelicalism of threatening religious harmony in Malaysia.
Saying the evangelicalism movement was inclined towards openness “without limitation”, the group urged the government to consider introducing an anti-evangelicalism law.
Speaking at the forum today, Bishop Hwa Yung pointed out a general misunderstanding on the term “Evangelicalism”.
He said evangelicalism was not an ideology about dominating the world, and disputed claims that it supported present-day Israel as well as the proselytisation of Muslims.
He said it was also wrong to associate local evangelicalism to the movement that appeared in 1942 in the United States under the National Association of Evangelicals.
Meanwhile, Maszlee said misunderstanding about “the others” were mutual between Muslims and non-Muslims.
“I still remember when I talked to some Chinese from the younger generation, they only picked up stories or understood about Islam from the Chinese media.
“The same goes to Malays, they only pick up stories about Christianity, Buddhism from the Malay media,” he said.
He said the phenomenon of “fake news” also affected inter-religious dialogue.
“We are trapped in a world where you are forced to believe in something which is not true or is half true.”