PETALING JAYA: A shariah expert has urged the organisers of a forum on christology ( which has since been cancelled) to do a thorough background check on Irene Hardono of Indonesia before accepting her as a speaker.
Nurul Haq Shahrir, who is a member of the Islamic Law Transformation Panel under Majlis Dakwah Negara – the government’s top council on Islamic propagation, told FMT he was making the call out of concern for the image of Islam and the reputation of religious authorities in Malaysia.
“Irene Handono is accused of lying about being a former nun,” he said. “With this information in mind, to question the authenticity of the speaker, especially one who insists on speaking as a former nun, is not an attack on Islam, as many will no doubt say in trying to defend her.
“It is a check-and-balance measure of preventing our Islamic authorities and Muslims in Malaysia from being conned by a person who may be in it for nothing more than a pay cheque.”
Hardono was slated to speak at a forum billed as “Knowing Christology” and scheduled for Dec 9 and 10 at the Selangor International Islamic University College (KUIIS).
Her claim about being a nun before converting to Islam was rejected three years ago by Edy Purwanto, the secretary of the Bishops Conference of Indonesia. Purwanto said Hardono was only briefly with the Congregation of the Ursuline Sisters and that she did not complete her education.
There was a similar controversy last year, when Ayub Abdul Rahman, a Muslim preacher who claimed to be a former priest at a church in Germany, was scheduled to speak at a convention at SIDMA College in Sabah.
Ayub’s name was removed from the list of speakers hours before his scheduled talk. This followed the appearance on social media of a letter that indicated he was an impostor. The letter, from the Church of St Augustine of Canterbury in Frankfurt, was addressed to Ng Moon Hing, Bishop of West Malaysia and Archbishop-Elect.
Nurul said there was a pressing need nowadays to verify claims made by those who would preach on Islam in educational institutions.
“Malaysians must realise that before the age of social media, Islamic tradition promoted a strong ethic of seeking the truth at all costs,” he said.
“The Quran teaches us to verify any news before actions are taken and today it is more important than ever to obey this command.”
He said truth had become “collateral damage” in the age of social media.
“Just as viruses developed to infect computers can damage hardware and an entire system, fake news, gossip and alternative facts can also act like viruses, but ones that damage the human mind and corrupt societies in a far more destructive way,” he added.
Nurul holds a bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology, a master’s degree in Islamic Jurispudence, a master’s degree in Licentiate in Sacred Theology and a master’s degree in the Canon Law of the Catholic Church.
Organiser of Christology forum to check if speaker actually a nun