PUTRAJAYA: Maszlee Malik today defended himself against criticism from East Malaysian leaders after he used the term “dakwah” or Islamic propagation in urging religious teachers from the peninsula to remain there.
He said the term “dakwah” should be seen in a wider context, saying it was not just about Islamisation or converting non-Muslims into Islam.
“Dakwah in Islam is understood as bringing mankind towards good and this can be done through various means, including as educators or teachers,” he said.
Referring to the issue of shortage of religious teachers in Sabah and Sarawak, he said the term which he had used in his statement had been misinterpreted as an attempt to convert non-Muslims in the two states into Islam.
“This is narrow thinking as ‘dakwah’ in Islam is universal in character; it does not just revolve around converting anyone into the religion,” he added.
At the recent Dewan Rakyat sitting, Maszlee reportedly described the shortage of Islamic religious teachers in Sabah and Sarawak as critical and advised those from Kelantan and Terengganu teaching in the two states to stay put for the sake of “dakwah”.
This drew criticism from political leaders and church groups in Sabah and Sarawak who accused Maszlee of being ignorant of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), which provides for religious freedom in the two states.
Meanwhile, speaking at a religious school here, Maszlee said the role of teachers in educating and teaching society to enable them to read, count and think was also “dakwah” in Islam.
“The meaning or concept of ‘dakwah’ through education is more towards giving quality education across all groups regardless of race and religion,” he said.