KOTA KINABALU: Several Sarawak Muslim leaders have joined the chorus of criticism against Education Minister Maszlee Malik for using the term “dakwah”, or Islamic propagation, when urging religious teachers from the peninsula to remain in Sabah and Sarawak.
Speaking to FMT today, former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri said Maszlee’s statement was insensitive and offensive, especially to non-Muslims.
“As the minister of education, he should be mindful of his policy and his statements as these may cause fear among parents sending their children to government schools. It’s time for the minister to introduce good values to children as well as to teachers.
“In Sarawak, there are inter-marriages among families from different religions yet they still live with their families of other faiths.
“They live happily, they know how to adjust themselves well. So, Maszlee ought to learn the Sarawak way of living in order to be a true Malaysian.
“Do not use teachers to propagate religion in Sarawak. It is clear that in the Federal Constitution, although we recognise Islam as the religion of the federation, we should also respect other religions practised in Malaysia,” she said.
Nancy said Maszlee’s statement proved that some ministers in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) did not understand Sarawak.
Compared to them, she said, Sarawak leaders had always been cautious in dealing with people from other cultures and faiths and they had a higher tolerance level due to the state’s culture which promotes mutual respect.
Maszlee’s statement, she said also proved why Sarawak was right when the state government, under the late chief minister Adenan Satem, presented a memorandum to the then prime minister Najib Razak on power devolution.
“At that time, myself, together with Anifah Aman (former foreign minister), were co-chairmen for a committee called Devolution of Power. Among the matters that Sarawak raised with Najib were 13 administrative points.
“These included Sarawak’s request that 90% of teachers in the state must be Sarawakians which the federal government agreed. The reason for this was because only Sarawakians would understand Sarawak well,” she said.
Earlier today, Maszlee said his statement was actually misunderstood and the term “dakwah” which he used should be seen in a wider context, saying it was not just about Islamisation or converting non-Muslims 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 said.
Meanwhile, Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture and Youth Minister Karim Hamzah said he personally felt that Maszlee’s statement was insensitive to the feelings of the multi-religious communities in Sarawak.
“If Maszlee is just a youth leader, a wrong usage of words or statement is excusable. But as a minister, he must be more careful in what he says as the public is unlikely to be forgiving, especially if it relates to a religious subject matter.”