MP says time ripe for Parliamentary Interfaith Commission

KUALA LUMPUR: Saying some radicals are playing with race and religion to destablise the nation, Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto today called for the setting up of a Parliamentary Interfaith Commission, an idea first proposed by the Bar Council more than a decade ago.

“By revisiting and establishing the Parliamentary Interfaith Commission, Malaysia as a land where the world’s greatest religions congregate, will set a sterling example to the rest of the world,” she said.

Kasthuri, who is part of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Rights and Gender Equality, said there was a rise in “vicious comments and attacks” against Malaysians of different faiths, ethnicities and beliefs openly and on social media, mostly behind fake accounts.

The Bar Council had mooted the formation of an Interfaith Commission of Malaysia in 2005 during a conference attended by 50 religious groups, political parties, and civil societies.

It was proposed that the commission would act as an independent advisory body, conciliatory body, and a consultative body, to promote awareness of the tenets and beliefs of different religions and faiths.

Kasthuri Patto.

Kasthuri said the idea was shot down by “grossly flawed arguments” by those who claim that it “could pigeon hole any particular religion, be it Islam or other religions”.

“At a time where opinions and comments on religion and belief can be viciously attacked by derogatory, racist and xenophobic responses, the establishment of this interfaith commission will act as a bridge to create platforms for understanding, interaction and dialogue, be it academic, intellectual or religious, to foster goodwill and unity among the different ethnicities, religions and beliefs in Malaysia, within the parameters and framework of the law and the Federal Constitution,” said the DAP leader.

She welcomed a suggestion by PAS’ Kuala Nerus MP, Khairuddin Aman Razali, to promote interfaith understanding by teaching Islam to non-Muslim students, but said Muslims too should be taught about other religions.

“While his suggestion is welcomed in the spirit of unity, the same concept must be accorded to our Muslim friends to learn, understand and respect other religions, beliefs and cultures of Malaysians in this place we all call home.”

She said Khairuddin had made a “far-fetched argument” by citing the Constitution’s prohibition on the propagation of other religions to Muslims, adding that he was “a classic example” of why a Parliamentary Interfaith Commission was needed

“Religious diversity in a New Malaysia must function as the bridge between the rakyat and places of worship.

“Religious leaders have a new weapon now – a chisel, to slowly hack away at the monstrous wall erected by the previous regime that functioned as a wedge to keep Malaysians divided and disunited.”