KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 ― Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) officers allegedly asked two non-Muslim students questions about the Islamic faith as part of a scholarship interview in Sarawak over the weekend.
The students were left speechless after being asked to name the prophets of Islam, the rukun (precepts) of Islamic prayers, and their opinion on the controversial hudud law, among others.
They are now afraid that their inability to answer the questions would affect their applications for university scholarships under the Indigenous People's Trust Council.
“In our group, there was another non-Muslim female candidate. We were both facing the same predicament,” Nigel Unchat Jeremaiah told Borneo Post Online, adding that the candidate was later asked about the pressures faced by the institutions of marriage and the family.
“It’s not that we do not want to participate in the question-and-answer session but we do not know what to answer. I am worried that our silence during the session could cost us.”
Nigel, who is a Christian, said that one of the Mara officers approached him after the interview and asked for his opinion on hudud after finding out that he was not a Muslim.
The interview was conducted at a Mara Junior Science College (MRSM) in Semariang, near Kuching on last Saturday.
Candidates were divided into groups of 10, with three sessions of group discussion, question-and-answer, and group activity.
After being notified of the case, Sarawak’s Land Development Minister Tan Sri James Masing suggested that the Islamic questions were asked to disqualify non-Muslim candidates.
“They should not have asked Muslim-based questions. The asking of questions on Islamic matters to non-Muslims is plain wrong. What relevance are these questions when applying for a higher learning scholarship? They cannot assume that the candidates know the answer.
“The Mara officers must understand that there are many natives in Sarawak and that Muslims are a minority here. What if the candidate can’t answer the questions? Will he be disqualified?” asked Masing.
He also accused the officers of being religious bigots, and stressed that such an incident should never occur in Sarawak.
The Sarawak and Kuching branches of MARA could not be reached for comments at the time of writing.