UiTM seminar facade for hate speech, Christian group says

The thousand-strong audience at the seminar on the use of the word ‘Allah’ and Christology at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) here today. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
The thousand-strong audience at the seminar on the use of the word ‘Allah’ and Christology at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) here today. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 — A public lecture by Muslims on Christianity was a masquerade to spread to “hate speech and sectarian religious propaganda,” the Christian Federation of Malaysia said today.

Accusing the organisers of the seminar held at the Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) of bias for not allowing rebuttal of controversial interpretations of Christianity presented during yesterday’s event, the group representing the majority of the country’s churches categorised the act as an “abuse of trust and stewardship.”

It added that an honest exchange of ideas would have given space for conflicting ideas and views to those presented yesterday, which included claims that the Gospels of the New Testament were “fake” and Jesus Christ, the Christian Messiah, to be simply a “human slave to Allah”.

“Otherwise, yesterday’s seminar at UiTM would be nothing more than hate speech and sectarian religious propaganda thinly disguised as academic freedom, which causes a great diminution of scholastic integrity, greater disservice to intellectual honesty, and greatest discredit to the reputation of the public institution,” the CFM said in a statement today.

This follows criticism from another Christian group, the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF), who this morning expressed dismay over the decision by the UiTM to conduct a seminar in which Indonesian Muslims interpreted Christian doctrine.

The NECF branded the programme “negative” and a threat to the peaceful co-existence and harmony of diverse religions.

“If such programmes are permitted to run in other higher institutions of learning in the days ahead, it will only raise confusion and a sense of prejudice ​among Muslim students against people of other faiths,” NECF said.

“One could perhaps ask how Muslims would feel, if followers of other faiths were to invite their experts to interpret how the Koran should be written,” it added.

At the day-long seminar in its Shah Alam campus yesterday, UiTM had invited several Indonesian Muslims, academics and converts, to lecture on the use of the Arabic word for God, “Allah”, in the Malay archipelago and their interpretation on the life of Jesus Christ, whom Christians revere as God manifest on earth.

A speaker told the thousand-strong audience — which included former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi — that the New Testament gospels, which recount the life of Jesus, were hearsay and falsehoods as the prophet was only “a human slave to Allah” and not a divine being.

Another said that Christians should convert to Islam as they would be “betraying Jesus” and his principles otherwise.

The lecture also takes place against the backdrop of strained ties between Muslims and Christians over the use of the Arabic word “Allah”

Last year, the Court of Appeal overturned a lower court’s decision to allow a Catholic newspaper to use the word. The appellate court ruled that “Allah” was not not an integral part of Christianity.

The Catholic church is looking to appeal the decision at the country’s highest court.

* NOTE: A previous version of this story had erroneously reported the statement to be issued by the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM). The error is much regretted.

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