A month on, authors vow to pursue case against UiTM's ‘Christology’ seminar

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

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SHAH ALAM, June 7 — Two authors who lodged a police report against the organisers of a recent ‘Christology’ seminar said today they will keep pursuing conclusive action on the issue, a month after the controversial talk was hosted by Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM).

Perzeus James and Uthaya Sankar SB, who lodged a police report on the talk on May 16, said the event organisers cannot be let off scot-free as they had openly insulted minority religions.

“This is a very serious matter. We consider this a national issue because such seminars belittle and insult other religions,” said Perzeus, a Catholic who has published works in Tamil.

Uthaya Sankar, a Hindu and self-professed proponent of religious pluralism, said they have taken it upon themselves to pursue the issue as the public tends to have short memories when it comes to such controversial incidents until it resurfaces in the future.

“We will not forget this issue. We are going to go on reminding people of it until something is done,” the award-winning Malay writer told journalists after he and Perzeus gave additional statements to the police regarding their complaint.

The two authors said the police had asked if they had any recordings or additional evidence to back up their complaint, and if the reason they lodged their report was because they were dissatisfied with the organisers.

They were also asked to state what sort of remedy they expected from their reports.

The duo maintained that they were acting purely on the numerous media reports published on the day-long seminar last May 6, of which they provided printed copies as evidence to the police.

Lawyer Annou Xavier, who is acting as counsel for both Perzeus and Uthaya Sankar, said the issue goes beyond personal dissatisfaction, stressing that it is a “big national issue” as it touches on religious sensitivities.

He noted that investigating officer Inspector Rohaini Baharom confirmed that a file had been opened on the case and that it will likely be handled by her superiors, though it is unclear under which offence it is classified.

Earlier, it was believed that the police are investigating the case under Sections 298 and 298A of the Penal Code, which deal with words uttered with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person.

When contacted, Rohaini confirmed that they have opened an investigation paper on the matter but declined to comment further on the case.

At the day-long seminar in its Shah Alam campus last month, 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 took 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 an integral part of Christianity.

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

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