KUALA LUMPUR, March 1 — Despite denying any hand behind the alleged distribution of free Qurans to non-Muslims, an Islamic evangelical group said non-believers should be taught to politely reject the holy texts instead of responding aggressively.
The Multiracial Reverted Muslims (MRM) said the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), the country’s largest interfaith body, should not have taken such a combative stance when reacting to the free Quran project by another Muslim group.
Instead, the MCCBCHST should have focused on mending strained ties between Muslims and non-Muslims here, and encouraging the latter community to learn more about Islam and issues pertaining to the religion, MRM president Firdaus Wong Wai Hung said.
“My suggestion is that the council should instead advise the non-Muslims and the public that they should talk to each other politely, even if say they do not want it (Quran).
“It’s fine if they do not want the holy book, but they should understand the religion,” he told Malay Mail Online.
Wong was criticising MCCBCHST’s recent outcry over the free Quran project mooted by the Islamic Information and Services (IIS) Foundation.
In a statement on February 9, the interfaith council dismissed the project’s purported objective to remove misconceptions of Islam, labelling it instead a disguised propagation of Islam that it said was in “bad faith”.
The council said the intended distribution of the translated copies of the Quran to non-Muslims was obnoxious, as a similar right is not given to non-Muslims.
It also insisted that the Quran should not be distributed so freely as the copies might be disrespected, and some Muslims might find it blasphemous to see non-Muslims owning those translated copies of Quran.
The group then listed down several instances of alleged efforts to convert non-Muslims, including the involvement of evangelical groups such as Hidayah Centre Foundation (HCF) and MRM, as well as federal and state religious authorities.
MRM, however, later denied its involvement in the project, as well as other claims that it has been covertly amending the official religious records of those receiving the free copies of the holy text.
IIS has also defended its project as an attempt to help non-Muslims understand Islam, and demanded MCCBCHST issue a public apology.
Wong, in enforcing MRM’s position on the issue, pointed out that although the organisation is not involved, it still believes that owning a Quran does not automatically mean the individual is forced to read the holy book or embrace Islam.
“Now it’s (MCCBCHST) implying that we are using force towards people to read the Quran. Even if I force you to take the Quran, it’s up to you whether you want to read it or not,” Wong added.
He said he believes that despite possessing good intentions, the MCCBCHST has been using the wrong approach to keeping interfaith relations harmonious.
“They know who is IIS, so they should have spoken to them (IIS) before they issue such a statement.
“It’s like the saying, don’t wash your dirty linen in public. If you have problems pertaining to interfaith issues, then talk to the concerned parties,” Wong said.
As such an important body, the MCCBCHST should be seeking to breach the gap between non-Muslims here and followers of Islam, the religion of the federation, he added.
“Go approach them (IIS) and don’t suddenly issue such statements. What is your intention? I do not know,” he added.
Racial and religious tensions have simmered for the past few years as Muslim groups accuse Christians of trying to convert Muslims with their insistence on referring to God as “Allah”, while Christian groups complain of Bumiputera Christians in Sabah being duped into embracing Islam.
The proselytisation of non-Islamic religions to Muslims is an offence in Malaysia, but not vice-versa.