Church group says PAS leader has no regard for humanity after Christian insult

Christian Federation of Malaysia chairman Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim said Nik Muhammad Zawawi Nik Salleh made a spurious claim that belittled sacred scriptures, and had done so at a time when unity is needed most. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Christian Federation of Malaysia chairman Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim said Nik Muhammad Zawawi Nik Salleh made a spurious claim that belittled sacred scriptures, and had done so at a time when unity is needed most. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 31 — The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) blasted today the PAS leader who claimed the Bible had been corrupted, calling his words an assault on the country’s Christians and an attempt to sow discord.

In a strongly worded statement, Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim, the federation’s chairman and the executive committee, said Nik Muhammad Zawawi Nik Salleh made a spurious claim that belittled sacred scriptures, and had done so at a time when unity is needed most.

The insult, Leow stressed, was uttered when Malaysians are in distress and facing economic hardship wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic, which reflected poorly on an elected official.

“To be told that the Holy Book on which they rely as a firm foundation for their faith has been ‘manipulated’ is an affront to the uttermost,” his statement read.

“That this belittlement of their sacred Scriptures occurs during a time of distress and economic hardship and anxiety about an uncertain future as a global pandemic rages displays not just gross insensitivity, but a blatant disregard for the well-being of fellow humankind,” he added.

Nik Zawawi sparked public outrage with his comment made during a debate on a transportation bill in Parliament’s Lower House last week.

While debating the Road Transport (Amendment) Bill 2020 to propose heavier fines for drink-driving offenders, the Pasir Puteh MP asserted that the Bible had been perverted or corrupted, which immediately drew condemnation from other members of the hall.

CFM said Nik Zawawi’s assertion showed reprehensible disrespect not only towards followers of the faith, but also of all Malaysians because it sought to divide the country’s multiethnic society.

“In trampling with shocking audacity on the sacred and holy Word of God, the Representative for Pasir Puteh showed a reprehensible disrespect for not only for his fellow Malaysians who are Christians,” Leow said.

“But also for all the efforts of our forefathers in forging peoples of diverse creeds, colour and cultures into a peace-loving and harmonious nation.”

The umbrella church group also said Nik Zawawi’s insult came at a time when strenuous calls for national unity were made by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Leow said Muhyiddin had called for a caring Malaysia, and chose Prihatin (care or empathy) as the theme for this year’s Merdeka Day celebration, and the 57th anniversary of Malaysia Day.

“It is an outrage that a Member of Parliament who sits on the Government’s benches shows little concern for the need to rebuild the nation,” CFM said.

“But instead intentionally promotes feelings of ill will and hostility on the ground of religion in a significant segment of the population,” it added.

Despite the uproar, Nik Zawawi has refused to apologise.

News portal Malaysiakini on Saturday reported Zawawi as saying that he had no reason to apologise since his statement was “a fact”, and then suggested the community had “no right to be offended.”

CFM has called for PAS and the Perikatan Nasional coalition to denounce Nik Zawawi. To date, no member of the ruling coalition has openly rebuked the PAS lawmaker.

“Not having taken to date (any) apparent action to rein in and admonish its member for his divisive and incendiary remarks, the party to which he belongs, being a component member of the ruling coalition, should denounce such egregious behaviour,’’ it said.

“No person being above the law, relevant authorities also need to undertake appropriate investigations into the offensive conduct of this lawmaker,” the group added.

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