Dayak parents told to be less ‘sensitive’, amid protests over new Muslim principal

Sarawak Minister in charge of education Datuk Fatimah Abdullah (centre) says the education ministry has thoroughly scrutinised the background of the new Muslim principal of SMK Sungai Paoh in Sarikei. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
Sarawak Minister in charge of education Datuk Fatimah Abdullah (centre) says the education ministry has thoroughly scrutinised the background of the new Muslim principal of SMK Sungai Paoh in Sarikei. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, Nov 7 — A Sarawak minister today urged Dayak parents and interest groups to stop being “racially and religiously sensitive”, as the state’s largest ethnic group raised an uproar over the recent appointment of a religious teacher as the new principal of a Dayak-majority school in Sarikei.

State Minister in charge of education, Datuk Fatimah Abdullah said it was unfair to assume that the teacher in question, Ustaz Roslin Che Mood, is a religious extremist out to convert Dayak students just because he is a religious teacher and comes from Kelantan.

“In fact, he is gentle, not a religious extremist or (sic) has no inclination towards the Islamist PAS,” she told journalists after launching an event here.

Roslin is scheduled to report for duty at SMK Sungai Paoh in Sarikei — some 360km northeast of the state capital of Kuching — on November 9.

His appointment, however, was met with strong objections after several reported incidents of teachers converting Dayak students, who are typically Christian, to Islam.

Fatimah today assured that the federal education ministry has thoroughly scrutinised Roslin’s background as they are aware of local sentiments among the Dayaks against religious teachers from the peninsula.

“If he is found to be so bad later, then the parents and NGOs have every reason to complain,” she said.

In March this year, a 13-year old schoolgirl had claimed that she was coerced to converting to Islam by two religious teachers at SMK Lutong in the northern district of Miri.

The student lodged a police against the teachers, claiming that they gave her RM250 to convert.

The two teachers have since been transferred out of Sarawak.

In May last year, Sarawak Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing criticised the education ministry for failing to monitor religious activities in schools, following reports of a peninsula-based NGO and two religious teachers quietly converting 50 poor Dayak students of SMK Balai Ringin in the interior district of Serian.

Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian had also claimed of attempts by Muslim teachers to convert pre-schoolers in his Ba’Kelalan state constituency.

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