SMS Rumour on Malays Baptised in Ipoh church

Sisters in Islam is outraged at the event that occurred at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Silibin, Ipoh on November 6, 2006.

Several hundred Muslim protestors from political parties and Muslim NGOs gathered outside the church, reacting to a malicious SMS rumour that had been widely circulated. The SMS received by one SIS member alleged that the Mufti of Perak had disclosed that approximately 600 Muslim students of the Ungku Omar Polytechnic who had converted to Christianity were to be baptized by Datuk Azhar Mansor. The SMS also claimed that the protest was organized by NGOs, ‘demi agama’ (for the sake of religion).

None of this proved to be true.

We are sorry that the intimidating actions of a small, ill-informed group of Muslims have caused fear and anxiety amongst fellow Malaysians. The despicable act of writing and forwarding the SMS itself was designed to sow hatred and ill-will, as was the mobilizing of the crowd outside the church. Islam, as with other religions, does not in any way condone any form of violence. We are therefore gravely disappointed that the actions of some Muslims have not only brought the religion into disrepute but have caused harm to other Malaysians.

We note that this is yet another incident in a regressive and damaging trend where individuals and groups have deliberately used religion to drive a wedge between the different ethnic groups in the country. This includes:

  • In Feb 2006, the Mufti of Perak, Dato’ Seri Haji Harussani Haji Zakaria, claimed that 250,000 Muslims (of which 100,000 were Malays) had apostatized themselves, while 100,000 more had submitted applications to do so. To date, he has not been able to substantiate these claims, except to merely state that these were obtained from “reliable sources”.

    In June of 2006, the Mufti of Perak also said that joint celebrations, such as KongsiRaya can erode the faith of Muslims.

    In Harakah (1-15th Nov 2006) Nasharuddin Mat Isa, Deputy President of PAS claimed that there was a ‘concerted plot to convert Malays to the religion of their ancestors’, i.e. Hinduism. He too, like the Mufti of Perak, has not substantiated his claims and one can only conclude that these inflammatory statements are designed to breed contempt against certain sectors of the community.

    The continued false malicious lies spread about Article 11 and the proposed Interfaith Commission, two initiatives that aim to protect every person equally, regardless of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender. While Article 11 statements are no longer carried by the press due to the gag order, some mainstream papers continue to carry statements put out by intolerant Islamist NGOs and political parties that promote divisive politics. These groups have fuelled fear amongst Muslims that they are somehow under siege, and that they must organize to ‘protect the religion’. These groups have also used mosques, suraus and Government religious machinery to perpetuate alarmist disinformation.

    In October 2006, an e-mail was issued by Takaful Malaysia’s Syariah department head Fauzi Mustaffa forbidding Muslims to wish Hindu clients and friends ‘Happy Deepavali’. Threats were also made against whoever spoke up against their intolerant position. Haji Ahmad Awang (Information Chief of PAS) was also quick to point out that the fatwa against well wishing during religious festivals has been around for 20 years.

Numerous other reports add to this – parents not being able wear sleeveless clothes to their children’s schools, non-Muslim school children being told they cannot bring ‘wet food’ to school, and many more.

We urge the authorities to take this matter seriously and investigate the individuals and groups that have deliberately tried to sow hatred and racial ill-will in this country. Further we urge them to take measures to halt this trend before it becomes the undoing of a nation that has strived to provide a space for all Malaysians.