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PAS discusses inter-faith ties with Catholic leaders

JOHOR – Several PAS leaders met leaders of the Malacca-Johor Catholic Diocese on 21 August 2017 to discuss issues related to religious harmony in Malaysia, including the recently passed amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.

This marked the inaugural meeting between the PAS political leaders and the Malacca Johore Diocese under the leadership of Bishop Bernard Paul.

Chairman of Lajnah Dakwah PAS Central, YB Nik Mohamad Abduh bin Nik Abdul Aziz commenced the dialogue session by introducing his delegation and explaining the misunderstanding regarding the PAS party using religion for political gain. When explaining the objectives of Lajnah Dakwah PAS Central, he said that politics cannot be a priority when religion is directed towards maintaining the welfare of the citizens. PAS Central is aware of this and rejects conflicts caused by political differences amongst the Muslim community. At the same time, it is also building relationships between PAS and the non- Muslim community.

YB Nik Abduh quoted a Quranic verse Surah Al-Maidah 5:82 to explain the main intention of their visit to MAJODI Centre as a beginning. “You will find the nearest in love to the believers who say: ‘We are Christians.’”

Bishop Bernard Paul introduced the invitees to those representing the Diocese and the representatives of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Taoism (MCCBCHS). He briefed the guests on the history and formation of MAJODI Centre and presented demographical facts of the diocese.

Father Edward Rayappan introduced Shaykh Imran Angullia, who is actively in dialogue with the diocese through Hidayah Centre, Johor.

While there are differing doctrines between Islam and Christianity regarding Jesus (Isa), Hj Hussin Ismail, the Permanent Chairman of PAS Central said that a Muslim is not regarded a faithful if he does not place Jesus in the highest position of honour. In fact, all of mankind awaits Jesus’ return. He shared that Prophet Zulkifli had similarities with the Buddha from his experiences in Nepal.

During the exchange of views session, many matters of concern were raised, from religious unity to legal and political issues.

Calvin Ohsey, a staff from the Diocesan Ministry of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, questioned PAS’ action in raising Act355 (RUU355) that stifled the discussion on Hudud and the position of the non- Muslim community under Syariah law.

In answer to the question, YB Nik Abduh assured all present that the Syariah Court Act (Criminal Jurisdiction) 1965 – Act 355 is applicable to Muslims only. He reiterated that the issue is related to the Enactment of Syariah Criminal Code 1993, amended in 2015 but was not implemented subject to Act 355. To enable the implementation of the Enactment in Kelantan, Act 355 has to be amended according to the democratic process in the House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat).

Commenting on Act 355 which is said to open the way to full implementation of hudud laws, YB Nik Abduh said the Act was intended to bolster Syariah laws. In observing the circumstances in Malaysia, Act 355 cannot be fully implemented without the agreement of Malaysian citizens in general.

Sister Susan Dulang SSFS, as Head of the Diocesan Bahasa Malaysia Ministry, voiced her concern regarding the issue of seized Bibles, using the term “Allah” and other religious restrictions on the Christian community and asked PAS to state its stand.

In reply to Sr Susan, YB Nik Abduh mentioned that Islam does not forbid the Christian faithful from using “Allah.” All related issues originated from the irregularities in implementing Islamic law. The Islamic religion forbids such intolerant actions. He promised Sr Susan he will look into the matter with the government, if the opportunity arises.

Father Thomas George asked regarding the Law Reform (Marriage & Divorce) Act 1976 (Act 164). YB Nik Abduh emphasised PAS’ firm stand to bring all stakeholders, namely, the government, both the ruling and opposition politicians, including eminent religious scholars, for discussions before tabling the amendment in parliament as the matter is complicated because it involves religion and children’s custody rights. When Act 164 amendment was brought before Parliament, PAS objected because it contradicted Section 88A and opposed the Federal Constitution regarding Islam.

In concluding the dialogue session, Bishop Bernard stated that the roles of leaders of political parties and religious leaders are vital towards ensuring that the prosperity and harmony of society are preserved. He continued, “We must always ensure that our loyalty is to one law only and that is the law of love, the law of our Lord God. Religion, when practised well, benefits everyone; it protects the rights of the minorities, builds bridges and includes everyone and we enjoy blessings from our Lord God.” –

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