Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Inter-faith panel’s talks postponed indefinitely

All talks between non-Muslim religious leaders and their Muslim counterparts mooted by the Cabinet’s inter-faith panel have been put on hold, the Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) said today.

Its president, Reverend Thomas Philips said the inter-faith panel chief, Datuk Ilani Isahak, has postponed all scheduled meetings between the two religious communities until the controversy over Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s “small fry” remark, meant to describe the panel members, has been cleared up.

“I understand from Datuk Ilani the meeting has been postponed. She said she’s waiting for my greenlight,” Philips told The Malaysian Insider this morning.

The MCCBCHST was due to join a sub-committee comprising representatives from the government’s National Unity and Intergration Panel (NUIP), the Islamic Development Department (Jakim), the Malaysian Insititute of Islamic Understanding (Ikim) and other Muslim groups at two separate talks today to draw up ground rules to ensure a smooth discussion on how to deal with the number of growing inter-religious conflicts affecting Malaysia in the last 20 years.

The first, to talk about arranging a formal annual meeting between religious leaders and the prime minister was scheduled to start at 10am.

A second discussion by a separate sub-committee on the propagation of religion and use of religious terminology at 2.30pm today has also been called off.

Philips added the non-Muslim religious body will not take part in any further talks arranged by the Cabinet committee to promote inter-religious understanding and harmony until it hears directly from the minister-in-charge, Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon or Muhyiddin.

The DPM caused an uproar yesterday when he reportedly dismissed the religious leaders peopling the panel as “small fry” while trying to soothe fears among a Malay rights movement over the status of Islam, the nation’s official religion.

“We want them to reassure us that the government is serious about promoting national unity,” said Philips.

“He has not said a thing,” he added.

Malaysian Hindu Sangam vice-president Dr  Bala Tharmalingam echoed the same.

“We’re really sincere towards the Cabinet committee. We’re thankful to them for setting it up. It was started in good spirits but we just want a clarification if this exercise, which is very important for national unity, is necessary and if they are committed,” he said, when contacted over the phone.

“We can’t afford to waste our time,” Dr Bala added.

courtesy of Malaysian Insider

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