Thursday, February 4, 2010

Reason for not setting up Interfaith Commission unconvincing

On January 30, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said that the Govern­ment had ruled out forming a commission for formalised inter-religious dialogues, preferring to rely on ad hoc discussions.

This was because there were currently no major religious issues that warranted the setting up of an inter-faith commission (IFC), he said.

His announcement came as a surprise as it was only two weeks ago that he had acknowledged that it was time to set up an inter-faith council to reach a mutual understanding of religious matters.

“We need to develop a format whereby representatives of the different religious groups in the country can sit down together to reach a common understanding,” he had told reporters on January 17.

So why the backtracking two weeks later?

His ground that there are no major religious issues that warrant the setting up of such IFC is totally unconvincing .

Is he so unaware of the existence of many issues or is he taking the position that the existing issues are just not major issues?

The Deputy Prime Minister should know that the major arguments for the setting up of a formal IFC are firstly, that mutual dialogue will help promote better understanding and thus help resolve issues and secondly , that a formal set up will be bestowed with the authority to make decisions.

He should also realise that an informal set up will not be given the necessary attention and seriousness since it was recently revealed by the former president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism, Datuk Vaithilingam that the Inter Religious Committee had not met for a year .

Vaithlingam had urged the Prime Minister to ask the Minister in charge of national unity to reconvene the committee.

Can Muhyiddin explain why the informal Committee failed to meet for a year?

I do not see how a government which claims to be serious in wanting to promote religious dialogues can justify its refusal to set up a formal Interfaith Commission.

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