PETALING JAYA, Feb 5 — Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom and Tan Sri Joseph Kurup should head a Putrajaya panel to ease escalating religious tensions in Malaysia, an interfaith forum suggested today.
As ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department — in charge of religious affairs and national unity, respectively — both were best-placed to jointly engage stakeholder from different faiths, said the forum.
“Can we have a ‘J and J’ co-chairman, Jamil Khir and Joseph Kurup? Because these are the two ministers in the Cabinet in charge,” said Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, the CEO of the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) Malaysia here.
“[There is] no point in having Joseph Kurup chairing one [discussion] and then Jamil Khir chairing another, I think we need both of them.”
Saifuddin also suggested the possibility of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak himself chairing the discussion.
The former deputy minister made the call in a forum co-chaired by GMM and the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) in conjunction with the World Interfaith Harmony Week.
A total of 65 members representing over 40 organisations of all faiths attended the forum in GMM headquarters today to air their concerns and hope for Malaysia’s religious landscape.
Among the organisations represented were the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), Islamic Renaissance Front, the Malaysian Bar, Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia, and Sisters in Islam.
A recurring theme among the participants were the muted response from Putrajaya against growing religious extremism.
Putrajaya’s commitment for religious moderation was also questioned, as several members criticised it for funding right-wing Muslim or Islamist groups.
Several of the attendees also lamented the lack of interest from Islamic organisations, including the Malaysian Religious Development Department (Jakim) to join interfaith discussions and dialogues.
The recommendations and points from today’s discussion will be presented during NUCC’s second meeting of February 15.
Malaysia is currently grappling with an intractable religious conflict between Muslims and Christians over “Allah”, the Arabic word for God, which culminated in two Molotov cocktails being thrown at a church in Penang on last month, just as how houses of worship were attacked in 2010 over the same issue.
The issue worsened after Selangor Islamic authorities said it would begin enforcing the state enactment that it insists bars non-Muslims from using “Allah”.