Global interfaith conference to be held in Malaysia now axed!

Sad,sad,sad. AAB at first banned all interfaith discussions organised by local NGOs; he now turns to interfaith conference jointly organised by international organisations and the Council of Churces of Malaysia? What is Islam Hadhari all about, Datuk Seri AAB?

Global interfaith confab banned at eleventh hour

Soon Li Tsin
May 10, 07 5:17pm
Malaysiakini
A Muslim-Christian interfaith conference scheduled to take place in Malaysia in two weeks’ time has been banned by the government.Britain’s Times newspaper reported that the Building Bridges conference, the sixth in a series intended to foster dialogue between the two religions was cancelled with just a two-week notice. Slotted to attend the three-day conference were Christian and Muslim scholars who had “bought air tickets, written papers and begun to pack their bags” as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams who was scheduled to chair the conference.“Although the Malaysian government allowed Dr Williams into the country to preach at the consecration of a new Anglican bishop, it said that it would not permit the interfaith dialogue to take place,” the report said.Meanwhile, the Archbishop’s secretary for interfaith relations Canon Guy Wilkinson who spent nine months organising the Malaysian conference said that he hoped that it would still take place, albeit in another country.

“All the papers will be used in other ways. The situation (in Malaysia) is delicate. A whole series of inter-religious cases are in front of the court and awaiting judgement.

“The view was that it would be better not to have an international gathering of Muslims and Christians at the moment in that context,” he was quoted as saying.

He cited the case of Lina Joy, whose birth name is Azlina Jailani, who has filed an appeal to have the word “Islam” removed from her identity card as she has become a Christian.

Her case is still pending judgement in the Federal Court.

Litmus test

Glasgow University’s Centre for the Study of Islam director Professor Mona Siddiqui, who was also due to attend, expressed her disappointment over the government’s decision to cancel the conference.

“These conferences are important on many levels. Malaysia would have been a litmus test to see how the mix of different religions and different ethnicities worked.

“I do not know exactly what happened, except there was contention at the highest level in Malaysia,” she reportedly said.

The Building Bridges conference – set up in the wake of the Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks in the USA – attempts to find theological understandings that might help prevent future terrorist attacks.

The annual get-together of Christian and Muslim academics first took place at Lambeth Palace in London six years ago and was subsequently held in New York, Qatar and Sarajevo.

The Council of Churches of Malaysia general secretary Rev Dr Herman Shastri declined to comment on the matter and said the organisation will be issuing a statement on the matter tomorrow.

5 Responses to “Global interfaith conference to be held in Malaysia now axed!”

  1. ronnieliutiankhiew Says:

    ‘Confusion’ reigns in interfaith meet ban
    May 11, 07 11:54am Malaysiakini

    The Council of Churches of Malaysia is confused over the government’s sudden cancellation of a Muslim-Christian interfaith conference scheduled to take place this week.

    Its general secretary Rev Dr Hermen Shastri (right) said in a statement today that “we are as much confused as the organisers of the London office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, as to the sudden withdrawal of the endorsement and support by the Malaysian authorities for holding the Building Bridges seminar in Kuala Lumpur.”

    He was responding to a report in Britain’s Times newspaper that said the Building Bridges conference was cancelled with just a two-week notice.

    The Building Bridges Global Interfaith Seminar was scheduled for May 7-11 whereby over 30 world renowned Islamic and Christian scholars and theologians will deliberate under the theme, “Humanity in Context: Christian and Muslim perspectives on being human”.

    Hermen said that the Prime Minister’s Office and other Islamic institutions had welcomed such a seminar after the idea was mooted a year ago.

    “Representatives of the Archbishop’s Office for Interfaith Relations received a warm reception from the Prime Minister’s Office and other Islamic institutions.

    “(They welcome) such a seminar as consistent with the government’s emphasis on encouraging civilizational and interfaith dialogue to foster and build mutual respect and understanding between the world’s religions,” he said.

    Rowan’s first visit

    The conference was to coincide with the first visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams to the Anglican Church of Malaysia. He was also slotted to chair the three-day conference.

    However, Hermen revealed that “for unknown reasons”, the organisers received formal word from the authorities that support for the seminar has been withdrawn.

    “The council is at a loss as to the reasons why the authorities have withdrawn support at such a late stage.

    “(We) had hoped that such a seminar would have gone a long way in pursuing the path of respectful dialogue and strengthens our country’s claim to be a viable venue to host such global interfaith dialogues,” he said.

    The council is currently appealing to the government to review its decision and offer the organisers an alternative date when the said seminar could be held in Malaysia.

    The Building Bridges conference – set up in the wake of the Sept 11, 2001 terror attacks in the USA – attempts to find theological understandings that might help prevent future terrorist attacks.

    The annual get-together of Christian and Muslim academics first took place at Lambeth Palace in London six years ago and was subsequently held in New York, Qatar and Sarajevo.

    “The council reaffirms its commitment to building peace through interfaith dialogue (and) will continue to support the prime minister’s vision and efforts to nurture and strengthen Malaysia as a model nation of harmonious living between cultures and religions,” Hermen added.

  2. ronnieliutiankhiew Says:

    Shame on you, AAB. We demand an explanation on the u-turn decision from your department. Your administration has tarnished the image of Malaysia. we now become a laughing stock in the eyes of world.

  3. ronnieliutiankhiew Says:

    Confab ban: ‘Nobody taking responsibility’
    Fauwaz Abdul Aziz and Soon Li Tsin
    May 11, 07 6:39pm Adjust font size:

    It’s a case of ‘running around in circles’ and ‘passing the buck’ as far as one organiser of the cancelled Building Bridges conference in Kuala Lumpur is concerned.

    Professor Emeritus Dr Osman Bakar claimed today that the authorities are passing the buck on the cancellation of the Muslim-Christian inter-faith conference with nobody willing to take responsibility for the debacle.

    Academician Osman, appointed by the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury to be among the prime movers in Malaysia of the annual conference, said in his search for answers behind the cancellation he has been passed from one office to another.

    “I feel sad because I’ve been trying to contact several people in the government to get first-hand sources what it is really and why it has been cancelled, but I’ve not been able to get a clear picture of why the government has cancelled it,” said Osman when contacted today.

    Directed to Ikim

    “Nobody really wants to take responsibility over this and to explain why this has been cancelled,” added Osman, who is attached with the Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation.

    Osman, who has participated in the Building Bridges conferences since it was initiated in the wake of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in the US, said he contacted the office of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as soon as he got wind of the cancellation.

    He was then directed to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdullah Mohd Zin, and was told that the minister had discussed with the premier and they both agreed that the event should not take place.

    He was told, however, to refer to the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) for further details, as Ikim was directed to pick up the matter with the Archbishop’s Office in the UK.

    Even then, however, Ikim was only willing to say they had been tasked with conveying the news of the conference’s cancellation but was not involved in the decision, said Osman.

    “I can only suspect that there are some people who do not support the idea of the seminar. This is what saddens me, because this conference is a good thing (for inter-faith understanding),” he said.

    Osman, internationally respected as a scholar on Islamic thought and civilisation, said he doesn’t believe the cancellation was – as portrayed by the British Times newspaper that first reported the cancellation – due to tensions arising from several inter-religious cases currently in the courts.

    He also said there was no possibility of sensitive issues being raised during the discussions – which are not open to the public.

    Seminar not open to all

    The conference deliberations are rather abstract in nature and focus on such issues as humanity, the environment, ethnic and cultural pluralism and plural identity and the contribution of the Bible and Quran to such discussions, he said.

    “Building Bridges is not an open seminar where any Tom and Harry can raise any issues that they like. The organisers are very aware of the sensitive issues,” said Osman.

    The prime minister himself seems to have supported the dialogue between Christian and Muslim scholars taking place in Malaysia when the idea was first mooted to him, said Osman.

    “There must have been some other people, I suppose, who have come to know about the program and feel that it should not have been held,” said Osman.

    Meanwhile, Council of Churches of Malaysia’s general secretary Dr Hermen Shastri said he regretted the double standards suggested by the conference cancellation.

    “There has been so many conferences by Muslims held in this country from the most liberal to the most radical and nobody say anything about them,” he added.

    Bishop of the Anglican Church in West Malaysia Canon Ng Moon Hing also expressed his disappointment over the seminar cancellation.

    Minister Abdullah Mohd Zin, who also heads the Department of Islamic Development, and Ikim director-general Syed Taufiq Al-Attas could not be immediately reached for comments.

  4. vt Says:

    Let the world now knows that AAB does not practice what he preaches, such as telling the world that malaysia is a multi race and faith country with strong tolerence for each others, i hope all country and faith involves wil be peed off big time. This way, Malaysia will be in international spotlight again

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