|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
|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.
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.