By Ivy Chai
KUCHING (3 September) — The reaction to the recent remarks by PAS MP Nik Mohammad Zawawi Bin Haji Salleh on the Holy Bible appears to be escalating with many multi-religious communities springing to defend freedom and respect for other religions.
Chairman of the Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS), Archbishop Simon Poh was one of the first Christian leaders to issue a statement demanding an apology and retractment of the statements in Parliament.
In an interview with ASTRO AEC TV, Archbishop Simon Poh reiterated his stand for the Pasir Puteh MP to acknowledge his misconception. Below is a translation of the Chinese news recording carrying the interview.
ASTRO — In order to prevent the occurrence of accidents caused by drink-driving, the Minister of Transport had announced earlier that they are going to table the Road Transport (Amendment) Bill 2020 (“the said Bill”) in Parliament to propose stiffer penalties for drink-driving offences.
However on 26 August, two days before the 14th Dewan Rakyat Parlimen adjourned, a member of Parliament from PAS Pasir Puteh, YB Nik Muhammad Zawawi Bin Haji Salleh crossed the line and made a sensitive religious statement when debating on the said Bill which has caused controversy and led to criticism.
Nik Zawawi stated that according to his research-study in comparative religion, it is not only Islam that banned Muslim from consuming alcohol but other religions as well, including Christianity. He said before the Bible was “distorted or altered” (dipesong atau diubah), Jesus prohibits his followers to consume alcohol, and it doesn’t matter whether it is excessive or not.
The statement he made has sparked criticism and triggered religious sensitivity, thus resulting in disaffection and protest from other religious groups. The Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) then came out with a statement vehemently opposing and condemning YB Zawawi’s false allegation against other religions and urged him to issue a public apology, at the same time demanding him to retract the said statements in Parliament.
Nik Zawawi: Saya kira tidak ada agama sebenarnya yang membenarkan penganutnya untuk minum arak. Tidak ada agama, agama Buddha, agama Hindu, agama-agama ini tidak membenarkan termasuk kalau dalam agama Kristian yang fakta sebelumnya daripada Kitab Injil ini dari dipesongkan atau diubah.
Later in an interview with ASTRO AEC, Archbishop Simon Poh from ACS stressed that such insensitive remarks made by PAS MP has caused Christians to feel insulted and offended, saying he should not stir up any matters touching on religious sensitivity.
AB Simon Poh: I think the remarks that the Bible is distorted and is diverted, is not the true one, and is changed, and for us Christians I believe all Christians will feel that this is very offensive. It is against our most holy book- the Bible.
Archbishop Simon Poh is of the view that the PAS MP should not comment on other religions at his whim and fancy, but Nik Zawawi, who has been accused of disrespecting other religions, in an interview today still holds the view that he has not done anything wrong and declined to apologise. With that, the Archbishop’s response to this is “one’s attitude is more important than an apology”, and that all the people who live together in this land of Malaysia should live harmoniously through mutual respect and acceptance, and Dewan Rakyat Parlimen is the place to solve the problem, not the place to create it.
According to Nik Zawawi, those who think he is wrong should have a dialogue with him on the matter. Archbishop Simon is of the opinion that if one is unable to show mutual respect, it will be difficult to engage in harmonious dialogue, and he lamented that he did not want things to escalate into a matter of religious sensitivity, which could not be stopped or controlled, especially as we are going to celebrate our National Day tomorrow.
AB Simon Poh: Tomorrow is our National Day and in two weeks’ time we have Malaysia Day and we are all Malaysians.
Read also: ACS considers statement by MP Pasir Puteh an insult to Christians, Catholic Bishops join chorus to demand for apology from MP Pasir Puteh, Religious harmony: bedrock for nation’s prosperity and development