Sunday IncidentLeft : Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Silibin
Sunday November 5, 2006, like all Sundays in Ipoh, would have passed into oblivion had it not been for a text message (SMS) sent through the mobile phones by some irresponsible individuals. The message alleged that national mariner, Datuk Azhar Mansor, would lead a group of 600 Muslim students from Politeknik Ungku Omar to a baptism ceremony at the Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Silibin on that fateful Sunday.
The result was a near riot. A large crowd gathered in front of the church gates with some carrying placards denouncing Mansor. The crowd could get ugly so the Police moved in. The presence of Federal Reserve Unit personnel, who formed a buffer between the church and the crowd, had a calming effect on the congregation which had gathered in the church to witness the first Holy Communion for 98 Indian children of the local parish.
According to witnesses a few from the unruly crowd had scaled the church gates and entered the church compound to seek out Datuk Mansor and the Muslim students. “Simply inconceivable,” said Reverend Robin Arumugam. Robin is an Anglican priest and has been active with his parish at Kem Syed Putra (Tambun Camp). He conducts Sunday mass with the small Christian community in the camp. The majority of whom are Sarawakians serving with the resident battalion of the camp - the Second Battalion RoyalRanger Regiment. “It’s difficult to baptise six let alone six hundred new converts. And being a Muslim country such claim is definitely unbelievable,” he added. The ceremony, according to Robin, was for the benefit of the Indian children who were from the local parish.
A priest from Kuala Lumpur was present to perform the Holy Communion. “How can people be so easily led into believing rumours? It is so baffling.” Robin was visibly shaken by the whole episode. He shook his head in disbelief. The fear is being shared by many peace-loving Malaysians who are beginning to see the ugly side of religious intolerance. Religious bigotry is slowly but surely making inroads and in the process help to erode the fabric of our society. If left unchecked it will fester and will come to haunt us in the future. We must not allow religious tensions to divide us.Text Message
So how did the incident happen in the first place? Sometime in February this year the Mufti of Perak, Datuk Seri Harusanni Zakaria
, commented that apostasy among Malay Muslims had reached alarming proportions and he implored the government, especially the Religious Development Department (JAKIM), to act before it became problematic.
He alleged that over 100,000 Malay Muslims had renounced their religion and had converted to Christianity. He repeated it during sermons at the state mosque.Left : .........the Mufti of Perak, still walking and blameless ????- edit
On October 21, 2006, the Mufti received a SMS from a woman claiming that a group of Muslims would be baptised at a church in Silibin on Sunday, November 5, 2006. The woman and her husband came to his house the following day to confirm the message that she sent. She claimed to have studied at the International Islamic University and the Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Upon her return from Egypt she did social work with missionaries and had converted to Christianity. She, however, returned to Islam. Harusanni video taped the second meeting with the lady whom he said was from Sungei Patani. He handed a copy of the tape to the Police to help them with their investigation.
The Chief Police Officer ofPerak, DCP Datuk Abdul Aziz Bulat, had identified the lady as Raja Sherina who also went by the names of Raja Norasshikin Raja Azman and Shireen. Raja Sherina could not be found in her house in Sitiawan and Sungei Patani and was believed to have gone into hiding. Her picture was displayed on national TV on Monday evening, November 20, 2006 and in the print media on Tuesday, November 22, 2006.
The police chief had made good his promise to circulate her picture if she failed to contact the police. Raja Sherina, unemployed, is in her 40s and wears a tudung. She was arrested in front of the Alor Star General Hospital at 9.30pm, Monday, November 20,2006 together with her husband.PM’s Response
The incident had prompted a response from no less a person than the Prime Minister himself. Datuk Seri Abdulah Badawi, in his opening speech at the Umno General Assembly on Wednesday, November 15, 2006 touched on the issue of religious intolerance among a small group of Muslims who questioned long-accepted cultural practices like greeting other Malaysians on occasion of their festivals and joint open houses. “These same groups,” said the PM, “are conjuring imaginary threats aimed atinciting Muslims hoping that they (Muslims) will become more intolerant of others.
Their agenda is to see Malaysia torn apart for us to fail as a multi-racial, multi-religious nation. This is not Islam.” The PM cited the incident in Ipoh as an example. He wondered why were claims made without basis such as the mass baptism of Muslims and the purported formation of the Malay Christian Association. He also alluded to the claim made regarding thousands of Malay Muslims who had become apostates. “But when the lies are exposed those who create them scurry into hiding nowhere to be seen and not even attempting to rectify the situation or to calm things down.” Although no names were mentioned we all knew to whom it was directed at.Azhar’s Admission
The man at the centre of the controversy, Datuk Azhar Mansor, finally came out in the open to quash rumours of his conversion to Christianity. For all intents andpurposes he is still a Muslim. He declared this during the closing stages of the Umno General Assembly. And what an effect it had on the general public and his detractors, in particular. Azhar came to prominence after he sailed solo around the world between February 2 to August 11, 1999. According to Azhar rumours of his conversion began circulating upon his return from his historic journey. He had dismissed it initially but it took a turn for the worst. The Silibin church incident was a blessing in disguise of sorts. “Now the authorities can investigate the truth behind these rumours,” he said.
Azhar said he could not have done what was said in the text message, as he was working at the yacht marina at Telaga Harbour in Langkawi. He has been working at the marina for the past four years. During a press conference at PWTC on Friday, November 17, 2007, Azhar explained that his work required him to spend time with many people including the orang putih (Caucasians). “When I am seen mixing with the orangputih people say I am not a Muslim. This is uncalled for.” He hit back at reporters telling them not to assume that when one wore a pair of shorts he was not a Muslim. “If a person wears a pair of shorts or sits at the kedai kopi, it’s his choice. I have my own responsibilities to Allah. Please don’t question my faith.” And now that Azhar has made an open admission regarding the sanctity of his faith the matter should be laid to rest but will it end here?
This is a million dollar question. Many, however, are still not convinced and feel that Azhar’s revelation is still far from the truth. Perception differs with people but to a small group of illinformed Muslims they have their very own agenda. They think they can bring changes by being vocal and disruptive. How wrong can they be?Wake-up Call
Hopefully, the incident in front of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Silibin on the morning of Sunday, November 5, 2006 will be a wakeup call for all Malaysians. We should not take one another for granted. The majority must respect the beliefs of the minority, after all that was the basis our founding fathers had worked on when they forged this great nation. Rumour mongering, as evident from this episode, is harmful for our society. To the disruptive few this quote by Thomas Jefferson should prick their conscience. “It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty Gods or no God.” by Lt Col Fathol (Rtd) Zaman Bukhari in the Ipoh Echo