Catholic Bishop hails Dr Asri and lauds Morgan

August 26, 2011

Catholic Bishop hails Dr Asri and lauds Morgan

by Terence Netto @

Catholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing today hailed former Perlis mufti Dr. Asri Zainul Abidin as an “emancipator” and lauded nominal Muslim Barry Morgan’s “candor” in the latest round of exchanges on the vexed question of Christian proselytisation of Muslims.

Asri, fast gaining a reputation as a preacher of unconventional depth, chided the authorities for being negligent of the welfare of the Muslim poor, the more desperate of whom, he said, were forced to seek recourse in Christian charity.

Muslim apathy to their poor, said Asri, was what drove some desperate adherents of the faith to apostasy which was then blamed on aggressive Christian proselytisation.

NONEThe issue boiled up on the national horizon after an incursion by Jais on a fundraising dinner in aid of HIV/AIDS victims at the Damansara Utama Methodist Centre on Aug 3.

The presence of 12 Muslims among a crowd of 120 attendees has become a national cause celebre.

In an immediate reaction to Asri’s remarks, Bishop Paul, who is head of Catholics in the diocese of Melaka-Johor, told Malaysiakini:

“When I read what Asri said, I felt the instinctive reaction one poet had for another’s work when he said, ‘I wanted to go to the man that wrote that and say something.’ This from me to Asri would simply be, ‘Thank you, emancipator’.”

Bishop Paul Tan, who is concurrently president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia, elaborated:  “If I were to say what he said, I would expose myself to accusations that I was intruding on Muslim affairs.

NONE“Asri has said what many of us Christians have wanted to say but could not for fear of offending Muslims: that they should look to their poor before accusing us of proselytising.”

The Jesuit-trained prelate added: “I call Asri an emancipator in the same sense of Christ’s description of the truth as that which will set you free. What Asri has said is true and has set Christians free of bondage to a lie: that Christian charity, which is mandated by the faith and rendered to all who are in need, has in some cases led to Muslim apostasy, which some Muslims regard as subversion.

“This is the lie that Asri’s remarks have nailed; hence my calling him emancipator.”’

Candid views by a Muslim

Bishop Paul Tan said he was delighted to read the comments of Malaysiakini reader Barry Morgan, a nominal Muslim, whose disclosure of his difficulties in nurturing an adopted child “helped to shed needed light on the same issue of Christian help to those in need.”

“Morgan’s candor about his and his wife’s difficulties spoke of the pain many feel in their personal journeys of faith in this world and their encounters with people willing to help.

“Morgan’s story illustrates the insight of a saint Catholics revere. This is Francis of Assisi who said that it is in giving that we receive. Christians are encouraged to give because in doing so they feel they receive God’s grace.”

The Bishop concluded: “One can hide truth for a while but not for too long. Truth has a way of rearing its head and coming down hard on the one who hides it.

“I don’t want to go further because it is in the peculiar nature of religion that it becomes feeble in the utterance. So I shall stop here except to once again iterate my salutations to Asri and my respects to Morgan.”

My advice on the issue of proselytisation

by Barry Morgan@
August 25, 2011

COMMENT: My name is Barry Morgan and I’m 85 years old. I am a Malaysian citizen who arrived from England in 1948 just when the Emergency was commencing.

I worked in plantations and at one time owned an estate in Bruas, Perak. Since the time I sold the property in the late 1990s, I have had more time to follow national issues.

The one that preoccupies me these days is apostasy from Islam. In 1964, I married a Muslim and embraced the faith.

My wife and I had four children and we adopted two others, one an Indian girl. We brought her up as a Muslim but when we attempted to obtain an identity card for her in 1983, it was refused.

The officer at the Ipoh Registration Department made a huge fuss and insisted the girl was Indian and Hindu. My wife, who passed away last year, remonstrated but was unsuccessful in shifting the officer.

As a consequence, my adopted daughter was regarded as a Hindu and treated as such in school.  When she was 16 and studying in Kuala Lumpur, she met and married a staunch member of one of the evangelical Christian groups then mushrooming in the Klang Valley.

Her husband worked in a law firm which was owned by an equally fervent member of the same denomination who converted every employee on her payroll.My adopted daughter’s husband was originally a Hindu. His conversion was met with rejection by his family.

My wife and I were unhappy with our adopted daughter’s decision to become a Christian upon marriage but we accepted her right to choose her faith.

Vexed question of proselytisation

The couple had two children before difficulties in the marriage arose. My wife and I were concerned for our adopted daughter and her children.  But our concern was no match for that shown by the members of the church at which the couple worshiped. They rendered the family unstinting support and compassion which had the effect of healing the marriage.

Today my adopted daughter and spouse have three children who are happy to attend church services and live a Christian life of admirable fidelity.

I’m amazed at the support their church gives, not only to them but also to anyone in need, whether it is to unwed mothers, abused wives, children in need of daycare, the jobless, and the sick.

The support is stupendous and frequently rendered by tertiary-qualified women. Their dedication is hugely impressive.

In my occasional interactions with this group of dedicatees, I have tried to tell them they should not try to convert Muslims, the ones who resort to them when they are in need and are much taken by the evangelicals’ dedication to their welfare. The reaction to my advice was a polite silence.

Though I’m Malaysian, I’m British by orientation; I know how the British colonial administration handled this issue in India. They strongly discouraged evangelical clergymen from proselytising Muslim Indians because of the social turbulence it caused.

If the British administrators found evangelicals doing so, the latter would be on the ship back to where they came from.  In India, the mainline Protestant churches and Roman Catholics abided by the stricture against proselytising among Muslim Indians.

But these churches were not discouraged by the British from converting Indians languishing in the nether categories of the Hindu caste system.

The need to show restraint

In Malaya, the British adopted the same attitude: they discouraged Christian proselytisation of Muslims. But recalcitrants from this stricture were almost non-existent – the mainline Protestants and Catholic churches largely adhered to this restriction, subscribing to the tacit social understanding that they should not convert Muslims.

However, evangelical Christianity is a modern-day phenomenon, an importation from the Bible Belt of the United States. They take Jesus’s instruction – “Go and make disciples of all nations” – before his ascension into heaven in deadly earnest.

The Protestants and Catholics won’t attempt to restrain the evangelicals, although they frown on their missionary fervour. This is because the evangelicals would accuse them of being tepid in their faith and oblivious of Jesus’s commandant.

Also, evangelical churches are independent of each other and reject a centralised, hierarchical authority such as the Catholics have and, to a less rigid extent, the Protestants. Hence the attainment and enforcement of consensus among Christians is difficult to bring about.

One finds that on the issue of Christian proselytisation of Muslims there are a host of complexities resistant to easy resolution.

Despite the reluctance of Catholic and Protestant churches, mindful of the recent intrusion by JAIS into the Damansara Utama Methodist Centre, they must persuade the evangelical churches to show restraint on the vexed question of proselytisation.

To fail to do so will only cause uneasiness among Muslims and encourage more interventions by the Muslim authorities.  Finally, the government should take steps to facilitate adoption by Muslims.

23 thoughts on “Catholic Bishop hails Dr Asri and lauds Morgan

  1. Malaysia’s problem is there is too much religion and too much racial politics. You can’t have both.

    Muslims in Malaysia need to be emancipated from the racial politics of UMNO before the country gets any better.

    Meanwhile, some form of restraint must be put on the Christian evangelical movement. If self-regulation cannot be put in place, I think the mainstream Christians should have a good talk at these chaps. These wayward Christians, who adopts a “holier than thou” attitude are out to get divine brownie points from God if they can convert as many people to become Christians.

    I suggest get an atheist to mediate and give a mild tongue-lashing to these characters to put some sense in some of these JAIS-brainwashed Malay Muslims and the evangelical “talk in tongue” Christians.

    These born again Christians and evangelical types including those who feel that it is their duty to “dakwah” must be brought under strict control before they do more harm to our country. I see the mushrooming on new churches as a serious threat to peace and harmony here. Muslim evangelicals too. Religion and all consuming politics are bad for our country.–Din Merican

  2. Proselytisation by christians among muslims ” will only cause uneasiness among muslims . ” – Barry Morgan

    Why should it cause this uneasiness ? What’s so special about Islam?

  3. Kind of strange that the tension between Muslims and Christians heightened after Najib’s visit to the Vatican. What’s the purpose of the visit again?

    Now we have Unit Selamatkan Akidah. Ridiculous name along with a ridiculous raison d’être. Can’t even handle Baitul-Mal and the Zakat bodies and they want to start something similar to those two. Brilliant I tell you. Just brilliant.
    Didi, our Prime Minister has lost the plot. He is not in control of the ship; other forces including black magic are at work. Vibrations are not good. Najib’s visits to see the Pope and the Queen of England are politically motivated. Both His Holiness and Her Majesty are just being polite and proper to see the Prime Minister of Malaysia and FLOM. I don’t think his assurances were taken seriously by them. Najib is not a statesman.–Din Merican

  4. Why should it cause this uneasiness ? Whats so special about Islam?

    sunshine – August 26, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    What’s so special? Islam has been given a special status in the country’s Constitution. Go read the Constitution. It is part of the bargain, part of what you guys like to refer to as the ‘social contract’ and shit.

  5. The Federal Constitution 1957 prohibits the proselytization of Muslims. Period. And then some delusional and deranged politician came along and saw in an obscure provision dealing with terms and definitions an opportunity to keep Malays from changing their religion.

    Ever since the Malays are deemed by law as Muslims.

  6. ” Where ignorance is bliss, its folly to be wise ” – a legacy left by the British when they left : they left apparently glad, but left in ” disgust ” !

    Do we not acknowledge that they had left good apparatus for good governance, that we may govern our nation in a civilised way in our own democratic process….because they, the Westerners themselves had experiences of their own dark periods of turmoil, resulting in their own uprising & deposing their own monarchs in Britain & in France, some centuries earlier ?

  7. In my humble opinion, there is really no necessity for proselytisation, BECAUSE, as long as there are good human values ANYWHERE, we as the human species ought to take them !

    My plea is that THERE IS ONLY ONE MEASURE, OR QUANTUM OF MEASURE, APPLICABLE TO ALL OF HUMAN RACE : TO MEASURE RIGHT FROM WRONG – that is all. Its not about race, creed, colour of the skin or the faith & traditions that we revel in. So, the quantum is one & only…..and, UNIVERSAL

  8. In an earlier thread , someone suggested that Dr. Asri be called upon to replace Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom ,as minister in prime ministers department . It sounds like a good suggestion. Dr. Asri seems to have the ability to quell the disquiet , that this country is experiencing, over matters of religion now .

  9. ” Dr Asri seems to have the ability to quell the disquiet that this country is experiencing , over matters of religion now .” – arokiasamy


    Do you really think UMNO wants someone with this ability ” to quell the disquiet ” over religious matters sitting in Datuk Seri Jamil’s seat ? How do they exploit religion to divide and rule then?

  10. i’d help. if i chose to do so, a living being presently in need, regardless of his/her faith, creed, color. I’d rather deal with it now, and see the positive difference, the smile, the hope given, then worry about an after life merit from God/Allah….this trend of holier, louder, better than thou religion will further tear this bolehland apart. Any1 came back from heaven recently to advise us blur sotongs how much Allah/God had rewarded/is continuing to reward him/her for a fanatical stance on his/her faith when alive? Any1?

  11. Yes i like what you say sang kancil….
    You know this polemics about which is the right Religion has been going on since time immemorial, because everyone has been saying the same thing : Mine, not yours , is the right Religion.
    We have to listen to the wisdom of others too : ” That which suits your own experiences of life is the correct religion for you “

  12. In my humble opinion, there is really no necessity for proselytisation, BECAUSE, as long as there are good human values ANYWHERE, we as the human species ought to take them ! — Abnizar

    There is nothing wrong with taking the high moral ground here.

    But the issue here is there is a law that has found its way into the country’s Constitution, the supreme law of the federation in the form of sub-clause 4 of Article 11.

  13. All there are happening, as Dato Din Merican has correctly pointed out, Najib has lost control of the ship. Indeed, I agree with the observations made by Dato Din, regards the Pope and The Queen. They were just being polite.

    The fact that the Queen chose to wear a yellow dress, when meeting Najib and Rosmah, is, I am sure, intentional. The Queen is one of the most informed persons in the world. She has a particular fondness for Commonwealth countries and is well briefed on the happenings all over the world, Commonwealth countries in particular. In fact,before the Queen meets the any Head of State or Govt., she is completely briefed on the political and economic situation of that country, including British foreign policy towards that country, before she meets them. She is briefed by members of the Foreign Office, and it involves a Commonwealth country, she is briefed by special officers from the Foreign Office and from the Commonwealth Secretariat.

    The Pope is the spiritual head of the Vatican and the Catholics. He is not allowed to get involved in politics and economics. Political and economic issues are handled by a group of people, led by another powerful person, and they are the ones’, that call the shots in the Vatican. They too, are fully briefed on the happenings in any country, anywhere around the globe. And if that country has Catholics, then that country’s leaders are shown a little, for the lack of a better word, I shall borrow from Dato Din, ‘politeness’.

    To me, the Queen and the Vatican have both sent a message to Najib and Malaysia. It’s just that Najib, as with all other things, doesn’t see it. I am a christian, and as far as I am concerned, if the law says so, then the Christians should stop the proselytisation of Muslims. That is the law. The Christians wouldn’t dare do it in China, so why do it in Malaysia. Surely, when the Lord commanded to them to, “Go and make disciples of all nations”, he didn’t want them to break any laws in the country they live in and create a chaotic situation.

    But then, the next question is, what if a Muslim approaches a Christian, and, on his/her own accord, wants to know more about Christianity? He/she may, initially at least, not have the intention to change to the christian faith, but wants to know more. Then, after knowing enough, what if he says that he wants to change to the christian faith? Is a christian supposed to turn him/her away? These issues have been always there.

    These questions are not easily answered. But however, under Najib, these issues, which should be handled behind closed doors, are brought out in the open, resulting in offensive statements being made openly, without considering the feelings of Christians. Najib himself, as he got off the plane, fresh from his visit to the Vatican, issued a threat to the Christians.

    I am of the opinion that, that this division is intentionally caused by Najib, to get Malay votes, and also at the same time, enemies of Najib, to create problems for Najib. Religious issues are the most difficult to handle and settle.

    Earlier this evening, this is what Malaysiakini reported. And I quote:

    “TV3 news on proselytisation fake, says NGO”. An NGO says checks reveal that the dubiously named surau that reportedly protested a Christian tuition centre is non-existent”.
    This is the channel owned by UMNO. And if this proven true, I wonder what the Government would do. Cover up? Deny? Say so what? Form a committee to investigate, so that it can all be stage managed? Oh well.
    There are Muslim evangelicals too, Tim. It takes two hands to clap. There must sense of moderation on both sides. I have made so many comments on actions of our government. All I can say to you is that our government adopts double standards. They should govern in the interest of all Malaysians and stand by the constitution on religious freedom. But politics is about getting votes to stay in power. So politicians play to the gallery for that purpose, that is to get elected.

    You and I are not politicians. We are peace loving citizens. I have cousins who are Catholics and I do not try to convert them. In stead, I respect their beliefs and values and they in turn respect by my choice to be a Muslim. Islam is the official religion, yes but other religions must be protected from harm by extremists, bigots and obscurantists. I respect our constitution.

    Thanks for your contribution and hope to see your comments here on a regular basis. Never be afraid to express an opinion.–Din Merican

  14. In my opinion, whatever that has come out of legal documents like the Fed Constitution, which provides Islam as the Official Religion ( & others can practise their respective Faith in peace ), does not carry with it the further implication to stop muslims making enquries or understanding ther faiths ( comparative ).
    i do agrre though, proselytisation provision given under the law causes difficulties, in the sense that Officialdom has a tendency or propensity to accumulate so much of arbitrary power leading to abuses….. because ONLY they are vested with the right, or absolute right, to determine what’s right & what’s wrong in matters of religion. Religious beliefs & faith are matters of the ” heart ” which is the realm of ” morality “. And, to enforce it by secular or temporal laws is definitely a ” mix-up ” & causes confusion amongst ” religionist”, and given powers under temporal laws, leads to EXTREMISIM by way of Enforcement. Illustration : the case of that INFANTILE JIHADDIST/s. So much so, the entire muslim world have caused DESTRUCTION in the false notion of ” Jihad “.
    Please pardon me, as a muslim myself i personally shudder & dread about our superficial or face-value understanding of this Arabic word ” Syariah “, what more our non-muslim bretheren…..we have a duty to be a little more enlightened..that’s how I feel : not OVERSIMPLIFICATION of religion.

  15. This zeal or fervour to impose ” syariah ” on the world, at all cost….so leading to extremisim…from political religion to militancy…& finally ” terrorism ” !
    See how it goes….the confusion & mix-up in thought-processes….leading to DESIRE (fervour) to earn “martyrdom “, and gain ” paradise ” ! Hence, false ” jihaddists “. One would be lucky, if the ” angel of death ” at the door of heaven will not EVICT him to hell….. for causing mischief on earth & distorting ” God’s laws ” on earth…! May we seek refuge in Heavenly’s grace….
    All because trying to ENFORCE ” Moral laws…” with untold rigidities…

  16. So to people like Tim, it is ok for non-Malays to be free to practice a religion of their choice but not the Malays. And yet there is a clause in the country’s Constitution that says clearly that we are equal before the law.

    Because that is the law of the country? While Islam receives converts (to Islam) it is not ok for converts to Islam to revert to the religion of their birth. It is also a humanitarian rights issue. Does it not mean anything to you – as a Christian?

    Security laws in Malaysia allow for preventive detention without charge and/or trial and is abused by a regime fighting to cling on to power. In a country that prides itself as being democratic, this is an aberration. Just because it is the law it does not mean that we cannot change it.

    You are right to raise the issue that it is not proselytization when a Muslim approaches you to learn more about your Christian faith, like anybody would approach a medical doctor to ask how AIDS has its origin. However you would be proselytizing to a Muslim if you slip in a copy of the Christian Bible into his bag without his knowledge. I do not remember finding bibles in drawers of tables of any hotel in Malaysia That would be proselytization and in Muslim Malaysia that is a no-no.

  17. “Islam is the official religion, yes … ” Din Merican

    No, Islam is not the official religion nor a state religion. It is just simply the “religion of the federation”. Am I splitting hairs here? No.

    The intent was to give a special status to Islam and to safeguard its constitutional position. It is agreed that Islamic (hence Malay) traditional values guide all state ceremonies. This is not to downplay or overlook the influence of Hinduism (and animism) that has crept into Malay Islamic tradition. The Malays were once upon a time Hindus before becoming Muslims.

    When Mahathir in wanting to regain Malay support for himself and his policies, announced that Islam has always been a state religion (and wondered what the fuss and the ruckus was all about) he was just being a politician. The man has little regard for the law.

  18. Islam is the official religion of the federation, no one can argue with it. The other religions have no issues with islam being the official religion. That is the law. There are many acts that are done in accordance with islam being the official religion of Malaysia.

    When you attend any Govt. function, indeed even private ones’, the MC starts off with an islamic parayer, though there are people of other faiths’ present, indeed, when they are in the majority. That is really fine. It’s good to pray and ask God to be present, to bless the occasion and to thank Him for His grace, compassion and mercy. I have no problems with that. I have yet to see a hindu, christian, buddhist, etc. stand up and complain why only an islamic prayer is said, and enquire whether a hindu, christian, buddhist, etc. prayer can also be said.

    Go into any Govt. dept., and you can see words of the koran, framed and hung on the wall. Again, I think that it’s a good thing to be reminded of God’s words whilst working. The hope is that it would invoke a conscientious attitude in these Govt. employees, to serve the public well, though I am not sure it has worked at all. No, I rephrase that, it has not worked at all. I have no problems with that too.

    If you watch RTM 1 and RTM 2, when the time for azan comes, the programme is stopped for a couple of minutes, to have the azan recited. I have no problems with that too.

    In any Govt. function, you will find beef is served alongside other dishes, and it’s against the hindu religion to consume beef, just as it’s against islam to consume pork. The beef is placed just next to another dish, like fish or chicken, and sometimes some selfish and thoughtless muslim people use the same spoon that is used to scoop the beef, to scoop the beef too. I am yet to see a hindu kick up a fuss.

    Though I am a christian, I don’t have any issue listening to a islamic, hindu, buddhist, etc. prayer, or sitting through a set of islamic, hindu, buddhist, etc. set of religious or spiritual rituals.

    Being religious and spiritual, are two very distinct things. I don’t think I should have to explain that.

    All the above proves, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Malaysians have accepted that islam is the official religion of the federation, meaning, the people of the non muslim faith respect and obey the law, well, with regards to islam being the official religion of the federation.

    The constitution also guarantees that other religions can also be freely practiced.

    However, the our muslim brethren have a problem with that. There should not be a cross on a church, all christian paraphernalia should be removed if a muslim is visiting, the name Jesus should not be mentioned, etc.

    Please do take time to read this:

    The people of the non muslim faith have absolutely no guidelines, when visiting his/her muslim friends. The christians are adviced to attend and show & project love.

    A muslim who publicly insults and offends the non muslims (on the pretext of defending islam, as if islam needs to be defended, neither does he/she say why it needs to be defended, or why he/she is the one defending it, or why he/she is only brave to defend islam in Malaysia, and not in other countries, etc.), is immediately hailed as a hero by other muslims, treated like a religious man, wait in line to shake his/her hand, despite the fact that he consumes alcohol, does things, that are not in accordance with islamic teachings. His only qualification of being a muslim is, he condemns all non muslims. A muslim can be a terrible muslim, and is considered so by other muslims, but the moment he condemns the non muslims, he is now considered a true muslim.

    And to make things worse, the Govt. protects him/her.

    This is what Dato Din Merican referred to as, I am sure, as our govt. adopting double standards.

    Dato Din, I am not insulting islam Sir, indeed I respect the faith. But, as a Malaysian, I want, and need to understand, a lot of things. This kind Sir, is one of them.

    I will engage with persons that engage me on issues that I have commented, in an intellectual manner. but I will not respond to those that are offensive and get out of the context.

    What I have written are not generalisations, look around you, and you will note that I have been quite specific. You just need to think, that is all.

    I shall, time permitting, provide more examples.

  19. Mr.Bean,

    I would be the first to admit that if one slips a bible to a muslim, that would be proselytization. However, what if a muslim approaches a christian, and requests for a bible? Would you consider that proselytization too?

    Just curious Sir.

    I am fairly well travelled, and I have been to hotels, not in Malaysia, where the koran and the bible are placed next to each other. I have read the bible, so often I have taken the koran and have read it too.

    Again, as Dato Din has said, there are muslim evangelicals too.

    Believe me, in some countries, even christian countries, the koran is given the same respect as the bible, because, the christians, muslims and the jews are referred to as, “The People of the Book”.

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