Political Parties, Leaders Continue to Slam PAS MP over Bible-Related Statements

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Sarawak government and the component parties in Gabungan Parti Sarawak urged to reject PAS over their complete disregard and disrespect for Sarawak’s Christian community and to cease any form of co-operation with PAS in the Perikatan Nasional government.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Sarawak has slammed Pasir Puteh MP Nik Muhammad Zawawi Nik Salleh for saying that the “Bible has been corrupted or manipulated”.

Its State Leadership Council member Josephine Mawat said the statement uttered by the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) member of parliament was totally unacceptable and an insult to the Christians.

Hence, she said PKR Sarawak urged Zawawi to immediately retract his statement and make a public apology to all Christians.

“Such a blatant disregard for the beliefs of other races and religions has no place in a multi-cultural Malaysia.

“It also goes against the spirit of Malaysia’s Independence and Merdeka which emphasised mutual respect, tolerance and harmony amongst all communities,” she said in a press statement in Miri last night.

Josephine said PKR Sarawak also called on the Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun to use Standing Order 36(10)(c) to take disciplinary action against Zawawi and order him to apologise as the statement is deemed a grave insult to the religious belief of all Christians.

“We call on the Sarawak government and the component parties in Gabungan Parti Sarawak to also reject PAS over their complete disregard and disrespect for Sarawak’s Christian community and to cease any form of co-operation with PAS in the Perikatan Nasional government with immediate effect,” Josephine added.

In Kota Kinabalu, Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Jeffrey Kitingan said he was not among the first to respond to the PAS MP’s remarks as he believed doing so would only make the situation worse.

Kitingan, who is the Keningau MP, said he was in a quandary over whether to respond to Zawawi’s remarks as he believed that a Malaysian’s belief or faith should not be made political fodder.

“Religion should not be politicised,” he said in a statement.

“In Sabah, we live peacefully despite being a multi-ethnic (society) and with a multi-belief system.

Bernama

“We view our religions as teachings of peace and not used as instruments of hate. Therefore, his action has left us utterly perplexed.”

Referring to a statement by Warisan treasurer-general Terrence Siambun, Kitingan said Siambun was right when he said there was no need to engage Zawawi in a dialogue.

“As a leader and lawmaker, upholding peace and law of the land is paramount. And I had hoped to be able to address this behind closed doors to spare Malaysians the irreversible feelings of resentment and suspicion it will no doubt cast on our citizens of various races and religions. This is a divisive issue.

“Article 3 (1) and Article 11 (1) guarantees every citizen of the Malaysian Federation the right to religious freedom, as well as to practise their respective faith in peace and free from prejudice and threats.

“Article 11(5) makes exception to these rights when they threaten public order, such as making seditious statements or hurting the sensitivity of a group of people,” he said.

Last week, Zawawi had alleged in the Dewan Rakyat that biblical injunctions about drinking alcohol had been “distorted or altered”, and that the Bible had formerly outlawed the consumption of alcohol.

Yusof Mat Isa

His remarks brought protests from politicians in Sabah and Sarawak, and a Sarawak archbishop who called for a retraction and an apology. A sedition report was also filed against Zawawi in Kuching.

The Sabah Council of Churches (SCC) also slammed Zawawi for his comments and called for a reprimand and investigation for sedition.

Describing the statements as “unacceptable,” SCC president Rev Bishop James Wong said it is sad and disappointing to hear his comments especially during the nation’s 63rd Merdeka Day celebrations where Malaysians have been celebrating its strength and unity in its diversity.

“He has not only erred in his facts but in doing so he has crossed the line of decency, let alone honour and respect for fellow citizens and human beings,” he said, expressing particular dissatisfaction at Zawawi’s attempt at apology by saying Christians had no right to be offended because it was a fact that the Bible has been distorted.

Having deeply offended the Christians in Malaysia with his statement, Wong asked for Zawawi to issue an unreserved apology and retract the statements he made in and outside Parliament.

“We also ask that the government of the day issue a reprimand to YB Pasir Puteh for issuing such disrespectful and insensitive statements offending the Christian communities and initiate an investigation into the seditious statements made by YB Pasir Puteh which have hurt the feelings of other races and the Christian communities, which may stir up negative feelings among the different religious communities in Malaysia,” he said.

Yesterday, Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) chairman Archbishop Julian Leow said Zawawi’s party, PAS, as a member of the government, should denounce his behaviour while the authorities should investigate his “offensive conduct”.

Leow said, to date, no action has been taken to rein in and admonish Zawawi for his divisive and incendiary remarks.

“It is an outrage that an MP who sits on the government bench shows little concern for the need to rebuild the nation but instead, intentionally promotes feelings of ill will and hostility on the grounds of religion in a significant segment of the population,” Leow said in a statement representing CFM’s executive committee.

Faihan Ghani/The Star

“In trampling with shocking audacity on the sacred and holy word of God, the Pasir Puteh MP showed a reprehensible disrespect for not only for his fellow Malaysians who are Christians, but also for all the efforts of our forefathers in forging peoples of diverse creeds, colour and cultures into a peace-loving and harmonious nation,” Leow added, calling Zawawi’s remarks an “affront to the utmost”.

He said Zawawi had “belittled” Christian scripture with his remarks in Dewan Rakyat.