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Monday, September 1, 2008

Can Malaysia be a nation at peace with itself?

I find the first few paragraphs of this article inspiring and heart-warming, and will link it here for future reference - http://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/11984/1/

I WAS pleasantly surprised to discover that Georgetown University has a full-time Muslim chaplain among its campus ministry staff. Imam Yahya Hendi heads a chaplaincy programme that provides religious services and support to Muslim members of the university, while also serving as the spokesperson of the Islamic Jurisprudence Council of North America.

There is a Muslim prayer room in Copley Hall, where the five daily obligatory prayers are held, while on Fridays Salatul Jum’ah is held in the main students’ building, the Leavey Center.

That the faith life of Muslim students and faculty members should be as much a concern of the university as that of Christian, Jewish or Hindu members of the academic community in Georgetown is seen by its administration as obvious and unremarkable. Georgetown University seems to be a community at peace with itself, able to accommodate within its Catholic origins what it describes as a “centred pluralism” that respects and engages the various religious and humanist perspectives and traditions of members of the university community.

Although Catholic in origin, Georgetown University provides ample worshipping spaces for its multi-religious body, including the Muslim prayer room in Copley Hall (Pic by Aloysious Mowe)

Halfway across the world, in the land of Islam Hadhari, the Catholic Students’ Society at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia has been refused permission by the university’s administration to hold meetings of Catholic students on the campus of UKM Bangi during the 2008/2009 academic year.

The students were told in a letter dated 21 July 2008 that programmes and activities of only the “official religion” may be held within the campus of the university. (Seng comment: This is very dissappointing, even though I'm neither a Christian nor a Muslim. The "official religion" should not be synonymous with the "only religion". If we are truly at peace with ourselves, what is so wrong to allow every religion to hold their own meetings? If the intention is to not allow every religion, then, the 21 July 2008 letter should not refer to "official religion" as a reason to reject. Otherwise, the only logical conclusion is that this is discriminatory in favor of one religion over others.) The letter was signed by Shahruddin Ahmad, the director of UKM’s Pusat Perkembangan Pelajar, the Centre for Students’ Advancement. The irony, we can be certain, is entirely unintended.

That there should be no room in our universities for non-Muslim students to explore and deepen their faith is just one indication, 51 years after its attaining independence, of how far Malaysia is from being a nation at peace with itself.

For the rest of the article, click on the link above.

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