AUG 31, 2020: Malaysia celebrates 63 years of independence today and less than a week ago a remark made in Parliament showed there is still much work to be done in nation-building. An MP from an Islamist party claimed the Bible was “distorted or changed”.
Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh, an elected representative from PAS for Pasir Puteh constituency, said on Wednesday that ‘Kitab Injil ini dipesongkan atau pun diubah’. He was trying to prove a point in his request to the government to look into the sale of liquor in relation to drunk driving cases during a debate on the Road Transport (Amendment) Bill 2020.
Here is a chronology of responses from different groups and individuals to show how the issue is moving.
August 28 – Church leaders, including Catholic Research Centre director Rev Clarence Devadass, said that the Church does not forbid liquor but, instead, condemns intoxication and debauchery. The others who also said this were the Council of Churches Malaysia and Christian Federation of Malaysia.
August 29 – The Association of Churches in Sarawak said Zawawi’s comments were offensive and unacceptable, and that his statement was a direct insult against the Bible. They demanded that he retract his statement and apologise.
August 30 – Parti Bumi Penyalang wants the Sarawak government to rebuke Zawawi and also block him from entering Sarawak for being irresponsible and hurting the feelings of Christians in the country.
August 30 – Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said he had sent a letter to the Dewan Rakyat speaker asking him to make a ruling on Zawawi’s statement, saying the remarks had insulted Christians.
August 30 – Sabah political leaders – from Parti Warisan Sabah, and United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation – condemn the remarks made by Zawawi.
August 30 – Rev Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek OFS in an open letter to Zawawi outlined a string of facts that show how Muslim scholars had over the centuries accepted the Bible as credible and reliable. He is a permanent deacon of the Catholic Church, a Secular Franciscan, theologian, teacher and preacher.
This issue will likely continue as Sabah, which has a strong Christian population, heads for state election in less than a month on Sept 26.