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Seminar on Christian ‘Threat’ Sparks Outcry in Malaysia

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More than 100 Islamic studies teachers in Johor have been ordered to attend a seminar on the “threat” of Christian proselytizing, sparking yet another controversy involving religion in multi-religious Malaysia.

The teachers, from 55 government schools in Johor, have been told to attend the one-day seminar this Saturday, jointly organized by the state education department and the Johor mufti department.

It is illegal in Malaysia to try to convert Muslims to another religion. Muslim leaders said the government of Muslim-majority Malaysia has a duty to defend the religion while Christian leaders called the seminar inflammatory.

“The problem of Christianisation has been around for a long while, it is real,” Datuk Sheikh Abdul Halim Abdul Kadir, president of the Malaysian Ulama Association, told news Web site The Malaysian Insider. “You need to educate teachers, especially the young ones who are unaware of this problem.”

Christian leaders meanwhile decried the seminar. “It is highly insensitive to be held in such a public domain and having the sponsorship of a government agency,” said Herman Shastri, secretary of the Council of Churches Malaysia. “The government should put a stop to this.”

Herman said Christian churches do not condone preaching to Muslims but could not rule out that some isolated fundamentalist groups might attempt it.

Datuk Azman Amin Hassan, head of a Cabinet committee promoting inter-religious understanding, also slammed the seminar as counterproductive to federal efforts to improve religious tolerance.

“I will instruct my officers to look into it and the content of the seminar. We just launched the inter-faith harmony week in schools. This is not in line at all,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

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