UK Minister: Have faith, let us not play God

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Last Updated: 7:05am, Apr 23, 2014

PETALING JAYA (April 23): While religious issues will always be used for political agendas and extremism makes great viewing, at the end, politicians and the media have to be responsible in ensuring peace with freedom for all - with faith or no faith - especially in a diverse population.

This was the most likely agreement from the recently held gathering of more than 20 faith and inter-faith groups with visiting British minister of inter-faith and communities Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.

The event was organised by the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation and the British High Commission.

Sayeeda, a British Muslim of Pakistani origin, set the tone when she said that time has changed whereby now a Briton is defined by their faith rather than their race.

She said the Muslims have a duty to protect other faiths, as exemplified by the Prophet Muhammad in his first constitution in Madinah.

While she insisted on freedom for all faiths, Sayeeda  'defended' her own Prime Minister David Cameron - who has taken the flak for stating Britain is a Christian state.

She merely stated that Cameron was speaking in the context of Britain having a very Christian heritage and therefore, it is historically christian.

Then she talked about how Malaysians of different faiths should be Malaysianised.

"Malaysian Christianity should be Malaysian, not English; Malaysian Buddhism should be Malaysian, not Indian's," said Sayeeda, who conceeded that she may not be popular for speaking her mind.

Another speaker who spoke surprisingly frankly was Minister in charge of National Unity Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, who admitted that religious issues are increasingly being used to sow discord among Malaysians, namely the kalimah Allah issue and the custody of children in one parent conversion cases.

Participants said that Kurup's speech was almost a personal lament of a BN minister who cannot do much.

Speaker Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa of PAS, said that it is the media and politicians who are the culprits in raising tensions on religious issues in the country and called for more responsibility. This he said despite him being in a political party which is completely Muslim based and champions Hudud.

There were emotional outburts during questioning time but the participants were on very localised issues, at times rendering Sayeeda looking a bit lost.

KJ John of Oriental Hearts and Minds Study Institute was tearing when he asked why the Malaysian Cabinet did not send a representative to the recent funeral of opposition head Karpal Singh.

Council of Churches of Malaysia's Datuk Herman Shastri asked if it is best to have a secular state rather than a state that professes but discriminates.

Sayeeda answered that no matter what the state is, it is of utmost importance that 'The Almighty is not made redundant'.

"Let us not be judgemental, let Him do the job," said Sayeeda, who repeatedly touched on her Pakistani heritage and stated that it is the differences among Britons that Britain is proud of.

Participants also stated their disappoinment that the dialogue was not inked in any official way, despite having such a large gathering of community leaders who believed in respect and tolerance for all faiths.

Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah of GMM moderated.

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