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A reader on Malaysian Unplugged Uncensored, from Cheras, wrote in to say that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had held a 3-hour dialogue with the parishioners of St Francis Xavier Church in Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya, prior to the March election.
The closed-door dialogue session was held on Wednesday morning (28 January, 2008) and ran several minutes past lunchtime. It was organised by the Christian Federation of Malaysia. The dialogue was the first of several to hold with political parties in the run-up to the 12th general election.
Datuk Seri Anwar was not an elected MP when he met the parishioners. Read here for more
On March 27, PAS MP (Shah Alam) Khalid Abdul Samad became the FIRST elected Muslim Member of Parliament to step into the Roman Catholic Church of the Divine Mercy since it was completed in 2005.
The congregation gave him a standing ovation.
(View video clip BELOW)
From Malaysian Insider
Excerpts: Read here for more and HERE and HERE
Perhaps more stunning is that Khalid was the one to initiate contact. The parishioners were especially impressed that Khalid was the one who approached them.
(Note: New Shah Alam MP Khalid Abdul Samad, from PAS, 51, is the brother of Johor Baru MP Datuk Shahrir of Umno. Khalid, who comes from a staunch Johor Umno family - his mother and Tun Razak’s wife are first cousins) .
“It was his own initiative. He contacted our parish priest, Father Paulino Miranda, and said he wanted to come and talk to us,” Joseph Victor, chairman of the church's parish pastoral council told The Malaysian Insider on behalf of Fr Paulino who is away on sabbatical till April 18.
“That's a good sign. Everybody was very happy. This is the first time a Pas MP is coming to a Catholic church. It shows they're not against Catholic churches,” he added.
It was the first time an MP for Shah Alam had, unasked and unaided, actively engaged the non-Muslim community in public discourse in their own backyard, at least on this side of the peninsula.
The parishioners applauding at what YB Khalid Abdul Samad was saying
(Photo courtesy of Herald Catholic Weekly )
It is almost unheard of for an Umno MP to walk into a church or temple for a function, but this PAS MP for Shah Alam said it is really no big deal.
Last week, Khalid Abdul Samad got a standing ovation when he stepped into the Church of Divine Mercy in Shah Alam to meet with Catholics and listen to their concerns.
As for entering churches or temples, Khalid said, the Holy Prophet used to walk into churches and even synagogues for discussions. He said,
“I don’t see what’s the problem. They invited me as their MP. And I don’t think there was any doubt about my personal religion!But Khalid was quick to disclaim credit for the unprecedented move. He said the discourse was made possible because of the mixed effort on both sides.
I think Umno wanted to look religious or believe that they were religious by avoiding all these locations. But I don’t think it has anything to do with being religious or otherwise.”
“Our people working in the (Shah Alam) area heard that the parish priest was campaigning for change in the elections and advocated the congregation to use their votes to bring about change,” said Khalid.
He recounted that he wanted to speak to them, to thank them for giving the Oposition their mandate for change. “I tried my best to answer most of the questions. We talked about government policies, about discrimination – there shouldn't be any! – enforcement and implementation, which would require more detailed explanations, but I just talked about it in short.”
In his speech, Khalid said he had achieved a majority of 9,314 votes in Shah Alam.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support.
On the part of Pas, we will now be a coalition government. Our policies will be based on consensus.
There will be no attempts by any member within Pas to impose any form of law on the general public. We will be fair and just.
We will do as required by the community and what is good for the community. We will carry out our duties based on good governance, transparency and accountability.
I hope you will continue to give us your support and your suggestions and we will try to be worthy of your trust.”
He reassured the Christians in attendance that they could continue to use the word “Allah” in their worship without fear of persecution.
Khalid said that in all Arabic-speaking communities, “Allah” just means “God”, therefore it is not “unique to Islam”.
He had once attended church in the Middle East and heard a Christian priest preach in Arabic with no trouble.
Khalid explained over the phone yesterday (to Malaysian Insider) ,
“For us, the problem is we're not an Arabic-speaking country. Therefore some people question why non-Muslims have to use this word when it is not really necessary.
People then make all sorts of speculations about idealogy. But there's no reason for the word to be banned from Christian worship. We're quite happy if people use it.
It's not just my personal opinion but is consistent with the party's view. Basically it shouldn't be any problem. And I made it quite clear to the people in church that night."
From Associated Press: Read here in Newsday
Excerpts: Read here for more
".. Khalid Abdul Samad, a Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party lawmaker said Wednesday he made rare visits to a church and temples to help assure non-Muslim minorities about their religious rights.COMMENTARY
He said he wanted to ease suspicions among non-Muslims that his party seeks to curb their religious freedoms.
"It's time to set the record straight. We respect the rights of non-Muslims. There's no plan to stifle other religions or create problems for them," Khalid told The Associated Press.
Non-Muslims have been upset in recent years about how the government has handled religious issues, including the demolition of Hindu temples, a ban on the word Allah from Malay-language Christian literature, and court judgments favoring Muslims in disputes with non-Muslims.
Khalid's visit to the Christian church and two Hindu temples last week was a rare move by a Muslim politician. Many of Malaysia's Muslim public figures have been wary of appearing in places of worship other than mosques, fearing criticism by conservative Muslims.
".... Thursday, 27th March 2008 would go down in history, perhaps, where a Muslim Elected Representative stepped foot into a church compound here in Malaysia. I say 'perhaps', because, I could not find any documents on the internet that stated otherwise.
It was definitely a first time for the Church of Divine Mercy, a Roman Catholic church that took 26 years to build that she welcomed the newly elected Member of Parliament, Y.B. Khalid Abd Samad to its premises for a meet the public session.
I would estimate the crowd to be around 200-250 people, almost all were parishioners, and they gathered mainly to hear for themselves what PAS or its elected representative would do for them, now that they (PAS) were part of the new Selangor State Government.
Y.B Khalid Abdul Samad, a member of the Parti Islam Malaysia offered to meet the church members when he got in touch with the Parish Priest Father Paulino Miranda and hence
He had this to say in his opening address, no formalities, no fuss. YB Khalid then proceeded to take questions from the floor.
YB Khalid took all the questions one by one, and stressed that the newly formed coalition Government of PKR-PAS-DAP was one of consensus by nature.
He highlighted the willingness of DAP to back down from their calls for their choice of MB in Perak as one that signifies that the Barisan Rakyat parties can give and take and reach the middle ground that so often eluded most political parties.
Among some other questions raised were the stern action that is sorely missing in the past Government whereby appointed councilors and council officers were abusing their positions and would later be transferred instead of facing strict repercussions. It was pointed out that the current state government had announced the reduction of quit rent for places of worship to the token sum of RM1.
YB Khalid had to give his view point as a Muslim member of the Islamic Party on issues ranging from:
the restriction of the erection of a Steeple and Cross for the church
YB Khalid added that in Islam, there is no call to compel non Muslims to conform to the teachings of Quran, so much so that to restrict others from practising their religion is forbidden.
the use of the word 'Allah' in the daily worship
In his opinion the word Allah is in the Arabic language, and having heard a Christian Priest preach in Arabic in the Mid East, he sees no reason about the fuss.
PAS is of the view that teaching the mother tongue is a necessity but stressed on the need to have a common language for the logic of daily communication.
He stressed on the need for all parties to conform to society's do's and don'ts and is opposed to moral policing in general - there ought to be another approach instead of high handedness shown previously.
(He) acknowledged the lack of it in the Selangor state, and intends to take this to the MBSA council through the right channels in view of the yearly 230million revenue it receives!.
alienation of burial grounds
He sees no reason why a proper Christian burial ground is not provided for given that a private company was given the rights to the sec 21 burial grounds.
higher education accessibility for all Malaysians
He stressed that the need to be transparent with equal opportunity provided to all Malaysians.
It seems that almost all of those present were there to find out what PAS was all about.
A church member remarked that there is a need to build inroads to East Malaysia if the coalition of PKR-PAS-DAP would like to form the next Federal Government. Perhaps its wishful thinking for now.
YB Khalid did make it known to all that the Barisan Rakyat govt in their respective states have a big role to play in order to move Malaysia ahead and on questions if the coalition was a strong one, "we are for a Government by consensus, and PAS will not impose its believe, obviously of Islamic by nature, on the community in whole as long as there is any rejection to it". He mentioned that PAS is all for a religious society, even if each had a religion of its own.
To the question as an MP, if he will lobby for the abolishment of discrimination by Race and Religion, he insisted that the differences is only in mindset. He will oppose any discriminatory policies.
YB Khalid had taken a first important step to mend the divide (if at all it did exist) that seemed to have been subconsciously embedded in our minds, that PAS cannot be entrusted with the our future. Christians, that is.
"... Well done and good for you, YB Khalid Abdul Samad (PAS). You have done a good thing which no other Muslim MPs would dare do it. It shows off concern and thankfulness and the respect to all religion. You have my respect and honour.
Khalid's interest in politics started during his student days in the UK back in 1974,infuenced by the writings of Islamic leaders like Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al-Banna of the Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood) and interactions with other Malaysian, Arab, Algerian, Pakistani, Turkish and Morroccan students in the UK.
By 1978, he and his like-minded Malaysian friends had set up Suara al-Islam with the agreement to form an Islamic party when they got back.
He said PAS was not an option then because they were not happy with Datuk Asri Muda’s leadership.
Khalid returned to Malaysia in 1979 and joined Petronas.
In 1982, he and his group tried to register Parti Negara Islam Malaysia (Purnama) but the application was rejected. Following changes in PAS, Khalid decided to join the Islamist party in 1983 (Shahrir was already a minister by then).
Mat Sabu, a fiery orator, took Khalid under his wing and he soon rose in the ranks to become a central committee member.
In 1986, Khalid quit his cushy Petronas job to stand in elections for the Kuala Krai parliament seat and lost to Barisan Nasional by 2,000 votes.
In 1987, the rising star in PAS suffered another setback when he was detained under the ISA during Operasi Lalang along with Mat Sabu, Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng, Karpal Singh, the Chinese educationists group and 100 others.
Khalid, who remained in detention for a year, shared the same camp as Karpal and Guan Eng. His consolation came from the fact that the Holy Prophet and companions had faced trials, while ulamaks and people who stuck to their principles always had to face some kind of persecution at one time or another.
“If it did change me, it was to convince me more that we needed a change in leadership (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad),” he said.
During that time, Shahrir, who was Welfare Minister, was going through some trials of his own in Umno. It was the famous Team A versus Team B fight and Shahrir had backed Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah instead of Dr Mahathir for the party presidency. For backing the “wrong” horse, Shahrir was conspicuously dropped from the Cabinet.
To prove he won the Johor Baru parliamentary seat on his own merit, Shahrir vacated the seat, forcing a by-election. He stood as an independent against Barisan and won.
Khalid said if he had not been under detention at that time, he would have campaigned for Shahrir.
He described his relationship with Shahrir who is eight years older as “not as close as some but not as distant as some”.
This will be Khalid’s first time in the august house.
And the first-timer is already brimming with ideas on what he is going to push for: He wants a cleaner, more transparent, just and honest government that brings benefits of development and growth down to the people. And he wants “politically repressive” laws like the ISA, University and Colleges Act, and the Printing Presses and Publications Act to be rectified.