A church relatively nearby to my office was raided by the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (JAIS). The resulting uproar was expected, and you’ve got politicians from both sides of the divide trying to distance themselves from the controversy or condemn it or both (with the exception of one particular executive councilor).
According to news reports, the church had organized a breaking-of-fast dinner in conjunction with the Muslim holy month of Ramadhan. JAIS is accusing the church of proselytizing, or attempting to convert, Muslims that were in attendance that night. They even declared that they had found evidence to support this claim and investigations were ongoing.
While it raises the obvious question about JAIS’ right to invade religious places of worship as and when it suits them, I want to ask another question entirely: Does JAIS and its various supporters truly believe their fellow Muslims are so weak in spirit and faith that this sort of thuggish bullying is necessary to keep them in line?
What was the intention of the raid anyway? Were they just trying to humiliate those Muslims joining their Christian friends for the breaking of fast? Try as I might, I cannot see any reason, no matter how sincere and honest, being sufficient justification for gatecrashing (to put it politely) a church dinner!
At the same time, you have the Director of JAIS that he wasn’t aware or involved in the raid at all. Assuming this statement is true, this raises some equally worrying questions:
- What was JAIS’ procedures for determining the validity of the complaint regarding the church proselytizing to Muslims?
- Who was responsible for authorizing the raid?
- If no authorization was given, then what will be the consequences for the officers who carried it out?
- What guarantee can the state government or JAIS give that no such similar raids will be carried out on other places of worship in future?
It is extremely disheartening that this incident should occur during this time of patience, religious dedication and self-reflection. Though the state government has been quick to condemn the raid, that it had occurred at all has seriously damaged their credibility and what goodwill they may enjoy among the population.
If Pakatan Rakyat is serious about its leadership ambitions, it has to take decisive action here to punish those responsible for such a thoughtless action and pave the way for better race relations to come.