‘Interfaith understanding is in line with the Constitution, Quran’

‘Interfaith understanding is in line with the Constitution, Quran’

PUCHONG: Interfaith understanding does not go against the Federal Constitution and it is different from proselytization.

National University of Singapore Professor of Sociology Syed Farid al-Attas also said that he was in favour of Muslims learning other religions as it can create respect and understanding among people of different beliefs.

“It is ridiculous to link interfaith understanding with proselytization. In fact, the Quran itself recognises the existence of different groups and encourages people to know one another and respect one another,” he said.

Recently, PAS central committee member Dato Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali said the government should uphold the supremacy of Islam as the only true religion above all other religions.

Responding to calls for other religions to be taught in schools, the PAS leader said that teaching other religions among school students may promote the idea of religious pluralism among Muslims and affect Islam’s special position in the Constitution.

“Interfaith understanding runs contrary to Article 11 (4) of the Federal Constitution which controls the propagation of other religion among Muslims.

“Such an idea may promote religious pluralism among Muslims unless the government is firm in promoting the supremacy and the absolute truth of Islam, which supersedes other religions and protect Islam’s special position in the Federal Constitution,” Khairuddin told Harakah.

Dismissing the PAS leader’s argument, Syed Farid referred to al-Biruni as an example, a great Islamic scholar and authority of the past who was well versed in multiple religions.

“Al-Biruni spent years in India studying Hinduism. He wrote a lot on Hinduism to clear misunderstandings Muslims may have had on the religion,” he said.

Al-Biruni, or Abu Rayhan al-Biruni, was a famous Islamic scholar who lived during the Golden Age of Islam. Apart from religion, he was also well versed on other subjects such as mathematics, astronomy and geography. 

On the notion that Islam was superior to other religions, Syed Farid said that all believers believed that their religion was superior and it was a theological issue.

“Just because you believe your religion is the best, that does not mean you should not learn about other religions.

“In Islam, we are taught that one is either your brother in religion or your equal in humanity,” he said.

On calls for other religions to be taught in schools, Syed Farid said he was in support of it as it may help to prevent people from becoming exclusivist and fanatical.

“Not learning other religions and having a closed mind about it is form of exclusivism, which in turn breeds religious extremism.

“Religious extremism is also found among Zionists, the Hindutva, Christian fundamentalists, and certain Buddhist circles in Myanmar.

“Muslims who practise exclusivism are putting themselves in the same group,” he said.

By G Vinod