PETALING JAYA - Various groups have slammed PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang (pic) for saying that Christian missionaries were using money and aid to convert people in Sabah and Sarawak.
MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said Abdul Hadi's statement was irresponsible, dangerous and hurtful towards Christians.
"I strongly condemn the extremist statement hurting the Christians, which is also dangerous and irresponsible," he said, adding that it was also "lopsided and provocative" and only created distrust and conflict and disrupted religious harmony.
MCA, said Liow, recognised the churches' outstanding contribution to Malaysian education, adding that it would strongly uphold and protect the right of Christians to preach and practise in the country.
He said Catholics, Methodists, the monastic orders and other schools established by them had been taking in students of all races without discrimination.
"We insist on the importance of mutual respect, understanding and tolerance among the religions," he told reporters after chairing the party's central committee meeting at Wisma MCA yesterday.
Liow was responding to Abdul Hadi's statement in Harakahdaily, in which he was quoted as saying that Christian missionaries were spreading their teachings in Africa and the interior of Sabah and Sarawak after being rejected by the educated in Western nations.
He also claimed that they were spreading their religion by using money and other forms of aid as bait.
Buddhist chief high priest of Malaysia Datuk K. Sri Dhammaratana said the issue was a sensitive one, adding that it was important to distinguish between charity work and giving money to people as an incentive to convert to another faith.
"Some politicians bring up issues to emotionally win people's hearts," he said.
MCA religious harmony bureau chairman Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker said singling out Christians and the people of Sabah and Sarawak was uncalled for, especially from a PAS president.
"His statement is not only inflammatory but simplistic and very general, having a tendency to infiltrate and pollute lesser minds with prejudices and falsehoods," he said.
Ti also questioned if Abdul Hadi had made the statement to divert from the fact that many PAS leaders and followers were abandoning the party because it was holding on to archaic and regressive policies with no regard to fairness or social justice.
He also questioned why PAS was conveniently silent on social injustices, such as in the M. Indira Gandhi conversion case.
MCA Youth chief Chong Sin Woon asked if Abdul Hadi's faith was so weak that it made him suspicious of mission schools, which had educated Malaysians, including Muslims.
Accusing Abdul Hadi of sowing distrust against Christians, MCA vice-president Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun pointed to a news article which reported the PAS Kelantan government's offer of financial incentives to Muslim preachers who married an orang asli as a way of converting the 3,000-plus community in the state.
Parti Amanah Negara communications director Khalid Samad said he was confident that Abdul Hadi knew that faith could not be cultivated through money or reward.
"The method of using money has been used by many groups, not just Christian missionaries, and it has proven to be ineffective. We cannot forbid any party from carrying out works of charity," he said.