Academic subject on religions and cultures is the way forward

 |Aug 5, 2016
An Inter-Faith Forum organised recently by the Prime Minister's Department has suggested that a subject on all Malaysian religions and cultures to be taught as a subject in schools and higher learning institutes.
An Inter-Faith Forum organised recently by the Prime Minister’s Department has suggested that a subject on all Malaysian religions and cultures to be taught as a subject in schools and higher learning institutes.

The Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (Gopio) has welcomed a suggestion to teach all religions as a subject in schools and universities in Malaysia as the right step to nurture unity and harmony.

Gopio Malaysia chapter information chief C Shashiedharan said teaching various cultures and religions would be a vital ingredient for wholesome knowledge in a globalised and developed nation.

He said the subject should include cultural elements of Malaysians from the various race and ethnic groups as Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sabahans, Sarawakians and others all had rich and unique traditions.

“Gopio strongly supports this meaningful suggestion made by the Interfaith Forum.

“This teaching and learning will strengthen national unity and harmony, and is ideal for multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia,” he said in a statement posted in Gopio’s homepage.

The  2016 Interfaith Forum themed: ‘Unity in Diversity’ held on Monday was organised by the Department of National Unity and Integration and the Committee to Promote Inter-Faith Understanding and Harmony under the Prime Minister’s Department (PMD).

The committee, comprising 32 members appointed by the Prime Minister, was set up after a Cabinet decision in 2010 to promote interfaith understanding and harmony.

Representatives of groups from the seven major religions practised in Malaysia – namely Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Taoism and the Bahai Faith – took part in the forum.

The committee chairman Azman Amin Musa has said that many Malaysians were still ignorant about the religions practised by their fellow Malaysians.

A Universiti Putra Malaysia research several years ago also found that Malaysians generally lacked knowledge about religions other than their own.

“It’s not good enough that we know about our own religion. Interfaith studies should be taught in schools and universities so that Malaysians understand some basic things about other religions as well,” said Azman.

He said another related proposal was to include information and knowledge about Malaysia’s Constitution in the proposed interfaith subject.

He said many Malaysians enter university not even knowing the position of Islam as the religion of the Federation and the guarantee given to followers of other religions to practise their respective faith in peace and harmony in any part of the country, as spelt out in Article 3(1) of the Constitution.

“If Malaysians had a better understanding of our Constitution hopefully they will respect each other more as they can see the guarantees which our country provides and how it encourages co-operation and harmony,” said Azman.

Shashiedharan welcomed  suggestion to teach a subject on religions and cultures of Malaysia in schools and universities.
Shashiedharan welcomed suggestion to teach a subject on religions and cultures of Malaysia in schools and universities.

Concurring with Azman, Shashiedharan said the nation’s multi-cultural and multi-religious values were undoubtedly the proud heritage of Malaysia.

“This heritage must be preserved, promoted and taught in schools and universities,” he said.

After 59 years of independence, he said Malaysians must move forward not only with the mind-set of tolerance but also with respect and the spirit of acceptance.

With this leap, he said the Malaysian education system would be a major contributor for the slogan – ‘Malaysia Truly Asia’.

“This will also ensure that blunders as in the UTM TITAS slides do not resurface in future,” said Shashiedharan.

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Athi Shankar has been a journalist for past 30 years. He believes that democratic rights come with responsibility.