By Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, Dec 19: When it comes to racial and religious matters, everybody, including ministers, must tread carefully to ensure harmony in the diverse society continues to prevail.
Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah said everyone must remember that Malaysia is a multiracial and multireligious country, where strength in diversity is key to nation-building.
“We do not want to create a situation that creates uneasiness amongst the society,” she told reporters after opening the First International Conference on Innovative Sciences and Technologies for Research and Education 2018 here today.
Fatimah was responding to Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik’s recent statement in Parliament, where he appealed to religious teachers from Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah to continue serving in Sabah and Sarawak rather than seeking a return to Peninsular Malaysia due to a critical shortage of religious teachers, especially in the state.
Maszlee said Sabah and Sarawak would be their “medan dakwah” (Islamic propagation front) and “medan menabur bakti” (place to sow good seeds) when responding to a question raised by PAS Kubang Krian MP Datuk Ibrahim Man on whether the Education Ministry planned to increase the number of religious schools to address the shortage.
“The minister must tread carefully on this subject so that what was spoken would not be misinterpreted,” emphasised Fatimah, who used to hold a watching brief over education matters in Sarawak.
The Dalat assemblywoman said the state had no qualms with Maszlee’s suggestion to retain the religious teachers from other states due to the shortage of Sarawakian religious teachers.
She added that producing religious teachers takes time, and the state had embarked on producing local educators who are trained in religious subjects.
“One of the challenges we are facing to achieve the 90:10 ratio between Sarawakian and foreign teachers in the state is the shortage of religious education teachers.
“We understand that most of these teachers come from Kelantan and Terengganu. Efforts are being taken to ensure Sarawak would have sufficient local religious teachers, but this will take time. We don’t mind the extra support from other states for now,” she said.
The state is need of some 500 religious teachers in primary schools and 200 for secondary schools.
“If the suggestion was said in the context of strengthening religious knowledge of Muslim students, this we can accept, but not for the general society. We do not want to create suspicion among each other.
“Our principle all this while is to respect each other, irrespective of religions. In this context, the religious teachers should concentrate on that aspect, which is to educate Muslim students on Islamic knowledge,” Fatimah stressed.
She reminded that is a boundary that should not be crossed when it comes to religious matter. — DayakDaily