Asri: Make room for non-Muslims in Islamic schools

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KUALA LUMPUR: Islamic religious schools should open its doors to non-Muslim students, former Perlis mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin (pic) said, adding that the move would foster understanding among people in a multiracial and multireligious society.

“If Christian mission schools can do it, why can’t we?” he said in a posting on his Facebook page on Tuesday night.

Mohd Asri said this would open the door towards better understanding of the differences within a multiracial and multireligious society, especially for future leaders.

“Our religious schools only focus on Muslim pupils and that causes them to lack an understanding of other people’s religions and cultural backgrounds when they graduate.

“That is also the same with schools focusing on a certain race,” he said.

Mohd Asri said if there were non-Muslims who wanted to learn, religious schools should allow this to happen, just as the Christian mission schools did.

At the same time, he said non-Muslims can also see up close and understand the way Muslims go about their lives.

“It will also provide Muslim pupils with practical lessons on how to interact with their non-Muslim peers harmoniously and with tolerance as taught in Islam.”

The approach could also reduce misunderstanding among the different faiths and show others Islam’s vastness and its ability to educate and advocate peace among the people, Mohd Asri said.

“It will prevent our religious graduates from becoming defensive and give them the confidence to interact with others and understand the right approach,” he said.

Mohd Asri’s remarks came amid calls to discuss the abolishing of Chinese vernacular schools in the country for allegedly breeding racism and hamper unity.

Petaling Jaya Utara Umno division deputy chief Mohamad Azli Mohamed Saad recently proposed discussing the issue at the Umno general assembly next month.

United Chinese School Committees Association (Dong Zong) deputy president Chow Siew Hon defended the Chinese school system, saying that it has been in existence for more than 100 years and there are 80,000 non-Chinese pupils enrolled out of a total student population of 600,000. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 9, 2014.