Sultan: Muslims who attended Methodist supper will receive counseling

Who knew church suppers could be such a threat?


Islamic authorities will provide counseling to a dozen Malaysian Muslims to “restore their belief and faith” after they attended a community dinner at a church hall, a royal sultan said Monday.

The case has triggered worries among officials in Muslim-majority Malaysia that some non-Muslims were trying to convert Muslims. Proselytizing of Muslims is punishable by prison terms of various lengths in most Malaysian states.

Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, the constitutional ruler of Malaysia’s central Selangor state, said Islamic officials who inspected a dinner at a Methodist church hall in early August found “evidence that there were attempts to subvert the faith and belief of Muslims.”

The sultan did not elaborate on the evidence or mention Christians in his statement, but said the evidence was “insufficient for further legal actions to be taken.”

Church officials had repeatedly denied any proselytization occurred at the dinner, which they described as a multiethnic gathering to celebrate the work of a community organization that worked with women, children and HIV patients. Christian leaders had also criticized Islamic state enforcement officials for what they called an unauthorized raid.

Malaysia’s state sultans command immense moral clout particularly among Malaysia’s ethnic Malay Muslims, who regard them as the top authorities on Islamic issues. Muslims, who comprise nearly two-thirds of the country’s 28 million people, are not legally permitted to change religion.

“We command that (Islamic officials) provide counseling to Muslims who were involved in the said dinner, to restore their belief and faith in the religion of Islam,” Sultan Sharafuddin said.

Rev. Hermen Shastri, the general secretary of Malaysia’s Council of Churches, said the sultan’s statement “brings closure to the case.”

“No one should speculate or aggravate the situation further,” he told The Associated Press.

The sultan added Monday he was “gravely concerned and extremely offended by the attempts of certain parties to weaken the faith and belief of Muslims.”

“We hope that after this, any and all activities … for the purposes of spreading other religions to Muslims in Selangor must be ceased immediately,” he said.

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15 responses to “Sultan: Muslims who attended Methodist supper will receive counseling”

  1. The crux of the matter is this: All of the big monotheistic faiths need to pool their resources to fund the development of a drug or vaccine that would selectively target the brain centers which allow independent thinking and discernment. Alternatively, we already have devices which can induce ecstatic states similar to those experienced by religion, and it would be a relatively simple matter to manipulate and condition people in such a state.

    If the leaders of the Big Three saw the potential in this, we would see a collaboration and a research effort on the order not seen since the Manhattan Project or polio eradication. Despite their mutual animosity and vast theological disagreements, the leaders of these faiths could all agree that free thought is the common enemy and the biggest threat to their authority (and, of course revenue).

    Once this treatment was developed and administered to followers at birth or perhaps in early adolescence, conflicts like this would be a thing of the past. Nobody would be poaching anyone elses followers. Bishops and imams and rabbis would also find their own flocks so much easier to manage. There would be no dissent, no more schisms, no more awkward questions about why the preacher is holding “formation” classes for some of the yound lads in his hot tub Friday nights.

    The donations would come on time and there would be no more of this guff about “I’ll vote my own conscience.” This would also be just the thing to get Rome’s “retake Europe” campaign off the launch pad. One dose of this drug and one set of marching orders delivered via homily or mass email and you’d see a level of Christian fervor in Europe not seen since the Bubonic Plague.

    Whoever actually develops this technology would achieve another human first: They would be the first person to be declared saints in all three branches of monotheism!

    You can only solve big problems with big thinking……

  2. “Oh Kenneth that is such a crock. Only radical Islam prevents people from a free religious choice.”……………

    You obviously never heard of the Spanish Inquisition and the absolute convergence of state and religious power which lasted until the very end of the 19th Century in parts of Europe.

    And while we’re on the subject, why is it that the Catholic Church has no provisions which allow one to leave it under canon law? The one half measure they had called formal defection, was abolished last year, just about the time people started to take advantage of it in places like Ireland? Organizations interested in free choice wouldn’t need to enroll people as infants and then declare them irrevocable members for life, would they?

    Still, I digress. The topic really has more to do with the tendency of the monotheistic faiths in particular to try to “innoculate” their followers against any outside influences. That practice is a particular obsession among religious authorities of all three branches of monotheism, at least in their more conservative wings.

  3. “You obviously never heard of the Spanish Inquisition and the absolute convergence of state and religious power which lasted until the very end of the 19th Century in parts of Europe.”

    I had a feeling you would go back five hundred years. By doing so, you actually made my point or showed the weakness of your argument. But let me be more precise: Only radical Islam prevents people from a free religious choice in this day and age.

  4. It’s not 500 years. It’s well under 200. The Inquisition, or bodies derivative of it, executed people for heresy as late as 1826. Until 1870 or so, religious law was enforced in central Italy in exactly the same way Sharia is in Saudi Arabia today. In one of their more notorious incidents, police acting on authority of the pope seized a Jewish boy as a ward of the state and forced him to convert because a surreptitious baptism by one of the family’s servants had “laid claim” to him for the Church.

    In the end, how long ago has little to do with it. This sort of behavior went on for well over a thousand years, and it ended only when the rise of modern states stripped the church of its secular power. It’s not like they had some fundamental change of heart. The same instincts are there and would express themselves once again if circumstances allowed. This is not of course unique to Catholics, nor of Christians. Large swaths of the evangelical community, who form the crucial power base for some presidential candidates right now, are calling for a frank theocracy. In Israel, religious authorities likewise hold an inordinate amount of power over everyday life.

  5. Kenneth, the difference is that in Islamic theology the accepted, orthodox position is that a Muslim may not abandon Islam. If a Muslim does, they must be punished. There is some debate as to the precise nature of the punishment, which ranges from death to non-fatal forms of physical punishment. But there is unanimity on the fact that punishment is mandated. By contrast, there is really no sound theological or scriptual basis for punishment of someone who leaves Christianity. Also, you may not understand that Islam, and societies dominated by Islam, do not recognize the concept of a separation of religion and secular power. They are one and the same. The Islamic world is starkly different than the West. Even ostensibily secular governments in the Islam world explicitly adopt Islam as the basis for constitutional power and the source of governing law.

  6. Even if those events are true Kenneth, of which I am deeply skepitcal (sounds like folkloric legend to me) they are not policy. Even so, you still had to go back 200 years. You might as well give up the argument because it doesn’t have a leg to stand on “in this day and age.”

  7. Peter, the differences you outline are differences in degree, not in kind. For about 14 centuries, from the moment it gained political power until the early 1800s, Christianity also forbade abandonment of the faith (or even heresy), upon pain of death. That penalty was vigorously enforced up through the Enlightenment. From the 4th Century until the end of the 18th in the West, religion and secular power ruled as one, just as we see in the Middle East today. There was, in fact, an enormous theological and legal foundation providing for temporal punishment for leaving Christianity, or falling into heresy. From 380, the Edict of Thessalonica asserted the right of the state to punish people for “wrong thinking” in religion. For most of the Church’s history, the penalty of excommunication carried severe penalties. Even if you weren’t burned at the stake, you lost virtually all of your standing as a person before the civil authorities.

    That changed only because the rise of modern economic and state institutions forced the change. Popes gave up their secular power only at gunpoint and with the promise of continued substantial influence in the culture and politics of the new nation states. There is no qualitative difference between Christian and Muslim hegemony over their respective societies. The only difference is that we are at a different stage in sorting out these issues than the Islamic world is right now. Even still, there are sizable minorities in this country who would like to see the return of a theocracy, or quasi-theocracy, to one degree or another.

    As to Manny’s point, the more recent incident I referenced, the Mortara Affair, was very well documented and highly publicized in its day. It was in fact a precipitating event for the political and military events which ended the pope’s control of the Papal States in 1870. That’s a while ago, yes, but not ancient history by any means.

  8. Kenneth,

    You miss the point completely. The core foundational documents of Islam, the Koran and the Hadiths, provide the theological mandate to punish those who leave Islam. Mohammed himself said to kill those who leave their Islamic religion. You can find nothing similar in the core foundational document of Christianity, the New Testament. That’s a crucial distinction that you have ignored. Further, Islam believes that the Koran represents the literal word of Allah, and may not be changed. Islamic theology holds that the many contractictions in the Koran are explained by the theory of abrogation, whereby Allah replaced earlier statements in the Koran with his later pronouncements. That is why the early peaceful statements found in the Koran (for example the oft quoted statement that there is no compulsion in religion) has been replaced, or abrogated, by Allah’s later calls to forceably convert non-believers to islam, and to oppress them. Finally, your attempt to equate the level of social control that Christianity exerts over its adherents to that which Islam exercises is preposterous. Islam, unlike Christianity, is a unifed social, religious and political system, one that is totalitarian in nature, since it exercies extreme control over free expression to preserve Islamic belief. The Koran and Hadiths establish the explicit framework for that system, and the New Testament simply doesn’t. The Papal States, burning at the state for heretics, are all properly viewed as ancient aberations from orthodox Christianity. However, punishment for apostates from islam is at the very core of “modern” Islamic belief.

  9. There may well be important textual differences. I’m not a Koranic scholar of any sort. Simply saying the New Testament is different is problematic. For one thing, the Catholic Church believes that its own authority and pronouncements are equal in weight to anything found in the text of the New Testament, and are in fact the word of God and derive directly from that authority. Many protestant sects clearly found plenty of justification in the Bible for violence as well. Political Islam poses a more serious problem than political Christianity these days, but across the reach of their histories, each had very similar behavior. For the overwhelming majority of its history, Christianity and its instruments of secular power did all of the same things we fear from Islam today. From a scholarly standpoint, they may or may not have properly derived from their own holy book, but 14 centuries of behavior can hardly be dismissed as an “aberration”.

  10. There is no distinction between Islam and “Political Islam”. They are one and the same. Christianity, on the other hand, drew a clear distinction between belief and secular/political authority (“render unto Caesar…”). The exercise of temporal authority by the Church is an indeed an aberration, from a biblical perspective. Further there is quite a bit of difference in saying, as Islam does, that God has explicitly stated that apostates must be punished, and the Church deciding to do so.

  11. “……..Further there is quite a bit of difference in saying, as Islam does, that God has explicitly stated that apostates must be punished, and the Church deciding to do so.”………….

    I’m not sure the distinction means a whole lot to the person being punished.

  12. Kenneth,

    You miss the point again. Christianity has stopped killing apostates because it has come to a reasoned conclusion that to do so is morally wrong, and certainly not supported by the New Testament. Islam has not come to a similar conclusion, because the Koran and Hadiths are explicit in not merely supporting punishment for apostates, but in fact mandating it. You general effort to argue that Christianity and Islam are alike in this is in fact dead wrong.

  13. I don’t have a lot of confidence that they stopped out of a true change of heart. Historical events seem to indicate that they stopped primarily because the instruments of secular power were taken away from them. The Vatican didn’t relinquish that power entirely until 1870, and the pope at that time did so only because the Italian army blew through the walls with artillery and marched on his palace.

    The only way to really settle matter of course would be through an experiment. Suppose, for the sake of debate, that the church somehow regained their secular power of old. Let’s say in 10 years or 200, that they acquire essentially the same secular authority as Muslim Imams now hold in much of the Mideast. Would they continue to act with the docility we are used to or would the Inquisitions start up full bore? You believe the former would be true. I would live with a packed suitcase and emergency funds in some country out of their reach….

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