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‘Jom Ziarah’ organiser confirms church visit off after flak from Islamic authorities

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 — Impact Malaysia, an agency under the Youth and Sports Ministry, today confirmed that all its future visits to houses of worship under its “Jom Ziarah” programme to promote interfaith understanding, harmony and respect has been cancelled – including one to a church in Klang, Selangor scheduled for today.

Its chief executive officer Ahmed Faris Amir said the visits were cancelled following a directive from Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh.

“The programme isn't happening today following Hannah Yeoh’s decision that youth unity programmes will no longer be implemented by her ministry but instead by other relevant ministries and departments,” he told Malay Mail when contacted this morning.

Impact Malaysia was supposed to take several young Malaysians on a visit to a Catholic church in Klang today as part of its “Jom Ziarah” series for youths in a field visit to help them better understand people from different religious backgrounds.

The agency had previously visited a mosque and a gurdwara.

Ahmed was also asked if tomorrow’s planned visit to a Hindu temple was also similarly cancelled.

“Same thing, it's under the same principle,” he replied.

The “Jom Ziarah” series is part of the agency’s “Artikel 11” programme, and takes its name from Article 11 of Malaysia’s Federal Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion in the country, even as it acknowledges restrictions in proselytising a religion other than Islam to Muslims.

The Klang church declined comment when contacted by Malay Mail about the cancelled visit this morning.

In an internal circular dated March 15 sighted by Malay Mail, Yeoh said all the youth entrepreneurship and unity programmes under her ministry will be passed on to other ministries.

“All the youth entrepreneurship programmes must be handed over to the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives (MEDAC) for implementation.

“Youth unity programmes such as Artikel 11 need to be submitted to the Ministry of National Unity and the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) for implementation,” Yeoh said in the circular.

Impact Malaysia’s visit to houses of worship came under intense scrutiny after posters highlighting the planned church visit spread on social media, drawing questions from conservative Muslims.

Yeoh had clarified in Parliament earlier this week that no Muslims had been registered as participants in the “Jom Ziarah” tours.

But various Islamic authority figures in the country have also issued warnings to Muslims against entering a house of worship where non-Islamic religious “rituals” could take place.

In a statement yesterday, Selangor Islamic Religious Council chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said activities that allowed for to Muslims visit non-Muslim houses of worship such as temples, churches, and gurdwaras to learn about religions apart from their own, should be rejected and restricted.

He claimed that such activities tend to be negative towards Islam and violate the local laws that prevent the spreading of interests in other religions to Muslims.