Sabah PAS says sorry for Christmas protest in Tawau after public backlash

Julia Chan
Tawau PAS had issued a memorandum to protest the Christmas and New Year Eve celebrations last Monday which they claimed had elements of spreading Christianity. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KOTA KINABALU, Jan 3 ― Sabah PAS apologised for filing a police complaint against a Christmas carnival in Tawau after its allegation of Christian proselytisation was heavily criticised for being against the Borneo state’s multicultural spirit.

Tawau PAS chief Mohamad Husain also apologised for implicating the division chapters of Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) and PKR in a recent joint memorandum objecting to the Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations organised by Tawau MP Datuk Christina Liew.

Local paper Daily Express reported Mohamad saying the party lodged the police report after receiving complaints that the event had elements of “propagating Christianity” to Muslims who were also attending the celebration where a Christian leader gave a speech.

Mohamad defended the police report as just a reminder that there were laws against propagation of religions besides Islam to Muslims and a request for investigation if there were violations.

"We leave it to the police to take appropriate action if there was any violation. However, we were made to understand that so far, investigations showed 'there is no case' and we hope all quarters will close the case following our open apology,” he was quoted telling a press conference in Tawau yesterday.

"If there are any parties who feel upset, just forget about it as we all know each other, and furthermore, the memorandum is not meant to annoy or hurt anybody's feelings."

Mohamad also said a list naming Warisan and PKR in PAS’ media statement on the matter was “a technical mistake”.

He clarified that the list was actually an invitation to the political parties to discuss the issue.

"We also apologise to the media that published the news because there was no explanation. We admit the mistake and regret what happened," he was quoted saying.

Tawau PAS had issued a memorandum to protest the Christmas and New Year Eve celebrations last Monday which they claimed had elements of spreading Christianity. The statement said it represented various political and religious groups from Tawau and Kalabakan, including Umno and Warisan.

"We are not taking advantage, but instead, we want to look after the interests of Islam and have no intention to gain political support because PAS itself is based on three aspects, namely dakwah (propagating Islamic teaching and values), tarbiah (educating) and being political,” Mohamad was quoted saying.

Since then, several groups from both sides of the political divide have condemned PAS’ protest as a show of intolerance in Sabah.

The latest to comment was Parti Cinta Sabah vice-president Norbert Chin who said the statement provoked a lot of anger and sowed seeds of anger between Muslims and Christians in Sabah.

“I hope the police here will investigate the background of the protesters to see whether they are foreigners or locals with a history of disturbing the peace here.

“Please also investigate the groups as some of them may not be legally registered under the Registrar of Societies,” Chin said.

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