KUALA LUMPUR: Aug 20, 2008 By SIM LEOI LEOI
Two Pakatan Rakyat MPs openly clashed in the House over the disruptions at the Bar Council's forum on conversion to Islam.
It took another Pakatan MP - Khalid Samad (PAS - Shah Alam) to step in before both Chong Eng (DAP - Bukit Mertajam) and Zulkifli Nordin (PKR - Kulim-Bandar Baru) would back down from attacking each other verbally.
Zulkifli has been fingered as one of the key players for the disruption at the forum on Aug 9, which has generated controversy among the public and has put him in trouble with the PKR leadership.
The din began when Chong, during her debate on the Education (Amendment) Bill, has criticised Government policies that seemed to suggest that other languages were not of the “same status” with Bahasa Malaysia.
“It’s just like saying that because Islam is the country’s official religion, other faiths have inferior status to it.
“I don’t think this is so because one of the basic tenets of Islam is the principle of equality,” she said.
Zulkifli then stood up to interrupt Chong, saying that she had been mistaken in her understanding of Islam.
Chong retorted that nobody should use force to halt a peacefully convened forum, adding that the protesters on that day had frightened women attending the event.
This drew a sharp response from Zulkifli who claimed that the event of that day had been manipulated by certain parties via “cyber-media” and other newspapers into a violent protest while the gathering had actually been peaceful.
John Fernandez (DAP - Seremban) and Charles Anthony Santiago (DAP - Klang) then complained that Zulkifli’s point “was way off topic”, which led Zulkifli to comment that “there were always various excuses when he tried to speak on Islam.”
When Deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee tried to bring matters on track by reminding Zulkifli that he was merely seeking clarification from Chong, and not debating, the MP sniped that Chong was “taking an opportunity to criticise Islam and that she has a racist attitude.”
Khalid then played peacemaker by saying that although Islam was the official religion, the policy was not to make believers of other faiths to acknowledge that theirs were inferior.
“Although Muslims believe Islam to be the one truth faith, this doesn’t mean everyone else must acknowledge that it is a better religion. This is not reasonable,” he said, adding that such a similar argument must also be applied to the issue of Bahasa Malaysia as the official language.
“To have a national language is necessary for communication between the different races.
"It’s not meant to be chauvinistic move and that other languages are inferior to us.
"It’s not to show that one race is supreme over the others,” he said.
Chong later thanked Khalid for being a “moderate Muslim” while Zulkifli kept his peace.