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Row over Malaysian Christian school refusing circumcision

Muslim groups say the refusal smells of racism and threatens the unity of various groups in the country
High school students wear face masks in a classroom on the first day after schools reopened following restrictions to halt the spread of Covid-19 in Kuala Lumpur on June 24, 2020.

High school students wear face masks in a classroom on the first day after schools reopened following restrictions to halt the spread of Covid-19 in Kuala Lumpur on June 24, 2020. (Photo: AFP/UCAN files)

Published: January 09, 2024 11:44 AM GMT
Updated: January 09, 2024 12:39 PM GMT

An all-boys Christian school’s refusal to have an Islamic circumcision ceremony conducted on its campus has turned controversial in Malaysia’s Sarawak with Muslim groups seeking an explanation.

The St. Thomas School in Kuching, which functions under Anglican Church management, refused permission to have the program called Khatam Al-Quran ceremony scheduled for Feb. 3, said Diocesan Education Officer Reverend Robin Sabai.

“We feel really uncomfortable and against our expectations to have such programs being carried out in the premises of our mission schools,” he said in a letter dated Dec. 21.

The 176-year-old school is the oldest in Sarawak state and is considered the most reputable. Mission schools are partially funded by the government, although owned by mission authorities and run by a board of governors.

Since its release, Sabai’s letter went viral on social media, eliciting a barrage of responses.

Some said religious activities ought not to be conducted in schools, while others said Sabai’s decision smelt of racism. There is even an online petition asking for an explanation from the school.

The Sarawak branch of the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (known in Malay as Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia and by its acronym Abim) wanted the Education Ministry to intervene.

It said the decision had upset the public, particularly Muslims, and threatened the unity and harmony of various races in Sarawak.

“We hope the Education Ministry and the Sarawak education department take appropriate action in dealing with and preventing issues like this from happening again in the future,” it said in a statement published in Borneo Post.

The daily also quoted a local politician as saying that the ceremony was a regular event in the school despite there being a small number of Muslim students.

The ceremony “has been held for a long time and the school never objected to this. And suddenly now, holding such activity at school is not permitted,” said Mahmud Epah, whose People’s Justice Party is a component in the ruling coalition, in a statement Jan. 9.

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2 Comments on this Story
JOHN MASCARENHAS
CIRCUMCISION IS NOT PART OF EDUCATION! those malay muslims who want to get circumcised should do it at their home or at their mosque....NOT IN SCHOOL. the malay muslims who are uneducated must be informed by the minister of education about that. CHURCH RUN SCHOOLS HAVE EVERY RIGHT OF REFUSAL AND IF THE SOME PARENTS/STUDENTS DONT LIKE THE RULES, THEY SHOULD LEAVE THE SCHOOL!
SAYANGICHUWIE
The head line should be read as follows-Al Quran Recital Closing Ceremony.
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