By DESMOND DAVIDSON
A senior Sarawak cabinet minister has taken Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) to task for posing questions on Islam to non-Muslim bumiputera students applying for Mara scholarships, saying it smacked of religious bigotry.
State Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing (pic) also described Mara as “stupid” for quizzing the students on Islam during their interview for the financial assistance, and questioned the relevance of such questions.
“Don’t tell me Mara, which runs several educational and technical institutions, after 51 years (of Malaysia) will claim ignorance in failing to understand the racial and religious make-up of the state.
“Neither would I want to believe there are religious bigots in Mara who want to deprive non-Muslim bumiputeras of the scholarships with those kind of questions,” Masing said.
Masing’s attack on Mara was prompted by a complaint he received from a straight “A” Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) student, Nigel Unchat Jeremaiah, who said he was asked questions on hudud, “rukun Solat” (prayers) and “adat menziarah jenazah” (visiting graves), among others, during the interview last Saturday.
Masing said the line of questioning appeared to suggest bigotry on Mara’s part.
Asking non-Muslims questions on Islam is plain wrong. What relevance anyway are these questions when applying for a higher learning scholarship?
Nigel, who was applying for the scholarship to study mechanical engineering at Kolej Mara Seremban in Negeri Sembilan, said he and the other non-Muslim students were also asked to name some Muslim prophets.
Nigel, who attended the interview at Maktab Rendah Sains Mara in Semariang outside Kuching, said out of about 30 students who went for the interview that Saturday afternoon, about 10 were non-Muslims.
He feared his failure to answers the questions could cost him the scholarship.
“I’m surprised Mara failed to understand there are many bumiputeras in Sarawak who are non-Muslims and that Muslims are a minority in the state,” Masing said after meeting Nigel and his mother, Sudan Nyanggau, at his house in Jalan Ong Tiang Swee.
“I don’t like to believe they have some hidden agenda,” he said of the council which is responsible for facilitating the economic and social development of the bumiputeras, particularly in rural areas.
The council comes under the purview of the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development.
“They should not have asked non-Muslims such religious questions.
“Asking non-Muslims questions on Islam is plain wrong. What relevance anyway are these questions when applying for a higher learning scholarship?
“That boy was hoping to study mechanical engineering, not become an ustaz.
“If he was applying for a scholarship to become an ustaz, then those questions are appropriate.”
Masing, who has been vocal on the Allah issue, warned Mara not to display such bigotry in Sarawak.
He said just because Malaysia is a Muslim-majority country doesn’t mean the whole nation knows about Islamic teachings.
Nigel was hoping to follow in the footsteps of his two older siblings – one studying at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and the other at University Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).
He would only know if he is successful in obtaining a Mara scholarship when the result is out on May 8.
State Mara director, Yusof Wasli, could not be reached for comment as he was in Bintulu on official matters. His office would not give his handphone number. – Malaysian Insider